Kia has a striking new Sportage SUV, here's why it's easily a better buy than some rivals | Wheels

The Sportage was first launched almost 30 years ago, but now in its fifth generation, it's Kia's most complete version. Kia says the SUV's high spec and value-for-money products give customers maximum choice. The new range offers three different GT-Line models for the first time.

And not only does it look better than ever, but its comprehensive list of standard features compared to other new SUVs will put the rest to shame. Customer Display Vfd

Kia has a striking new Sportage SUV, here's why it's easily a better buy than some rivals | Wheels

Motoring media probably says this about every single new model when a new generation is launched. Still, if you think back to what the very first Sportage looked like in the late 1990s, you would forgive the overused terminology of its the 'best one yet'. The fifth-generation Sportage is a stunner, and not just because of its stylish design.

Back then, it was a looker too, and probably ahead of its time. The new Sportage has been completely redesigned from the ground up to be the ultimate urban SUV in the local, new car market, says Kia. With so many new models launched in South Africa lately, like the new Nissan Qashqai and even Volkswagen's Tiguan R, the Sportage has a myriad of competitors to fight for attention in a busy segment.

The new Tiguan R has a 2.0-litre engine with 235kW and 400Nm and might trump the Sportage in terms of power, but it will set you back R1 million. The Nissan, too, is not the best model for comparison since the entire range only has a 1.3-litre engine in the model line-up, but its base model is priced at R568 200 and comes with a three-year or 90 000km service plan and a six-year or 150 000km warranty.

And while these two examples have different engines, power figures, and prices, it just emphasises how much choice is available in the local market for consumers looking for a good new SUV.

The Sportage is a better buy when you compare everything you get for its price, which starts from R539 995. It's no wonder the model is Kia's most loved and best-selling model globally and its poster child of Kia's pioneering DNA.

Gary Scott, Kia South Africa CEO, says the Sportage has always been a car of 'firsts' for Kia. "When it first debuted in the late 1990s, it set the tone for multiple automakers to pursue the design and development of what we know as an SUV today. It became one of the first Kia models to receive multiple global design awards, a feat that was thought impossible for a Korean brand up until the launch of the third-generation model in 2010."

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The first-generation Kia Sportage made its debut in 1993 and was offered in various body styles during its 10-year lifespan, including a short- and long-wheelbase five-door model and a three-door convertible. It was the world's first production model equipped with a knee airbag back in 1997 – it was not perfect either, scoring poorly in crash tests in several territories.

But, says Kia, it served as a springboard for the automaker's efforts to become a world leader in quality and engineering. This focus resulted in a significantly improved and refined second-generation model, which debuted in 2004. By 2009 the second-generation model was named one of the most reliable vehicles by the US Consumer Reports and earned a top rating of five stars in crash tests conducted by the US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Then, in 2010, the third-generation Sportage revolutionised perceptions of the compact Kia crossover for customers and critics alike. Its design, regarded as one of Peter Schreyer's finest works, had finally taken its seat at the table, with an array of awards following in the years after its release.

The fourth-gen model made its debut in September 2015 and was introduced in South Africa in November 2016, featuring a bold new design language, a completely redesigned interior and a range of updated engines and transmissions.

The latest Sportage has stylish looks like none before it; one that Kia says is based on a bold and daring philosophy.

Their new design language, known as Opposites United, is at the core of the all-new Sportage, influencing every aspect of its appearance and character.

Five pillars form this philosophy: Joy for Reason, Power to Progress, Technology for Life, Tension for Serenity and Bold for Nature. 

New crisp lines ripple along the body to emphasise the dramatic styling tensions. Clean and muscular surfaces give the Sportage a very assertive road presence.

The front end features a detailed-orientated black grille graphic which stretches right across the entire width of the car's 'face', which links the signature Tiger Nose grille to the distinctive futuristic-styled boomerang-shaped LED DRLs (daytime running lights). This creates solid boundary lines for the striking Matrix LED headlights.

The chrome beltline compliments the body's taut lines, which flow to the rear into the D-pillar and rear spoiler.

The muscular, swooping fastback design also flows into the sharp rear tail lights. The razor lights are connected by a slim horizontal design, making the rear look wider and adding to its stunning road presence.

Depending on which of the five models you go for, the Sportage sits on 17", 18" or range-topping 19" wheels. There's a choice of 12 different and vibrant body colours, such as Experience Green, Orange Fusion, Splash Lemon or the usual, well-loved colours, such as Casa White, Black Pearl, Blue Frame and Infra-Red Metallic.

The bold characteristics don't end on the outside. The interior carries it through but features a softness in qualities and technological innovation. The design is focused on a driver-oriented space with luxury features and premium materials throughout the car.

In the centre of the fascia is a sculpted, integrated curved display with a slim touchscreen pad and finely detailed air vents. This curved display sweeps across the front, giving the cockpit dramatic width and depth. Kia says the high-tech 12.3-inch touchscreen acts as the nerve centre for connectivity. It is designed with soft-to-touch ease of use and equipped with the latest-generation full thin-film-transistor liquid-crystal display for precise graphics.

Sumptuous, quality materials are throughout the cabin. There are clever storage compartments, cup holders and soft-touch switches - everything that contributes to a pleasurable experience in the car, whether you're the driver or a passenger. 

Legroom is a treat in this SUV, thanks to intelligent interior space with a compact wheelbase of 2.68m, a width of 1.85m, 4.51m length and a height of 1.65m. This translates to 996mm legroom for second-row passengers and 1000mm headroom, while luggage capacity is 591 litres.

What's it like to drive? 

Under the bonnet lies Kia's 1.6-litre T-GDI petrol engine - the only option in the range for now - and it's mated to the brand's 7-speed Dual Clutch Transmission (DCT). The vehicle is based on the N3 architecture meaning the Sportage's driving characteristics equate to a solid and comfortable ride with agile driving dynamics. 

