2016 Kia Sportage Review and First Drive

by under ReviewSUV on 31 Jan 2016 05:33:14 PM31 Jan 2016
FROM $28,990
Fuel Consumption
FROM 6.8L/100km

Styling still a head-turner; impressive new technology; extra interior and cargo space is appreciated; nice to drive


Under full-throttle acceleration the diesel doesn’t quite match the best of the Europeans for refinement

Looks can be deceiving. Kia’s excellent Sportage has always been a style leader amongst mid-size SUVs and, at first glance, the all-new fourth generation model certainly continues the theme.


While identical to the current generation in height and width, the all-new Kia Sportage is longer overall and in the wheelbase (for extra interior space) and boasts significant extra technology…so there’s much more to this story than looks alone.

With well-credentialed automotive industry expert Damien Meredith now installed as Chief Operating Officer at Kia Australia, the Korean giant is enjoying welcome lifts across several key measurements. Yes, sales were up in 2015 to 33,736, but equally importantly, the figures for customer satisfaction, after sales and service plus dealer satisfaction were also up significantly. The JD Power customer satisfaction ranking saw Kia lift from 11th position to number four (no doubt boosted by its seven year/unlimited kilometer factory warranty with roadside assistance – the best in the industry - plus capped-price service costs).

“With other new model activity this year – the all-new Picanto compact car and a facelift for the Cerato small car – we’re targeting sales growth of around 15.6 per-cent to 39,000 vehicles which should equate to a market share of 3.5 per-cent,” Mr Meredith explained.

Kia Sportage Overview

The pace is a cracker at Kia these days and the all-new Sportage arrives in Australia barely five months after its global debut at the Frankfurt Motor Show. That’s an appropriate location as the trendy German city is home to Kia’s European styling studios where much of the design work for this and the previous generation Sportage models was done.

With extra technology such as Smart Parking Assist (parallel or reverse) and Autonomous Emergency Braking as well as extra convenience items like wireless phone charging (a first in this league), Kia’s all-new Sportage certainly matches the segment’s star performers on most fronts. A major ‘assist’ in that story is the noticeable upward shift inside with premium materials and improved refinement across the range.


A change in the model lineup too with the range-topping Platinum model (petrol or diesel) coming standard in ‘GT Line’ specification which includes unique sportier suspension tune, a very nice flat-bottom perforated leather-wrapped steering wheel, black or two-tone grey leather seats, piano black trim, smart key with push-button start, alloy pedals, steering wheel paddle-shifters, metal look rear diffuser with dual exhaust pipes, hands-free tailgate operation, and 19-inch alloy wheels.

Platinum model Kia Sportage also leads the range on the technology front with items including Blind Spot Detection and Lane Change Assist, Forward Collision Warning System, Lane Departure Warning System, Autonomous Emergency Braking and High-Beam Assist

Kia’s fourth generation Sportage range shapes-up like this:

Si 2.0-litre petrol FWD $28,990
Si 2.0-litre turbo-diesel AWD     $33,990
SLi 2.0-litre petrol FWD  $33,990
SLi 2.0-litre turbo-diesel AWD  $38,990
Platinum 2.4-litre petrol AWD  $43,490
Platinum 2.0-litre turbo-diesel AWD  $45,900


Kia Sportage Engine

Switching production of SE-Asian market Kia Sportage models from Slovakia to Korea sees a change in the engine lineup. The 2.0-litre ‘Nu’ petrol engine powers Si and SLi front-wheel-drive models but the exclusively all-wheel-drive Platinum model’s petrol engine is now the ‘Theta II’ 2.4-litre. Diesel power comes from the 2.0-litre ‘R’ turbo-diesel (and all diesel models are all-wheel-drive) which has received a fettle for 2016.


The entry-level 2.0-litre petrol engine carries over from the previous generation but benefits from advances including continuous variable valve timing, an improved cooling system and optimized  injectors…all to improve efficiency. Despite all that, there has been a slight decrease in output – now delivering 114kW of power at 6200rpm and peak torque of 192Nm at 4000rpm. Combined –cycle fuel consumption scores 7.9l/100kms (and that is considerably less than the previous generation’s 8.7l/100kms).

Kia’s ‘Theta’ 2.4-litre petrol engine joins the Sportage likewise equipped with technology gains to improve efficiency and performance. Maximum power is 135kW at 6000rpm, peak torque of 237Nm is delivered at 4000rpm and combined-cycle fuel consumption rates at 8.5l/100kms.

Big changes for the 2.0-litre ‘R’ turbo-diesel result in reduced NOx emissions to meet increasingly tighter global standards. Maximum power is 136kW at 4000rpm, peak torque of 400Nm is achieved between 1750-2750rpm and, for combined-cycle fuel consumption, you can chalk-up 6.8l/100kms (down from 7.2l/100kms in the previous generation).

All powerplants drive through Kia’s own six-speed automatic transmission.

And extra tank capacity (up from 58-litres to 64-litres) will see fourth generation Kia Sportage buyers making less frequent trips to the fuel bowser.


Kia Sportage The Interior

Range-topping Kia Sportage Platinum aces the competition with a segment first wireless charger for mobile devices. In addition, Kia is close to finalizing the required license agreements for a Carplay system (suitable for both Apple and Android) – this will be fitted shortly but if you buy a Sportage before then, a quick trip to the dealership for a free and simple software update will have you all set.


