2016 Kia Sportage review
Isaac Bober’s launch-based 2016 Kia Sportage review with pricing, specs, ride and handling, safety, verdict and rating.
In a nutshell: The new Sportage is a giant leap ahead of its predecessor offering more interior room, equipment, sophistication and practicality.
2016 Kia Sportage
Price from $28,990 (+ORC) Warranty seven-years, unlimited kilometres Safety Not tested (five star EuroNCAP) Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol; 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel; 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol Power/Torque 114kW/192Nm; 136kW/400Nm; 135kW/237Nm Transmission six-speed automatic transmission Weight 1499kg; 1590kg; 1590kg Body 4480mm (L); 1855mm (W); 1645mm (H) Spare full-size alloy Fuel Tank 62 litres Thirst 7.9L/100km; 6.8L/100km; 8.5L/100km (combined)
WHEN THE THIRD-GENERATION Kia Sportage arrived on the market in 2010 with its swoopy good looks it confirmed what we were already beginning to think about the Korean car maker… that it was serious about winning buyers over with more than just being cheap and cheerful.
Yep, that third-generation Sportage looked/looks good, arrived just at the right time in terms of our growing demand for crossovers, was okay to drive, if not a segment stand out, and practical for a family of four, and came with an industry-leading seven-year warranty. Indeed, the old model Sportage has become a firm favourite here and around the world, with more than 1.6 million of the things finding driveways to call home since launching in 2010.
Fast forward to now, and the new fourth-generation Sportage which goes on-sale later this month has big shoes to fill, but Kia Australia CEO, Damien Meredith says “the new generation Sportage will continue the story started some five years ago, this time with even more style, more technology… and more quality”. Big words.
The new Sportage follows in the footsteps of the latest-generation Kia Carnival, Sorento and Optima, but covers new ground with the debut in Australia of Kia’s Smart parking Assist System and (a first in the compact SUV segment) wireless charging for compatible devices (iPhone requires an adaptor), but both technologies are only available in the top of the line Platinum model.
According to Kia, the new Sportage is all new in terms of its exterior and interior design, but put this fourth generation and the third generation model side by side and you’d swear the design from the A-pillar back was more an evolution than a complete redesign job; in profile it’s almost identical to the outgoing model. Design for this new generation model was led by Kia’s European design studio with input from its other studios in the US and Korea.
It’s the separation of the headlight from the ‘Tiger Nose’ grille that’s the most radical design departure and it’s the one that will punters will either love or loathe. To my eyes, the new-look front-end seems slightly out of step with the other recently released Kia models which all seem, and beyond just the Tiger Nose grille to be connected. The Sportage doesn’t, although I’m not sure if that’s a good or bad thing, it’s just a, thing…
As for the rest of the front, it looks wider and more planted than the outgoing model, and that’s to do with the fact it is, well, lower and wider. A deeper and wider lower half of the grille allows for greater engine cooling, and the aforementioned planted stance. The new bumper and a redesigned under-cover have seen the Sportage become slipperier with drag dropping from 0.35Cd to 0.33Cd.
While other dimensions have changed, which we’ll cover in a moment, the width of the Sportage is identical, at 1855mm, to its predecessor. The new Sportage (which shares its platform with the Hyundai Tucson) has had 30mm added to the wheelbase (which has allowed a larger 62L fuel tank to be fitted) and 40mm length added overall; there’s less rear overhang (down by 10mm) at the rear than on the outgoing model and 20mm extra in the front overhang.
These dimension changes have helped out on the inside of the new Sportage which feels more spacious than the outgoing model. Starting in the boot, the extra length in the wheelbase has meant that the boot is now marginally bigger than the outgoing model; it’s 35mm wider and the boot load lip as been lowered 47mm (without impacting on ground clearance, which is 172mm) making it a cinch to load and unload the boot. All up, there’s 466 litres of boot space with the second-row seats in place and grows to 1455 litres with them folded down. The second row gets to within 8-degrees of being able to be folded ‘fully flat’; in this case, near enough is good enough.
