Car reviews - Kia - Sportage - Platinum CRDi AWD
Design, cabin, quality, performance, packaging, refinement, handling, composure, value, warranty, economy
Room for improvement
Firm-ish ride, some rack rattle, not cheap in Platinum GT-Line guise
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31 Oct 2016
Price and equipment
DID you know that the Sportage is the third longest-running continuous medium SUV nameplate in Australia after Suzuki’s evergreen Vitara and the Toyota RAV4?And just like the two Japanese crossover pioneers, the Kia has certainly changed and improved over the years, to the point where medium SUV buyers would be foolish not to at least put one on a short-list.
Now in its fourth generation since the original Mazda Bongo van-based JA-series version launched in the mid-1990s, it is again twinned with the in-house Hyundai Tucson underneath, but ushers in unique styling inside and out, as well as Kia-specific powertrain and chassis tuning.
The company says the latest QL-series is significantly stronger, quieter and more refined than before. Length and wheelbase have grown substantially.
Three spec levels have surfaced (Si, SLi, and flagship Platinum as tested here), as have three four-cylinder engine choices – two naturally aspirated petrol (2.0-litre front-drive and 2.4L all-wheel drive) and a turbo-diesel unit (2.0L AWD). The latter is available across the range. All models are now sourced out of South Korea.
Standard Platinum spec is generous and includes six airbags, AEB autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, a lane-change assist warning, high-beam assist, a self-parking system, reversing camera, parking sensors, ABS, ESC, hill-start assist, auto bi-Xenon headlights and wipers and front foglights.
It also gains dual-zone climate control, sat-nav, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, USB ports, and six speakers, cruise control, heated/ventilated front seats, a 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather trim, flat-bottomed steering wheel with paddle shifters, panoramic sunroof, an electric tailgate, alarm, roof rails, rear spoiler, LED tail-lights, a luggage net, 19-inch alloys, a full-size spare and a wireless mobile device charger.
Wearing the new ‘GT Line’ styling pack, it also offers a sportier look as well as a different suspension setup.
Total cost for the Platinum CRDi AWD GT-Line: $45,990, before on-road costs of course. And only Kia offers a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.
Kia’s current interiors are among the best in the mainstream business, brandishing style, solidity, functionality and technology in fairly equal measure.
Let’s begin with the amount of space, which is as you’d expect from a medium-sized SUV, with ample space for four adults and even a sufficiently accommodating rear-middle pew.
Then there’s the dash – a sturdy and well-finished item with rubbery soft-touch upper materials, attractive piano black contrasting trim, and absolutely no squeaks and rattles. Kia’s on a roll at the moment.
Better still, in this top-line Platinum GT-Line, the front seats are impressively comfy and supportive, the driving position is flawless, the leather-wrapped steering wheel good to hold, the instruments are a monument to clarity, the ventilation excellent, the climate control layout easy and logical and the touchscreen multimedia system (with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity) as good as these systems get. Top marks here.
Additionally, Kia has provided heaps of storage options, AUX/USB connections and sufficiently accessible cupholders, while large mirrors and a rearview camera help vision enormously.
Reclining backrests for all, large central face-level air vents, cupholders, storage outlets, USB/12V charging facilities and overhead grab handles complete a well thought-out second row accommodation. And, just like the previous model, this QL-series version has extra-wide opening doors with a reverse-angle door shape for easier entry and egress. Clever.
For a $50K Sportage, the ambience is really quite appealing, aided by two-tone leather seating (heated up front), a panoramic sunroof, and smart brushed aluminium trim highlights. Classy.
Finally, the boot area, though with a high floor, is flat, easy to load, and nicely finished, with a full-sized alloy residing underneath the floor. Cargo volume is rated at 466L. In the Platinum the tailgate opens electronically.
In fact, there is hardly anything to criticise. Nothing jarring, cheap, or useless here.
Engine and transmission
You’ll be hard pressed to find a stronger, smoother, and more willing four-cylinder diesel engine than the 2.0-litre CRDi unit found behind the Sportage’s grille.
