2016 Kia Sportage Review
by STUART MARTIN
Price: from $45,990 plus options and on-road costs
Engine/Trans: 136kW/400Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel / 6-speed automatic
Fuel Economy claimed: 6.8 l/100km combined
Suspension: MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear
Towing: 1900kg braked / 750kg unbraked
The ‘little Kia that could’ has done plenty for the breed in Australia and the new model is aiming to further that success.
The top-spec Platinum GT-Line on test in diesel guise is a $45,990 prospect, up from $41,590 for the superseded equivalent and sitting $2500 above the petrol equivalent, but the oil-burner is the pick of the power plant litter.
The latest incarnation of the two-litre alloy turbodiesel four-cylinder is 5kg lighter and sports 16 valves, direct injection and a variable geometry turbo to produce 136kW at 4000rpm, with 400Nm of torque from 1750 through to 2750rpm.
It’s delivered to the all-wheel drive system by way of a six-speed auto, it’s a smooth, if not supremely swift, automatic transmission.
The updated drivetrain boasts improved emissions and noise outputs, aided by a new exhaust gas recirculation cooler system, new NOx trap and a diesel particulate filter as well as reduced internal friction with a new nano-diamond piston coating, but no stop-start fuel saver system.
The engine and insulation changes have resulted in a quieter drivetrain, which has retained its easy torque-laden nature as well as decent fuel economy – the combined cycle claim of 6.8 litres per 100km is a little short of the 10 litres per 100km on test.
The 1590kg Sportage was punished over some less than favourable terrain for fuel economy, but with a 62 litre tank it would have a more than decent touring range.
While a mid-40s price tag might be cause for some to question the value, the features and safety gear on board more than offsets the asking price, particularly given the competition’s pricetags.
The comfortable cabin is leather-trimmed – in the case of the test vehicle a no-cost option (dependant on exterior colour selection) two-tone colour-scheme that eases the darkness – with glass black and chrome trim bits and a full length glass sunroof (with front half tilt and slide) to further light up the cabin.
The latter will test the dual zone climate control (with rear vents) come summer, as it’s a lot of glass, but front occupants will be able to use the ventilated front seats, which are also heated, to stay comfortable within what is a quality interior.
The Platinum driver gets a flat-bottomed and chunky leather-wrapped sports steering wheel and alloy pedals, as well as 4.2-inch colour TFT screen between the dials for a clear instrument panel.
All Sportages get a 7-inch touchscreen-controlled Bluetooth-fed six-speaker infotainment system, but the flagship adds standard satnav with SUNA live traffic feed and it also displays the image for the reversing camera.
There are three 12-volt sockets in the cabin, as well as two USBs – one of each for the rear seat.
The features list also includes keyless entry and ignition, nice-sized power-folding and heated exterior mirrors, a powered tailgate that’s a bit sluggish, power-adjustable front seats, cruise control, a trip computer, electric adjustment for the driver’s lumbar support, roof rails, power windows, tinted “privacy’’ rear glass and wireless charging for compatible phones.
The new model’s 2670mm wheelbase has grown by 30mm and improved rear legroom, resulting in a tall rear seat occupant just managing to sit behind a similarly-sized driver, with a reclining backrest but no sliding function for the seat base.
The braked towing capacity has been improved to 1900kg, up 300kg over the similar-sized previous generation Sportage; boot capacity is 466 litres – a one-litre improvement – rising to 1455 litres with rear seats folded.
The safety side of the Sportage equation is worthy – a five-star ANCAP safety rated vehicle, it has six airbags (driver and front passenger front and side airbags and curtain airbags), two ISOFIX child-seat tethers and three anchor points, as well as Electronic Stability Control (tied to the electric motor-driven power steering).
The Platinum models are standard with radar-based Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS) which is not prone to false alarms.
There’s also an electric park brake, auto parking system, tyre pressure monitoring, parking sensors front and rear, a reversing camera, hill start and descent control, lane departure, rain-sensing wipers (which are a little tardy in heavy rain), lane change assist warning and blind spot warning systems and automatic bi-xenon headlights with auto high beam.
The brakes have grown in size – front discs have gone from 300 to 305mm and the rears have grown from 262 to 302 mm – and the stoppers feel up to the job of hauling speed off repeatedly without serious complaint.
The Sportage has continued the breed’s sporting intent with its ride-handling package, with the MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension certainly tuned for the handling side of the equation.
It sits firmly on the 19-inch wheels and can be directed from A to B at express pace on sealed or unsealed surfaces, provided the integrity of the surfaces isn’t too bad; in the bends, body control is good and while it’s no old-school M3 for steering feel it does the job.
Dirt road running shows the all-wheel drive system is less nose-heavy than some when it comes to directing drive, which can be locked in at low speeds to a 50/50 split from its front-drive bias at normal speeds.
That’s enough for muckier going, up to the point where the road-biased rubber surrenders; if you were looking at the Sportage for regular dirt work then alternative rubber would be a good start.
While it can lock its centre differential up to around 40km/h, the ground clearance is only 172mm and it’s not really set up for anything more than moderate unsealed roads and not serious off-road work.
The overall impression is quiet and composed, if a little jiggly on some roads, with minimal complaints – the rear passengers get only small cupholders in the armrest, rear vision for the driver is still not fantastic thanks to a narrow rear window aperture and thick C-pillar.
Sensors all round help, as does the reversing camera, although any dirt road work makes it largely useless thanks to road grime.
Any concerns about Korean brand longevity should be comforted by the seven-year unlimited kilometre warranty, with roadside assistance (linked to regular servicing by a Kia dealer for annual renewal).
There’s also seven years of capped price servicing for the 15,000km/12 month maintenance intervals; pricing ranges from $419 for the first full service to $726 for the 60,000km service.
While not frightened to get mud in its wheelarches, the Sportage is more metrosexual than mud-plugger – as a family SUV it steps up to the plate and will find many suburbs-based fans.