A full-size alloy spare is hidden beneath the floor in the boot, and while fitting a full-size alloy is to be commended, having to unload your car to get to it can be a bit of a pain.
The stretch in the wheelbase has also meant a slightly larger fuel tank could be fitted, growing from 58 litres to 62 litres.
The back seats of the Sportage now offer a little bit more head and leg room than before, but one of the major changes in the back has been the lowering of the floor by 40mm and the raising of the seat hip point by 30mm, which makes it much easier to climb into the back of the Sportage. But, despite this extra room, the Sportage still suffers the same middle seat syndrome as many other cars, meaning that because of the transmission tunnel it’s really just a perch.
Adult occupants aside, and while I can’t say for certain, it seems, to the eye that there should be enough width to get a combination of child seats across the back in all three positions – there are two ISOFIX points for the outboard seats but three top tether points. And those top tether mounting points are on the backs of the seats and not down on the floor in the boot.
The 60/40 rear seats now recline between 23 to 37 degrees, and if you’re trading up from an older Sportage then you’ll notice the recline lever has been moved from the upper seat back to the lower side of the seat. In a first, there are two centre-mounted air-con vents for back seat passengers.
Into the front and one of the key criticisms of the old Sportage was vision. It almost felt that style had been put ahead of practicality and Kia has gone some way towards addressing these concerns. The new model’s A- and C-pillars are thinner, indeed the C-pillars are 62mm thinner and the rear windscreen is 30mm taller. This improves rear vision for sure, but the C-pillar is still huge and so careful use of mirrors (which have been lowered slightly) and shoulder checks is vital. In general the wheelbase stretch, thinner pillars and a more glass in some areas have created an airier cabin.
The layout of the dashboard has been improved with Kia splitting it into zones, at the top is the ‘display’ zone where the touch screen multi-media unit is mounted while below that is the ‘control’ zone where controls for the air-con etc have been fitted. It’s not as confusing is it might initially sound, in fact, it’s one of the neater, more simple and easy to use layouts on the market.
It’s easy to find your way around the controls, be it the steering wheel mounted controls, the air-con switches or even the touch screen system to access music, etc. The response time to touch is quick and unlike some systems that can lead you down a rabbit warren of sub-menus, the Sportage’s system is simple to use but offers plenty of functionality. It’s worth mentioning that while Apple CarPlay and Android Auto aren’t included on the Sportage they will be. Kia said at the launch it was simply waiting for all the licencing paperwork to be signed off on and then a free update to CarPlay and Auto would be offered to owners. The whole update process, we’re told, takes around five minutes.
The interior quality is first rate, even on the base model Si with soft-touch plastics and matte finishes (that seem resistant to finger print smudging) all over the thing giving it a quality, and dare I say it, premium feel. Although, while we’re talking about ‘premium’ feel, the omission of sat-nav from the entry-level Si seems glaring when you consider the quality of the rest of the car; that said it’s standard from SLi up.
As mentioned about the back seat, front seat passengers also get extra room and there’s plenty of adjustment in the seat and steering to find a comfortable seating position. The seats have been redesigned and seem to be the same, in terms of design, at least, as those in the Sorento we recently tested. And, like the Sorento, they initially felt a little too broad in the base, but after about five minutes that sense went away with them providing comfort and support.
While the Si only offers manual adjustment it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position. We didn’t get to sample an SLi at the launch and instead leap-frogged it straight to the Platinum with GT Line (a bodykit, basically). The Platinum offers electric adjustment but it was the lumbar adjustment that impressed the most, and I was able to tailor the Sportage’s seat to fit me like a glove. Sure, plenty of cars offer these sorts of features, but I reckon the level of adjustment offered by the seats in the Platinum puts them right up there with anything from the premium German car makers. The seats are also both heated and ventilated (pictured above).
