The Kia SUV that moved the game on with the last generation, is moving the game on a little bit further.
When the third generation Kia Sportage first rolled onto the scene in 2010, we saw a side of Kia that we hadn’t seen before. The Korean marque was riding a wave of change, led by designer Peter Schreyer, and the Sportage was conceived as a way to communicate to the world that Kia was on the up, and would just keep rising.
The car we have today is the fourth iteration of the Sportage, taking the mantle from the third generation model in 2015. When it appeared on our shores, it brought with it revised engines and trim levels, and even sported a locally-tuned suspension setup for maximum Oz appeal. So is the Sportage up to its old tricks again, bringing perception of the Kia marque to new highs the way the last Sportage did?
“The new generation Sportage will continue the story started some five years ago, this time with even more style, more technology… and more quality.” - Damien Meredith, CEO Kia Australia
There was a time when Kias were about as visually appealing as a loaf of bread at a supermarket. They were drab, but they were cheap, which is why they sold well anyway. When Peter Schreyer joined the Hyundai-Kia team in 2006, he led the charge that Kia had to take to ensure its survival in a new age. And when the third-generation Kia Sportage burst onto the scene in 2010, it became clear that Kia’s intentions to make design a core aspect of its products. The rest is history.
The new Sportage is more of an evolution of existing Kia design traits and values, rather than the revolution of the last iteration. Because of the generational improvements the marque has made since then, there wasn’t a need to reinvent the wheel, only to polish it differently. So, the new Sportage gets an eclectic mix of soft lines and hard edges, a design purportedly to be inspired by fighter jets. The ‘Tiger Nose’ corporate grille has grown in this iteration, but its dimensions are still instantaneously recognisable. You’ll know what car this is the moment you see it.
The sides of the car are relatively unremarkable, with only the steep rake of the windscreen and play on surfaces of any real note. The rear however sees a perk, smart looking design, with wrap-around taillights (which aren’t actually full width, despite appearances) and a neat boot lid. The Sportage looks best in GT-Line trim, with its big alloy wheels and sharp design embellishes, but even the SLi looks pretty good. The SL is the least visually appealing, solely due to the rather boring and small alloys that it comes with.
Engine & Drivetrain
“Three engines comprise the Sportage range, and there’s something for everyone really, whether you're on a budget, looking for a bit more petrol power or desiring an efficient turbo diesel.” - CarAdvice
A trio of engines are on offer with the Sportage range, ensuring maximum market appeal. The base engine here is a 114kW/192Nm 2.0-litre atmo petrol, with a 2.4-litre petrol just above it making 135kW and 237Nm. The sole oil burner in the range is a 2.0-litre turbodiesel, which offers 136kW of power and 400Nm of torque. Of the three, the base 2.0-litre in front-wheel drive setup is best suited for city driving, offering decent urban performance, while the turbodiesel should be the engine of choice for those intending to eat up the miles on the motorway.
All Kia Sportages come with a six-speed automatic gearbox, and offers front-wheel and all-wheel drive on every variant.
“Apart from the new design, the clearest hint of the Sportage’s grown-up deportment manifests in the cabin design. It’s not particularly flashy and is relatively devoid of the bold flourishes but it still looks good, but best of all it’s ergonomic.” - Motoring
Kia knows that it’s worthless going through all that effort on the outside if the interior would only disappoint. So plenty of resources were devoted to ensuring that the cabin looks and feels just as upmarket as the brand wants it to. And on first glance, it lives up to aspirations. Everything is laid out exactly as you’d expect them to, and the dash design is really rather pretty, let alone for a Korean marque that used to make washing machine-like cars not that long ago.
There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment unit in the middle of the centre stack, which features bluetooth connectivity for handsfree calling and audio streaming. Satellite navigation and dual-zone climate control come as standard here too, lending the Sportage an air of premium-ness through the range. Boot space is rated at 466-litres, which is a little bit behind some of the competition, but it’s still a usable shape and easy to load and unload.
