The reigning Drive Car of the Year is soon set to pass its torch to a new champion, so what have we liked and what could be improved after spending a year with the Kia Sportage?
- Functional space in and around the cabin
- Long list of standard safety and assistance technology
- Modern styling still fresh
- Australian suspension tune a winner
- Boop beep bloop – so many alerts!
- Service costs are higher than some competitors
- Need to push up the range to get the best Sportage experience
A year on, and how do we feel about the overall Drive Car of the Year for 2022, the Kia Sportage?
To be honest, pretty good.
Since crowning Kia’s mid-sized SUV the champion of our most prestigious award, we’ve spent time with all variants both in town and out on the open road, and still find this to be an excellent proposition for Australian family car buyers.
What’s more, we’ve unanimously chosen our ideal specification, which supports many of the good points, and a couple of the consideration points about the funky Kia. Whatever version your choose though, the Sportage has plenty to offer.
The Kia Sportage is available in four trim grades, S, SX, SX+, and GT-Line.
There are three engines to choose from, two petrol and one diesel. There are four transmissions, a six-speed auto, a seven-speed DCT, eight-speed auto, and even a six-speed manual. Pricing starts from $32,795 (before options and on-road costs) for a Sportage S front-wheel drive manual with a petrol engine and climbs to $52,720 (before on-roads) for a Sportage GT-Line diesel automatic with all-wheel drive.
What that means though, is somewhere in that $20,000 price window, will sit the right Sportage for you.
Our pick of the range though is the SX+ AWD diesel, priced from $47,250 before options and on-road costs.
The SX is good, but here you score 19-inch wheels, keyless entry and start, and a kicker for the automatic tailgate. Inside you’ll find synthetic leather upholstery with heated front seats, and a Harman Kardon sound system, but there’s no sunroof, you have to step to the GT-Line for that.
What we really like about this car though is the 137kW/416Nm turbo diesel engine with an eight-speed automatic all-wheel-drive powertrain. Yes, hearing a preference for diesel in a world of electric and hybrid seems a bit out of place, but we have found it to be a diesel that really exhibits the usual traits of a diesel.
It’s very refined and easy to drive around town. It’s nice and torquey for low-down response when you need it, but more importantly, if you’re using it as a family car out on the open road, it’s not only easy and quiet to drive, it’s tremendously efficient as well.
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We’ve also found the design of the Sportage to be a really strong point. It looks stylish and modern, particularly with the LED lighting treatment at both ends, and the Kia still looks special and interesting on the road. It works in all colours too, with the Jungle Wood Green ($520 option) of our car a real standout.
|2023 Kia Sportage SX+ AWD diesel|
|Boot volume||543L seats up
1829L seats folded
Inside too, the Sportage has continued to impress us.
At times you find yourself questioning that the Sportage is still a medium-sized SUV, as there is a tremendous amount of room for rear passengers. Personally, at six-foot-three (and old), I have a stack of leg and headroom, possibly aided in the SX+ because you don’t have that big panoramic sunroof to cut into space.
The rear bench is comfortable back and the backrests can recline for longer journeys.
As far as amenities go, there are vents, hooks, a central armrest with cup holders, plus clever USB ports in the sides of the front seats, which work well with the little shelves built into the back of the front headrest where you could hang a tablet or other device for kids in the back.
For children, there are ISOFIX points on both outboard seats, and if you read Justin’s long-term update, if you need to set up two seats but still have someone sitting in the middle, it’s cozy but doable.
It’s not perfect though, as the bottle bins in the doors are quite small, and there is no specific 12-volt charger (other than the USB ports).
In terms of cargo, the boot is generous at 543-litres (expanding to 1829-litres) and there are remote releases to fold the 60:40 rear seats. The SX+ also includes a power tailgate with a hands-free kicker.
