Johannesburg - The Sportage has the honour of being Kia’s most successful model, albeit not on local shores but internationally, where the Rav4 rivalling SUV has notched up five million sales over 25 years.
Though it has played second fiddle to its Hyundai Tucson cousin on the South African sales charts in its latest iteration with its slightly controversial frontal styling, the Sportage is back for another fight with a midlife refresh that also brings a rejigged range, including a new 1.6-litre base engine.
There’s certainly an emphasis on lower-cost powerplants here as the previous 2.4-litre normally aspirated and 1.6-litre turbopetrol engines fall away, while a new normally aspirated 1.6-litre GDI unit joins the base of the range. The new direct injection motor produces 97kW and 161Nm and will run from 0-100km/h in 12.1 seconds at the coast, according to claims.
Sold only in Ignite guise at R379 995, the 1.6 GDI model undercuts the previous 2.0 Ignite that it replaces by a mere R1500, but it does come with automatic transmission as standard, which was an optional extra on the 2.0.
That aforementioned 2-litre normally aspirated engine, with 115kW and 196Nm, and the 2-litre CRDI turbodiesel (131kW/400Nm) continue as before, both available with a choice of Ignite Plus, EX and EX Plus trim grades.
The 2.0 petrol can be had in manual or auto guise depending on model, and the 2.0 turbodiesel is sold exclusively with Kia’s new eight-speed automatic gearbox. Furthermore, the 2.0 CRDi EX can be ordered with permanent all-wheel-drive, while the rest of the Sportage range is front-driven.
But why drop the 2.4 and 1.6T engines? This is how Kia explains it:
“Careful analysis of the Sportage range’s most popular models in conjunction with extensive feedback from our customers proved that what is most important in an SUV is a durable and efficient powertrain.
“KIA’s familiar 2.0-litre engines, in both petrol and diesel, have proven themselves on both of these factors and remain the most popular choices in the range.”
In spec terms, the Ignite continues to offer all the basic luxury and safety features - like aircon, electric windows and mirrors, a conventional (non-touchscreen) six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity, auto headlights, leather-wrapped steering wheel with audio controls, rear park distance control, six airbags and ESC stability controls - and the base model gains new 17” alloys.
The Ignite Plus grade (shown below) adds auto-folding side mirrors, an electrochromatic rearview mirror and fancier 17-inch alloys.
Over and above all that, the EX throws in leather seats (with electric adjustment), automatic climate control, a 17.8cm touchscreen infotainment system with CarPlay and Android Auto functionality and a reverse camera, voice recognition, electric parking brake and rain-sensing wipers. The AWD EX model also gains 19-inch alloys.
Those 19” rims are also fitted to the EX Plus, along with a panoramic sunroof, rear USB port and a larger (now 20.3cm) touchscreen system with satnav and wireless smartphone charging.
All versions ship with a five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty and five-year/90 000km service plan.
New face for 2019
As it often goes with these mid-life ‘nip-and-tuck’ sessions, the basic look is familiar and the headlights continue as before, but there is a new bumper, housing a more prominent grille and bigger front fog light housings that aim to give the front end a more macho appearance.
You’ll also find a mildly revised bumper at the back and the taillights get a new lighting structure - both design changes attempting to make the Sportage appear wider.