Stuart Martin’s 2019 Kia Sportage Review with pricing, specs, performance, ride and handling, safety, verdict and score.

IN A NUTSHELL: Kia has taken the softly-softly approach to the changes for the Sportage, giving its turbodiesel an eight-speed automatic, the chassis a tune-up and the safety features list a boost with AEB and lane keeping assist standard range-wide.

2018 Kia Sportage Specifications

PRICE Si 2.0-litre petrol from $29,990+ORC, diesel from $35,390+ORC; Si Premium Petrol from $32,290+ORC (Drive Away $31,990), diesel from $37,690+ORC (Drive Away $37,390); SLi 2.0-litre petrol from $36,790+ORC, diesel from $42,190+ORC; GT-Line 2.4-litre petrol from $44,790+ORC, GT-Line 2.0-litre diesel from $47,690+ORC WARRANTY 7 years/unlimited km SAFETY Not tested ENGINE 2.0l or 2.4l petrol or turbocharged 2.0l diesel POWER petrol 114kW at 6200rpm, 135kW at 6000rpm; diesel 136kW at 4000rpm TORQUE petrol 192Nm at 4000rpm, 237Nm at 4000rpm; diesel 400Nm between 1750-2750rpm TRANSMISSION petrol 6-speed auto, diesel 8-speed auto DRIVE front and all-wheel drive BODY 4485mm (l); 1855mm (excl. mirrors); 1645mm (h) TURNING CIRCLE 11m GROUND CLEARANCE 172mm TOWING WEIGHT petrol 2.0/2.4 1600/1500kg; diesel 1900kg (braked), 750kg (unbraked) KERB WEIGHT petrol 1532/1642kg; diesel 1736kg SEATS FUEL TANK 62 litres SPARE full size matching alloy THIRST Petrol petrol 7.9/8.5 l/100km; diesel 6.4 l/100km combined cycle FUEL 91RON PULP; diesel

KIA HAS GIVEN its top-selling SUV a “product enhancement” update that doesn’t mess with a winning formula.

What is the Kia Sportage?

Second only to the Cerato in outright sales for the Korean brand, the Sportage offers two petrol engines (one of which is shared with the top-selling small car) and one diesel power plant, with the former retaining a six-speed automatic and the latter now endowed with an eight-speed automatic.

Prices have risen by between $1000 and $2100 depending on the model, with petrol power only available in front-wheel drive with the 2.0-litre engine. The six-speed automatic directs 114kW and 192Nm to the front wheels starting from $29,990 for the Si petrol; the same model spec is also available from $35,390 for the Si AWD diesel.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

The turbo-diesel is offered in all four model designations but only in four-wheel drive configuration and receives the new Kia in-house 8-speed automatic transmission, which has unchanged peak outputs for the two-litre turbodiesel sit at 136kW and 400Nm with which to work. The larger petrol power plant is on offer only in top-spec GT-Line, retaining the six-speed automatic but gaining the four-wheel drive system as well as 135kW and 237Nm.

Changes to the exterior are minimal – the Sportage has an updated front grille and bumper, as well as changes to the head and fog lights. The rump has a revised tail-light design, as well as changes to the chrome trim and rear bumper, while the alloy wheel line-up has 17, 18 and 19-inch rims that are sporting a new look.

The entry-level Si – which starts from $29,990 – has a standard features list that includes a seven-inch colour touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay/Android Auto for the USB and Bluetooth-equipped six-speaker sound system, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power-adjustable, folding and heated exterior mirrors, a 60/40 split fold rear seat, remote central locking, a manual six-way adjustable driver’s seat, cloth trim, cruise control, power windows and 17-inch alloys.

Stepping up to the Si Premium (priced from $32,290 for petrol and $37,690 for AWD diesel) adds satellite navigation (with 10 years of mapping updates) and ups the screen size to 8 inches, as well as front parking sensors, LED running lights, 18-inch alloys; the touch screen controls the upgraded JBL infotainment system, which gets digital radio reception and 8-speakers.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

The $36,790 SLi (or pay an extra $5400 for the diesel AWD) adds tyre pressure monitoring, keyless entry and start, leather trim,  a 10-way adjustable driver’s seat, LED rear tail lights, electronic parking brake and 18-inch alloy wheels.

The flagship GT-Line starts from $44,790 (diesel is an extra $2900) and adds include blind spot and rear traffic warnings, power adjustment for the front passenger, auto parking system, LED fog lights, the GT-Line sports trim pack, the panoramic sunroof, a flat-bottomed sports wheel with shift paddles, wireless phone charging for compatible devices, heated and ventilated front seats, hands-free powered tailgate, adaptive cruise control, 19-inch alloys and LED headlights with auto levelling.

It strides into battle against a field well-populated with opposition, from Toyota’s venerable RAV4, which starts in base petrol front-drive form from $29,450 and tops out at $50,500 for the Cruiser diesel.

Mazda CX-5, Hyundai Tucson, Honda’s CR-V, Subaru’s Forester and the Mitsubishi Outlander are among those ahead of the Sportage in sales terms, a gap the brand’s Australian execs are hoping will be narrowed by the arrival of the mid-life update.