In ‘Normal’ mode it is sprightly enough, accelerating forward with determination and haste good enough to turn diesel doubters into non-haters.
Push the ‘Sport’ button beside the handsome T-bar shifter, and they’ll likely turn into believers, since the Sportage then leaps into action, with a thrust that is really quite incongruous for such a family hauler.
Really, why would anybody even bother with the petrol version, especially when we were averaging less than 10L/100km.
The six-speed torque converter auto is well matched with the CRDi, providing fast and easy shifts between ratios, while handily sited paddle shifters as well as a Tiptronic-style gate allows for manual manipulation – though note this thing will not hold on to a gear.
Again, there’s very little to whinge about. Perhaps the engine could be quieter from the outside? That’s about it really.
Overall, then, the Sportage’s turbo-diesel drivetrain is right up there with Europe’s best.
Ride and handling
More good news for people who like driving – the Sportage has a firm yet controlled chassis with just enough urban comfort to justify the GT-Line badge on the Platinum’s posterior.
The steering is beautifully measured and weighted, and right on the money in terms of responsiveness too if you’re an owner of the previous Sportage, you won’t believe how far this has come.
However, having said that, there isn’t much feedback and the helm does have a somewhat muted and artificial feel. A Ford Kuga’s, for example, is more involving if tactility is your thing.
Still, find a fun set of corners and the Sportage’s Euro-tuned and Aussie-honed chassis will be up for a play assisted by AWD, there is eager and progressive handling and road-holding on offer, backed up by impressive levels of stability and body control.
Speaking of which, a brief stint on gravel roads showed the stability and traction nannies to be quite eager to interfere, but nowhere near as extremely as with previous Kias (and Hyundais). The setup, in fact, is quite gradual.
Around town, the suspension does transmit some of the smaller bumps and irregularities through to the cabin – this does ride on 19-inch wheels, after all – but larger potholes and humps are dealt with in a surprisingly grown-up manner. On faster gravel roads, the Platinum displays quite terrific bigger bump absorption properties as well.
Only occasional rack rattle through rougher turns and the occasional coarse surface tyre drone blot an otherwise fine dynamic landscape. Nice one, Kia.
Safety and servicing
The latest Sportage achieves a five-star ANCAP crash-test rating.
Kia’s new-car warranty is seven years with unlimited kilometres, which is industry leading. Service intervals are every 12 months or 15,000km, whichever comes first, and there is published-price scheduled servicing on the company’s website.
Prices vary from $419 to $499 (48 months in), with the total amount being $3695.
Kia is indeed in a purple patch, with the Sportage following on from the Carnival people-mover, Sorento SUV and Optima sedan in representing massive leaps forward from their patchy predecessors.
In the medium SUV class, things are at a bit of a lull at the moment, with a number of the top class contenders all getting on a bit.
As a result, the new Sportage has swooped in to provide a handsome, powerful, economical, practical, involving and likeable alternative, underscored by excellent aftersales service.
Even in its most expensive Platinum GT-Line guise, this Kia is exceptional value and a damned good medium SUV to boot.
Ford Kuga Titanium Diesel AWD from $47,190 plus on-roads
Soon to be facelifted, the Spanish-built Kuga excels on many fronts – packaging, performance, economy, handling, refinement, ride, safety, comfort, and features – so it’s a mystery as to why sales aren’t stronger. Still so strong after three years on the market.
Mazda CX-5 Akera Diesel AWD from $50,410 plus on-roads
Now one of the oldest in the medium SUV sector, the CX-5 nevertheless rules the roost with great design, a pleasant cabin, a sporty chassis, and plenty of practicality. Road noise intrusion and dour rear-seat ambience are the biggest downfalls, however.
Subaru Forester 2.0D-S Diesel AWD from $41,490 plus on-roads
Not the prettiest medium SUV out there, the Forester nevertheless builds a very strong case for itself thanks to value pricing, a friendly and usable cabin, healthy performance and surprisingly involving dynamics. Folks who own them love them and we can understand why.
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