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2018 Kia Sportage review

Wheels Magazine logo Wheels Magazine 4 days ago Tony O'Kane
a red car parked on the side of a road © Wheels Staff

WHAT IS IT?

Kia’s midsize SUV, and a commercially crucial model for the Korean automaker that it says boasts impressively broad appeal.

a car parked on the side of a road © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd

WHY WE’RE TESTING IT

With so many new entrants lobbing into the Aussie market since the current-generation Sportage first launched back in 2016, Kia has gifted the Sportage a facelift. Beyond some new body plastics, there are also meaningful upgrades to the suspension, driveline and in-cabin fit-out, all of which have a positive impact on the Sportage’s appeal.

MAIN RIVALS

Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5, Volkswagen Touareg, Peugeot 3008, Nissan X-Trail, Toyota RAV4.

Read next: Medium-size SUV Megatest: Introduction

THE WHEELS VERDICT

This is a case of incremental improvements done right. The changes are subtle from the outside but provide genuine lifts in liveability and driveability once you hop behind the wheel. The only downside is some upward movement in pricing.

a car driving through water © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd

PLUS: Suspension compliance, solid handling, slick infotainment upgrade

MINUS:  Price hikes, limp petrol 2.0-litre, AWD petrol option is expensive

THE WHEELS REVIEW

PROBLEMS with the outgoing Sportage were few and far between, but Kia admits there was one concerning issue with its mid-size SUV: it wasn’t popular enough with men.

Read next: Kia Sportage SLi review: Medium SUV megatest 5th

Ergo, it’s applied one of the most subtle facelifts 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 sheet metal alterations. To the layman, the differences will be pretty hard to spot. Do they result in a more gender-neutral look? To be honest, the pre-update Sportage wasn’t overtly feminine, to begin with.

a car driving down a dirt road © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd Good thing there are more meaningful differences under the skin. In the cabin there’s a new infotainment package with one of the slickest, nicest-feeling, and fast-reacting touchscreens in the segment. Measuring 7.0-inch across in the base Si grade and growing to 8.0-inch in all other variants, the menus are intuitive to navigate and responses to fingertip inputs are virtually smartphone-like, with barely any lag. 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.

Read next: 2018 Kia Sportage to introduce 48-volt mild-hybrid drivetrain

An electric park brake is added from SLi grade and up, bringing with it a reshaped and 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.

a close up of a car © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd The 2.0-litre diesel option gains an eight-speed automatic that brings a 0.4L/100km reduction in combined fuel consumption (taking the oil-burner down to 6.4L/100km), however, the two petrol options – a 114kW 2.0-litre and 135kW 2.4-litre, both atmo – are unchanged, and so are their six-speed automatics.

And that’s a little bit of a shame because our main criticism of the Sportage line-up concerns the lack of refinement and economy in the range’s mainstay motor, 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 live in the past.

a car parked in front of a house © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd 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 genuinely enjoyable to throw down a twisty road.

Read next: 2018 Kia Sportage price and features announced

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.

a car parked in front of a mountain © Provided by Bauer Media Pty Ltd

The updated Sportage might look like ‘business as usual’ from the outside, but it’s a different story from the driver’s seat, the experience of which goes a long way toward justifying a higher price of entry.

SPECS

Model: 2018 Kia Sportage SLi petrol

Engine: 1999cc 4cyl , dohc, 16v

Max Power: 114kW @ 6200rpm

Max Torque: 192Nm @ 4000rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Weight: 1532kg

0-100km/h: 10.4 seconds

Price: $36,790

On sale: Now

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