BEAUTY, they say, is in the eyes of the beholder, and that adage certainly applies to cars as well as everything else with lines somewhat more attractive than the norm.
It’s the eye magnet of Kia’s Sportage, but, like Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde, it has a lot more than a beautiful body to stir emotions.
Sportages come in nine varieties, with prices ranging from $29,000 to $46,000 and in petrol, diesel, front and all-wheel-drive.
We ended up in an Si AWD with diesel power, a $34,000 model pretty well specced considering its perceived entry level status.
Other than its trademark Schreyer ‘tiger nose’ grille and styling, the medium-sized SUV has wide-opening doors, comfortably seats four adults, has a pleasant cabin with good visibility and instrumentation and a decent boot with a full-sized (17-inch) alloy spare wheel underfloor.
Standard fare includes a 7.0-inch infotainment screen with Bluetooth and streaming, which is controlled by touch or console buttons, reversing camera and sensors, foglights, auto-on headlights, a leather-rimmed steering wheel and gear selector, 6-speaker radio several power sockets and USB and aux ports.
What’s missing? Satellite navigation. Yes, really.
For that you need to go to the next level.
The steering wheel controls are easy to understand and if you need liquid refreshment, there are cup holders are in the centre console and rear centre armrest and bottle holders in all four doors.
Cargo-wise, the 60/40 split rear seats can be folded flat to increase the 466litres boot area by 1000 litres, making it one of the biggest load carriers in its class, and if you have to tow a boat, caravan or drill rig, you’ll be delighted with its 1900kg towing capacity.
However, SUVs primarily serve as people, rather than goods conveyances and the Sportage does a great job in that regard.
It’s suspension, Macstruts in front and a multi-link set up at the back, has been sorted with new geometry features at the rear and firmer damper settings to improve the ride.
The platform has also benefited from more high-strength steel, resulting in a big boost in rigidity.
The result is quite a lot more grip with a commensurate increase in driving joy. Yes, this is an SUV that’s really a pleasure to drive.
A tight turning circle of 10.9m is another plus.
The diesel Sportage has a fairly spirited 2.0litre turbo motor that develops 136kW and 300Nm and transmission is via six-speed automatic.
It normally runs in front wheel drive, but up to 40per cent of torque can be switched to the back wheels if it detects any slip.
It’s a pleasant drive with brisk performance and good road manners and the economy’s also impressive. We recorded an average 7.3litres/100km in ‘eco’ mode on a 400km-plus drive.
Safety bits? Yes, all the airbags and electronic guff du jour, plus a five-star rating, for what it’s worth.
The motor emits typical diesel clatter on start-up, but there’s no intrusion once on the road.
There was a ‘clunk’ from the rear when the car was hurried through tight bends, but it wasn’t an unsecured jack – turned out to be the optional cargo blind.
Cherry on top is Kia’s unmatched 7 year/unlimited distance warranty, inclusive of roadside help, plus a free first service.
That’s real confidence.
Bottom line: A nicely finished good looker that does everything right. But at this price you need to turn a key to get it started and open the boot yourself. It should satisfy most folk as it stands – but if you want to pay a barrow load of more money, sure ,you can get the same mechanicals with push-button start, a louder jukebox, more chrome, two-tone seating and other such ‘essentials’.
As for the missing Satnav, we’d rather spend $150 on a Tom-Tom than move up to the next level.
Kia Sportage priced from $28,990
- Schreyer styling
- Good to drive
- Comfy, secure ride
- Loads of cargo room
- Lots of standard equipment
- Strong, economical diesel motor
- Lack of Satnav