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First look: Kia carves out a new Sportage

Sporty: Kia's new Sportage is built on the same platform as Hyundai's new ix35 SUV.

Fresh details emerge of Kia’s new Sportage compact SUV ahead of Geneva debut

Kia logo4 Feb 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

KIA Motors has taken a “dramatic shift in design direction” with its third-generation Sportage compact SUV, fresh details of which were released this week ahead of its world premiere at the Geneva motor show on March 2 and its mid-2010 Australian release.

Longer, lower and wider than the current model, the new Sportage is built on the same platform as Hyundai’s forthcoming Tucson-replacing ix35 but has a unique look that derives from the studio of former VW/Audi designer Peter Schreyer, whose work is now permeating throughout the Kia stable with new-generation models.

Kia describes the redesigned Sportage’s styling as “fresh, bold, athletic and sporty” which blends the key features of an SUV – higher driving position, raised ground clearance, etc – with “sleek and urban-friendly” aesthetics.

Although it is still to provide detailed specifications, Kia said the new Sportage will have a longer wheelbase than the current model and, as a consequence, will offer improved ride comfort and more room in the passenger and luggage compartments.

Kia Motors Australia (KMA) has told GoAuto that the new Sportage, which will be produced in South Korea for the Australian market, should continue to be offered both front- and four-wheel drive configurations and with petrol and diesel power.

While the powertrain line-up is still to be finalised, GoAuto understands that the entry-level front-drive model will use a 2.0-litre CVVT ‘Theta II’ four-cylinder petrol engine, as seen in the Cerato small car.

17 center imageIn the Cerato, the Euro 4 emissions-compliant engine produces 115kW of power at 6200rpm and 194Nm of torque at 4300rpm – a considerable improvement over the current Euro 3 Sportage 2.0-litre’s 104kW/184Nm – and is paired with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic gearbox.

On AWD variants, the current 129kW/241Nm 2.7-litre V6 petrol engine will be discontinued, with a new 2.0-litre turbo-diesel set to be the main drawcard. This is understood to be a 2.0-litre version of the new ‘R’ series of CRDi turbo-diesel engines, as seen (in 145kW/436Nm 2.2-litre guise) in the larger Sorento SUV.

Details of the Australian-spec R2.0 diesel are still to emerge, but these are certain to be an improvement over the Sportage’s current 2.0-litre common-rail turbo-diesel, which produces 103kW at 4000rpm and 304Nm from 1800-2500rpm. Overseas versions include a 102kW/313Nm unit and, at the other end of the scale, a 137kW/391Nm version.

Negotiations are also taking place over the inclusion of a new 2.4-litre Theta II petrol four, which is part of the MY2010 Sorento line-up. In that application it produces 128kW at 6000rpm and 225Nm at 3750rpm, and is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

KMA national public relations manager Jonathan Fletcher said the Sportage would provide a shot in the arm for local sales, bringing the gap between it and its most obvious rival, the ix35, closer than the current Sportage and soon-to-be-replaced Tucson.

Last year, Hyundai achieved almost 11,500 Tucson sales in Australia, while Kia sold fewer than 2000 Sportages over the same period.

“I’m assuming that the pricing is going to be super-competitive, and it is clearly is a good-looking car, so the sales projections I’m sure would be fairly aggressive for a new car that’s got state-of-the-art engines and drivetrains that people are wanting in compact SUVs,” Mr Fletcher said.

“It’ll be well equipped, it’s had Schreyer’s hand guided over it ...”

Mr Fletcher added that Kia would “absolutely” be chasing more fleet sales (particularly rental sales) with the new Sportage, which he said had given Hyundai an advantage.

“With newer models, more complete safety packages, with the ‘if not class leading’ then ‘up there with the class leaders’ engine efficiency, fuel efficiency, general drivability and comfort, all those items, and with good pricing – there’s no reason why we shouldn’t be able to compete with Hyundai,” he said.

“The new Sportage (will come) on the back of the new Sorento, the Koup, even Cerato sedan, which all showed great improvement last year. Sorento and Koup are both in short supply ... so there is clearly demand for what is both a great value package but a good looking and well engineered package as well.

“We now have cars that are well designed, they look good – which, after all, is what draws people in (to showrooms) in the first place – they perform well, they are fuel-efficient, they are well equipped, resale values are improving, their green ratings are right up there and their overall drivability are right up there as well.

“2009 was probably the turning point for Kia in Australia. It’s the year when we had new product that really was competitive with those of the competitors in the market segments in which we compete – and 2010 is a continuation of that.”

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