The essence of the change in the step is the transition to the large N3 platform of the Hyundai Motor Group (joint with the new Tucson), which allowed a significant increase in dimensions. Now 175mm in length and with a wheelbase extended by 85mm, the Sportage has gone from being one of the smallest SUVs in its class, to one of the biggest sports cars out there.
This generational extension has worked wonders in terms of interior space and spaciousness, especially for second-row passengers. It’s boosted trunk space, too, to a Toyota RAV4 that competes with 543 liters, and includes a full-size spare.
High marks for the packaging, then, especially for families who will also appreciate the dual rear vents and USB-C ports built into the front seat backrests.
The variant chosen for the COTY test — the flagship GT-Line that costs $52,370 — meant the Sportage was able to do its best for two things: in the cabin and under the hood.
While every variant in the four-level model’s range scores an impressive list of standard gears and a full suite of active safety equipment, which includes a center airbag between the front seats, only the GT-Line features Kia’s 12.3-inch roll. instrument block. It’s paired with another 12.3-inch center screen for a dual-screen digital dash design that has more than a whiff of Mercedes-Benz.
The rest of the cabin exudes a euro feel, too. The quality of the materials is high and the fit and finish are impressive, leading Dan to remark: “It feels pretty ridiculous for a South Korean car at this price.”
“It’s easy to recommend, but it doesn’t break new ground” – Dan Gardner
Comparisons to the low-spec Hyundai Tucson were also in COTY lighting up, with Kia’s extra glamor, charm and gear justifying its $7,000 relationship over its Korean sibling.
Powering the GT-Line is the same as the 2.0-liter turbo diesel found in the Tucson, producing 137 kW/416 Nm. It’s a bold unit that’s easy to pick up in the Sportage range (2.0-liter petrol and 1.6-liter turbo are also available) but it doesn’t avoid all the usual diesel flaws.
As some of the judges noted: “The NVH is well-rounded, although diesels can be a bit of a bullshit,” and it’s “a little brisk at idle.”
The ride and handling compromise is also judged well for a family SUV, thanks in part to the local suspension tune. Kia Australia chassis expert Graeme Gambold chose special Mando dampers that strike a decent balance between compliance and control and helped the Sportage impact our dynamic courses. “He’s very fast, capable and good,” Kurt noted.
Its composure and excellent road manners on gravel were other highlights, although as a capable family transporter, the stewards noted that the Sportage is not in the same dynamic league as some of the rivals when it is really pushed. “It’s not rated like the Mazda CX-5 or the VW Tiguan,” Jez said. “The steering has room for improvement, too.”
So it’s bigger and better, packed with useful gear and thoughtful touches (like the blind-spot camera that pops up on the digital dial package upon signal), and it’s nicely sorted on the go.
So why didn’t Sportage advance as a finalist in the COTY? Dylan summed it up best: “It’s hard to fault the Sportage, but it’s also hard to praise. It lacks the fairy dust of the other cars here.”
The general consensus was that while it was a seismic step forward for Sportage, this new model didn’t break enough new ground, or advance its class in a meaningful way. Which was enough to stop the progress of the beloved Kia.
|Price / As tested||$52,370 / $52,890|
|engine||1998cc 4cyl turbo diesel|
|Energy||137 kW @ 4000 rpm|
|torque||416 Nm @ 2000-2750 rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed automatic, four-wheel drive|
|Weight||1760 kg (claimed)|
|fuel||6.3 l / 100 km, diesel|
|length, width, height||4660/1865/1680 mm|
|0-100 km/h||8.3 seconds|
|Weight (heavier than required)||40 kg|
|Noise at 100 km/h||67.7|