All models run a seven-inch colour touchscreen for the audio and reversing camera (satellite navigation is standard for SLi and Platinum models). For driver information, the entry-grade Si uses a 3.5-inch mono TFT screen in the centre of the dashboard while SLi and Platinum grades step-up to a 4.2-inch colour TFT supervision cluster.  

The previous generation Kia Sportage was far from squeezy inside, but even so you immediately notice the extra interior dimensions when you climb inside. The re-designed front seats are supportive and are actually 2.5kgs lighter than the previous generation.

We liked the new dashboard layout and increased use of soft-touch quality materials. And we especially liked the two-tone interiors in the Platinum models we drove – very ‘on-trend’ for today’s buyers.


And there’s good news in the rear seat for Kia Sportage fans. The reclining backrest which went missing in the previous generation models has returned.

The cargo area now includes a secure location under the floor and capacity is up to 466-litres. As well, some 35mm of extra width is provided and the lift over height has been reduced by 47mm to ease the strain when loading heavy items.


Kia Sportage Exterior & Styling

Most of the crayon work for the all-new Kia Sportage originated from the company’s European studios, there was also input from the stylists in Irvine, California and Namyang, Korea. The task was to give the all-new Sportage a more imposing look and without doubt Kia’s design team under the direction of the brilliant German Peter Schreyer has delivered.


The hallmark ‘tiger nose’ grille and headlights are separated with the lights mounted high and sweeping back onto the bonnet. And the air intakes are larger – which enhances the appearance of width even though the all-new Kia Sportage measures 1855mm which is identical to the previous generation.

‘Ice cube’ LED fog-lights and aluminium-like skid plates further enhance the front-end of the range-topping Platinum grade.

In profile the all-new Kia Sportage maintains the look of the acclaimed previous generation although a longer and more aerodynamic rear spoiler delivers a more swept-back shape. Speaking of aerodynamics there has been a slight gain there to – the drag Cd down to 0.33.


Depending on the model, Kia Sportage is equipped with alloy wheels in 17-inch, 18-inch or 19-inch and we were particularly attracted to the design of the 19-inch version on the Platinum grade – again very contemporary and ‘on-trend’.

Rear lights are high-mounted and part of as series of parallel lines which again enhance the appearance of width. Separate cornering and reversing lights look slick.

Kia Sportage On The Road

Melbourne turned on a foggy, drizzly day for the Sportage media launch which took us from the CBD out to Ballarat over a variety of sealed and unsealed roads. Your www.carshowroom.com.au managed to drive all three engines and all three model grades during a full two-day outing.


We liked the strong performance of the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel – good response at all engine speeds and nicely quiet when freeway cruising. However we do think some of the latest European turbo-diesels still have the edge for refinement under harsh acceleration.

The 2.4-litre petrol engine would probably be our pick. As per the previous generation, the 2.0-litre powerplant resorted to frequent gear changes when asked to work hard climbing hills in the country – but for urban dwellers it would probably be perfectly acceptable.


Across the range the all-new Sportage exhibited top-notch ride and handling – now doubt in part the result of Kia’s localized suspension development which has proved a winner on so many models in recent years. A different spring here, revised damper tune there and changes to the motor-driven power steering all pay off with a dynamic which challenges the segment’s best (Mazda CX-5 and Ford Kuga).


Kia Sportage Challenges

Our points deduction is that despite the extra work on refinement and sound insulation, Kia’s 2.0-litre turbo-diesel was just a smidge too noisy under full acceleration.

Kia Sportage Verdict

No doubt about it, Kia is onto a winning formula with the latest Sportage. We were astonished when we first drove the previous generation in the snow at New Zealand’s Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground outside Queenstown - and the all-new models are equally impressive.

Sportage is a cohesive all-round package. A nice overall package size matched to nice powerplants and an impressive chassis all combine to deliver driving dynamics even enthusiasts will enjoy.


And the improved styling of the cabin is matched by exterior looks which we certainly like.

Throw-in the extra interior space and technology and you can’t help but conclude this is very good effort by Kia.


Kia Sportage The Competition

Just like players in the first round of the Kia Australian Open tennis tournament, there’s no shortage of rivals looking to take-on the all-new Sportage. No doubt the all-new Sportage has trained well, is well-prepared and has the arsenal to take-on anyone.

Of course any discussion about mid-size SUVs must kick-off with the segment-dominating Mazda CX-5. Although not the newest design in this league, the hot-selling CX-5 offers petrol or diesel engines and wide range of variants. Priced from $27,190, Mazda CX-5 ticks all the boxes for mid-size SUV buyers and delivers equal-best driving dynamics.

The other contender for ‘Best Drivers Vehicle’ in this segment is Ford’s German origin Kuga. Ford powers the Kuga with either a 1.6-litre petrol engine or a 2.0-litre diesel engine and with prices starting from $27,490 there’s certainly value here.

Nissan’s excellent X-TRAIL also does brisk business in this segment and, for some extra coin (from $37,590) can be had with seven seats – note the five-seat lineup starts from a competitive $27,990. We like the looks of the X-TRAIL (a vehicle Nissan targets for Europe) and with petrol engines in both 2.0-litre or 2.5-litre as well as a 1.6-litre turbo-diesel you’ll probably find an X-TRAIL model to suit your needs and budget.

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