One thing I did notice was the design of the scuff plates on the Sportage for front seat passengers is such that either your left or right leg, depending on which side of the car you’re getting out, will rub and, so, whatever road grime has accumulated on it will end up on your pants. All of the journos at the launch were getting around with marks on either one or the other leg, and seemingly oblivious to the fact. I know you get this on plenty of cars and, yes, you can swing your legs out to avoid rubbing, but you probably won’t after the first couple of times you ‘remember’.
The new Sportage will sell here in three variants, the Si, SLi and Platinum, and there are three engines to choose from (all are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with no manual option). The Si and SLi can be had with a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine 114kW (at 6200rpm) and 192Nm of torque (at 4000rpm) which is mated to a six-speed automatic and are front-drive only. All model grades are available with a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel (136kW at 4000rpm and 400Nm of torque from 1750-2750rpm) which is also mated to a six-speed automatic and is exclusively all-wheel drive (put simply, diesel = AWD), while the Platinum is offered with a 2.4-litre ‘Theta II’ direct-injection four-cylinder petrol (135kW at 6000rpm and 237Nm of torque at 4000rpm) and it is AWD only.
As mentioned, we sampled the entry-level Si in both 2WD petrol and AWD diesel and they were like chalk and cheese in the way they drove and handled. We also sampled the Platinum in AWD diesel, and so missed driving the 2.4-litre petrol engine in the Platinum. And, in the interest of transparency, my time in the 2WD petrol Si was as a passenger only. I drove both of the other two but only for around 70km each and only on bitumen. My driving partner was able to sample them on dirt (yep, I drew the short straw).
While the launch route took in short patches of dirt, it wasn’t enough to be able to comment on the effectiveness of the all-wheel drive system, or how the Sportage performs off road. See, this new car is up to 100kg heavier than the old one (depending on the model) has less rear overhang but more front overhang (approach, departure and rampover is unknown at this stage – but once I hear back from Kia I’ll update this article). And, we’re told there’s been no major change to the all-wheel drive system and that it’s essentially just a carry-over system from the old car.
And that means that in normal driving the Sportage has an “on demand” AWD system, working as a front-drive then engaging the rear when the on-board monitors deem necessary – the response is based on things like steering angle and wheel slip. There’s also a ‘4WD lock’ mode which can be pressed to ‘lock’ the Sportage into 50:50 drive distribution, but it only works at speeds below 40km/h, indeed, from 30km/h the system will start to ‘actively’ shift drive from the front to the back and vice versa. Above 40km/h the ‘lock’ function will disengage. The manual suggests short-term use in very slippery conditions only, and it is not a true centre differential lock, just a direction to the computers to send more torque to the rear wheels than normal.
The Si 2WD from a passenger’s perspective (I wasn’t able to drive this model) felt comfortable enough, although the rear tended to bounce over harder hits. The steering, I was told by co-driver, felt nice and accurate with no kickback or torque steer. But, whether it was the way he was driving, the transmission and engine seemed to be a little at odds with one another and so the whole drive whether moving away from a standing start or accelerating out of a corner felt jerky as the car raced towards redline and then thumped into another gear. Beyond that, I’ll say no more, though, for fear of potentially doing the car a disservice.
Stepping into the equivalent specification diesel with all-wheel drive was like going from carob to real chocolate. The transmission and engine seemed to be perfectly matched to one another and no matter how ridiculous I was with the accelerator the transmission couldn’t be provoked to stray from its smooth, well-timed behaviour.
With 400Nm of torque between 1750-2750rpm, the Sportage’s performance is best described as effortless, and even pushing beyond peak torque at 2750rpm didn’t reveal any flattening off in performance or response. It’s worth mentioning that the Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson are virtual twins under the skin and share this 2.0-litre turbo-diesel; power and torque are identical between the two as are gear ratios.
