By Dave Abrahams
Frankfurt, Germany - Kia's fourth generation Sportage really is all new - bigger, more luxurious and with new engines and transmissions.
That's the message from this morning's detailed release, ahead of its world premiere in the city, less than two weeks away. It's 40mm longer overall than its predecessor at 4480mm, on a 30mm longer wheelbase (now 2670mm), with 20mm more front and 10mm less rear overhang.
The brief for the interior was a wide, driver-orientated fascia, as opposed to the previous model's emphasis on the centre console, using more soft-touch surfaces, leather, fabric and decorative stitching for a luxurious look and feel.
The resulting design is horizontally split into an upper 'display' zone, including the instrument panel and a seven or eight inch central touchscreen, and a lower 'control zone', tilted towards the driver and considerably simplified because a lot of its functions are now controlled via the display.
AMPING UP THE ELECTRONICS
Standard kit includes 160 watts of six-speaker audio, with an eight-speaker, 320 watt JBL system as an option. A USB charging point in front and a second, optional one in the rear allow for charging MP3 players and phones on the go.
The new Sportage will also be available with a five-watt wireless charger that activates when a compatible phone or player is placed on the pad, displays the level of charge on the instrument panel - and warns you if you get out of the car without taking it with you!
New front seats offer (optional) power adjustment and heating, while the rear floor has been lowered 40mm and rear-seat hip point raised 30mm for a more relaxed seating position - with heating available as an option.
There's a lot more glass area - the A pillars are thinner, their base is lower and the side mirrors are lower on the doors, while the C pillars are 62mm thinner and the rear glass 30mm taller.
Luggage capacity is up from 465 to 503 litres, thanks to a new under-floor section, and the tailgate's lintel has been lowered 47mm, reducing lift-over height to 732mm.
Depending on the market, other options will include a rear-view parking camera, a power-operated 'smart' tailgate that opens automatically when it senses the key in close proximity, adaptive headlights, and a 'welcome' function, that lights up the interior and door handles, and unfolds the door mirrors when the key fob is within 1.3-1.7 metres of the door handle.
A new 1.6-litre T-GDI turbopetrol four with single-scroll turbo and electronic wastegate, delivering a quoted 130kW and 265Nm (on tap from 1500-4500rpm) joins the 1.6 litre, 97kw/161Nm naturally-aspirated petrol engine, alongside the 87kW 1.7 CRDI turbodiesel and an upgraded two-litre oil-burner, which will be available in a choice of two power ratings - 100kW/373Nm and 136kW/400Nm.
The new Sportage will be offered in either front or all-wheel drive via six-speed manual or auto transmissions, with an all-new seven-speed dual-clutch auto available for the 1.6 T-GDI only.
Uprated brakes include bigger discs and revised callipers with new brake pad return springs to reduce brake drag, and the electronic parking brake now comes on automatically when you switch the engine off.
The suspension has been upgraded with new stiffer bushings and wheel bearings all round, as well as revised bushing mounting points and a stiffer rear cross-member, with an isolated rear sub-frame for a quieter ride.
Kia SA is planning to release the fourth-generation Sportage in South Africa late in the first quarter or early in the second quarter of 2016; prices and model line-up will be announced closer to the time.