Car reviews - Kia - Sportage - S
Comfortable ride, responsive engine, strong specification, generous cargo space, full-size spare wheel.
Room for improvement
Monotone cabin décor, some wind- and tyre noise, overeager lane-keeping tech, middling headlights.
More spec, competitive price for sophisticated new entry-grade Sportage S
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20 Dec 2021
By MATT BROGAN
THE FIFTH generation Sportage arrived in Australia at the start of November with the kind of keen pricing and a generous equipment list we’ve come to expect from South Korea’s second-biggest car brand.
Although it’s almost $2000 more expensive than the outgoing model, the new Sportage range represents exceptional value. The entry-grade S variant tested here is equipped with an efficient turbo-diesel engine, smooth eight-speed auto, part-time all-wheel drive (AWD) and is priced from just $39,845, plus on-road costs (ORCs).
That price undercuts those of the majority of the Sportage S’ diesel-powered AWD rivals considerably. The Hyundai Tucson AWD diesel range kicks off with the Elite from $45,000 (+ORCs), while the cheapest Mazda CX-5 diesel AWD – the Maxx Sport, is $42,690 (+ORCs). It’s a similar story with Volkswagen’s Tiguan 147 TDI Elegance, which is priced from $52,290 (+ORCs).
In fact, the only competitor to beat the Sportage in this segment is the ageing Nissan X-Trail TS, from $37,465 (+ORCs).
Compared with the outgoing model, the “entry-level” Sportage feels positively space age. It has LED headlights, a digital instrument cluster, front centre airbag, AEB with pedestrian and cyclist detection, lane- follow assist and even adaptive cruise control, all of which are standard issue.
The remainder of the feature list is extensive – and far better than those offered by most entry-grade medium SUVs with which the Sportage competes.
Highlights include 17-inch alloy wheels (including a full-size matching spare), an 8.0-inch infotainment array (featuring wireless Apple CarPlay and plug-in Android Auto connectivity), Bluetooth telephony and -audio streaming, partial LED tail-lights, a leather-accented steering wheel, tyre pressure monitoring, rear parking sensors, as well as an electric park brake.
The Sportage S CRDi, on test here, is powered by a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel engine that produces 137kW at 4000rpm and 416Nm between 2000-2750rpm. Combined-cycle fuel consumption is listed at 6.3 litres per 100km, with CO2 emissions of 163 grams per kilometre.
Those numbers see the diesel-powered Sportage offer 1kW and 16Nm more grunt than the outgoing model, while also being 0.1L/100km more efficient and 5g/km cleaner.
The Sportage measures 4660mm in length, 1865mm in width, 1660mm in height, which makes it 175mm longer, 10mm wider and 5mm shorter (in height) than the outgoing model.
Kia’s newest medium SUV rides on a 2755mm wheelbase, which gives it 85mm of additional space between the axles when compared with the previous model.
Some of that space is felt in the Sportage’s roomier cabin, but the biggest gains are noticed in the load bay. Cargo space has been upped to 543 litres (+77 litres) in five-seat mode (up to window height), while the overall carrying capacity has increased to 1829 litres in two-seat mode, which is a staggering 374-litre gain in utility space over the superseded model.
Kia continues to offer its entire passenger car range with a seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes capped-price servicing and roadside assist.
You’ve got to be pretty picky to dislike the Sportage. While its styling may be divisive, the feel behind the ‘wheel is about as good as you’ll get in the category. The entry-grade S offers a comfortable and confident ride quality, light – yet predictable – steering, as well as an efficient – but gutsy – turbo-diesel engine.
The cabin is roomy, and the view out exceptionally good (as it would be, in high-riding SUV). Compared with smaller mid-size rivals (we’re looking at you, CX-5), it’s easy to get in and out of the cabin – especially to the back seat, which provides plenty of room to swing your legs.
It’s also a cabin that, despite its monotone décor, feels open and airy. The seats are roomy but supportive and the storage cubbies and open oddment trays offer plenty of space for all your knick-knacks (the retractable cup holders in the front centre console are particularly handy).
Most of the Sportage’s controls and information screens are easy to understand and navigate, although shorter drivers may find the central infotainment array a bit of a reach. That point aside, the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto infused system is a cinch to operate and offers surprisingly good sound quality from a base-level audio package.
The driver assistance aids in the Sportage S are plentiful and diligent; the adaptive cruise control is particularly effective – and a welcome inclusion in a medium SUV priced from less than $40k. If we did have one complaint, it’s that the lane-keeping assist function is a little overeager in reacting to any deviation from the centre of the lane.
We discerned a little tyre noise on coarse surfaces and a slight amount of wind noise over the wing mirrors at freeway speeds. But otherwise, the Sportage S is a calm and relaxed ride that provides exceptional fuel economy (we managed 6.4L/100km on test) and effortless torque.
From just off idle, the jointly developed Hyundai-Kia D4HD engine offers up lashings of torque and the transmission responds quickly to make ready use of the turbocharged unit’s ample outputs (137kW and 416Nm). Executing overtaking manoeuvres is a breeze; the Sportage’s A8F-series eight-speed auto skips gears instantly to offer the precise amount of motivation required… The Kia can quickly find the naughty side of the speedo when pulling around slow-moving traffic!
The other pedal is just as reassuring to operate. The braking action is assertive but with the kind of well-metered pedal progression that makes around-town driving pleasant for all occupants Soft stops are easily managed, and the action of the Auto Hold system is as smooth as we’ve found in just about any model we’ve tested – including many high-priced European marques.
If there’s one, final, downside to the Sportage’s rap sheet, it’s the performance of its LED headlights. The field of light that it casts is decidedly average, therefore, one’s range of vision is especially short on low beam. Plus, besides the decidedly average spread of light available, the example of the Sportage S we tested also seemed to suffer from poor headlight alignment.
On balance, however, the new Kia Sportage S is a terrific family-sized SUV. It combines good road manners with a generously sized cabin and an extensive equipment list for an exceptional price.
It might be the base version of the Sportage line-up, but we’re not sure many will notice that.
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