What’s The Interior Like?

Measuring 4485mm long (2670mm of that is wheelbase), 1855mm wide and 1645mm tall, it remains a lower-slung SUV with a svelte profile, compared to some of the boxier machinery in the segment.

The cabin space of the Sportage range is unchanged over the out-going model and that’s no bad thing – at 191cm I can easily sit behind my own driving position without touching my knees or head against the vehicle. Comfortable seating front and rear is power adjustable in the top-end models and while not over-endowed with lateral support, there’s enough to cope with moderate cornering forces.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

The features list has plenty to do with cabin comfort and the dual zone climate control has vents to the second row, which also gets a 12-volt and USB outlet; the front occupants also get 12-volt outlets and access to a USB outlet.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

Pleasant-to-touch materials cover the dash – now sporting the new larger touchscreen and a redesigned steering wheel – and doors and there’s also good oddment storage in the centre console and doors, which offsets the small glovebox. The dash and centre stack is on the busy side for the number of buttons and controls but it’s easy to decipher and use at a glance. The driver gets good forward vision and a reasonable rear view, as well as reach and rake adjustable steering, an instrument panel that is clear and informative, including a digital speed display.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

Boot space is listed at 466 litres, up to a claimed maximum of 1455 litres, with the boot floor concealing a full-sized matching spare wheel and a bit of extra storage space – it’s above average for the segment and can swallow a decent amount of luggage.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

What’s It Like On The Road?

Kia is fast-building a reputation for great road manners, thanks to local tuning input and a global chassis that already had the bar above average in the first place.

The latest incarnation of the Sportage SUV delivers a suspension tune that is well-balanced, offering good body control and an improved ride quality, particularly when sampled in the diesel all-wheel drive configuration.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

The metropolitan commute through the main roads of Canberra didn’t offer any initial concerns – smooth bitumen was plentiful and immediately the eight-speed auto showed it was well matched to the carry-over diesel.

A smooth and quiet run through the suburbs gave way to more broken bitumen but the changes made by the Kia Australia chassis team have delivered on its promise of a bit more ride quality. Tyre noise on coarse-chip bitumen was distant but present on both the Kuhmo and Nexen rubber.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

Given the lack of off-road emphasis of the Sportage, cornering prowess is something more likely to be noticed in the Sportage and it doesn’t disappoint when brisk country road driving is required, although the all-wheel drive system remains front-biased with the ability to send 40 per cent to the rear axle as required, or lock it in for low-speed work, but given there’s only 176mm of clearance serious off-roading is not part of its reportoire.

Steering that is light at low speeds gathers some muscle as the speeds increase and doesn’t feel over-assisted when the driver is looking for some fun.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

The Sportage has retained ZF Sachs dampers but with upgraded internals to deliver a more progressive change in pressure within, the result being a more ‘rounded’ ride quality without losing out in the corners – it has worked. It gives the driver some information through the bends and is unperturbed by mid-corner bumps, which are also of little concern to the MacPherson strut front and multi-link suspension; body roll doesn’t present an issue either.

Switching to the base model, powered by the two-litre petrol engine and driving only through the front wheels, the ride quality feels firmer than that delivered by the diesel AWD model – spring rates are softer than those on the diesel, says suspension specialist Graeme Gambold, but it has less weight leaning on them.

2019 Kia Sportage Review

It’s still within the realms of comfort and benefits from the weight reduction when it comes to the petrol engine getting things underway in a hurry.

What About Safety Features?

This is where the biggest of the changes have occurred in the Sportage line-up – the safety features list is now topped by automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning and lane keeping assist across the updated range.

Kia was hesitant in predicting the results of the model update’s ANCAP score with the addition of the new features but expected to maintain the current model’s five-star rating.

Standard fare on the base model also includes stability, traction and downhill brake control, anti-lock braking, as well as a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.

High beam assist is also standard fare (something far from common in this segment), as well as six airbags and rain-sensing wipers.

The Si Premium model adds front parking sensors to the safety array, as well as LED running lights; stepping up to the SLi adds tyre pressure monitoring and LED rear tail lights.

Forking out for the flagship GT-Line brings blind spot and rear cross traffic warning, auto-parking system, LED fog lights, active cruise control and auto-levelling LED headlights.

The peace of mind factor that comes with a 7-year warranty with capped price servicing and roadside assist is also considered by many to be a safety feature as well.

So, What Do We Think?

Kia’s considered approach to updating it’s top-selling SUV has refined what was already a competent overall package. The addition of AEB, forward collision and lane departure warning is a worthwhile top-up to the safety features list and the road manners have gained a little in ride quality – particularly in the AWD diesel model – without losing out on its country road work ethic. The diesel works well with the new eight-speed automatic too.


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About Author

Stuart Martin

Stuart Martin started his legal driving life behind the wheel of a 1976 Jeep ragtop, which he still owns to this day, but his passion for wheeled things was inspired much earlier. Regular work and play has subsequently involved towing, off-roading, the school run and everything in between, with Martin now working freelance as a motoring journalist, contributing to several websites and publications including Practical Motoring.

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