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Geneva show: Kia debuts more frugal Sportage

Good sport: The changes might be subtle, but Kia has redesigned the grille and the LED tail-lights for the Sportage’s mid-life update.

Mid-life update for Kia Sportage brings new petrol unit and better fuel economy

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Kia logo4 Mar 2014

By TIM NICHOLSON in GENEVA

KIA has unveiled its overhauled Sportage compact SUV at the Geneva motor show overnight, headlined by styling enhancements and a new petrol powertrain.

Due to arrive in Australian showrooms in April or May, the upgraded Sportage features a new front grille design, updated LED tail-lights, new alloy wheel designs and a shark-fin antenna on the roof.

Improvements to the cabin include the use of soft-touch materials on the dash and on the upper parts of the door panels, new leather and cloth seat trims and a new ‘Supervision’ instrument cluster with a 4.2-inch LCD display screen.

The Slovakian-built Sportage gains a new audio system with 4.3-inch touchscreen that includes a reversing camera, seven-speaker ‘Infinity by Harmon’ sound system with an external amplifier and subwoofer, and USB connection.

A heated steering wheel and power-adjustable driver’s seat have also become available, along with Kia’s FlexSteer system that allows drivers to alter the weight of the steering. However, Kia Motors Australia has confirmed that the latter will not be offered here.

As a part of the mid-life freshen-up, Kia has replaced the current 2.0-litre petrol engine with a new-generation 2.0-litre GDi unit with the same 122kW power output but a slight increase in torque from 197Nm to 205Nm.

The five-speed manual transmission available in two-wheel-drive petrol models looks set to be replaced by a new six-speed gearbox.

This has had an impact on fuel economy with the 2WD manual dropping from 8.0 litres per 100 kilometres to 7.8L/100km on the combined European cycle, while the 2WD matched with the optional six-speed automatic is down from 8.8L to 7.9L/100km.

Auto-only all-wheel-drive petrol models also feature improved fuel economy, down from 8.8L to 8.3L/100km.

The 135kW/392Nm 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engine remains unchanged but the oil-burning Sportage gains a slight improvement to its fuel economy, dropping from 7.2L to 7.1L/100km.

A trailer stability control system has also been included for better protection when towing.

The South Korean car-maker has made improvements to the NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) levels with the inclusion of a new soundproof windscreen that helps reduce wind noise.

Other changes to reduce vibration include the use of a bush-mounted front subframe, while a new mounting bracket for the transmission makes for greater rigidity and an intermediate shaft has been added to the drivetrain that Kia says results in symmetrical front driveshafts.

The minor update comes after Kia Australia switched sourcing of the Sportage from South Korea to Slovakia mid-way through last year.

The change was made as the Korean plant struggled to keep up with high demand in Asia while the Slovakian factory was keen to add to its export list. A favourable Euro exchange rate also meant Kia Motors Australia could drop the price on some variants by up to $1500 at the time.

Kia’s move followed sister company Hyundai’s decision to change sourcing of some of its ix35 variants from Korea to the Czech Republic in early 2013.

Currently the Sportage is available from $25,490 plus on-roads for the base 2.0-litre petrol two-wheel-drive manual Si before climbing to $39,990 for the 2.0-litre diesel all-wheel-drive Platinum Navigation auto.

Kia Motors Australia said it is too early to discuss pricing and specifications for the updated model, with those to surface closer to the launch date.

Last year, Kia sold 6348 Sportages, which marked a 49 per cent increase over its 2012 tally of 4260 units.

In January this year, 632 examples of the SUV found homes in Australia, up 50.5 per cent over the same month in 2013 and pushing it to the fifth most popular compact SUV for the month behind the top-selling Mazda CX-5 (1853), Toyota’s RAV4 (1404), Subaru’s Forester (1029) and Honda’s CR-V (795).

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