Home Lifestyle Motoring REVIEW: Kia Sportage EX ticks most of the right boxes

REVIEW: Kia Sportage EX ticks most of the right boxes

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With its sharp styling and refined road manners, the the new Kia Sportage EX model is well worth a look if you’re shopping around the R600,000 mark.

Classic and elegant… the Kia Sportage FX.

By: Mpho Mahlangu

IT IS NO secret that Kia has been launching impressive vehicles over the last few years, with some positioning themselves as more premium offerings than ever before. Enter the recently launched Kia Sportage, which I was fortunate enough to spend a month driving over the festive period.

Having spent over 2,500km behind the wheel of the Sportage EX, I am left with the conclusion that the mid-size SUV ticks all the right boxes for prospective buyers shopping in this competitive segment.

Firstly, and arguably most importantly, the Kia Sportage ticks the box of exterior styling. The all-new model boasts a bold and striking exterior design, one that turned the heads of most passers-by over our extended test period. Although a subjective topic, I cannot see too many people on the fence regarding the exterior design of the Sportage.

Taking centre stage up front is the signature Tiger Nose grille which is flanked by attractive boomerang-shaped LED daytime-running lights and LED headlights. At the rear, LED razor tail lamps are present along with a contrasting black bumper and rear skid plate to match the one found up front. My test unit benefits from a new hue called Experience Green, which looks darn impressive under the sunlight.

The next box that the Sportage needs to tick is that of safety and technology. Most of the prospective buyers shopping in this segment will be individuals with families and they will be happy to learn that the Sportage benefits from the standard fitment of six airbags, ISOFIX, ABS with EBD and ESC, HAC, DBC and TSA.

Some convenience safety features in the Sportage include smart entry with push button start and an electric parking brake with auto hold functionality. Models which are higher up in the range offer Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance System technology.

The technology is made possible thanks to a large, curved display with two 12.3-inch digital displays for the instrument cluster and infotainment system. The infotainment system benefits from wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, with the touchscreen being quite responsive and easy to use.

I, however, would’ve liked to see a bit more customisation and functionality from the digital instrument cluster.

An important box which the Sportage ticks with flying colours is that of practicality. Up front, passengers are treated to ample storage space in the form of two cup holders with a generous amount of storage surrounding them, an arm rest with more than sufficient storage within it and a wireless smartphone charging pad which may also act as an area to store other smaller items.

The door bins however were a let down, as they are far too narrow to fit items such as a water bottle. The door bins are much better suited to smaller items such as keys, wallets/purses, and the sort. The lack of felt lining, however, means that these objects will rattle about in the door bins in certain driving situations.

On the brighter side, passengers will be happy to learn that a USB A and USB C port are present up front along with a 12V socket, with rear passengers treated to two USB C ports. Furthermore, the rear bench of seats can recline forwards and backwards, thus resulting in better seating comfort.

With the new Kia Sportage, the SUV has grown in dimensions, with a wheelbase measuring 2,680mm, 996mm of legroom in the second row and 1,000mm of headroom. This translates to impressive levels of space and comfort. On my long road trips throughout the festive season, passengers were left thoroughly impressed with rear seat comfort.

Lots of boot space.

The luggage capacity measures at 591 litres, which translates to two large suitcases, two medium suitcases and small items being able to fit in the boot of the Sportage with ease. Underneath the boot floor is a full-sized spare wheel, something which I appreciated when I found myself with a flat tyre.

Overall, the practicality of the Kia Sportage is quite commendable, and I can give a thumbs-up for Kia designers on a stellar job on this front.

Having covered what I believe are the three important boxes that an SUV in this segment needs to tick, now would be a wonderful time to touch on the engine and performance of the Sportage.

Underneath the bonnet is a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol motor. The unit delivers 132kW and 265Nm of torque and is paired to Kia’s 7-speed DCT. Noteworthy, the same 1.6-litre motor is used across the entire model range of the Sportage.

The engine and transmission pairing works quite well together. Although it does not boast the most exciting output figures – 132kW and 265Nm – the Sportage has sufficient power and torque to provide comfortable performance.

Around town, the SUV fairs quite well, with the 7-speed DCT going about its duties unnoticed. My only criticism would be a slight jerky feel when manoeuvring at slow speeds.

Out on the open road, the Kia Sportage is a great vehicle to travel in. Just as in town, the SUV fairs well on the national highways too. The transmission settles down to about 2,000rpm in seventh gear and the motor is quiet when cruising at the national speed limit.

Wind noise is quite minimal along with NVH levels too.

The suspension of the Sportage deserves a thumbs-up too as comfort is quite commendable. Road imperfections are dealt with rather well, with only the harshest of bumps penetrating the cabin. On gravel roads, the Sportage manages to retain a decent level of comfort.

With an asking price of R608,995, I believe that the Kia Sportage EX is a serious value proposition and should be at the top of the list of SUVs to purchase around the R600,000 mark.

FACTS: Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi EX

Price: R608,995

Engine: 1.6-litre, 4-cylinder, petrol

Gearbox: 7-speed dual-clutch transmission

Drive: Front-wheel drive

Power: 132kW at 5,500 rpm

Torque: 265Nm from 1,500-4,500 rpm

Fuel consumption: 8.0L/100km (tested)

Fuel tank capacity: fifty-four litres

Boot volume: 591 litres

Warranty: 5-year/unlimited kilometres

Service plan: 6-year/90,000 kilometres

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