NEW SPORTAGE IN SA: Kia's fourth-gen Sportage has arrive in South Africa. The new SUV is a solid performer. Image: Wheels24 / Charlen Raymond
Cape Town - The metamorphosis Kia's Sportage has undergone over the years is one that shows evolution and adapting to change.
The popular vehicle has transitioned from rugged SUV, to soft-roader and curb hopper. Nor does the change in design detract from the vehicle’s appealing persona.
Earlier in 2016, Wheels24 reported on Kia's sister company, Hyundai, launching its new Tucson locally and in October, Kia follows suit with its flagship SUV.
What we’re dealing with
The Sportage, now in its fourth-generation, exemplifies Kia’s design ethos. As befits a flagship model, it's arguably the Korean automaker’s best product in its South African market.
The standard equipment fitted to the Sportage adds to its perceivable value-for-money proposition; all aimed at building on the success of the preceding model. Speaking of, since it went on sale globally in 2010, the third-generation Sportage sold more than 1.6 million units worldwide.
Gallery: 2017 Kia Sportage
The wheelbase has increased to 2670mm and overall length to 4480mm - an increase of 30mm and 40mm respectively compare to the outgoing model. The height has remained unchanged at 1635mm. The increase in length and width means boot space is rated at a voluminous 503-litres.
New design ethos
The new Sportage highlights the future of Kia's design language. Unlike the three generations before it, this Sportage’s headlights are positioned above the grill. The ‘tiger-nose’ is still there, but it looks fresher, smoother and more pronounced.
READ: Inside the new SA-bound Kia Sportage
The fog lights are incorporated into the bumper and the headlights have a unique design. The side profile hints at the previous Sportage; as if to keep some familiarity going. At the back the SUV sports a fancy new design, with the rear lights linked together by a strip running above the Kia badge.
Gadgetry and tech
Selected Sportage models feature wireless charging for smartphones and/or compatible devices. It's equipped with two USB and an AUX port. An 18cm colour screen features satnav, while six airbags are also standard.
Vehicle stability management (VSM), electronic stability control (ESC) add to the vehicle’s on-road dynamism and the electric power steering gives the SUV a sure-footed and assured steering action.
New GT Line
Only two models were available to drive at the local launch in Cape Town; the 2.0-litre diesel SX AWD and new 1.6T GT Line. The GT Line is differentiated from its siblings by dual exhaust tips and four 'ice cube’ LEDs. It has 19” alloys as standard compared to the 16" - 19” aluminium alloys available to other derivatives.
Marketed as the "performance model" in the range, the GT Line delivers a pleasantly smooth ride - despite having stiffer suspension compared to standard variants. The seats are especially comfortable. The GT Line model is powered by the same 1.6-litre turbo engine found in the Kia Cerato Koup, but in the Sportage the engine is detuned to 130kW/265Nm.
Coupled with a seven-speed DCT (dual clutch transmission), performance is punchy but the sound is muted.
Planting your foot on the accelerator will lunge the Sportage forward but the gearbox is not as responsive as the engine. Once on the go however next gear will be selected without effort, but when a sudden change in speed is called on, the ‘box hesitates, resulting in a whining four-cylinder engine.
At just shy of R600 000, the GT Line is not cheap and is overshadowed perhaps by another model in the range…
Diesel the go-to model?
Though the GT Line has more feature, the SX diesel model is R32 000 cheaper than the GT Line and could be a better choice. Its 2.0-litre diesel engine churns out 130kW and a very punchy 400Nm from a low 1750rpm. It offers the same complaint, enjoyable ride quality of the GT Line but the manner in which the two models channel power to SUV is worlds apart.
The SX diesel’s six-speed auto is also more confident and does not jump between ratios with heaps of confusion. On the open road the diesel unit does not sound loud and the effortless nature of the engine makes tackling any trip a breeze.
Sportage’s position in SA
Kia’s new Sportage is undoubtedly going to be another success for the Korean manufacturer, at least in terms of global sales. It's the brand’s best-selling model and its appealing design will not have difficulty winning customers over. Ride quality is one of the SUV’s best traits and no driver will be disappointed with what the Sportage has to offer.
The Sportage not only grew up… it also grew more expensive. South Africa’s economic climate is very strained at the moment and consumers will be looking to stretch their budgets. Kia did opt to fit all derivatives with model-specific features and equipment but it remains to be seen if it will find favour with the local market.