By: IOL Motoring Staff

It's been almost four years since the third-generation Kia Sportage hit our shores and its award-winning design has helped make it one of the most popular compact SUVs on the block.

Little surprise, then, that its mid-life upgrade sees little in the way of exterior design evolution. In fact, stylistic changes are limited to a remoulded grille, changes to the lower bumper and front fog lights, new 17- and 18-inch alloy wheel designs and redesigned rear combination lamps.

In keeping with this subtle approach, the cabin retains its basic design, but it has been refreshed with new materials throughout and some added features.

Those opting for the AWD model will enjoy a new supervision cluster, redesigned central facia and an Infinity sound system that features a subwoofer, external amplifier and built-in hard drive. This AWD version also gains a 4.3-inch TFT LCD touch-screen, incorporating a reverse camera.

'REFINED' ENGINE

The biggest mechanical change to the Sportage is the revised 2-litre normally aspirated petrol engine. Things get a bit murky here as it's actually less powerful than before. Kia lists outputs of 116kW at 6200rpm and 192Nm at 4000rpm, which is a loss of 6kW and 5Nm. Yet on the upside, Kia says it's a more refined engine and the previous five-speed manual gearbox has been ditched in favour of a new six-speed unit.

On the diesel front, the acclaimed 2-litre VGT CRDi turbodiesel engine carries over from the previous model, which is not a bad thing considering its heady outputs of 130kW at 4000rpm and 382Nm between 1800 and 2500rpm.

To offer a quieter and smoother driving experience, Kia made numerous improvements to the Sportage's body structure and has fitted soundproof windscreen glass. The proof is in the decibels, where Kia claims a 1.3 dB reduction in road noise, while wind noise is down by between 1.0 and 4.0 dB.

THREE GRADES

The 2014 Sportage is available in three grades. Among other standard features, the entry-level Ignite comes with a six-speaker sound system, air conditioning, multi-function steering wheel, rear park assist and six airbags.

The middle-grade '2WD' adds two-zone automatic climate control, leather seats (electrically controlled for the driver) and cruise control. As the name implies, the flagship 'AWD' trim level adds permanent all-wheel drive, along with a start button, HID headlights and the aforementioned Infinity sound and touch-screen.

The new model is available in eight colours and comes with a five-year/150 000km warranty and five-year/100 000km service plan as standard, along with a three-year roadside assistance plan.

PRICES:

Petrol

2.0 2WD Ignite - R309 995

2.0 2WD (mid) - R336 995

2.0 2WD AT (mid) - R348 995

2.0 AWD (high) - R371 995

2.0 AWD AT (high) - R383 995

Diesel

2.0 CRDi 2WD (mid) - R361 995

2.0 CRDI 2WD AT (mid) - R373 995

2.0 CRDI AWD (high) - R396 995

2.0 CRDI AWD AT (high) - R408 995

ALTERNATIVES

Citroen C4 Aircross - R298 900 to R398 900

Ford Kuga - R303 300 to R425 200

Honda CR-V - R322 300 to R552 600

Hyundai ix35 - R309 900 to R449 900

Nissan Qashqai - R269 900 to R394 100

Toyota RAV4 - R290 300 to R438 900

VW Tiguan - R312 000 to R466 500