Updated 2019 model Kia Sportage elevated on best SUV list
HERE'S proof of just how fast the competition is moving in the booming SUV market.
The Kia Sportage has had a major makeover - even though the styling changes are subtle - and it's barely two years old.
Among the differences are the addition of added safety technology that can prevent a crash - such as autonomous braking and lane-keeping assistance - and high-resolution touchscreens across the range.
The suspension and steering have been given a tune-up to better handle bumps and bends.
And top-of-the-range models gain luxury-car tech such as radar cruise control, LED headlights, digital radio, premium audio, and an electric park brake, among other mod cons.
Unlike many 'faux-wheel-drives', the Sportage retains a full size spare tyre across the range, rather than an inferior skinny space-saver spare favoured by so many others.
However, the most important thing we can share with you if you're in the market to buy one of these is how to carefully dissect the price, to ensure you don't pay too much.
All car makers must publish drive-away prices but some are discounted heavily, a little, or not at all.
In the case of the new "MY19" Sportage, only one model grade - the most popular known as the Si-Premium - comes with a permanent drive-away discount on Kia's website.
The recommended retail price is the base cost of the car before registration and dealer delivery fees - referred to as "on-roads" - are added.
Car makers are no longer allowed to advertise only the RRP because it misleads consumers about the final drive-away price.
The offer on the Si-Premium works like this: the RRP is $32,290 plus on-road costs. At full price it should be $34,990 drive-away or more. However Kia has listed it online at $31,990 drive-away from the get-go.
Confusingly, other Sportage models do not automatically have the same discount applied. The flagship diesel has an RRP of $47,690 plus on-roads, which calculates to in excess of $50,500 drive-away.
So we asked Kia Australia executives if it was fair for customers to aim for the RRP but as a drive-away price on other models in the Sportage range - and they said yes.
Why aren't all Sportage models listed with a sharp drive-away offer on the "build and price" calculator? To give Kia an opportunity to squeeze a little more profit from other models, as most car makers do.
We've gone to the trouble of explaining this because the $3000 or so difference between the full retail price and the likely transaction price substantially affects the value equation of this car.
At full tilt it's on par with rivals, but at the price customers will actually end up paying it's one of the bargains in the segment.
ON THE ROAD
The changes to the suspension and steering are subtle but worthwhile.
On winding country back roads it feels more secure in corners, and keeps its composure better over bumps.
Around town it feels middle-of-the-road to drive. It's not outstanding but nor is it bottom of the class. Most buyers will get in and feel at home.
If we were picky, I'd say the steering could still do with a little more finessing than has been done with this update.
I'd also encourage Kia to ask head office nicely to not send Australia-bound cars with Nexen tyres.
I know the Sportage and its peers aren't meant to handle like a Ferrari but, in relative terms, the Nexen tyres are OK in the dry and not-so-great in the wet.
Other examples of this type of Nexen tyre we've tested in the wet feel way more slippery than they ought to.
Fortunately, the Sportage also comes with a selection of Kumho and Hankook tyres which are more sure-footed in the wet or dry.
Unfortunately, the tyres your Sportage comes with is a lottery. If you do have the luxury of choice - that is, if the dealer has a fleet of Sportages in stock with a mix of tyres - and there is a selection among the exact same model you're after, our advice would be to ask for one equipped with Kumho or Hankook rubber.
The 2.0-litre petrol front-drive and 2.4-litre petrol all-wheel-drive are still matched to smooth-shifting six-speed autos, while the 2.0-litre turbo diesel all-wheel-drive - which accounts for one-third of sales - gets a performance and economy boost with an eight-speed auto.
The diesel engine itself is still relatively noisy, as diesels customarily are, but it has plenty of oomph at low speeds and super-frugal economy at freeway speeds.
However, if I were mainly driving in the city and suburbs - and not planning trips to the snow where AWD would be handy - I would stick with the 2.0-litre petrol front-drive to get the sharpest purchase price, and running costs that won't break the bank.
VERDICT 4 stars out of 5
The updated Kia Sportage deserves to make the shortlist for anyone looking for a mid-size SUV.
TESTER'S NOTEPAD …
- Quality cabin materials
- Digital speed display, Apple Car Play/Android Auto
- One-touch express-up power windows for the front doors
- Extendible sun visors help block side glare
- Rear air vents and power supply to back seat passengers
- Clear rear-view camera, front and rear sensors on the top three models (base has rear camera and rear sensors)
- Full-size spare tyre with matching alloy wheel
- 7-year warranty, 12 month/15,000km service intervals
- a 360 view camera on dearer models would be welcome
- Steering is good but not class best
- Diesel is efficient but a touch noisy
- I wish all models had sharp drive-away pricing, to save buyers having to haggle
- Push-button start and a sensor key would be a welcome addition to cheaper models
PRICE The RRP is up marginally but the drive-away price the public sees has effectively remained the same, despite upgrades and extra equipment. For now, only the Si-Premium has a permanent discounted drive-away offer (to $31,990 from its full retail $34,990). Kia assures us, however, it should be possible to pay the RRP as a drive-away price on the rest of the new Sportage range, so be sure to negotiate.
TECH Every model gains automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, lane keeping assistance, auto dimming rear view mirror, dual zone airconditioning, and a new hi-res touchscreen. Dearer models gain an electric park brake, premium audio, and radar cruise control, among other extras.
PERFORMANCE The 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol front-drive and 2.4-litre petrol all-wheel-drive retain the six-speed auto, but the 2.0-litre turbo diesel all-wheel-drive gains an eight-speed auto.
DRIVING Kia engineers have retested and retuned the updated Sportage on local roads. A new type of shock absorber irons out the bumps better and the steering has been given a more linear feel. Some models retain the slippery Nexen tyres, others come with the better Kumho or Hankook rubber.
DESIGN Visual changes to the model introduced in 2016 are subtle but the headlights and tail-lights are new, as are the front and rear bumpers. All alloy wheels have a fresh design (17, 18, and 19-inch).
AT A GLANCE: MT19 KIA SPORTAGE
PRICE $31,990 drive-away to approximately $47,690 drive-away (good)
WARRANTY/SERVICE 7 years/unlimited km warranty, 12 month/15,000km service intervals, service cost over 3 years $911 (2.0p), $1013 (2.4p), $1258 (2.0d) (average)
ENGINE 2.0-litre petrol (114kW/192Nm), 2.4 petrol (135kW/237Nm), 2.0 turbo diesel (136kW/400Nm) (good)
SAFETY 6 airbags, automatic emergency braking, lane keeping assistance, rear view camera and sensors, 5-star ANCAP rating (excellent)
THIRST 7.9L/100km (2.0p), 8.5L/100km (2.4p), 6.4L/100km (2.0d) (average)
SPARE Full size, with alloy wheel (excellent)
BOOT 466 to 1455L (good)
This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling