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First drive: Aussie overhaul for Kia's new Sportage

Inside and out: Kia's Sportage gets a new look to match its new underpinnings.

Total overhaul for Kia’s Sportage compact SUV includes Aussie suspension tweak


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2 Aug 2010

KIA’S Schreyer design revolution that started with the 2008 Cerato sedan has infiltrated the third-generation Sportage.

Now priced from $25,990 for the base model (a $1000 rise from the outgoing version) and on sale in Australia now, the long-running compact SUV series has had a complete overhaul to bring it in line with its recently released (and closely related) cousin from Hyundai, the ix35.

Like that car, the new SL Sportage offers a trio of four-cylinder engine options – a 2.0-litre and 2.4-litre petrol pair, as well as a variation of the lauded R-Series turbo-diesel that is now also of 2.0-litre capacity.

At $34,990, the cheapest diesel is some $2500 more expensive than before, but includes a new in-house developed six-speed automatic gearbox first seen in last November’s Sorento mid-sized SUV. Previous Sportage diesels have been manual-only affairs.

The newcomer also has benefited from Australian-specific steering and suspension tuning to make it more palatable to local drivers’ preferences – a first for Kia but not the last, the Hyundai-owned brand promises.

As before (but unlike the original launched in Korea in 1992 and in Australia four years later), the new Sportage will be available only in one five-door wagon body style.

Overseen by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer but penned by former Ford stylist Massimo Fruschella, it adopts the wedgy low-roof, high-waistline, contoured clamshell bonnet and reverse-angle C-pillar of Kia’s 2007 Kue concept car, for a more ‘coupe-like’ visage.

Some of these elements, along with the ‘tiger nose’ corporate grille, connect the compact SUV with the latest Cerato, Soul, and Sorento.

Despite being 90mm longer and 15mm wider than the outgoing KM, the new Sportage is 60mm lower and has 23mm less ground clearance (to 172mm) compared to earlier, helping to bring the Cd aerodynamic drag figure down from a ho-hum 0.40 to a middling 0.37.

Weight also tumbles by up to 91kg, depending on the model, with the little Kia SUV ranging from 1385kg for the base two-wheel drive version to 1609kg for the flagship diesel.

Space inside has increased markedly, aided by the cab forward boxiness of the body, 10mm longer wheelbase (to 2640mm), and front and rear tracks that are 74mm and 75mm wider to 1614 and 1615mm respectively.

Taller folk will appreciate a 24mm rise in driver’s seat travel compared with before, while recent Kia dashboard elements surface in the form of a thick four-spoke steering wheel, three-barrelled instrument cluster and serrated edge centre console fascia.

Cargo area room rockets as a result of a 70mm stretch of the rear overhang, for an 80mm longer and 110mm wider floor area. Kia says the Sportage is up there for total available space, since it ranges from 740 litres to 1547 litres with the rear seats folded.

At the other end of the car sits new or upgraded powerplants, mounted transversely and driving the front wheels unless the part-time AWD all-wheel drive system is fitted, meaning that torque is transferred to the rear wheels when traction is lost, via a system created by Magna Powertrain dubbed Dynamax.

Interestingly, the latter is not available on AWD versions of the ix35.

Built at Kia’s Gwangju factory in Korea, the base Sportage is the 2WD-only (front-wheel drive) Si, using a 1998cc 2.0-litre twin-cam Theta II petrol engine with CVVT continuously variable valve technology to deliver 122kW of power at 6200rpm and 197Nm of torque at 4600rpm. That’s up from 104kW and 184Nm in the equivalent old 2.0-litre vehicle.

In five-speed manual form, it hits 100km/h from standstill in 10.4 seconds, while the new compact six-speed automatic with a sequential shift facility takes 0.2 seconds longer.

Kia claims the combined average fuel consumption figure for both transmission types in the 2.0-litre Si is 8.7 litres per 100km, with the carbon dioxide emissions figure registering 208 grams per kilometre (auto: 208g/km).

Next up is the 2359cc 2.4-litre Theta II with CVVT to help produce 130kW at 6000rpm and 227Nm at 4000rpm in the mid-range SLi AWD and series-topping Platinum AWD. Both are six-speed auto-only propositions, returning 9.2L/100km and 219g/km.

The 2.4L’s 0-100km/h rush is over in 10 seconds, while top speed is just 4km/h better than the 2.0L 2WD Si at 188km/h.

Likewise, the Sportage diesel is also six-speed auto-only. Called the R2.0 engine, it too is destined for just the Sportage SLi AWD and Platinum AWD models, and is the same as that found in some ix35 cars.

