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The current generation Kia Sportage has reached its midlife crisis.  Thankfully, the Kia design team, under stewardship of Peter Schreyer, were on hand to give the SUV a bit of a face lift – not that it needed it too badly, as it still looked relatively fresh.  But nonetheless, the updated looks are contemporary and subtly attractive without being too overbearing.

Whilst the exterior updates were limited to projector headlights with LED accents, LED taillights, a body-coloured front grille, roof side rails with panoramic sunroof, and new 18-inch alloy wheel designs on the model we tested, the interior has also received a few revised titbits.  The driver and front passenger benefited most from the upgrade with steering-wheel mounted audio controls, cruise control, keyless entry with push-button start, an audio system equipped with Bluetooth, hands free telephony, and a touch screen which doubled up as a reverse camera display.

But whilst the standard kit was rather lavish, the Sportage’s age is betrayed by the quality of the materials used around the cabin.  The dash, steering wheel, and door panels all felt a bit ‘last generation’ compared to some of the brand’s new vehicles on the market, but when considering the Sportage’s age, it’s somewhat understandable.  The leather upholstery was top quality though, and the seats offered great support with fair bolstering – catering for an upright driving position to enhance visibility and drivability.

Up front, away from the cabin and in the engine bay, the 2-litre CRDi turbodiesel engine is nothing new to the Sportage.  The diesel 4-pot has maximum outputs of 130kW and 392Nm, with the torque available from as low as 1800rpm providing more than ample power for the 1.6-tonne mass of metal that is the Sportage.  The torquey motor and mautomatic transmission made for best friends, with plenty torque available throughout all 6 gears, allowing swift overtaking without necessitating much worry, as the gears shifted effortlessly and promptly when required.  Getting up to speed was a relatively smooth affair, the Sportage gathering speed without much effort at all.  The power delivery from the diesel engine was surprisingly smooth; despite maintaining a rough idle, the refinement once on the move was sublime, revving smoothly and cleanly, and delivery power throughout the rev range without any flat spots.

This refinement was carried forth into the rest of the drive too.  Cabin insulation, despite the materials that could have been a bit more premium, was fantastic, with little permeation of road and wind noise into the cockpit.  The ride quality of the Sportage was nothing short of utmost luxury.  Soft suspension yielded little to body-roll around corners, but driving over the usual excuse for a road surface that is the Johannesburg road network, the stresses of everyday driving were kept out due to a creamily smooth ride quality, seemingly ridding the road surface of bumps and cracks that would be felt in many a competitors’ vehicles.

Despite seemingly being so well isolated from the road surface, the Sportage was anything but.  It responded well to inputs from the steering, although feedback was kept mum due to the variable electronic Flex Steer, which offered Normal, Comfort and Sport modes with varying weight and response.  Normal was the preferred setting; however on particularly poorly tarred roads Comfort mode negated much of the unwanted swaying that accompanied the ever-changing camber.  The chassis and suspension responded predictably though, regardless of the mode, and feedback was subtle, yet constant, never isolating the driver from the road entirely.

The Kia Sportage experience was one of extreme capability on all road conditions, even making light work of the occasional dirt path, as every SUV should be able to do.  The overwhelming sense of refinement was unforgettable, only betrayed by the materials on the dash, easily forgivable though given the way the Sportage handled itself.  Adding further conviction to its charm, fuel consumption was kept to a premium, the SUV sipping a meagre 7.8l/100km.  If ever there was an SUV that provided more than what it said on the box, the Sportage is it, being one of the few vehicles that leaves you more relaxed when you get out than you were when you got in.

The Stats:

Engine Capacity:

1995cc diesel

No. of Cylinders:

4

Max. Power:

130kW @ 4000RPM

Max. Torque:

392Nm @ 1800-2500RPM

Gearbox:

6-speed automatic

0-100 time (As tested):

10.2 seconds

Top Speed:

195km/h

Dry Weight:

1601Kg

Fuel Tank Capacity:

55 litres

Fuel Consumption (Regular driving, combined cycle):

7.8l/100km

Drivetrain

All-wheel Drive

Price (as tested):

R432 995,00

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Author: Roger Biermann

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