Kia Sportage: Country Lanes with Roos loose in the top paddock.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum front 3/4 driving.

Kia Sportage in Sovereign Hill

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum front driving.2016 Kia Sportage Platinum front 3/4.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum rear 3/4.

 

Kia is ever so proud of their 4th gen Sportage, and quite rightly too. Early pics didn’t do the SUV justice. In fact, the package was very handsome and should give the opposition a continuing headache.

My pick is the top spec Platinum. It has the most bang for your buck with: AWD, automated parking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, lane change assistant, autonomous emergency braking and forward collision warning. The back door will swing skyward without having to do anything more than simply standing there for 3 seconds. Handy, but could it be annoying? I haven’t been Able to get it to work. No doubt I’m not holding my mouth right.

So far the driver safety pack can’t be had on the lower models, but future inclusion is not out of the question. There is also has a reversing camera with cross traffic alert, a system that warns you when a danger approaches while you’re reversing. This should make all but the most careless drivers a little safer. Just because you’re less likely to mow down small children doesn’t mean you shouldn’t drive with much love and care. Aids are just that and don’t take the place of experience and good manners. We did a little of our drive in Melbourne which defies common sense at the best of times. In traffic, the Sportage diesel felt spritely while managing to keep a lid on the maniacal fuel consumption a petrol engine would have used.

Diesel engines have had their fair share of trashing over recent months, especially in Europe. There have been falsified emissions reports which damaged the reputation of diesel in the minds of some. No fear here though as no such anomalies have been discovered in Korea. Perhaps the Koreans will do what the French did. The French government went as far as testing French made cars to reassure the buying public because they were so worried about what had happened just over the border.

The Platinum has a lusty 136kw/400Nm and a spirited 135kw/237Nm 2.4 petrol which can be had for a few thou less. We also drove the 2.0L (on the base model) but it felt flat and lifeless. It provides and entry level for those who want it but no one who drives the bigger engines. This was a case of the figures not giving a proper idea of how to drives would differ. Most people mistake power as the thing that gets you off the lights fast, but they’re really talking about the torque. This explains why the diesel feels nippier off the mark with this diesel having 400Nm vs the 2.4 petrol engine’s 237Nm. The diesel gets a claimed 6.8L/100k against the 2.4’s 8.5L/100k of combined urban/country driving but the diesel will get around 1,000 kilometres out the 62L tank doing 5.5L/100k on the highway. We’ll take the Sportage on a longer drive to see if this claim is true.

Would I drive the Sportage on a road trip? Why, yes I would, and I’d enjoy thank you very much. 19” alloys usually kill smooth ride stone cold dead, but not so on Sportage. The ride is supple with Macphersons at the front and a fancy (and expensive) multi-link arrangement round back. That was a big surprise, but what was an even bigger shock was the steering which had tons of road feel. I was convinced it was the more expensive rack mounted system, but no it was column mounted. I’ve been so unkind about column mounted in the past. I’ve even referred to column mounted steering as “wooden” and “dull-as-dishwater” so I need to chastise myself severely. Kia’s technical bloke reckons they’ve fine-tuned the feel and I have to agree with him. It turns out that column mounted isn’t inherently horrible after all.

We gave the AWD setup a bit of a wellie on some moist gravel backroads which was more challenging 2016 Kia Sportage Platinum front 3/4 vertical.than it sounds. The damp surface can make things go wrong very quickly. Day one was a hot sunny day but day 2 turned septic and moody, but it demonstrated the ability of Sportage in all weather. Added to our angst was an ominous warning about “roos” loose in the top paddock. I’ve often been accused of having roos loose in the top paddock but this is the first time I can say it was true. Had they stayed in the top paddock things would have been tickety boo, but the roadside was simply littered with carcasses of native wild life that had met gritty deaths. I was nervous I don’t mind telling you. The warning was not just talk either. A Kia consultant had been involved in a close encounter of the furry kind the day before. Perhaps it’s endless brown grass driving the fauna out in search of greener pastures but they were literally everywhere. You don’t normally see roos in the day time. They’re lazy buggers who are prompted into action only in the most desperate and dire circumstances.

