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Driven: Kia's edgy new Sportage

2010-09-01 15:11
Vehicle Specs
Manufacturer Kia
Model Sportage
Engine 2l, 2.4l, 2l CDRi
Power 122kW-, 130kW @ 6 000r/min (4 000r/min)
Torque 197Nm @ 4 600r/min, 227Nm @ 4 000r/min, 392Nm @ 1 800r/min
Transmission Five speed manual, six-speed manual/auto
Zero To Hundred 10.4-, 9.4 sec
Top Speed 184km/h, 196km/h
Fuel Tank 55l
Fuel Consumption 9.2-, 8.9-, 6.5l/100km
Weight 1 459-1 609kg
ABS Yes, with EBD, BAS
Airbags Six
Tyres 235/55R18
Front Suspension McPherson struts
Rear Suspension Multi-link
Service Plan 5 year/100 000km
Warranty 5 year/100 000km

Lance Branquinho

A decade ago there were no Kias with even passing aspiration appeal. Well-built, terrifically equipped and superbly priced family cars - that was Kia’s core business.

The product portfolio lacked something with the Eurocentric individualism of sibling brand Hyundai’s Tiburon.

Nowadays though, Kia’s relationship with stylish design language is a lot more interpretable. The industry is taking notice and reading between the lines - Kia is a brand with appreciating design value.


Kia’s chief designer is, of course, former VW and Audi style guru Peter Schreyer. This prodigiously talented German was responsible for the original Audi TT and is an acknowledged private transport design master.

Under Schreyer’s direction Kia’s revolutionised the aesthetics (and, some would argue, brand equity) of its product offering. Cerato. Pro_Cee'd. Sorento. Soul. All these cars are celebrated designs in their own right yet manage to share a recognisable Kia signature execution.

In a remarkably short time Kia’s cars have germinated from being forgettably anonymous to being among the most celebrated contemporary four-wheeled design portfolios around. (Check the video at the end of this text.)

Best of all, the company’s core values have not been supplanted by its newfangled chic. Perhaps no car better illustrates this than Kia’s latest offering to the South African market, the third-generation Sportage.

The previous one was a slightly indifferent-looking, yet very solid, soft-roader SUV generously trimmed with features. This third-generation Sportage has been engineered to operate at a whole new level.

Looking at the new car, its Sportage DNA is untraceable. This is a thoroughly new design which is in all likelihood the best-looking compact SUV on the market right now.

Although Schreyer’s probably poached the idea for those oversized rear tail lights from erstwhile employer VW’s Touareg, the rest of the car is fantastically executed. It is a masterful interplay of clean surfacing, subtle details and expertly crafted proportions.

Three engines

South Africans have the option of a smattering of Sportage models configured around three engine and transmission combinations.

Entry point is the Ignite-grade two-litre petrol, available only in front-wheel drive with either a five-speed manual or six-speed auto transmission. With an equal bore/stroke ratio, the entry-level Sportage produces an impressive 122kW of peak power.
The headline petrol 2.4 Sportage has no manual transmission option but does have all-wheel drive capacity - modulated by a clutch pack.

Eight units more powerful than its two-litre sibling, the 2.4 Sportages (front or all-wheel drive) share a 130kW output peak with the turbodiesels. Of course the two-litre compression ignition engine models (sporting either manual or automatic six-speed transmission) have demonstrably more rotational force - 392Nm against the 2.4's 227.

Statistically the three engines compare favourably with their competition – especially the two-litre turbodiesel, which is a very impressive joint-venture with Hyundai.


The value offering from manufacturers based on the Korean peninsula has always been stellar – very little is offered in the line of optional extras. The new Sportage continues this marketing mantra.

Front-wheel drive models roll 17" alloy rims, the all-wheel drive units an inch larger. Exemplifying Kia’s thorough homework on local road conditions, every Sportage has a full-size alloy spare wheel – a product vanished from most other SUVs.

The Sportage registers an impressive suite of active and passive safety features too. A sophisticated pulse-braking system has force distribution and adaptive cornering control for optimal control whether you require emergency deceleration in a straight line or are trying to avoid a hazard on a substrate surface.

In the event of a collision, six airbags will litter the cabin architecture.

Beyond these standard safety features the Sportage’s comfort and convenience tailoring depends on drive train specification.

Manual aircon, satellite steering-wheel controls, powered mirrors and windows, a mutli-format enabled sound system and rear-bumper embedded parking sensors stock the two-litre Ignite.

Upgrade to the more powerful 2.4 petrol and turbodiesel front-wheel drive options and you gain automatic aircon (augmented by a thermal regulated glovebox), leather upholstery, a powered driver’s seat, cruise control and daytime running lights.

The Sportage range is headlined by the all-wheel drive derivatives, adding significantly upgraded infotainment capability (buoyed by a sub-woofer with its own dedicated power supply) and the clever rear-view mirror field-of-view reversing camera, first seen on the Sorento. A panoramic sunroof is optional and Kia has a range of nudge and bull bars too - all calibrated to work with the airbag systems.


