Since the launch of the fourth generation Kia Sportage we have been keen to take a longer drive in some of the variants. We start this process with what is we believe the pick of the model range. The SLi 2.0L ‘R’ diesel.
As we mentioned in the launch review the smaller AWD SUV segment is becoming increasingly popular with consumers, competitive from manufacturers and homogenised by designers. Kia however has leapt to the forefront of the segment with a stylish complete package.
My first impression when looking at the Sportage again is that the style is dynamic, bold yet subtle. Like a lot of us as we get a bit older the fourth generation Sportage has grown. The wheel base is longer by 30mm, and overall length by 40mm. This may not seem like much but internally, the extra room is very noticeable, especially for rear occupants. Overall height is the same. With wider wheel arches it takes on a more muscular appearance but tapers towards the rear. It definitely has enough differentiation in its design, mainly from the bold muscle bound front and grill which amongst onlookers tends to polarise opinion.
From the side the appearance is longer and sleeker than the previous model with longer front overhang and tapering rear spoiler. The good thing is that consumers will be buying a vehicle that will differentiate itself from the crowded segment.
Inside the story gets better. Again the first impression is one of a spacious and relatively integrated interior with soft feel dash and quality ambiance. There is plenty of headroom, knee room shoulder room etc. As this is typically a young family wagon the rear seats are extremely important and as mentioned the extra wheelbase is noticeable here.
Even with the front seat fully slid back the rear occupants have adequate head, shoulder, hip, knee and leg room, more so than many of its competitors. Rear seats can also recline through 37 degrees, which adds to the versatility. The seats are better and sculptured more for two rather than three. The seats will fold almost flat to enhance load area.
All seating is comfortable with the SLi having leather and electric adjustment for the driver with lumbar support. The height and reach adjustable steering wheel is thick rimmed, small diameter and feels great in the hands and contributes to the feeling of sporting (for an AWD SUV) handling.
In front of the driver is a typical Kia dash with two large round dials and a MFD display between. The SLi has a 7-inch touchscreen infotainment screen featuring reversing camera display with dynamic parking lines, with standard satellite navigation. The infotainment system features Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and aux-in and USB ports for smartphones and MP3 music players.
Below are rows of buttons for everything from audio to air conditioning. The overall look is a little cluttered and I feel that aesthetics took precedence over function in a couple of instances. An example of this is that the centre console is different from the SLi compared to the Platinum. This has to do with electronic handbrake on the Platinum and it allows a more functional layout.
There is plenty of storage areas for cups, bottles, sunglasses and other incidentals. Visibility is improved especially through the ‘Á’ and ‘Ç’ pillars. There is still a bit of a blind spot on the ‘A’ pillar. Boot space is more than adequate and with fold down 60.40 rear seats, quite flexible
The SLi is powered by the very competent 2.0 l ‘R’ diesel combined with a six-speed automatic gearbox and linked to Kia’s proven on-demand AWD system. The 2.0L diesel produces power of 136kW @ 4000rpm and torque of 400Nm @ 1750-2750rpm. Given how this combines with the 6 speed automatic transmission to produce smooth, tractable effortless driving, I’m not sure why anyone would buy the petrol engine. Fuel economy is excellent at 6.8l/100km combined and we got well below this on the freeway. The ride is great on bitumen and more than adequate on dirt roads and fire trails. It also drives reasonably well on sand but overhangs limit it somewhat. Towing is also a feature with 1900kg capacity.
Safety is a feature and the Sportage sets some benchmarks. The all-new Sportage scored a maximum possible five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP and ANCAP crash performance tests.
Improvements in integral body strength increases not only safety but helps with reducing NVH levels as well. A total of six airbags are standard, with airbags for driver and front passenger, first row side airbags, and first and second row curtain airbags Two ISOFIX child-seat tethers and three anchor points are fitted as standard to the second row of seats, to safely secure younger passengers.
Pedestrian safety is further improved with a lower leading edge on the bonnet and a larger impact absorption area, which has been revised with greater use of highly-absorbent safety foam and synthetic rubber, further helping to protect pedestrians in the event of a collision.
The Sportage is also available with a range of active safety systems to minimise the chances of a pedestrian collision. Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system helps ensure stability under braking and cornering through careful management of the vehicle’s optional Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and electric motor-driven power steering. Both systems come into play as soon as the Sportage’s many sensors detect a loss of traction, helping the driver to remain safely in control of the vehicle.
Buyers of the new Sportage will also benefit from some of the most up-to-date active hazard-avoidance technologies to ensure occupants’ safety at all times.
One of the other key features is the commendable decision to offer reversing cameras across the range, a safety feature that should be on all cars. Kudos Kia!!! Kia stepped up the quality and quietness but also the value proposition at the same time.
So to sum up the new Sportage SLi has a powerful and economical diesel engine and smooth transmission, outstanding towing capacity for its size, smooth to drive, great on road and good on the dirt, a quality spacious interior ambiance with plenty of room for a small family and enough design to differentiate itself from the mass offerings in the market. Combine this with the industry’s best warranty and all this for a value packed $43,387 RDAP. As a mid sized AWD SUV it is definitely worth a look.
What is good!
- Value for money standard features
- Engine transmission combination
- AWD for safety
What is not good!
- Cluttered centre stack switches
- ‘A’ pillar blind spot
- Nothing else obvious
Model: Kia Sportage SLi
Model Price: $43,387 RDAP
Engine: 2.0L “R” CRD
Drivetrain: AWD 6 speed auto
Power: 136kW @ 4000rpm
Torque: 400Nm @ 1750-2750rpm
Safety: 5 Star
CO2 Emissions: 178 g/km
Economy: (ADR comb) 6.8 L/100km
Tow Capacity Max: 1900 kg
Tow Ball Rating: 190 kg
Servicing: Capped Price
Warranty 7yr/ unlimited km with full roadside assist
Overall AnyAuto Rating 85/100
Behind the Wheel 9
Ride & Handling 8
Fit for Purpose 9
Towing Ability 7
Off Road Ability 6
Value for Money 10