The new Kia Sportage is a handsome car that could do with better manners
SINGAPORE — The new Kia Sportage might be in showrooms here now, but if you really want to spot one, go to Italy. They seem to be everywhere there, and indeed all over Europe.
As it turns out, the Sportage is a hugely important model for Kia over on the Continent. One in four cars the Korean brand sells there is a Sportage.
That could explain why it looks vaguely un-Korean. The front still has Kia’s signature “tiger nose” grille, but the headlamps have been moved above it and pulled way back up the bonnet to make the face look broad and aggressive.
The rear end, too, makes use of a number of visual tricks to give the appearance of width — slim lamps linked by a classy strip of chrome, the slim roof spoiler, that sort of thing.
The car was designed in Kia’s Frankfurt styling centre, which explains the Euro-centric looks, but what’s most important about the new Sportage is actually under the skin. It has a stronger, more rigid skeleton thanks to new construction techniques — around half of its body is made of high-strength steel (compared to just 18 per cent before), a product made by Hyundai Steel that is much stronger than the regular stuff.
That’s good to know if crash protection is something you value in a car, as is the fact that it comes with six airbags, but crossover cars like the Sportage are usually bought for practicality above all else.
Size-wise, the Kia sits in its own space — it’s bigger than the latest Suzuki Vitara, and a bit smaller than the Toyota RAV4. Accordingly, the boot isn’t huge, but if you fold the rear seats (a one-handed job) you can stuff 1,455 litres worth of stuff back there.
The luggage cover has its own compartment, too, a feature not found in some cars that cost twice as much.
The new model has been stretched a little, with most of the added length going to back seat passengers, and the rear seats recline at least as much as the Economy chairs on an Airbus.
It’s similarly comfy up front, and the neatness of the cabin makes the Sportage a pleasant place to be in. It benefits from a new touchscreen entertainment system that has crisp graphics and an interface with a straightforward menu system. A few jabs and you’ve found the app or function that you want, and maybe I’m getting old, but I’d call that an underrated quality.
The Sportage must be the cheapest car in Singapore to come with Apple CarPlay, too. If you have an iPhone to plug in, a slimmed-down version of its home screen flashes up on the Kia’s screen, putting maps, Siri and compatible apps like Spotify at your fingertips.
If there’s a let-down to the cabin, it’s the dashboard plastics, which look much better than they feel. Rap at them, and you’ll find them hard and unyielding, adding to an air of cheapness.
At least the Sportage lives up to Kia’s reputation for value, with useful features like front and rear parking sensors, keyless entry and engine starting, a dual zone climate control system and auto headlamps thrown in.
What you won’t be getting for your money is off-roading ability. The Kia has fairly tall suspension, but the engine only drives the front wheels so it’s a rugged in looks more than ability.
Still, a lack of off-roading ability never hurt the average off-roader. What’s more relevant is the Kia’s behaviour on the black stuff, which is nice and predictable, and pretty lively in terms of steering response. It comes with stability control, an electronic feature than can brake individual wheels to prevent slides, and when you push too hard it starts to rein things in fairly smoothly and effectively.
While the handling is competent, the engine is adequate at best. It’s the 2.0-litre four-cylinder that powered the last Sportage, and is only quiet when you work it gently. At high revs, which is where it starts to wake up, it sends noise and vibration though the cabin in a way that puts you off being heavy-footed.
Ultimately the Kia’s main draws are the space and high driving position that the crossover format offers, the long list of standard equipment, and the worthwhile suite of safety features it comes with. The Sportage has a life lesson to offer, as well: Good looks help, but the engine’s high-rev boorishness is a reminder than manners count for something, too.
NEED TO KNOW Kia Sportage 2.0L
Engine 1,999cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 155hp at 6200rpm
Torque 192Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 181km/h
0-100km/h 11.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.9L/100km
Price $124,999 with COE
Considering the Sportage? Be sure to check out its platform sibling, the Hyundai Tucson