I had a close-ish encounter myself causing a controlled but sudden stab of the brakes. My co-driver nad need of the “Jesus Grip”. Luckily it was on tarmac, and we had a bit of notice in the open sparsely treed landscape. Funnily enough the Sportage almost stood on its own nose without ever breaking traction. I was impressed as genuine emergency braking is hard to simulate. This raises an interesting fact: the nose of the Kia is 20mm longer than the old model but is mostly plastic. You might think that this is a result of bean counting, but no, it is strictly down to safety. Should a unsuspecting pedestrian (or roo) be scooped up at lowish speed, injury will be minimized and damage to the car almost nil. You could fix the resulting misdemenour with a bit of spit and bailing wire, so its cheap and quick.

But, a good motoring experience is much more than just a good engine, steering and brakes, you also want a look and feel that makes you go “AHHHHH”. You want ambience and X factor

The exterior has ice-cube fog lights and LED headlights. These look like oncoming jewels. The metalwork is all new too. The body is 40mm longer, wheelbase 30mm longer, roof 105mm longer and the rear floor 40 lower. This doesn’t interfere with the 172mm ground clearance either. It translates to oodles more space, and although the figure may not sound big, the affect is profound.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum interior black.2016 Kia Sportage Platinum grey leather two-toned interior.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum interior audio and ventilation controls.2016 Kia Sportage AUX/USB, phone charger and front 12 volt power outlets.

This brings us to the cabin, which is a pleasure. Kia says it has put much work into the quality of the fixtures and materials and it shows. The soft touch plastic looks expensive and does a decent job of looking and feeling like stitched leather in places. The hard plastic doesn’t feel like it will come away in your hand at first use, and the leather appointed seats look classy. By the way, “appointed” means that there is a combination of real and simulated leather used. We couldn’t tell what was leather and what was pleather so what the eye can’t see, the neighbours won’t notice.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum (SPAS (Smart Parking Assist System).2016 Kia Sportage Platinum interior grey two-tone.

2016 Kia Sportage Platinum (SPAS (Smart Parking Assist System).

There are all new controls, but the clean look and feel is thanks to the new infotainment system. I have a thing about Apple Car Play and her Android sister as you know, so it is no surprise that I was desolate to learn they were not included. How could this happen?

I asked this very question, and expected to be fobbed off with some half-baked “dog ate my homework” excuse. Instaed, in what can only be described as a stroke of genius, all buyers of the brand spanking new Sportage will be able get a free software update. Once completed, Car Play will be unlocked. The hold-up was a licensing nightmare. It was not clear whether it has to be done at a dealer or will be a USB in the mail. To compliment this system, there is wireless charging for phones NF capability. The sound from the top spec model is good for the price but I’d be tempted to have it fettled by some Sound Technicians I know.

Kia Australia’s CEO says he wants to sell 10,000 Sportages in a year. We liked the previous Sportage so the new model had big shoes to fil. Luckily for Kia, the shoes filled to overflowing, and we were left smiling. In fact, I’d go far as to say the old model feels a bit last week.

The Launch, in and around Ballarat combined the future history of Kia set against the famous story of the Eureka Stockade. This 15 minute fight between miners and the government is symbolic of the fight Kia is having with the minds and hearts of buyers who still associate Kia with Cheap and Cheerful. Kia has the only 7 year warranty in the country which they wouldn’t be offering if they thought their cars might fall to bits the second you drive it out of the showroom.

Full review to follow (hopefully with absolutely no roos loose)

Pricing

Si 2.0-litre petrol $28,990

Si 2.0-litre diesel $33,990

SLi 2.0-litre petrol $33,990

SLi 2.0-litre diesel $38,990

Platinum 2.4-litre petrol $43,490

Platinum 2.0-litre diesel $45,990

Capped Price Service

Model

15,000

30,000

45,000

60,000

75,000

90,000

105,000

Total

Sportage

2.0Ltr CRDI

$419

$499

$480

$726

$471

$600

$500

$3,695

Sportage

2.0Ltr Petrol MPI 2WD

$306

$383

$361

$711

$345

$470

$366

$2,942

Sportage 2.4Ltr Petrol GDI 4WD

$339

$417

$396

$747

$382

$508

$405

$3,194

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