When the current Kia Sportage made its first appearance in 2010, it struck me as one of the best-looking crossover SUVs I’ve seen in a long time. Fast forward to this mildly facelifted 2014 version, and things are much the same. Competitors such as the Toyota RAV4 and Ford Kuga have since been newly released, but despite them being a bit younger, I personally think the Sportage still beats them in the looks department. The only car I can think of that’s in the same segment that looks better is the rather more expensive Range Rover Evoque. Apart from looks though, my two weeks with the Sportage revealed other reasons for why it’s a rather good car to live with.
Engines and price
There’s a choice of either a 166hp petrol engine or a 184hp diesel engine, both of which are 2.0-litres in displacement. This test car comes with the latter diesel option, and also has a handy 392Nm of torque (383Nm for manual cars) that’s all available from as low as 1,800rpm. The engine is connected to a six-speed automatic transmission, and helps the Sportage do its 0-100km/h run in 9.8 seconds and max out at 195km/h. Both cars come standard with all-wheel drive, as well as a lockable centre differential which gives the Sportage a 50:50 split between the front and rear axle.
Prices for the Sportage start from CHF 33,950 and can go to as much as CHF 44,950, like this test car with the Style trim. This car also comes with options like metallic paint and Style-Pack (which adds satellite navigation, a reverse camera, tinted rear windows, LED tail-lamps, automatic parking assist, and a panoramic sunroof) bringing its total price to CHF 50,140.
The driving experience
The first thing that you realize when you get the Sportage moving is just how easy and effortless it is to drive. If it wasn’t for the higher driving position and big side mirrors, you could easily forget that this is a crossover SUV. You can set the steering (through Kia’s Flex Steer system) in one of three modes: Comfort, Normal, and Sport. Comfort is the lightest setting, making the steering super light at all times. Normal makes the steering light only at low speeds and weights up slightly as you gather pace, while Sport stays in the most weighted mode at all times. However, even in Sport mode, the steering is still relatively light, and it responds accurately enough for everyday normal driving. But if you do decide to drive in a “less orthodox” manner, then you soon realize the Sport setting doesn’t do much to make the car turn any quicker, nor does it give you that level of feedback expected from a true sporty steering. But then again, the typical crossover SUV buyer doesn’t even know what steering feel is – or cares – so Kia can probably get away with it.
The Sportage rides really well too, and it is easy to drive around in the city. Its size isn’t even an issue in most tight underground car parks and narrow side streets either. The big mirrors might create a bit of a blind spot though, but forward visibility is great and the seating position is good too. Also, the creases on the hood of the car actually act as a sort of guide to where the edge of the front bumper is. Whether Kia did that on purpose or not, it’s a really helpful element and makes driving the Sportage that bit easier.
It’s also a competent highway cruiser. Its engine has a very good spread of torque – something that makes you appreciate modern diesel engines that bit more. At 100km/h the rev counter is just under the 2,000rpm mark, while at 120km/h it’s just a smidge over it. Overtakes are easy enough as long as you’re not driving in ECO mode – which delays throttle response, limits the amount of torque provided by the engine, upshifts early, and runs the AC in the most economic manner possible.
The fuel economy
I always want to see how close I can get my fuel economy figures to manufacturer claims, with the Sportage’s being 9.1l/100km in the city, 6.0l/100km on the highway, and 7.1l/100km combined – producing 187g/km in the process. On my normal everyday commutes, the Sportage’s onboard computer showed that I was using 8.2l/100km on average, mostly driving in city roads and a little bit on the highway. I used a trip from Geneva to Sion to see if I can match the 6.0l/100km highway claim. After covering 154km, the computer showed that I averaged between 6.4l/100km and 6.6l/100km in active ECO mode. But for good measure, I brimmed the tank before leaving and brimmed it again when I arrived at Sion, and the tank took 10.57 litres of fuel. This means that I averaged about 6.86l/100km, which isn’t bad considering my route had several uphill sections and the AC was turned on. For my return to Geneva, I turned ECO mode off but still had the AC on, and the computer said I averaged between 6.8l/100km and 7.0/100km. My speed was anywhere between 110km/h and 130km/h on both directions.
Equipment and interior
The interior is reasonably spacious, with both head- and legroom not being a problem for the numerous passengers I had in the car. The quality of the materials is a bit of mix, though, with very nice-looking leather seats, leather steering wheel, as well some high quality materials for the dashboard. But then the high quality materials are set side-by-side a few plastics that show where Kia tried to save money. The plastics around the base of the gear lever, satnav and vents really aren’t a pleasant sight.
Overall though it’s not a bad place to be, and this car in particular is very well equipped. There’s keyless entry and push-button ignition, dual-zone climate control, heated seats (front and rear), Bluetooth connectivity, USB and aux-in slots, and a panoramic sunroof that livens up the interior but quite some margin. And then there’s the automatic parking assist, which is surprisingly accurate even for tight parallel parking spaces.
Although the boot is a decent size, and you can fold the seats down to create a 1,353l loading area, the boot floor is rather high – which might make loading and unloading heavy items a bit difficult. The gearbox is effective for most of the time, but where I really wish it would improve was on the highway. Even when you’ve turned off ECO mode, you have to step on the gas pedal almost all the way to the floor for it to change down for a quick overtake. Otherwise it just stubbornly sticks to the highest gear. You can change gears manually if you want to, but I do wish it were a bit more responsive when left in auto mode. The C-pillars are very thick too, which means that reversing might be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have a reverse camera like in this press car.
The standout factor
If someone bought the Kia Sportage based on looks alone, I would completely understand – even I would buy it on that basis only. It’s comfortable, it is very easy to drive around town, and parking it is made even easier with its accurate automatic parking assist system. Although the price difference between it and its competitors (RAV4, Kuga, CR-V) is small, its seven-year/150,000km warranty definitely acts as a joker card in such a competitive market segment.
Written by Alex Kisiri