The Kia Sportage lives more up to its name with the dynamically-improved GT Line package
Give us a refresher on the Sportage…
Kia (and sister brand Hyundai) are no longer content to tick the boxes. The Sportage SUV reflects this – we reviewed it when it first appeared in June this year, calling it one of the most European SUVs around since it’s become quite accomplished in all terms, from engineering to design.
No surprise if you have a design chief who is responsible for penning an icon and putting a tiger on the grille and we all know by now that the Hyundai-Kia group has huge ambitions it isn’t afraid to make real, going into everything from luxury cars to hybrids.
‘GT Line’ sounds like a higher spec package…
It is but not in the typical Japanese/Korean sense where simply more equipment is added. It’s not just a trim level difference, like the extra equipment a more expensive Kia Carens SX (don’t say that to a lady named Karen please) gets over the Carens EX model, but along the lines of European carmakers’ sport packages, such as Mercedes-Benz with its AMG Line or BMW with its M Sport packages.
Really? What’s so GT about this new GT Line?
Typically those packages offer a smattering of interior and exterior cosmetic buffs that lend a more aggressive appearance, plus chassis or suspension tweaks, though they never go so far as to boost engine power or the like. You can’t say Kia’s full of hot air in this sense, because that’s exactly what it’s done with the GT Line package, and all that stuff comes directly from the factory too.
So it really is a sportier erm, Sportage…
Yep. It receives ‘High Performance Dampers’ along with larger 19-inch wheels, which Kia says deliver a slightly firmer ride and sharper handling. That’s pretty much spot on as there’s less understeer and more enjoyable pointy-ness as compared to the standard Sportage, while roll is also further quelled. If there’s been an obvious dynamic weak-point in Hyundai-Kia cars in recent years, it’s steering, but even this has been given attention. It’s also an electric system, but its motor is rack-mounted rather than column-mounted, a move which delivers more natural feedback and response to the driver.
What about the engine?
Sadly no change here. The Sportage’s 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine we described previously as being adequate, and it’s identical here. It’s very refined in day-to-day driving, with no vibes at low speed or idle, and while it’s not a match on the new Tucson that packs 176bhp from a turbo engine, it’s more than enough for any conceivable application here. While the chassis updates make the Sportage a sweet handler, you can’t do much about its lack of celerity in a straight line.
And the outside?
Other changes the GT Line wreaks include a more aggro bash plate, different grille pattern, xenon headlights and the cool-looking signature ‘ice cube’ foglights (though we caution all against indiscriminate foglight use), plus satin chrome replacing normal chrome and now coating the door handles. All in all, it does turn up the volume a little on the Sportage’s already stand-out looks.
‘GT’ implies better comfort too, does it have that?
It does. Despite the sportier setup the best thing about the suspension tweaking is that it doesn’t impinge much on ride quality, and in fact the Sportage feels plush and easy going over horrendous MRT-inflicted roadworks so common these days.
The interior sees a new D-shaped steering wheel with perforated leather and additional phone controls, aluminium pedals, plus piano black on the door handle surrounds. Comfort is improved by fully-electric, ventilated front seats which really improve the status of your tush over long drives.
Is it worth the premium?
Considering the GT Line commands a $10k premium over the normal Sportage, it’s a fair price to pay as there’s more improvements here than just cosmetics. The GT Line package adds a little fun to the basic practicality of the Sportage, that feeling of European style and performance but without the European price tag.
Kia Sportage GT Line
Engine 1,999cc, 16V, inline 4
Power 155bhp at 6200rpm
Torque 192Nm at 4000rpm
Gearbox 6-speed automatic
Top Speed 181km/h
0-100km/h 11.1 seconds
Fuel efficiency 7.9 L/100km
Price $139,999 with COE
Also Consider: Hyundai Tucson