Kia Sportage

Update brings extra Ozification, but at a cost

TONY O’KANE

FIRST AUSSIE DRIVE

Suspension compliance; solid handling; slick infotainment upgrade

PLUS & MINUS

Price hikes; limp petrol 2.0-litre; AWD petrol option is expensive

Model Kia Sportage SLi petrol

Engine 1999cc 4cyl, dohc, 16v

Max power 114W @ 6200rpm

Max torque 192Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic

Weight 1532kg 0-100km/h 10.4 seconds

Economy 7.9L/100km

Price $36,790

On sale Now

PROBLEMS are few and far between for the Sportage, but Kia admits there’s one concerning issue with its mid-size SUV: it’s not popular enough with men. Ergo, it’s applied a subtle facelift to its two-year-old Sportage in a bid to impart some masculine charm. Air dams enlarge, bumper contours become sharper and wheel designs get more extroverted, but there are no sheetmetal alterations. To the layman, the differences will be pretty hard to spot. Do they result in a more gender-neutral look? Well, we’re not so sure that the pre-update Sportage was overtly feminine to begin with.

Good thing there are more meaningful differences under the skin. In the cabin there’s a new infotainment package with one of the slickest, fastreacting touchscreens in the segment. Measuring 7.0-inches across in the base Si grade and growing to 8.0-inches in all other variants, the menus are intuitive to navigate and responses to fingertip inputs are as lag-free as a smartphone. There’s no integrated sat-nav on the Si, but the standard inclusion of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay across the range is a neat workaround for that.

An electric park brake is added from SLi grade and up, bringing with it a less cluttered centre console, but the rest of the interior is virtually untouched. Same comfy front seats, spacious (albeit flat-cushioned) rear seats, same generous 466-litre seats-up cargo capacity.

The 2.0-litre diesel option gains an eight-speed automatic that brings a 0.4L/100km reduction in combined fuel consumption (now 6.4L/100km), however the two petrol options – a 114kW 2.0-litre and 135kW 2.4-litre, both atmo – are unchanged, as are their sixspeed automatics.

And that’s a shame, because our main criticism of the Sportage line-up concerns the lack of refinement and economy from the range’s mainstay engine, the 2.0-litre petrol. Its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Tucson, has moved to a direct-injected 2.0L with more power and torque, but the Sportage continues to plug away with the outdated unit.

Thankfully, the chassis has moved forward with this update. Kia Australia has had another crack at a localised suspension tune, and managed to impart an impressive level of compliance to the Sportage’s already-competent underpinnings without sacrificing its sharp handling. In fact, with a slightly faster rack ratio than before, the MY18 Sportage is a genuine joy to throw down a twisty road.

The updated Sportage might look like ‘business as usual’ from the outside, but it’s a different story from the driver’s seat.

TONY O’KANE

Oily riser

If there’s one blot on the updated Sportage’s scorecard, it’s in the column marked ‘pricing’. AEB is now standard on all variants and so is lane-keep assist, but tweaks to the car’s spec levels see four-figure price rises across the board. The biggest mover is the SLi diesel, which jumps $2500, while even the base Si rises by $1000. It’s still a sharp buy, but just not as much of a bargain as it used to be.