Behind the Wheel
“Like the Qashqai and related Hyundai Tucson, it’s not the last word in dynamism, but that’s ok.” - TopGear
With most SUVs like the Sportage spending most of their time in the urban jungle, the Sportage feels most at home doing just that. Through the concrete sprawl, the Sportage maintains its composure through bends, with light and accurate steering making in-town manoeuvres a dawdle. The wheel weights up at speed, giving the Sportage a planted sensation when cruising.
There’s perfectly manageable levels of body roll, though it doesn’t corner quite as flatly as some rivals. Though the aesthetics of the Sportage are polarising, the chassis setup of the Sportage alludes to the middle-of-the-road positioning that Kia used to inhabit. It aims to be inoffensive, and ends up feeling unremarkable.
That is all well and good though, as no one looking at a family wagon like the Sportage will be putting outright dynamism as a priority. Families do like being comfortable though, and GT-Line cars falter here somewhat. The Sportage GT-Line gets big wheels and a firmer suspension setup, which makes the Sportage properly uncomfortable on rougher surfaces.
Safety & Technology
“Kia is working hard on improving the level of safety kit it offers on its models – and the Sportage is one of the first cars to show this.” - AutoExpress
Kia’s have long been regarded as strong contenders as family cars, owing to their clever family-oriented solutions and comprehensive list of safety features. One particular feature of note is a seatbelt warning for every seat, which will allow driving parents the ability to know which one of his/her young passengers is being cheeky. Automatic headlights are standard here, as are the usual electronic safety nets. Six airbags are also available across the range.
Top-spec Platinum cars get autonomous emergency braking (but only at speeds of up to 80km/h), lane-keep assist, and blind-spot monitoring. The Australasian New Car Assessment Program (ANCAP) awarded the Sportage an impressive 5-stars, its maximum rating.
The previous-generation Sportage brought Kia to the fore, and we have a feeling that this fourth iteration will do much the same. It’s smart to look at, above-average to drive, jam-packed with technology, and comes with a great warranty package. Add to that capped-price servicing, and suddenly you’re left wondering why you don’t already have one.
Our pick of the range is the Kia Sportage SLi diesel. As the mid-spec offering, it has all the creature comforts that you’d expect of a contender in this category, and it saves you from the rather uncomfortable ride that the GT-Line model suffers from. It might not be the best looking Sportage of the range, but it’s the best we think it has to offer.
WhichCar - 4/5 - “The Kia Sportage is a great looking compact SUV that is comfortable and quiet to ride in. It also ranks among the most enjoyable compact SUVs to drive. Diesel Sportages have more than enough power with terrific economy, and Kia’s seven-year warranty is the best available.”
CarsGuide - 4/5 - “The Kia Sportage is every bit as good if not better than many of its fierce rivals, but with its great value for money - including Kia's industry leading seven-year unlimited km warranty, stylish cabin, great ride and handling it's ready to take the fight to the competition. But ultimately its stunning looks will be enough to seal the deal for many buyers.”
CarAdvice - 8.0/10 - “The pricing range is right, standard inclusions are typically impressive as we expect from Kia, and the local suspension tune has ensured the Sportage, regardless of model grade, is a joy to drive. The only trick if you decide on a compact SUV with Kia badging will be choosing which engine variant best suits your needs. The Sportage is another well sorted offering from Kia.”
Motoring - 80/100 - “The new breed of Kia vehicles started to show real promise a few years ago, and now the latest generation Kia Sportage mid-sized SUV brings a new level of maturity to the segment. It represents a coming-of-age for the brand, a refined, good-looking, smart, easy-to-use vehicle that’s affordable to buy and run. It’s a little bigger now but still navigates the urban jungle with ease. The best Kia yet?”
AutoExpress - 4/5 - “The Kia Sportage is an eye-catching and good value SUV rival to the Nissan Qashqai, but with compromises.”
Car & Driver - 4/5 - “Kia's revised, odd-looking Sportage trades power for fuel economy. Or so says Kia.”
TopGear - 6/10 - "Kia Sportage review: Latest Sportage has an angry face, but it's otherwise just as welcoming.”
Carbuyer - 4.1/5 - “The latest Kia Sportage has a high-quality interior and impressive versatility, while a seven-year warranty adds to its list of selling points.”