Both Hyundai and Kia spend a lot of time tweaking the ride, handling and steering to suit Australian conditions and that shows in the way the new Sportage handled the rubbish roads that we drove it across in rural Victoria. This new Sportage runs the same front suspension as its predecessor although improvements like revised bushing mount positions, new wheel bearings and stiffer bushings put it a step ahead of the old car. The rear suspension is new with a dual lower-arm multi-link set-up for both two and all-wheel drive models. There’s a stiffer cross member that helps suppress road noise and vibration from leaking into the cabin; the rear subframe is now mounted on ‘isolated’ bushings which contributes towards making this new Sportage supremely quiet.
Changes to dampers which now have a longer rebound stroke mean that smaller vibrations, like you’d get on broken surfaced bitumen (country roads, basically) are softened right out.
The column-mounted electric motor-driven power steering system has been improved from the unit in the outgoing model, offering quicker more natural steering responses with more weight on-centre and no unnatural build up of weight in the steering. What you get is a consistency and accuracy in response across all surfaces and at all speeds that was missing from the third-generation Sportage.
The Platinum (GT Line models) gets a unique suspension tune but the base tune for the AWD diesel models is so good that the difference was barely noticeable. Beyond tweaks to the suspension and steering, the new Sportage also features a much stiffer body and a stronger core structure which has aided its on-road agility.
One thing you notice from the get-go is how quiet the Sportage is regardless of the engine or driveline (2WD or AWD) and that’s down to areas like the firewall, dashboard, and wheel arches being packed with more insulation than the outgoing model. Indeed, Kia says that in its testing, the new Sportage at idle (petrol model) recorded just 37 decibels inside the cabin, down from 44 decibels in its predecessor.
While the old Sportage was good enough to fall somewhere in the middle of the pack, this new one is a giant leap ahead in terms of ride and handling and is now a definite front runner. We’ll offer a complete assessment of the new Sportage’s ride and handling and its all-road ability once we’ve had it in the garage for a week and spent a lot more time behind the wheel.
The entry-level Sportage is priced from $28,990 (+ORC) and gets manual air-con control, a seven-inch colour touch screen, iPhone compatibility, Bluetooth with audio streaming, second-row air vents (standard across the range), mono-type TFT LCD instrument cluster, power windows front and back, and more. Move up to the SLi (from $33,990 +ORC) and you get sat-nav, dual-zone climate control, colour TFT LCD instrument cluster, LED combination lights and more.
The Platinum (from $43,490 +ORC) gets a panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charging and a full active safety package that includes: Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS); Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS), which emits an audible alert when the driver strays from the current lane without indicating; Blind Spot Detection (BSD) and Lane Change Assist (LCA) which provides the driver with a visual warning in the door mirror when another car enters the blind spot and monitors adjoining lanes for approaching traffic from up to 70 metres; High Beam Assist (HBA) which can detect approaching vehicles and will automatically dim the headlights from high to low beam.
At the time of writing the Sportage hadn’t been tested by ANCAP (it scored five stars in EuroNCAP testing), but its safety package as standard includes six airbags (including curtain airbags that reach right to the back of the rear seats), traction and stability controls. Some models have the added sure footedness of all-wheel drive while the Platinum receives the active safety elements listed above.
- Si 2.0-litre petrol 2WD $28,990 (+ORC)
- Si 2.0-litre diesel AWD $33,990 (+ORC)
- SLi 2.0-litre petrol 2WD $33,990 (+ORC)
- SLi 2.0-litre diesel AWD $38,990 (+ORC)
- Platinum 2.4-litre petrol AWD $43,490 (+ORC)
- Platinum 2.0-litre diesel AWD $45,990 (+ORC)
Capped price servicing
Sportage 2.0Ltr CRDI
Sportage 2.0Ltr Petrol MPI 2WD
Sportage 2.4Ltr Petrol GDI 4WD