The third generation of the Kia Sportage, which has just been introduced in South Africa, emphasises style, space and specification and is far less inclined to go off-road than any of its predecessors.
The latest version is longer and wider than the previous Sportage, but sits notable lower, and looks every bit as sporty as any of the recent (Kia design chief) Peter Schreyer designs. Up-front we find a broad “tiger-nose” grille with prominent chrome surrounds and large, swept-back headlamps. Daytime running LEDs are fitted to all but the base Ignite version. The lower section incorporates black plastic with integrated foglamps. The rear is also attractive with low mounted indicator lights and curvaceous tail-lamps . From the side one gets the sportiest appearance with a sloping roofline and elongated rear-door windows finished off by a prominent chrome garnish.
Interior space is excellent in the front and at the rear – so much so that a third row of seats would probably be a simple design change. In particular, there is plenty of foot room for the driver with a large left foot rest. The centre armrest provides storage although it is not adjustable for height and all door pockets can take water bottles plus more. The quality of the leather is better than on older models and the seats offer good support. Luggage space looks plentiful and a full-size alloy spare wheel is offered under the boot board, which I appreciate. The facia and controls are classy, but the matt black centre section on the passenger side looks a bit low-rent and might scuff easily.
The facia top is hard plastic but still looks fine and absorbs light well. In fact the interior is all-black in typical German fashion, appealing to some, but perhaps requiring some lighter tones for others. The steering wheel also is smart-looking and has well designed audio and cruise control buttons with the most used features (volume and speed set/resume) operated via small rocker tabs that fall easily to the thumbs. Unfortunately the wheel is only adjustable for rake, not reach. Both sunvisors have extensions for extra safety and visibility. Other features are dual-zone climate control and an audio system that accepts both aux inputs and a USB memory stick. The one optional extra is a sunroof and this is a bargain at R10 000, for it provides a tilt/slide glass version with a large opening plus a smaller fixed glass section above the rear seats. Both can be shielded off by retracting sunscreens.
The turbodiesel engine is basically a reduced-capacity version of the Sorento’s powerplant and it’s easily the most satisfying to drive of the three versions available. It offers 130 kW (identical to the output of the 2,4-litre petrol) and 392 N.m on the automatic model (382 N.m for the manual). A variable geometry turbo cuts turbo-lag down to a minimum. A six-speed gearbox is used whether you choose manual or auto transmission. Manual shifting is possible but the ‘box does not hunt through the gears even without the existence of a Sport mode.
On our test route of 85 km to Namaacha, Mozambique we averaged about 8,8 litres/100 km including quite a bit of very slow-speed commuting through the street of Maputo. The roads to the south-west of Maputo are not seriously potholed, but the surface is poor, providing a test of suspension capabilities. The Sportage has a firm suspension with little body-roll. For poor roads, it could be a bit softer. Note that the standard wheel size for the two-wheel drive models is 17-inch with 225/60 aspect tyres, while the 4×4 versions use 18-inchers with 235/55 aspect tyres.
For smooth roads, the ride is perfect. The steering assistance is hydraulic and offers generous levels of feedback Hill-hold and hill descent are standard. Equipment unique to the AWD models are a six-CD shuttle with a subwoofer, rear-view camera and keyless go. A centre diff lock can be switched on via a button located on the facia.
Of course the Kia warranty is fantastic, with a five-year/100 000 km limit plus a service plan with identical limits and five years’ worth of roadside assistance. Service intervals are 20 000 km for the diesels, but you have to stick to 50 ppm low sulphur fuel to allow for the extended servicing.
Pricing for the diesel models: R289 995 for the 2WD manual, R299 995 for the 2WD auto, R319 995 for the AWD manual and R329 995 for the AWD auto. With prices such as these, expect Kia sales to continue on an upwards path…