The redesigned Tiger-nose grille and other small touched up elements make the new KIA Sportage look spectacular. Pictured:SUPPLIED
The redesigned Tiger-nose grille and other small touched up elements make the new KIA Sportage look spectacular. Pictured:SUPPLIED

In such a competitive marketplace with near endless alternatives, KIA has certainly managed to hold its own and has come full circle from its origins of selling ho-hum but affordable cars, to now offering truly great buys.

Yet its story grows still more curious in the telling. The Sportage is KIA’s global best-selling vehicle, and has come to represent the brand’s most superlative device, if you discount the Stinger.

This top-line 2.0I Diesel EX PLUS 2WD is certainly not a half-baked effort but at R546,995, it and its direct segment rivals are creeping uncomfortably close to the entry level offerings from the premium league of BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Audi and Lexus.

This grade’s cabin is lined with fine cowhide and filled to the rafters with features. The cabin, which has now increased in overall length by a 30mm extension of its wheelbase from the previous generation, means the living quarters are huge, harmonious and, dare I say, indulgent. There is no geeky aspiration tech  such as head-up displays, gesture controls nor does it toy with even the simplest of sensor-driven autonomous steering.

But it does simplicity in a refreshingly efficient and somewhat luxurious way. KIA has focused on the small but important matters, which are solid build quality, a superior drive feel and light inputs that make it an easy steer.

Our test car’s EX Plus grade has a full-on glass roof, keyless entry/start, an engine mood selector, cruise control, park distance control, USB ports front rear, wireless smartphone charging, Bluetooth connectivity,  Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. With satellite navigation and a panoramic roof, the 2WD Sportage is priced R13,000 higher than the 4WD variant which lacks these features.

Eye-catching alloys mean slick city travel but make rural roads no-go areas. Pic: SUPPLIED
Eye-catching alloys mean slick city travel but make rural roads no-go areas. Pic: SUPPLIED

And because profiled customers are mostly concerned about low running costs than chasing powerful German SUVs, no enthralling mechanical artistry is found within the engine bay. It’s a 2.0l diesel four-potter that produces 131kW and 400Nm. It’s claimed to take 9.3 seconds to hit 100km/h and flat out it will reach 201km/h, ample enough performance to keep you on time.

There’s even a small degree of capability to drive off road thanks to its high-riding suspension. But this will be limited by the very fancy set of low profile 245/45 R19 alloy wheels it rides on.

The recent facelift of the range now means this CRDi model is exclusively equipped with a new and sophisticated eight-speed automatic transmission. It smooths progress and helps keep fuel economy figures to about 7.7l/100km as shown by its computer. The gearshifts are satisfying, precise and perfectly judged until you activate both cruise control and Eco Mode at highway speeds. Here the transmission becomes less consistent in response as it starts hunting up and down for gears in a bid to maintain frugality.

The easy steering is one of the vehicle’s strong points, so is good overall damping, body control and the truly smart frontal looks which mimic a KIA Stinger, but one that’s wearing stilettos.

The now fashionable rear light connecting strip is a lovely touch.  If you aren’t overly concerned about badge snobbery or about to chase after genuine 4x4 SUVs deep into forests, I rate this 2WD KIA Sportage diesel highly as a stylish and sensible urban family SUV.

Tech Specs:

ENGINE

Type: In-line four-cylinder

Capacity: 2,000cc

Power: 131kW

Torque: 400Nm

TRANSMISSION

Type: Eight-speed automatic

DRIVETRAIN

Type: Front-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

Top Speed: 201km/h

0-100km/h: 9.3 sec

Fuel Consumption: 6.3l/100km (claimed) 7.7l/100km (as tested)

Emissions: 164g/km

Neat, tidy and spacious living quarters are a hallmark feature of the KIA Sportage. Pic: SUPPLIED
Neat, tidy and spacious living quarters are a hallmark feature of the KIA Sportage. Pic: SUPPLIED

STANDARD FEATURES

ABS brakes with Electronic Brakeforce Distribution, six airbags, central locking, alarm, immobiliser, powered windows, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-start Assist, Downhill Brake Control, Cruise Control, Park Distance Control, reverse camera, colour touchscreen, 19-inch wheels, panoramic sunroof, front and rear USB ports, satellite navigation, Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, wireless smartphone charger, LED Daytime Running Lights.

COST OF OWNERSHIP

Warranty: Five years/unlimited km

Price: R559,995

Lease*: R11,992 per month

* at 10% interest over 60 months no deposit

KIA Sportage 2.0l Diesel EX PLUS 2WD Auto

WE LIKE:

Looks, specification, good-quality ride

WE DISLIKE:

Lack of a powered tail-gate

VERDICT:

Easy-to-like urban SUV

 

MOTOR NEWS

star rating

*****Design

***Performance

***Economy

****Ride/handling

****Safety

****Value For Money

****Overall

Competition

Hyundai Tuscon 2.0 CRDI, 131kW/400Nm — R 545,900.00

Ford Kuga 2.0TDCi AWD Titanium, 132kW/400Nm — R526,900

Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI 4Motion Highline – 130kW/380Nm — R584,700

Toyota RAV4 2.2D-4D AWD VX, 110kW/340Nm — R580,200

Mazda CX-5 2.2DE Active 140kW/450Nm — R482,600