Friday, June 28, 2019

Bucket Seat: KIA Sportage

KIA Motors catch phrase in "The Power To Surprise" and to this day I can honestly say that I haven't driven a KIA model that hasn't surprised me. We've had KIA in our market for a long time now but still there's that element of doubt when it comes to a minority part of consumers with cars from Korea and for me, that needs to change. When the likes of Toyota and Honda first started to break into the country, people also had their skepticism about them but look at them now? When Toyota's president was questioned in the US about a two decades ago about the resurgent VW in the market, he was asked if he felt threatened by this and his answer was a shock to many, he said he isn't worried about the German rivals, it was the Korean ones that made him restless and if you have to look at what is on offer today from the likes of KIA, he had a very good point. 

Coming back to my test subjects, when the new Sportage was first released, I had the top of the range model on the test, the one with all the bells and whistles which was fair on them so I could tell you, my readers just what KIA has in store and that they meant business. With the recent face lift I got the opportunity to drive two of the entry level models, one the 1.6L Petrol GDI model and the 2.0L Ignite Plus Diesel model. It was nice having these two models so I could compare just what exactly you're getting with these models and how they compare to the top of the range models. 


The revised Sportage received some minor styling upgrades especially to the front of the car. The bottom bumper is more flared giving the Sportage a more aggressive look and accentuates the flow of front. There are elements introduced to the front to give it a more classy look as well, like high gloss details which flow from the ends of the number plate holder dissecting the area where the fog lamps are housed. The grille  remains the same apart from the inside finish which matches that of the Sorento. The Sportage comes with 16" 5 spoke alloy wheels but can be upgraded to the 17" bi-colour rims as I had on the diesel model which adds more character to the car. The rear also was handed some minor tweaks like the rear fogs and indicator split lights are the lower end of the tail. The interior remains virtually unchanged. 


There would be a big difference between the two engines, I'm a bit biased when it comes to choosing between Petrol and Diesel, I tend to enjoy the higher torque and longer range given on diesel engines compared to the more power, less torque on the petrol engine. But with the KIA Sportage the Petrol range starts off at the 1.6L GDI Ignite which isn't too shabby, producing 97kW and 161Nm of torque. Even with the big body, the 1.6L engine was sufficient for urban driving. On the highways it did tend to lack power and with the automatic gearbox I found it dropping gears to find that surge when going up hill. Other than that, overall the car gave a decent drive in the suburbs with great fuel economy, but gets a bit high on the open road. The diesel engine is a class act and I've been a big fan of KIA's turbo diesel engines for a while now. The 2.0L turbo-diesel engine churns out 131kW and 400Nm of torque, more than enough power for both urban cruising and highway driving, this helped by the extra two gears in the box compared to the petrol. My commute to work with it was a breeze and seeing that fuel needle hardly move was a pleasure. 


Both vehicles cabins were more or less identical, apart from a few trimmings differences which are optional extras like leather seats and seat heating. The cabin itself is very spacious, can accommodate five adults comfortably with sufficient luggage space for them all. Being entry level models, they come with standard aircon controls and not climate controlled systems. The sound system was a normal radio system with Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming and calls. I think with the price being what it is, they could have just had the entire range with the touch screen system, maybe cut back the navigation option but that is just me. With this normal LED type screen, if one opts to get a reverse camera, there is the option of having the screen in your rear view mirror. Both cars came with key-in ignition systems and not keyless like that range topping models. 


Overall, it all boils down to what type of engine you prefer, while there is a big difference in displacement with the two, I tend to side with the diesel but with a R75,000 price difference, many would opt to give the petrol a second look. There are pro's and cons to each so personal preference plays a big role on this decision. I enjoy the Sportage, I think in terms of compact SUV's on the market, this one is in my top 3 and while these entry level models didn't have all the fancy gadgets, my time spent with them was quite enjoyable. The ride comfort is brilliant for a car this size and price, the drive feels good and build quality is solid. It's an ideal car for small families or just someone who leads and active lifestyle and needs a car with some extra space. As the shift in market trends show that South Africans are leaning more towards crossover/ SUV's this is a great buy for someone looking at a medium to small sized car. 


 1.6L GDI Ignite
 2.0L Diesel Ignite Plus
 6-Speed Auto
 8-Speed Auto
Acceleration (0-100khm/h)
 12.1 seconds
 9.3 seconds
 R389 995
 R464 995

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