KIA has been marketed in South Africa since 1998 and since then the manufacturer has become a sister company to Hyundai following a major downturn in the Korean economy. Fortunes have changed and the brand is now a well-respected member of the motoring establishment, helped in no small way by the success of its compact SUV, the Sportage. The first version saw the light of day overseas in 1993, so it was tried and trusted by the time it appeared in SA. It was tested by CAR in May 1998.
The second-generation model – as featured here – arrived in 2005 and was considerably bigger and classier. However, the original model’s low-range capability was dropped at this stage. In 2008 some make-up was added to the headlamps and front bumper and a small styling alteration was made at the rear. Seating comfort was enhanced and the warranty extended. Engines remained unchanged.
The base model is a 2,0-litre front-wheel drive with 104 kW and maximum torque of 188 N.m generated at a high-ish 4 500 r/min, with a similar-engined four-wheel drive next up on the list. A 2,0-litre turbodiesel 4×4 was also avail-able, offering a mild 82 kW and 251 N.m. at a much lower 1 800 r/min. Both engines could be specced with either a manual or automatic transmission.
Topping the range was the 2,7-litre V6 automatic 4×4 with 128 kW and 246 N.m, the latter figure peaking at 4 000 r/min. Luggage space is 288 dm3, expandable to 1 272, even though a full-size alloy spare wheel is housed under the boot board. The seats fold flat to accommodate large items.
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR ENGINES
Respondents to our survey mentioned very little in the way of criticism that cannot be put down to human error, such as one report that referred to problems resulting from over-fill-ing the sump. The few other issues mentioned appear to be related to electrical maladies.
One involved a total lack of power as if the ignition had been cut. In another similar incident the engine simply refused to start. Codes indicated crankshaft sensor and camshaft sensor errors, so these were replaced as well as the fuel pump, all to no avail. Unfortunately, no solution had been found at the time of going to press.
Remember that all these engines use a toothed rubber belt for camshaft drive. These have to be replaced every 90 000 km or six years.
Manual gearboxes have five speeds and automatics four. No issues were reported other than a reluctance to engage reverse gear on some automatic cars.
SUSPENSION, BRAKES AND WHEELS
Some respondents complained about short tyre life (20 000 to 30 000 km) and others mentioned having to replace brake discs at low mileages.
There were no reports of hassles from the hydraulically-assisted power steering.
A few vehicles suffered intermittent electrical failures affecting different systems. First a lamp, then a warning light in the instruments then an ESP warning… Although the reports do not specify that a solution was found, these problems could be due to poor earthing points, either from the battery to the body or at other places on the bodywork. One car’s rear wiper arm broke and another’s wiper motor needed replacement. The worst problem reported was an ECU that burnt out – again, the reason unknown but the mileage was over 200 000 km.
One owner complained that the radio did not have an RDS feature to automatically retune the frequency when travelling around the country. Two problems with the air-conditioner producing a mouldy smell were mentioned. A water leak into the front passenger footwell annoyed one 2009 model owner, but no cause was discovered.
One radio antenna was not properly connected, but easily rectified under warranty.
Fuel consumption of the V6 models came in for criticism, with some quoting figures as bad as 15-16 litres/100 km. A diesel owner, on the other hand, gets around 9,5 litres/ 100 km. In 2008, Kia announced something of a coup when the company decided to extend the warranty of its products to five years or 100 000 km with a three years/ 60 000 km maintenance plan. Remember that, for the warranty to be honoured, you have to meticulously keep records of the servicing and ensure that this is carried out at a Kia dealer and no later than the specified mileage.
Many owners reported having no trouble whatsoever, backing up the perception that the Koreans are determined to increase their market share by offering good value together with high levels of reliability. In fact, the only major reason for unhappiness with this vehicle was the fuel consumption of the V6. Overall, the Sportage should make an excellent second-hand option.