It’s ironic that as an owner of a Kia Sportage it has taken me so long to catch up with the latest model.
I was there in Death Valley when they were testing the car just prior to launch, but that’s another story.
The previous Sportage was such a ground-breaking, eye-catching vehicle, that designing its successor was always going to be a challenge — visually at least.
Unfortunately, the cars we drove in the States back then were heavily camouflaged, so I was just as surprised as everyone else by the new visage — the startled rabbit look as someone put it.
Was the design of the fourth generation Sportage better or worse than its predecessor, everyone pondered?
The good news is that, with time and familiarity, the new design is starting to look every bit as good as its predecessor — just like wine that gets better with drinking.
What’s it cost?
Prices kick off at $29,990 for the entry, two-wheel drive, 2.0-litre Si petrol model.
The same car with all-wheel drive and a preferred diesel is $35,390, while the top of the range GT-Line diesel comes in at $47,690 putting it at around $50K by the time you add in on-roads — all come with an auto.
Like most new models it’s slightly larger and of course slightly more expensive than the model it replaces (our Platinum diesel was $41,590 plus on-roads new and was really something back then).
Standard kit in the GT-Line includes a sports body kit, 19-inch alloys with 245/45 R19 rubber, 10-way and 8-way power adjust front seats, heated and ventilated front seats, flat-bottomed sports wheel with gear-shift paddles, Intelligent Parking Assist System, panoramic sunroof, wireless phone charging, hands-free power tailgate, auto cruise control, LED fog lights, and LED headlights with auto levelling.
The audio system now wears a JBL badge, with an 8.0-inch touchscreen, that offers Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, as well as digital radio and satellite navigation with lifetime updates.
And there’s a long string of safety acronyms that includes auto emergency braking.
What’s it go like?
We’re not fans of the dumbed down, but functional flat American dash.
But it is pleasing to see the appearance of a digital speedo and rear air vents for back seat passengers.
The new 2.0-litre diesel delivers 136kW of power and 400Nm of torque, the latter from 1750-2750 revs, and sips diesel at a rate of 6.4L/100km.
Our car with the same size engine produces 135kW and 392Nm, from 1800-2500 revs, and uses 7.2L/100km.
As you can see the new engine offers fractionally more power and torque over a slightly wider range of engine revs.
The big difference can be found in the 8-speed auto, that reduces overall fuel consumption, with a tall, loping highway gear that drops consumption to as little as 5.4L/100km once it finds its stride.
The drive experience however is fairly similar to our car, apart from a smoother, less European ride — one of the few criticisms of its predecessor.
This despite the fact it jumps from 18 to 19 inch wheels with lower profile 45 series rubber.
It’s an easy, effortless car to drive, with different drive modes from which to choose and they even throw in gear changes paddles this time around, although they’re kind of superfluous with so much torque on tap.
Active cruise control has also been added, as part of the auto emergency braking system which is standard.
But the electric steering feels heavy thanks to the lane keep assistance, which keeps tugging at the wheel — thankfully it can be turned off.
Although we notched up a few hundred kilometres, we can’t tell you what the fuel consumption was like because the trip computer was not functioning.
We also had problems with the power tailgate, emerging to find it wide open one morning — oops!
Tow capacity by the way has also increased, from 1600 to 1900kg, despite the fact kerb weight is only up 24kg to 1736kg.
What we like?
Rear air outlets
Active cruise control
Cooled front seats
What we don’t like?
Dash not as stylish
Trip computer played up
Power tailgate played up
No CD player
The bottom line?
Looks great, is better equipped and offers an obvious upgrade path, but at this stage does not offer a compelling reason to upgrade. It will be at the top of our list when we decide to go shopping however.