I know what you're thinking. “It looks great. Spec is neat too. Can’t possibly be a decent drive as well, right?” Wrong.

Crossovers. SUVs. Soft-roaders. Whatever you like to call them, vehicles such as the Sportage are built to traverse bad roads, not cut a path where there are no roads. To illustrate this, Kia chose to launch the Sportage in Mozambique, navigating the potholed roads near the Lebombo mountains. This provided classic soft-roader terrain, the kind of routing which an adventurous crossover owner might happen upon during a weekend breakaway.

Out on the Lebombo-bound route Kia’s new Sportage provided a driving experience true to its technical billing.

The turbodiesel engine, combined with a rather alert six-speed auto transmission, has a real urgency to it above 1800r/min. In a velocity range from 60-140km/h, throttle inputs are met with a surge of rotational force (392Nm) endowing the Sportage diesel with a generous safety margin when overtaking.

Sportage diesel's dynamics are well balanced, too, with the 32-bit engine control module enabling impeccable management of the piezo high-pressure injection system. Unsurprisingly, it averages 6.5l/100km on the combined cycle.

The Sportage’s choice or 17 and 18-inch alloys roll just enough rubber profile (225/60 and 235/55) to allow sufficient sidewall clearance to cushion through Mozambique’s worst potholes without warping a rim. If you do take out one of the tyres, there is of course that full-sized spare to ensure your onward journey is not done at sloth-like pace on a space saver space...

Secure traction

As tremendously responsive as the 2.0 CRDi Sportage is, most sales may be all-wheel drive 2.4 petrol models, which lack the diesel Sportage's mid-range punch, has entirely tolerable performance.

The entry-level two-litre engine needs a lot of input from the left hand and left foot to keep it going, though. Its manual transmission's shift regime is not stellar either, the co-ordination is very light yet the shift action (especially down from third to second) is slightly awkward when you hurry the lever through the gate.

The Sportage’s all-wheel drive is, of course, a front-wheel drive biased set-up augmented by rear axle traction when required. A clutch pack splits the torque distribution equally between axles when the lock function is engaged and only works below 40km/h. Don’t kid yourself though, this is at best a traction aid for muddy dirt roads and easy sand tracks to isolated vacation spots.

The Sportage doesn't have a reduction ratio or genuine centre differential. Ground clearance has been reduced by 23mm to 172mm on the new vechile, so there is no pretence at real off-roading, which is fine really – as it is a crossover. Boasting hill-start and descent assist electronics, it will do a neat job of manoeuvring water craft down and back-up slipways.

At speed and ina bustling urban environment – such as peak traffic in Maputo – the Sportage’s all-wheel independent suspension tracks confidently and overall it is an agile, well sorted car. Sorry, I mean crossover.

The electric power steering is predictably numb just off the centre-point at speed yet this affliction is common of all contemporary electrically geared power-assistance systems. It's the price you pay for an increase in efficiency and reduced fuel consumption.

From the helm Kia’s latest offering is very convincing. The Sportage’s seats and steering have ample adjustment, ergonomics are neat (the large font dials are legible and add to the cabin’s ambience) and although the materials are not all of premium soft-touch tactility, the cabin achitecture is very much well put together. The boot is 80mm longer and 110mm wider, multiplying to a total volume of 740 litres.


All things considered the Sportage has few foibles.

The 55-litre fuel tank – even when factoring in the range of its efficient engines – is a trifle too small for local conditions, where a weekend away round trip can easily tally 1000km. Staying with the fuel issue, the magnificent CDRi diesel engine has very sober drinking habits, only accepting 50ppm diesel – which, in all honesty, is to be expected for something of its capacity and output.

Well equipped, decently engineered and terrifically styled - the new Sportage is a fantastically accomplished vehicle.

Crossovers. SUVs. Soft-roaders. The difference between these market niches are frictional and for all intents and purposes the result of marketing malarkey. Kia's new Sportage seems to make sense of it all and should enable the South Korean brand to bolster its burgeoning image even further.


Sportage Petrol
2WD 2.0 IGNITE - R249 995
2WD PETROL 2.0 - R264 995
2WD PETROL 2.0 a/t - R274 995
AWD PETROL 2.0 - R294 995
AWD PETROL 2.0 a/t - R304 995
AWD PETROL 2.4 a/t - R319 995
Sportage Diesel
2WD CRDi 2.0 - R289 995
2WD CRDi 2.0 a/t - R299 995
AWD CRDi 2.0 - R319 995
AWD CRDi 2.0 a/t - R329 995

Inside Wheels24

Great looking SUV: Kia's next-gen Sportage boldly rolls into SA

'Ride quality is one of the SUV’s best traits and no driver will be disappointed with what the Sportage has to offer,' writes Wheels24's Charlen Raymond as he drives the new Kia Sportage in Cape Town.

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