Since the Kia Sportage was introduced 30 years ago it has become a mainstay of the company and since 2016 the company’s best seller.
It’s also one of only a handful of SUVs in the midsize segment that boasts a diesel engine and we know how much South Africans like our oil burners especially when it comes to being economical.
With many manufacturers scaling down on their diesel development and focusing their attention on New Energy Vehicles, Kia South Africa say they have no intention of phasing out their diesel derivatives any time soon.
In fact the company has freed up production capacity at two of their plants as a result of their Chinese plant producing exclusively for that market. The South African Sportage, by the way, is produced exclusively at the state-of-the-art European facility in Slovakia.
The 1.6 CRDi powertrain was launched locally in the Sportage line-up in May this year and Kia says it remains a popular choice for local buyers. It produces 100kW and 320Nm of torque and is coupled to a seven-speed dual clutch transmission.
The entry level LX and EX models are now available only with the diesel mill.
If you prefer petrol the 1.6 T-GDi with 132kW and 265Nm is still available in the Sportage GT-Line models.
Currently in its fifth generation, the Kia Sportage has received some minor tweaks, most notably on the safety front.
Previously only available in the GT-Line derivatives, Kia’s Advanced Driver Assistance System with Lane Follow Assist, Lane Keeping Assist and Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist has been included across the range along with the already impressive list of safety features.
Lane Follow Assist and Lane Keeping Assist work alongside the Blind Spot Warning system, with the former using cameras and radar to ensure the vehicle is electronically aided to stay in its lane.
Should the vehicle veer over into the adjacent lane without indicating, the system automatically assists steering to prevent the vehicle from entering the adjacent lane.
As is so often the case with our badly maintained road infrastructure, If the lane markings are of poor quality, the Lane Follow Assist system automatically reverts to following the vehicle ahead of the car to aid steering for a certain period of time.
Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) comes into play when the preceding vehicle suddenly slows down, or if a forward collision risk is detected, such as a stopped vehicle, a pedestrian, or a cyclist.
The FCA provides a warning and if the risk of collision increases, it automatically assists with emergency braking.
We had an opportunity to try the new additions in the EX model at an event to celebrate 30 years of the Sportage, and 25 years of Kia being in South Africa, held in the Western Cape Winelands.
The Lane Keeping Assist works a treat and if you do move across a lane without indicating there’s a substantial jerk on the steering wheel to remind you that you’re crossing the line.
If you take your hands off the wheel it will remind you to put them back but will warn you with an alarm if you get too close to the line and then gently nudge the car back.
We couldn’t find faded lane markings on our route but will give it a try when we get to spend more time with the car in Gauteng, where you don’t have to go too far to find them.
We were a bit hesitant to give FCA the full beans and pulled out as the alarm was protesting loudly if we came too close, so I'll trust Kia when they say it works.
The drive also gave us an opportunity to reacquaint ourselves with the Sportage.
It remains a quality package that’s solidly put together with a premium interior that’s both functional and comfortable.
Noise and vibration levels are equally impressive with the combination and calibration of the gearbox, chassis, steering and suspension providing an all-round pleasant experience behind the wheel.
The diesel engine purrs along effortlessly with smooth cog changes although you’ll have to time passing slower traffic carefully given that it quickly runs out of steam on quick take-offs but it’s certainly not a deal breaker.
Kia says the Sportage is an exemplary value proposition and this time the PR-speak is not far off.
It comes with an unlimited kilometre, five-year warranty, inclusive of Roadside Assistance and a pre-paid six-year/90,000km service plan.
Kia Sportage Pricing (November 2023)
1.6 CRDi LX: R 637,995
1.6 CRDi EX: R 691,995
1.6 T-GDi GT-Line: R 713,995
1.6 T-GDi GT-Line Plus: R 741,995
1.6 CRDi GT-Line Plus: R 765,995
1.6 T-GDi GT-Line S: R 798,995