Ventilated discs at the front (325mm) and solid discs at the rear (300mm) give the vehicle adequate stopping power.

The 1 598cc turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection engine features continuously variable valve timing (CVVT), which – with its advanced intake valve and longer delayed exhaust – allows more air to enter the engine at higher revolutions. And surprisingly, it makes for seamless gear changes. The Sportage has a feisty nature - but then again, so do all of Kia's cars, no matter what you're driving. The engine is good for 132kW at 5500r/min with 265Nm available between 1500 and 4500 r/min, which gives more than enough confidence behind the wheel whether you're cruising at slower speeds or want to give it some more horns on a long, open and quiet road. It's very comfortable behind the wheel too, and the handling is really good, but frankly, that's what've come to expect from this Korean automaker. It reaches 100km/h from zero in 8.8 seconds, with a claimed top speed of 201km/h. CO2 emissions are rated at 149g/km in the combined cycle. All Kia's models are generally rather frugal, and like other models in its range, the Sportage also loves the open road and this is where you get the best fuel consumption. On our launch drive, the average consumption came down as low as 6.0-litres/100km.

Safety is a vital priority for the automaker, so beneath the Sportage's skin is a reinforced and lightweight body structure with high torsional rigidity. It has a host of active and passive safety features, advanced driver assistance systems, and six airbags.

Standard features include an Anti-Lock Braking System (ABS) with Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Electronic Stability Control (ESC), as well as Hill-Start Assist Control (HAC), Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA). Other goodies are Smart Entry with Push Button Start and an electric parking brake with auto-hold functionality. Advanced Driver Assistance System (ADAS) technology is also available, depending on the model. Trim levels

The range starts with the LX Grade and moves up to mid-tier EX Grade models.

Kia reckons they don't really believe in "base or entry-level models", and when you realise just how much standard features are packed in their cars, you can't blame them. But for argument's sake, let's call it that. The LX models come standard with LED headlights with auto light control, LED daytime running lights and LED fog lights. At the rear, a combination of LED and bulb lights for the taillights and rear fog lights. The outside mirrors are electrically adjustable and foldable, with integrated side repeater lights; 17-inch alloy wheels complete the exterior design. Such an extensive features list is hardly "entry-level". 

There's also a reverse camera activated, including standard rear parking assist sensors. There's Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, and steering wheel-mounted controls for telephony, audio and cruise control. Six speakers are standard, as is a USB port in the front, with two USB-C-type charging ports for rear passengers, cleverly integrated into the front seatbacks. There's also a Blind Spot Collision Warning system.

The LX models also feature Drive Mode Select, which allows the driver to choose from Comfort, Eco, Sport or Smart Driving modes. 

EX models gain a gloss black front grille and front parking assist sensors and ride on 18-inch alloys.

Inside, its upholstery is upgraded to a combination of cloth and artificial leather (including the armrest and centre trim), with the front seats gaining electric adjustability (including a memory function for the driver's seat) and heating function - even on the steering wheel. 

In the rear, the 40:20:40-split second-row seatbacks gain a remote control for folding to maximise convenience and create a flat cargo space quickly and seamlessly with a simple button press. Rear passengers will enjoy the addition of privacy glass and rear heated seats. 

The new Sportage is available – for the first time – with three different GT-Line models: the Sportage GT-Line, GT-Line Plus, and GT-Line S.

"Kia first introduced the high-spec GT-Line derivative in Sportage when the fourth-generation model was launched in November 2016 and re-introduced it late in 2021," says Stephen Crosse, Sales and Marketing Director, Kia South Africa. "The success of the reintroduction proved that there is definitely an appetite for a version of Sportage that is more expressive, dynamic and luxurious."

The GT-Line models feature deluxe scuff plates that add a sportier touch and additional cosmetic and convenience elements that set it apart from the rest of its range. There are alloy pedals, an electric tailgate, and paddle gear shifters for those who want more control over the Sportage's performance and acceleration. Its interior upholstery is upgraded to a combination of artificial leather and suede.

Lane Follow Assist and Lane Keeping Assist are additional features which work with the standard Blind Spot Warning system. These models also get Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA), which helps avoid collisions with objects in front of the vehicle while driving. If the preceding vehicle suddenly slows down, or if a forward collision risk is detected, such as a stopped vehicle, a pedestrian, or a cyclist, FCA provides a warning. After the warning, if the risk of collision increases, FCA automatically assists with the vehicle's emergency braking.

Interior lights are upgraded to the LED variety, adding a panoramic glass sunroof and strikingly sporty 19-inch alloy wheels. Its exterior trims are also upgraded to gloss black for a sportier, more luxurious look.

The big daddy: GT-Line S

The range-topping Sportage GT-Line S gains even niceties such as ventilated front seats and mood lighting.

The centre console gains a rotary gear-shift dial and an upgraded Intelligent Front Lighting System. This means if the system detects another vehicle driving either in the same direction as you or the opposite direction when using the LED headlights on a high beam, it will automatically switch the LEDs to a low beam to prevent dazzling the other driver. When the road is clear, it will automatically switch back to the high beam again.

Also included are Smart Cruise Control and a Junction Turning functionality.

Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi LX:                R539 995 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi EX:                R593 995 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT-Line:         R649 995 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT-Line Plus:  R677 995 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT-Line S:      R734 995

All models come with Kia's standard Unlimited Kilometre or 5-year warranty, including Roadside Assistance. A pre-paid 6-year or 90 000km service plan is included to give customers peace of mind and predictability regarding vehicle maintenance.

Kia has a striking new Sportage SUV, here's why it's easily a better buy than some rivals | Wheels

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