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Driven: New Kia Sportage to boost sales

Sports star: Kia’s new Sportage is offered in three different specification levels and with three powertrains.

Fourth-gen Kia Sportage could be the car-maker’s joint top-seller with Cerato

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Kia logo21 Jan 2016

By TIM NICHOLSON

KIA’S all-new Sportage SUV has arrived in Australian showrooms, bringing improvements to interior space and quality, as well as upgrading safety, ride and handling, which sets it to become the brand’s most popular model.

The mid-size SUV offering overtook the Rio to be Kia’s second best-selling model last year with 7596 sales – its best ever result – but it wasn’t enough to beat the resurgent Cerato that recorded 10,157 sales.

Kia Motors Australia (KMAu) chief operating officer Damien Meredith said the fourth-generation Sportage could reach the sales highs of its increasingly popular stablemate.

“Equal best-seller with Cerato. In our sales plan we are looking for about 10,000 each for Cerato and Sportage,” he said.

When asked if the Sportage was good enough to find itself in the consideration set with the segment-leading Mazda CX-5, Mr Meredith was hopeful of a positive reception for the new model.

“I think the car is (good enough). We have just got to make sure that as an organisation and as a dealer network that we have got everything right. Customer satisfaction, customer care. We are pretty confident about the car.” Pricing for the Sportage now kicks off from $28,990 plus on-road costs for the base two-wheel drive Si, which is $3000 more than the previous starting price. However that was for a manual version, whereas the new model is offered solely with a six-speed automatic transmission.

In the outgoing version an auto added $2200 to the price, bringing it to $28,190, meaning the true difference in price is $800 for a car with more standard safety and comfort gear than its predecessor.

The lack of a manual gearbox means the starting price is higher than the opening gambit of a number of its two-wheel-drive manual rivals, but for equivalent auto versions, the Sportage stacks up well.

It edges out the Mazda CX-5 Maxx ($29,190), Honda CR-V VTi ($29,790), Mitsubishi Outlander LS ($30,490) and Toyota RAV4 GX ($29,990), and matches the Ford Kuga Ambiente.

There are three specification levels on offer – the Si, SLi and top-spec Platinum – and three powertrains, depending on the variant.

Kia’s 114kW/192Nm 2.0-litre four-cylinder MPI petrol engine is available in Si and SLi grades and drives the front wheels only. In SLi guise the price is $33,990.

A more potent 135kW/237Nm 2.4-litre four-pot GDI petrol engine powers one of the Platinum variants, which drives all four wheels and is priced from $43,490.

A 2.0-litre ‘R’ turbo-diesel engine delivering 136kW/400Nm is available in all-wheel drive only and is offered in SI ($33,990), SLi ($38,990) and range-topping Platinum ($45,990) trim.

Fuel economy has improved, dropping 0.5 litres to 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle in the 2.0L petrol, while the diesel now sips 6.8L compared with the previous model’s 7.2L figure. The 2.4-litre petrol consumes 8.5L/100km.

Mr Meredith said he expects sales to be split three ways between the three spec grades, with strong uptake of the Platinum early on, while petrol-powered models are likely to make up 70 per cent of overall volume.

Sourcing for the Sportage has shifted from Slovakia back to South Korea which is the reason the Australian-spec model is offered with the 2.0-litre MPI petrol engine rather than two newer GDI units.

All three engines are revised versions of existing units, with Kia stating that the diesel has been “significantly upgraded”, losing 5kg from the engine block but gaining a new oil filter module and an updated battery management system.

Kia says a lower inertia turbine wheel in the turbocharger and an electronically controlled wastegate actuator makes for more efficient turbocharging, while lower combustion temperatures compared with the outgoing model and other measures, such as a new diesel particulate filter, have helped lower nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions.

The Korean car-maker says significant engineering work has gone in to improving noise, vibration and harshness levels, with Kia claiming it is “one of the most refined cars in its class”.

New bushings in the rear suspension, additional sound-absorbing materials in the wheel arches, a thicker front windscreen, better soundproofing for the doors and a new dual-lip seal for the panoramic sunroom play their part in keeping the Sportage cabin quiet.

