Just a cursory look around the wheels of the multitude of SUVs at school drop-offs show very few leave sealed roads. With the updated Sportage mid-size SUV range, Kia has recognised this ‘Family Phenomenon’ and taken the trend further with a nicely-equipped all-new variant called the Sportage Si Premium.
This really hits the sweet spot for family buyers. Slipping under $30,000 is the first step, but Kia has been smart in equipping its new Sportage variant with a level of luxury and safety which stands-out in that price bracket.
And as we know from first sampling the Sportage in New Zealand - and in subsequent local tests - Kia’s good-looking mid-size SUV can handle the rough stuff. Even ‘friendly-fire’ in the form of children.
Kia Sportage Si Premium Overview
Included as part of the mid-life updates, the new Kia Sportage Si Premium joins a range which has found favour with thousands of Australian families. Priced at $29,990, the Kia Sportage Si Premium sits between the entry-level front-wheel-drive Si model (starting from $25,490) and the upscale SLi (from $34,790).
Exclusively a front-wheel-drive automatic, the Kia Sportage Si Premium adds to the entry-level Si with items like 17-inch alloy wheels, some interior leather, roof rails, LED DRLs and a reversing camera. In short it is ideally set-up for families searching for the best value in an SUV which isn’t really intended for off-road action.
Across the range of updated Kia Sportage models, refinement is up thanks to an acoustic windscreen and new front sub-frame bushes and driveshafts. These changes address one area where the front-drive Kia Sportage models have been criticized.
Kia Sportage Si Premium Engine
So Kia included lots of detail changes in the mid-life update for Sportage - but perhaps none bigger than the engine. Kia has swapped the Sportage to its GDi 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (that’s Gasoline Direct Injection).
With maximum power of 122kW at 6200rpm and peak torque of 205Nm at 4000rpm, the GDi provides 8Nm more torque than the previous model’s 2.0-litre powerplant. Kia claims fuel consumption improvements too (the Si Premium rated at 8.7l/100kms).
Kia Sportage Si Premium is exclusively fitted with a six-speed automatic transmission and drives the front wheels (SLi and range-topping Platinum models are all-wheel-drive).
Kia Sportage Si Premium The Interior
There’s an immediate positive impression when you climb inside the Kia Sportage Si Premium (as indeed with all Sportage models we’ve driven). That’s thanks to Kia’s clever stylists who have delivered a top-notch appearance which is very inviting.
The dashboard is nice and modern with some soft-touch materials (new Supervision instrument cluster and 4.2-inch LCD display included in the updates) and the Si Premium model scores lumbar adjustment for the drivers’ seat.
We’ve always been pleased with the Kia Sportage’s driving position and the Si Premium model scores Kia’s excellent reversing camera system with the image displayed in the internal rear-vision mirror. Ready to fire-up the engine, you feel more like you’re behind the wheel of an upscale hatchback than an SUV.
We’ve read some comments that the high waistline of the Kia Sportage restricts rear seat visibility. We can see where this is coming from but the Car Showroom Juniors (aged 10 and 11) had no complaints about that or the leg-room. Cargo space is 564-litres with the rear seat in-place or 1,353-litres when folded.
Kia Sportage Si Premium Exterior & Styling
Regular readers will be familiar with the enthusiasm of www.carshowroom.com.au for Kia’s German styling chief Peter Schreyer. We think Schreyer is a genius - a contender for the best of the current crop of car stylists - and the arrival of the Sportage certainly enhanced his reputation (Schreyer also heads the styling of sister company Hyundai these days).
Now a few years down the track we still think the Kia Sportage is a head-turner. That angled side glass, rising beltline and purposeful front-end certainly combine to give the Sportage a large dose of ‘street cred’ enabling it to stand-out against some rather less than inspiring segment rivals.
Minimal changes were included in this mid-life update – just 17-inch alloy wheels and roof rails for the Si Premium we tested, side indicator lights were relocated to the external mirrors, the radio antenna switched to a ‘shark fin’ and LED DRLs were added to the front-end.
Kia Sportage Si Premium On The Road
We can still remember our first sampling of the Kia Sportage over the excellent roads of New Zealand’s South Island around Queenstown. Kia’s then all-new mid-size SUV gave a remarkable showing both on and off-road as Kia trumpeted its Aussie-developed suspension tune – albeit on Kiwi roads!
Nothing has changed really and the updated Kia Sportage remains an SUV enthusiast drivers will appreciate. In fact, like some of the other new rivals, the Sportage drives more like a hatchback than an SUV – bodyroll and dive are hardly noticeable, steering response is impressive and the six-speed auto ensures a smooth driveline at all speeds.
Like all Kias which have been fettled by the Australian suspension team, the Sportage rides a tad firmer than some rivals – in a sporty way – so rapid changes of direction over our high-speed mountain roads test loop were handled with aplomb. For an SUV the Kia Sportage’s mid-corner ‘set’ was impressively balanced (naturally at the limit understeer creeps in).
Hard to tell the advantages of the revised front suspension bushes and acoustic windscreen. Personally we wouldn’t have thought refinement was lacking in previous generation models and this time around our Kia Sportage Si Premium was impressively quiet in all driving conditions.
Certainly a part of that overall refinement picture is the driveline. Kia’s 2.0-litre direct-injection engine is excellent and is nicely-mated to the six-speed automatic transmission for handy acceleration at low and mid-range. Of course Sportage’s relatively light 1482kgs weight is also part of that picture.
In the city environment female buyers and first-time SUV drivers will find the Kia Sportage very easy to maneuver and park. That reversing camera in the Si Premium is a handy ally and we quite like the image in the internal rear-vision mirror – it somehow makes sense looking in the mirror for a rearwards view.
Kia Sportage Si Premium Issues
A little more bolstering/support for the front seats wouldn’t go astray.
Kia Sportage Si Premium Verdict
Regular www.carshowroom.com.au readers know we rate the Kia Sportage very highly. The Si Premium is a very smart mid-life addition to the Sportage model range.
Why? Because Kia has smartly identified the shift from family buyers towards 2WD versions of mid-size SUVs.
The Korean giant isn’t Robinson Crusoe there but where Kia has been smart is with the level of specification for the Si Premium model. And automatic transmission and some leather inside for less than $30K should get the attention of buyers in this league.
Then you factor-in Kia’s best-in-the-business seven year warranty, seven year roadside assistance and seven year capped-price servicing….well the Sportage Si Premium clearly presents cost-conscious family buyers with an alluring proposition.
Kia Sportage Si Premium The Competition
This sub-segment rivals small cars as being the most competitive in the business. But don’t for a second think the Kia Sportage struggles – in fact it matches key rivals in just about every department.
The Ford Kuga is a Car Showroom Favourite and the front-wheel-drive Ambiente is good value at $27,990. The Kuga is nicely styled and terrific to drive but, like other rivals, you’ll need to carefully check specific specifications to see how various models shape-up against the well-equipped Kia Sportage Si Premium.
Mazda CX-5 is of course the dominant player – rightly so because it’s a great car and a definite Car Showroom Favourite. Good looks and great to drive, the Mazda CX-5 isn’t the cheapest option if you’re trying to match the exact specifications of the Kia Sportage Si Premium and we’d definitely recommend the models fitted with Mazda’s 2.5-litre Skyactiv engine (starting with the Maxx model at $32,880).
Nissan’s British Qashqai is the new kid on the block and is also a Car Showroom Favourite. We like the looks (although unlike its predecessor this model is clearly part of the family which includes X-Trail and Pathfinder), we like the quality interior kit and it’s nice to drive.