Kia Motors is today one of the most recognisable automotive brands, with success stories spreading across the globe. The Kia brand has forayed into India at a time when the market is ripe for the taking. The company has drawn up plans to kick things off with the launch of a compact SUV in 2019. But the big question is – do the company, the Kia brand and its products have enough to create a cosy space for themselves in the crowded Indian marketplace? Time will tell. In the meantime, we laid our hands on the Kia’s popular global SUV, Sportage to bring you this detailed review.
It is essentially an SUV, but the Kia Sportage progresses away from conventional design norms, which is also one of the strongest selling points of this brand. That said, through the course of our tests and time spent with the Sportage, there are many elements that make it special. Let’s take a closer look.
DESIGN & DIMENSIONS
At first glance, the Kia Sportage does not look mammoth. It is an SUV, and you will definitely not mistake it to be anything but an SUV. Kia Chief Design Officer, Peter Schreyer who is credited with the radical design of the Audi TT, designed the Sportage 2010 and 2015 models. Schreyer’s work has given this SUV a futuristic look that keeps its design contemporary and relevant three years after its launch.
Leading the way in the front is the distinct ‘Tiger Nose’ grille that has been finished using piano black with the brushed aluminium-made outer rim. The gradually rising hood gives the Sportage a sleek look with sculpted bits providing the SUV a sporty flair. The front features xenon projector headlamps and LED DRLs. The headlamp cluster looks unique and offers a fresh design perspective, other than what has been seen in this segment in India.
The side features a gently rising shoulder line; the belt line runs parallel to this giving the profile a very neat look. The emphasised lower character lines sitting between the pronounced wheel arches add a touch of masculine and youthful flavours to this SUV. The Sportage also features 19-inch, five split-fin alloys that give it a modern appeal. There is ample plastic cladding on the front, side and rear sections of the SUV.
Over in the rear, crisp design lines and chrome bits here and there make for a busy tail section. A spoiler integrated on top of the tailgate gives the Sportage a zippy look. The spoiler features an LED stop lamp. The rear combination lamps that wrap around and stretch over the boot lid are sharp and look modish. The rear tail lamp cluster design is also one of a kind and looks jazzy.
When you step inside the cabin of the Kia Sportage the story is quite different from the outside. The radical design language is absent and has been replaced with a smart and sophisticated straight line scheme. The all-black colour scheme is amplified with the additions of piano black finish and brushed aluminium bits that adorn the spaces of this cabin. The layout of the dash and its design is quite functional. All controls and switches are ergonomically within reach of the driver and the build quality and material quality if carried forward in India, will definitely set a new benchmark in this segment.
COMFORT & CONVENIENCE
In-car electronics has been significantly rising and most newly-launched vehicles now get oodles of features for entertainment, comfort and convenience. Kia is no stranger to this fact and the Sportage is heavily loaded with all sorts of bells and whistles to make the drive a breeze.
Apart from run-of-the-mill functions like keyless entry, pushbutton start/stop, power folding and adjustable ORVMs, the Kia Sportage also gets dual zone climate control with an automatic and sync function, ventilated front seats and seat warmers in four seats, heated steering wheel, 10-way power adjusted driver seat and eight-way power adjusted passenger seat, induction charging and a lot more.
The Sportage also gets driver aids like BSD (Blind Spot Detection) and parking sensors. The system works well to warn the driver of any impending hazard in the blind spot. Kia also offers Hill Assist Control on the Sportage. Other safety features include six airbags, cruise control, ABS and ESC. The Kia Sportage offers 466 l of cargo volume and can be accessed with the smart key; this power tailgate also gets a memory function.
Kia is offering ample cubby holes and storage spaces on the Sportage with each door trim getting a bottle holder. The rear also gets a centre arm rest with cup holders, while the front has a sizeable armrest too. If you like road trips and often make your way to the hills, the Kia Sportage also offers consumers a mammoth panoramic sunroof. Not only does this gives you a brilliant view of the sky above but also makes the cabin feel airy and spacious.
POWERTRAIN & PERFORMANCE
Internationally, the Kia Sportage is offered with multiple engine options, but I was behind the wheel of the powerful GT Line variant that gets a 2 l, four cylinder, TCI turbo diesel engine. To be precise on just how powerful this motor is we take a closer look at the engine output figures. The four cylinder turbo charged engine is capable of producing 182.4 hp at 4,000 rpm and 402 Nm of torque at 1,750 rpm.
During our tests we were able to clock a 0-100 km/h time of 11.71 s. That is reasonably quick for an SUV that has a gross weight of over two tonne. The peak power comes toward the end of the mid-range which peaks at 4,500 rpm. When pushing hard, the transmission upshifts at 4,000 rpm. The diesel engine in the Sportage GT Line pulls neatly and despite being a turbo charged motor, it progresses in a linear fashion. The peak torque from this engine is belted out at 1,750 rpm. The output of 402 Nm of torque ensures that the SUV leaps forward from the word go.
The diesel powerhouse in the Kia Sportage GT Line has been mated to a six speed automatic transmission. Also on offer are Eco and Sport drive modes, along with the option of shifting manually as well as with shift paddles on the steering. The transmission is smooth but at full throttle, the shifts can easily be felt. Saying so, one does not get jerked around too much and while we are on the subject, the suspension set-up on the Sportage GT Line leans to the softer side. This enables it to gobble up most bumps and jolts easily. But you also need to be extremely careful over potholes and bumps, because of the large 19 inch alloy wheels that have been bolted on to the Sportage GT Line.
Due to the tuning of the suspension, there is mild body roll, which can be felt but the tyres grip the road well and render a decent amount of control. Speaking of control, braking on this SUV is facilitated by disc brakes on all four wheels. The braking is sharp and progressive, enabled with an ABS. We managed to bring this SUV down to a halt from 100 km/h in just 4.31 s. While braking in a panic, the Sportage also feels extremely stable and is not at all unnerved.
The Kia Sportage GT Line is quite unique; it offers a rare blend of sporty design language with smart sophistication – be it technology or overall build quality. This SUV boasts of unique features, impressive performance and a rich blend of quality mixed with character.
For the Indian consumer, the Kia brand will certainly hold incredible amounts of aspirational value. And if there is no compromise on quality, when the India spec versions are launched, then they will also be getting good value for money. Kia is expected to launch its first product in 2019 and judging by what we have observed on the Sportage GT Line, we can safely tell you that it will offer an extremely well-rounded package that may just take the market by storm.
TEXT & PHOTO: Joshua David Luther