Vibration has been reduced thanks to a stiffer body, larger, more absorbent transmission mounts, stiffer alloy wheels and an improved seat design.

Advanced high-strength steel – 51 per cent of the body compared with 18 per cent in the previous model – was used to make the structure of the SUV stronger, which has helped improve torsional rigidity by 39 per cent.

Advanced hot stamp steel was used to reinforce the A- B- and C-pillars, the roof, side sills and wheel arches.

The Sportage is offered with six airbags as standard and two Isofix child seat tethers, while pedestrian safety gets a lift courtesy of a larger impact absorption area with more highly absorbent safety foam.

Active safety systems only offered on the top-spec Platinum include autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, a lane-change assist warning, high-beam assist and the Smart Parking Assist (SPAS) self-parking system.

Other safety gear standard across the range includes a reversing camera, rear parking sensors (front sensors are offered on all but the Si), ABS, ESC, hill-start assist, dusk-sensing headlights and front foglights.

Kia is describing the new model as the “best-handling Sportage yet”, thanks largely to the work of Kia Motors Australia’s local ride and handling program led by technical consultant Graeme Gambold.

Up front the fully independent front suspension carries over but with a number of modifications including stiffer wheel bearings and bushings and revised bushing mount positions for “more direct handling and greater stability”.

The rear set-up is fully independent and includes dual lower-arm multi-link suspension for both two- and all-wheel drive variants. A stiffer cross-member is also used to help reduce road noise, as well as other changes to suspension geometry help quell understeer and improve handling.

Improvements to the column-mounted electric motor-driven power steering system make for quicker steering responses and better steering feel around the centre.

The fourth-gen Sportage is 40mm longer at 4480mm, maintains the same width (1855mm) and height (1635mm) and the wheelbase has grown by 30mm to 2670mm ensuring greater passenger space.

Headroom is up by 5mm up front and 16mm in the rear, while legroom has increased by 19mm and 7mm in the second row.

Visibility has improved, there is more interior floor room in the rear and the rear seats can be reclined in seven steps from 23 to 37 degrees.

The cargo area is 35mm wider and cargo volume has increased by one litre to 466L.

Kia has used more soft-touch materials for the new Sportage, and the interior features the use of horizontal lines to give a feeling of space.

The car-maker says the cabin is split between ‘display’ and ‘control’ zones, with the display zone housing the infotainment system in the centre of the dash, while the control zone sits lower and is tilted 10 degrees towards the driver.

Standard gear in the Si includes a 3.5-inch TFT LCD display, a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, auxiliary and two USB ports and a six-speaker stereo system, cloth seats, six-way manual adjustable driver’s seat, alarm, roof rails, rear spoiler, 17-inch alloy wheels, a full-size spare, cruise control, ‘premium’ steering wheel and shift knob, Drive Mode Select, power windows and manual air-conditioning.

The SLi adds 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather trim seats with contrast stitching, LED tail-lights, 18-inch alloys, rain-sensing wipers, illuminated vanity mirrors, a luggage net, sat-nav, an auto-defog system and dual-zone climate control.

Platinum variants gain heated and ventilated front seats, an electric tailgate, a flat-bottomed perforated leather sports steering wheel with paddle shifters, panoramic sunroof, dual chrome tip muffler, bi-Xenon headlights, 19-inch alloys and a wireless mobile device charger that Kia says is a first for the segment.

A new ‘GT Line’ specification is also part of the package for Platinum variants, bringing sportier styling flourishes, optional black leather-appointed seats with a two-tone grey interior, and a unique suspension set-up.

Kia also said that it will be adding Apple CarPlay and Andriod Auto connectivity in the coming months and that anyone who purchases a Sportage before it arrives can have it added through a software update.

2016 Kia Sportage pricing*
Si 2.0-litre petrol (a) $28,990
Si 2.0-litre diesel (a) $33,990
SLi 2.0-litre petrol (a) $33,990
SLi 2.0-litre diesel (a) $38,990
Platinum 2.4-litre petrol (a) $43,490
Platinum 2.0-litre diesel (a) $45,990
*Excludes on-road costs

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