DRIVEN: Refreshed Kia Sportage is really rewarding

An extremely driveable vehicle at an extremely reasonable price.

Way, way back, this writer attended some of the country’s best reformatories, which ensured me of a proper education and all the rewards that came with it.

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Well, maybe not ALL of the rewards. There were some things lacking, with the answers not to be found in books. For instance, I read The Merchant of Venice twice, because I thought Portia was a car.

She was not – fake news, that was. Also, when I suddenly and urgently needed information regarding venereal disease, I read Moby Dick, but failed to find relevant answers.

And, somehow, I never got my share of White Monopoly Capital – it seems I was out of the office on the day it was distributed. Damn.

So, I was hardly surprised to find I had a misconception regarding Kia. I always thought the Picanto, being their smallest car, should automatically be their world-wide best seller.

Not so, say Kia – that distinction belongs to their Sportage. In fact, initially launched in 1993 and spanning four generations since, Sportage is the most successful model in Kia’s history, with more than five million sales globally.

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The locally available Sportage range has recently been upgraded and they let us drive the 2.0 CRDI EX Plus model for a week.

That gave us a pretty good indication why the Sportage is so competitive in the market for medium sports utility vehicles.

The local Sportage has undergone a nip and tuck, incorporating stuff like a revised grille, new bumpers front and rear, plus, in the case of the test model, 19-inch wheels in 245/45 R19 rubberware.

To us, most SUVs look pretty much the same, but the Sportage is unmistakably a Kia – you can peruse the pics herewith and decide about its visual appeal for yourself.

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What we found very special indeed was the vehicle’s drivetrain. The Sportage comes powered by Kia’s two-litre CRDI diesel engine that produces 131kW of power at just under 3 000rpm, plus a healthy 400Nm of torque between 1 750 and 2 750rpm.

The grunt and twist goes to the front wheels via Kia’s new eightspeed automatic transmission.

Designed in-house by Kia, this system is nothing short of brilliant. It joins the diesel engine’s high torque characteristics seamlessly – you select Drive, operate the accelerator plus brake pedals and the Sportage will be in exactly the correct gear, everywhere, always.

That, in itself, makes the Sportage a pleasure to drive.

There are other factors. Inside, it boasts electrically-adjustable leather covered seats, air-conditioning, massive space front, middle and rear, voice-activated Bluetooth connectivity, a radio with six speakers, electric windows all round, auto-folding side mirrors, auto rain-sensing wipers, plus a leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote controls for audio, telephone functions and cruise control.

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From a safety point of view, you get ABS disc brakes all round with Electronic Brake-force Distribution, six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchors.

There are also front and rear parking sensors, plus an Electric Parking Brake with Auto Hold function. You will furthermore benefit from Electronic Stability Control, Hill-start Assist, and Downhill Brake Control.

We figure the Sportage will generally be used as a family commuter and we treated the test vehicle as such, basically running it between our home in Alberton and our place of work in Industria.

It did everything asked of it competently and in comfort.

There was also a trip to the Red Star Raceway in Delmas, during which we managed to engage the cruise control and sail effortlessly along, with the Kia maintaining 2 000rpm in top gear, up the hills and down the dales.

That trip returned a fuel usage figure of 6.7l/100km, while using the vehicle in city traffic yielded around 7.2 l/100km.

Kia claims a top speed of just over 200km/h and we have no reason to disbelieve them, though we would not feel comfortable in such a heavy vehicle at that speed. Perhaps we are just getting old at an exponential rate – when we were younger, we never noticed such potentially disastrous activities for what they were.

The Kia will set you back R549 995, which, to our mind, is extremely reasonable.

Likes

  • The transmission is simply brilliant.
  • Very reasonable fuel consumption
  • Massive space

Dislikes 

  • Feels heavy
  • Err…

Verdict 

  • An efficient, comfortable, easy-to-drive family vehicle at a reasonable price.

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