By: Jesse Adams

Johannesburg - Kia’s Sportage has matured into a bigger, sportier and more sophisticated SUV, and it’s now available in South Africa in new fourth-generation form.

Daring design

Launched last week, the newest Sportage picks up where its predecessor left off as a popular alternative to the Kuga, Rav4, Tiguan, CR-V and Qashqai, though its closest competition will come from its recently introduced Hyundai Tucson cousin, with which it shares a chassis and some drivetrains. It’s certainly the more daringly styled of the Korean pair, with a slippery new look reminiscent of a Ford Ecosport from some angles and a Porsche Macan from others. One thing’s for sure, not everyone will fall in love with its frog-eyed new face, but we appreciate its out-of-the-boxness in a Juke sort of way.

The new Sportage is unchanged in width and height, but it’s 40mm longer with an extra 30mm added in wheelbase. This lengthened distance between the wheels means front and rear passengers get more legroom, and because the floor’s been lowered by 40mm there’s an increase in headroom too. Boot space has also grown from 465 to 503 litres (1492 with back seats folded), and rear seat backrests now get seven-step reclining mechanisms.

Upmarket cabin

The previous version’s interior was already of decent quality, and much of the materials and switchgear in the new one are familiar. Still it’s fairly upmarket in appearance and feel, and the dashboard sees a slick new layout with plenty of soft-touch coverings and well thought out ergonomics. The base Ignite model comes with black cloth upholstery, while the EX, SX and range-topping GT-Line get leather (two-tone leather is an optional extra).

Gadget counts are high, but to be fair most of the good stuff only comes in higher spec versions. Standard fare in the bottom Ignite includes two USB ports (front and rear), Bluetooth, a basic CD frontloader, steering controls and rear park-distance control, but you’ll need to move up to the EX to find rain-sensing wipers, cruise control, front-park sensors and an electric handbrake.

The Sportage SX adds a 7-inch colour touchscreen with navigation, reverse camera, heated and electric seats, HID lights and a power tailgate, while the top GT-Line includes a wireless smartphone charging pad, LED foglights, dual-zone climate control and a panoramic roof among others.

Safety’s well covered with all versions getting six airbags, ABS brakes, stability control, hill-start assist and downhill brake control (for controlled descents on steep inclines), but only the GT-Line comes with blind-spot monitors.

Kia’s gone an extra mile with suspension revisions, and while the basic independent front and rear layout is carried over, stiffer bushes, tweaked shocks, reworked sub-frame mountings, an updated rear cross member and a new steering damper all work to make the new Sportage handle and ride better than the outgoing model. It seems to have worked too.

“Upper class” diesel engine

I only drove one variant at the launch - a 2-litre turbodiesel all-wheel-drive SX - but it cruised in a very upper class way, unperturbed by corrugations and scarred sections of the Cape’s N2.

Impressive, especially considering this model (and the top GT-Line) rides on the lowest possible profile 19-inch rubber. Base Ignites are fitted with 16-inch alloys and the EX rolls on 17s. Full-size spares are also included in all models.

My test car’s CRDi engine was carried over from the previous Sportage but it has undergone some fine tuning to make it lighter, quieter and smoother. Power is set at 130kW but its the hefty 400Nm torque figure that made easy work of uphill overtakes and high-speed, high-gear cruising at low revs.

It’ll likely be the most popular of the four engine choices, albeit in the cheaper front-wheel-drive EX derivative.

New turbopetrol option

Other motor options include a 114kW/192Nm naturally-aspirated 2.0 petrol in the six-speed manual Ignite, a 135kW/237Nm naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre petrol (a new addition for the Sportage range) in combination with a six-speed autobox in the AWD SX, and a 130kW/265Nm 1.6 turbopetrol (also new to Sportage) which is common to the Kia Koup but downtuned for this application. This engine comes in the GT-Line only, and drives all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. All Sportage models come with five-year/unlimited mileage warranties and five-year/90 000km service plans.


2.0 Ignite - R369 995

2.0 CRDi EX - R487 995

2.4 GDI SX AWD - R557 995

2.0 CRDi SX AWD - R567 995

1.6 T-GDI GT-Line AWD - R599 995