We recently jetted off to Mozambique where Kia chose to unveil their all-new Sportage compact-SUV to SA’s motoring media. Slightly bigger and far bolder than its predecessor, the all-new Sportage is the latest model from the Korean manufacturer, which is growing in leaps and bounds.
Globally, Kia Motors grew 21% in 2009 and the first half of 2010 has seen a further 49% growth spurt over the same period as last year. It’s not surprising to hear that in 2010 China is leading the way in the company’s growth, at a rate of 76.8%, however, standing out from the rest of their global markets, Kia Motors South Africa has grown by an impressive 141% up to June this year and currently holds a 5% share of SA’s total vehicle market.
When the first Kia cars rolled out of SA showrooms, around 13 years ago, the buying choice was very much an economic decision rather than an emotional one. Now, the latest Kia cars are worthy of decisions made with both the head and the heart. To make this happen Kia have been hard at work, most notably in their R&D department where they spend 5%, or around US $2 billion annually. To further distinguish the brand, Kia has set up design studios in California and Frankfurt that serve to inject their cars with a mix of cutting edge design and global appeal. Heading the design team, spread between the USA, Europe and Korea, is Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer, best known for penning the lines of the Audi TT.
Schreyer has been instrumental in Kia’s rise to the top of the sales charts since he started with the company in 2006. Schreyer himself has been quoted as saying, “In the past, the Kia cars were very neutral. When you saw one on the road, you didn’t really know if it was Korean or Japanese…I think it’s very important that you are able to recognise a Kia at first sight.” The result is the “tiger face”, which Schreyer has gifted Kia and that will be the company’s signature look for the foreseeable future.
With the launch of the new Sportage however, it would seem that future is now. The connection to the Kue concept, first shown in 2007 at the Detroit Motor Show, is unmistakable and you may be forgiven for thinking the Sportage is a concept car that’s driven straight off the motor show stand and onto the road. A winning combination of bold curves, lines and surfaces, the new Sportage is a looker from any angle and especially in either the ‘Techno Orange’ or ‘Electric Yellow’ colours.
The interior has also moved more upmarket, in both design and perceived quality. Kia’s cars were never short on value for money in terms of features and the new Sportage is no different. There are three specification levels – centered around the engine and transmission choices.
Beginning with the front-wheel drive (FWD) ‘Ignite’ entry-level model, standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, manually operated air-conditioner, electrically operated side mirrors and windows, steering wheel mounted satellite controls, reverse parking assist system and radio/CD/MP3-player with iPod and USB connectivity. The Sportage Ignite is powered by Kia’s revised Theta II 2.0-litre engine that has received a number of updates to make it smoother, quieter, more powerful and more fuel efficient. Maximum power is 122 kW and a torque figure of 197 Nm is achieved at 4 600 r/min. Performance in this base model is adequate, with the 0 – 100 km/h sprint achieved in 10.4 seconds and a top speed of 184 km/h. The engine delivers its power to the road via a 5-speed manual gearbox.
The other two-wheel drive (2WD) 2.0-litre models feature added comfort and convenience features such as; cruise control, LED day-time running lights, a glove box with cooling function, leather covered seats, electronically adjustable driver’s seat, as well as a set of roof rails to strengthen the crossover look.
The flagship petrol-powered model uses a 2.4-litre engine that produces 130 kW and maximum torque of 227 Nm at 4 000 r/min. The Sportage 2.4-litre model is available exclusively with a 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive (AWD), which delivers 100% of torque to the front wheels during normal road driving with the option to manually select ‘Lock Mode’ for a 50/50 torque split between front/rear axles when added grip is needed at speeds of up to 40 km/h.