Boasting a third-generation common-rail fuel delivery system with Piezo-electric injectors, as well as aluminium construction, a VGT variable geometry turbocharger, EGR exhaust gas recirculation system and diesel particulate filter, the chain-driven 1995cc DOHC 16-valve Euro 4-compliant four-pot turbo-diesel channels 135kW at 4000rpm and 393Nm from 1800rpm.

Unsurprisingly, the R2.0 is the most frugal of the fleet, showing 7.5L/100km and 198g/km.

But don’t expect neck-snapping acceleration – it does 0-100 in 9.6 seconds, on its way to a 195km/h V-max.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) discontinued the hoary old 2.7-litre V6 petrol Sportage during the last model’s run in 2007.

Suspension is via a compact McPherson strut and coil system up front and a new independent multi-link arrangement in the rear (replacing the previous model’s dual-link design), while the steering is a hydraulic rack-and pinion set-up offering 2.99 turns lock-to-lock.

All are mounted on a lightweight hydro-formed subframe consisting of rubber bushes to help isolate noise, vibration and harshness elements into the passenger compartment, as well as improve handling and ride qualities.

An increase in high tensile steel is said to bring big strides in body stiffness and safety, Kia says.

Towing capacity is rated at 2000kg with a braked trailer for the 2.0-litre manual petrol and 1600kg for the rest (autos). The spare wheel is full-sized.

Four-wheel discs (with ventilated front and solid rears) are featured with ABS anti-lock brakes and electronic brake-force distribution.

ESC and traction control are also part of a comprehensive safety story that runs to a new rollover sensor, hill-start assist control (to prevent roll-back when starting on an incline and roll-forward when reversing up a slope in reverse) and downhill brake control (to limit speed during a steep descent).

While on safety, active anti-whiplash head restraints are fitted, along with six airbags (including front-side and full curtain items) as standard.

The SLi and Platinum models have an optional rear-view safety camera that transmits an image to an LCD display integrated into the interior rear-view mirror.

An ANCAP five-star crash-test safety rating is expected, with the results due in the last quarter of 2010.

KMAu says its product development specialist Graeme Gambold spent five months ‘optimising’ the Sportage to “… better match the dynamics of all future Australian bound models to local tastes and conditions.”

UK-spec sway bars, suspension geometry and damper alterations, and Australian-specific power steering tuning are the upshot of a pre-production prototype failing to deliver the desired handling and suspension set-up requirements deemed suitable to Australia back in March.

“Through my previous experience with KMAu I have come to understand the premium that Australian drivers place on the balance of comfort and sportiness for this country’s unique roads,” said KMAu president and CEO MK Kim.

“With KMC’s support it has been possible to set ourselves the target of delivering those special characteristics so important to the Australian owner. Sportage is the first of our new-generation cars to benefit from the determination to deliver ‘Australian’ flavour ... it will not be the last.” This is basically an on-road or light duty off-road proposition, but Kia still publishes Approach (28.1 degrees), Departure (28.2), Ramp Over (17.7), Roll Over (45.0) and Maximum Climb (44.2) angles.

Standard features include ABS, ESC, EBD and TCS, the full suite of airbags, air-conditioning, six-speaker CD/MP3/USB/radio audio with wheel-mounted controls, cruise control, 17-inch alloy wheels, body coloured door handles and (powered) mirrors, front fog lamps, cloth seats, power windows and remote central locking with alarm.

The SLi adds chrome exterior highlights, roof rails, a rear spoiler, leather steering wheel and gear shifter trim, a rear-view camera with an in-mirror display, auto-on headlights, a trip computer, dual-zone climate control air-con, sunvisor extenders and an electric driver’s seat lumbar support.

Choosing the Platinum brings leather seats, improved audio, luggage net, rain-sensing wipers, a cooled glove box, 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, heated front seats, a ventilated driver’s seat, a smart key (keyless entry, engine start/stop button), ‘welcome home’ escort lights, LED daytime running lights (a Kia first), and a panoramic sunroof.

Bluetooth phone connectivity will not be available until the end of the year.

According to KMAu national marketing manager Steve Watt, the key demographic will be males aged between 28 and 40.

“The Compact-SUV segment is one of the most competitive in the Australian market. In 2009 the 22 entrants accounted for 45 percent of total SUV sales,” he said.

Kia expects to sell about 300 Sportages a month, evenly split between the three model grades.

More than 6900 KM-series Sportages have been sold in Australia since April 2005, with about 1900 alone sold last year. That’s out of a total of 860,000 produced since 2004.

Like the last model, it was based on a co-existing Hyundai (Tucson).

Kia Sportagepricing:
Si 2.0L$25,990
Si 2.0L (a)$27,990
SLi 2.4 (a)$31,990
SLi R2.0 (a)$34,990
Platinum 2.4L (a)$35,990
Platinum R2.0 (a)$38,990

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