Kia Sportage 2.0CRDi AWD (2014) Review

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This body style of Kia Sportage first hit our shores in 2010 and there was absolutely no doubt that Kia had designed an awesome-looking compact SUV. Would it be able to sell huge numbers and win over the South African public was the major question.

I found the answer during a Cape Town to Joburg road trip over the Christmas period of 2010. Yes. As I headed for the Highveld it was incredible the amount of new generation Sportages I witnessed going the opposite direction, very conspicuous with its Tiger grille and distinctive headlights. Now Kia has updated the Sportage to improve its pedigree as a few of the other competitors have caught up on the design front.

Physical Changes

On the outside Kia opted to stick with the winning design and only a minor change to the front grille is evident. The fog lamps and lower bumper have also been modified but are less easy to spot the difference. The usual addition of different styled wheels has been arranged and depending on how far up the range you choose to go you can have 17 or 18-inch wheels.

Climb Aboard

The bulk of the refresh to the Sportage has happened inside, specifically an attempt to reduce the in-car noise. The Sportage is much quieter at speeds now and the wind noise only really becomes evident at unnecessary speeds. Now in a cocoon like environment of quiet, the Sportage has a few other new features.

In this top-of-the-range all-wheel-drive model there’s now a 4.3-inch touchscreen entertainment unit in place. It’s a very simple system to use, however 4.3-inches is probably a bit small when it comes to touchscreens, especially for those with larger digits. The touchscreen doubles as a reverse camera when the gearbox is tapped into reverse but again, cramming such a wide angle camera into a small screen can make everything disproportionately far away.

The Diesel Choice

I’m all for diesel compact SUVs as they make sense to me. You get ample torque from a turbodiesel, they're particularly fuel efficient and because you’re in an SUV, you probably don’t want to race everywhere so the low revving, unsporty nature of the engine doesn’t really matter.

Our Sportage AWD comes with a 2-litre turbodiesel capable of 130 kW and 382 Nm. Connected to a six-speed auto it’s a good combination and the throttle response is immediate. There’s none of the Euro emissions cheat pedal stuff where the first half push of the throttle pedal only succeeds in a crawl. It’s excellent to drive in traffic, with the fast throttle response you can dive in and out of gaps and across intersections happily. There isn't an ill effect on fuel consumption due to the immediate response from the throttle, Kia claims 7.4l/100km and over our week-long test period we averaged 8.2l/100km - more than decent.

The six-speed gearbox is a step behind its European counterparts and feels slow through the upshifts but it’s quite eager to gear down when slowing. The early downshifts means you’re in the right gear if you need to accelerate away again. The ratios are spot on so the only thing missing is that smooth auto-shift feel you get from the modern Euro spec ‘boxes.

Ride and Drive

The Sportage has a particularly high driving position and is set quite far forward so you get good visibility over the front bonnet and at imminent obstacles. The ride however can be quite harsh, it feels stiffly sprung and can overemphasise bumps and undulations in the road through the cabin.

The steering has been changed from a hydraulic system to a motor-assisted electronic system and hasn’t affected it much. The Sportage probably isn’t going to be used as a sportscar so the lighter steering feel works adequately in town and for parking lots, just don’t expect a confidence inspiring blast over a mountain pass. The permanent AWD version here makes a decent go at off-roading, but the stiff setup means it can be tiresome over a long dirt road slog.

Final Word

The Kia Sportage remains a good looking compact SUV that will draw attention from onlookers. It hasn’t changed its appearance vastly but updated the interior and improved the sound insulation around the cabin. The engine and gearbox combine well together providing great response if only the shifts were a bit more seamless.

The ride remains quite stiff and can be tiresome over long bumpy roads but fine on your regular freeway and main road. The new Sportage hasn’t really moved the game on much from its initial offering but still provides a stylish well equipped compact SUV, probably best to stick to the two-wheel drive offerings though as they’re cheaper and lean towards the Sportage’s skill set.

Second Opinion

The Kia Sportage of 2014 carries on where its 2011 Car of the Year finalist brother left off. With a fairly smooth automatic gearbox, responsive engine and the reassurance of all-wheel drive, I'm hard pressed to find fault with the Sportage. It's comfortable and specification is generous. I would like a bigger infotainment screen though. There's a very comprehensive warranty thrown in too and it's no surprise that the Sportage (and it's Hyundai IX35 sister) have sold tremendously well. - David Taylor

Kia Sportage 2.0CRDi AWD Auto quick specs

Price  R425 995
Engine  2-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel
Power  130 kW
Torque  382 Nm
Transmission  Six-speed Automatic
Wheels  18-inch alloys
0-100km/h  9.8 seconds (claimed)
Fuel economy  7.4 l/100 km (claimed)
We like: . Great styling for a compact SUV . Good throttle response . Reduction in wind noise

We dislike: . Tiring ride on dirt roads . Doesn't move the game on enough

Also consider: Ford Kuga Nissan Qashqai Toyota RAV4

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