The third engine variant comes from Kia’s latest generation of ‘R’ family diesel engines. The 2.0-litre 16-valve DOHC ‘R2.0′ diesel engine benefits from all-aluminium construction, a variable geometry turbocharger (VGT), a faster and more advanced engine control unit (ECU), new exhaust gas recirculation system with cooler and bypass valve, as well as a balancer shaft. Maximum power from the diesel engine is 130 kW with 392 Nm of torque is available from 1 800 r/min. The gutsy diesel endows the Sportage with a 0 – 100 km/h sprint time of 9.4 seconds in 6-speed manual guise, or 9.6 seconds when equipped with the 6-speed auto ‘box. In addition, the diesel engine requires just 6.5 l/100km or 7.5 l/100km for the manual and automatic transmissions respectively.
All 2WD and 4WD models, excluding the entry-level ‘Ignite’, feature ‘Welcome home’ escort lights and LED day-time running lights. The AWD models also benefit from a tailgate-mounted reversing camera with interior mirror display monitor; 18-inch alloy wheels; Smart Card (for keyless entry, together with an engine start/stop button); radio/CD/MP3-player with 6-disc changer, subwoofer and amplifier.
All Sportage models come standard with a bevy of safety features that includes: electronic stability control (ESC) with a new rollover sensor that deploys the side airbags, curtain airbags and seatbelt pretensioners when required; hill-start assist control to prevent roll-back when starting on an ascent; downhill brake control to limit speed during a steep descent; as well as the usual ABS, EBD, traction control, airbags (dual front, side and full-length curtain) and child seat anchor points.
In balmy Maputo we had the opportunity to drive the Sportage Ignite model and came away impressed. Inside, the Sportage offers enough space for four adults with luggage, thanks in part to its growth over the previous Sportage by 95 mm in length (4 445 mm) and 15 mm in width (1 855 mm). The driving position is comfortable and the instrumentation is ‘clean’ and easy to read. The new Sportage ushers in a new level of interior quality and tactility that we haven’t seen in Kia’s cars to date and it’s a welcome addition to the Kia experience. There is a generous 740-litres of cargo space available behind the rear seats, expandable to 1 547-litres with the rear seats folded flat. The boot also features a handy non-slip mat to help prevent items rolling around excessively and stored beneath this you’ll find a full-size spare wheel – potentially a life saver on Mozambique’s roads that can be peppered with pot holes. There are also plenty of storage areas in the cabin for added practicality.
On the move the Sportage handles well thanks to its wider front and rear tracks (74 mm / 75 mm), as well as a 23 mm lower ride height at 172 mm. Despite the shift to a more sportier driving experience, the Kia engineers have managed to strike a good balance of effective handling without compromising ride comfort. Over the bumps and undulations between Maputo and the Lebombo mountains, the Sportage’s all-new, multi-link, fully-independent rear suspension and retuned MacPherson front struts, meant the compact-SUV remained composed and tracked well, never being thrown off-line or demanding undue inputs at the wheel. The 2.0-litre petrol engine performs its duties smoothly, but with almost 2 tonnes (1 980 kg) to lug around it does require some work with the 5-speed manual transmission.
The Kia Sportage plays in a competitive market, with a number of new or refreshed players, including the Nissan Qashqai, Hyundai iX35 and Renault Koleos, to name a few. However, our first impressions suggest the Sportage’s practicality, comfort, on-road composure, head turning looks and competitive pricing, guarantee its continuity as an asset in Kia’s model line-up, if not the proverbial jewel in their crown.
|Prices (incl. VAT)
|Sportage 2.0 Ignite M/T||R249 995|
|Sportage 2.0 2WD M/T||R264 995|
|Sportage 2.0 2WD A/T||R274 995|
|Sportage 2.0 AWD M/T||R294 995|
|Sportage 2.0 AWD A/T||R304 995|
|Sportage 2.4 AWD A/T||R319 995|
|Sportage 2.0 CRDi 2WD M/T||R289 995|
|Sportage 2.0 CRDi 2WD A/T||R299 995|
|Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD M/T||R319 995|
|Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD A/T||R329 995|
Prices include a 5 Year/100 000 km warranty, roadside assistance and service plan. Service intervals are 15 000 kms for petrol models and 20 000 kms for diesel models using 50 ppm diesel.