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Kia locks in next Sportage

Tweaked: Kia's Sportage will come with a local suspension tune to avoid criticism that has hit its sister, the Hyundai ix35.

Next-generation Kia Sportage to arrive in August with a full arsenal of drivetrains

7 Jun 2010

KIA’S third-generation Sportage will be backed by a more extensive model range than expected in Australia – and a unique local suspension tune in response to criticism of the handling of its sister model, the Hyundai ix35 – in Australia when it is launched locally in less than two months.

The Korean car-maker’s redesigned compact SUV, which goes on sale here by the end of August after its Australian media launch in New Zealand on August 2, will be available in three specifications, powered by three engines with two transmissions.

A 2.4-litre petrol engine will be available from launch alongside a 2.0-litre diesel – both of which will be offered exclusively as all-wheel drive models – while the entry-level front-wheel-drive 2.0-litre petrol variant will come with both manual and automatic transmissions.

Kia Motors Australia said it had initially expected manual versions to join the range at a later date due to strong demand in Korea, where the all-new Sportage is now on sale, while a version of Hyundai-Kia’s new 2.4-litre Theta II four-cylinder engine has now also been confirmed as part of the launch line-up.

As in parent company Hyundai’s closely related new ix35 compact SUV, which replaced the popular Tucson in February, the Theta II will develop peak power of 130kW (and maximum torque of 227Nm) – slightly more than the 128kW maximum it produces in Kia’s new mid-size Sorento SUV, which debuted the new four-cylinder engine when it went on sale here last October.

Like the ix35, however, the Sportage 2.4 replaces the current model’s 2.7-litre petrol V6 but misses out on the direct fuel-injection technology applied to the Theta II four in Hyundai’s new i45 medium sedan, which delivers 148kW and 250Nm.

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The midrange Sportage variant will, like the flagship diesel version, be available exclusively with the Hyundai group’s own new six-speed automatic transmission, which debuted in last year’s facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe mid-size SUV.

The top-shelf Sportage is powered by the same 135kW/392Nm 2.0-litre R-series four-cylinder turbo-diesel that powers the flagship ix35, and which is the smaller sibling to the effective new 2.2-litre R-series that debuted in both the new Sorento and facelifted Santa Fe last year.

At the bottom end of the new Sportage range is a front-wheel drive model powered by the same 122kW/197Nm 2.0-litre petrol engine as in the entry-level ix35, matched with both five-speed manual and six-speed automatic transmissions.

Just as the front-drive ix35 replaced one of the most popular SUVs ever sold in Australia – the pioneering front-drive Tucson City – the 2WD Sportage will be volume-selling version of the new Sportage, which made its global debut at the Geneva motor show in March.

Although Hyundai has moved slightly upstream with its base ix35 ($26,990) in terms of pricing, expect prices of the new Sportage to be roughly in line with its predecessor, which currently opens at $24,990.

KMA spokesman Kevin Hepworth confirmed the new Sportage would be launched with a full range of engine, transmission and specification options, but said some versions may initially be short in supply.

“There will be 2.0-litre, 2.4-litre and diesel engines from launch in both two-wheel drive and all-wheel drive configuration, with the option of both manual and automatic transmissions and three specification grades,” he said.

“Initially we were told manuals wouldn’t be available from launch that now appears to have changed, so we will go to market with a full range by the end of August.

“However, it all comes down production capacity and we’re already constrained on Sorento diesel, so there’s an expectation that will be the case at least initially with the Sportage.

“There will be a diesel and a manual from launch, but it will be tight – any shortage will be a factory supply issue.

“We are yet to release pricing but in the usual Kia manner it will be sharp,” said Mr Hepworth, who added that Australia’s Sportage will come with specific tuning in response to local criticism of the ix35’s handling.

“We’ve looked very closely at criticism of the ix35 and have gone back into the parts bin at Kia to try to produce an improved version. The Australian specification will be a little different, with improved suspension tuning specifically for Australia.

“There will be more on that story at the launch, but hopefully it will answer some questions (about the ix35),” he said.

Australia’s version of the five-door, five-seat Sportage wagon, which are now on the water following the commencement of production this month, will also come with a 1600kg braked towing capacity for all models (750kg unbraked) and 16x6.5-inch alloy wheels with 215/70 R16 tyres.

Standard features will include electronic stability control, ABS brakes, six airbags, air-conditioning, power windows/mirrors and remote central locking, while the options list should comprise foglights, a sunroof and 17x6.5-inch and 18x7.0-inch alloys (with 225/60 R17 and 235/55 R18 tyres respectively).

As we’ve previously reported, Kia’s latest SL-series Sportage is larger than before and measures 1440mm long, 1855mm wide and 1645mm high.

Riding on a 2640mm wheelbase and offering minimum ground clearance of 172mm, the new Sportage ranges in kerb weight between 1426kg for the 2WD 2.0-litre petrol manual to 1672kg for the AWD diesel auto.

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