Being a family SUV, practicality was a big focus of readers throughout the year, as we had a number of questions about the ‘business’ end of the Kia. One specific query asked about long flat-pack loads, to which Justin was able to test that “long items are OK, as there is a lot of room but generally something over 2 meters will have to go on the roof to keep things safe”.
Have you had a disabling puncture,or tyre damage sufficient to need replacement ? How did it work out ?
Other questions related to the spare wheel, and what to do if you get a flat tyre. Conveniently, the Sportage comes with a full-sized alloy spare wheel, which means that if something happens both the wheel and tools are kept below the boot floor. It’s a bit of a rarity in this day and age, and something to remember if long-distance touring is part of your regular use.
Technology is another strong point of the Kia’s specification set, both in terms of safety and assistance as well as convenience.
All Sportage grades feature a full complement of driver safety technology that includes AEB (autonomous emergency braking) with junction assist, blind spot warning and avoidance assistance (although not on the manual transmission), a centre airbag and lane-keeping assistant. The only driver assistance tech held back for the top-tier GT-Line model is the clever blind-spot camera display in the instrument cluster.
The large 12.3-inch infotainment touch screen is included on SX and above, and while a second 12.3-inch digital cluster is again included on the GT-Line, the regular display in the SX+ doesn’t feel cheap or out of place. The curved dash binnacle and the clever climate control switches make the Sportage feel slick and up-market, even at this level.
The system itself is really well-featured.
You’ll find integrated navigation and DAB digital radio, support for Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus there are some fun features like quiet mode, which basically mutes the rear speakers if you want the kids to go to sleep so you can still listen to the radio up front. To answer another reader question, the system can be a bit overwhelming at first, but once you are used to it you are able to set it up just how you like, with split pane views and shortcut buttons.
Does that big 65″ wide-screen infotainment set up give you the irrits after a while?
Rob notes that “it is a bit cumbersome to navigate at first, but after a few weeks living with the Sportage you get to know where everything you need can be found within the menu structure. The reality is, once it’s set up to your liking, you’re barely going to touch it again.”
The downside of all this technology though are the audible warnings. There are a lot!
It’s a double-edged sword though, as you can go in and turn them off, but the next time you start the car they are all back on again. So every time you even look closely at a white line, or come close to another car, or even think about opening the door, a sweet electronic purr or bleep or bloop is there to let you know the Kia is thinking of you.
Of course, there are benefits to all this tech, and you’d hate to think the one time you managed to turn them off is the time you needed them. So our advice would be to know the beeps are there and learn to live with them.
All of this functionality and technology is available regardless of your driveline choice, so why so we suggest the diesel?
Simply put, it gives you an excellent blend of efficiency, performance and refinement that the current petrol choices can’t match. You pay for it though, with the diesel commanding a $3400 premium in the SX+ (over the AWD 1.6-litre turbo petrol), $3000 in the GT-Line and a significant $5400 in SX trim, as there is no AWD petrol currently on offer.
As Rob noted when he took delivery of our long-term Sportage, “we knew we were picking up an SX diesel from the dealership. And yet, within five minutes of collecting the Sportage, I stopped the car, got out, and checked the fuel filler cap to see if this was truly a diesel!”
|Fuel Usage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||6.3L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||6.6L/100km|
|Fuel tank size||45L|
Response is impressive thanks to the 2000-2750rpm peak torque band (416Nm), but more importantly, the fuel use is a claimed 6.3L/100km on a combined cycle and we saw pretty close to that (6.6L/100km) on our week with the car. Glenn even managed to BEAT the combined cycle claim in an SX diesel (5.8L/100km) as his commute takes in more extended freeway driving.
We’ll be clear, even the best economy in the world isn’t going to offset the price premium for the diesel, but the flexible engine and smooth transmission do make it worth a look if your budget can stretch.
While it may be the best driveline the Sportage has, the petrol options are still pretty solid too.
|At a glance||2023 Kia Sportage SX+ AWD diesel|
|Warranty||Seven years, unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1299 (3 years)
$2478 (5 years)
The other big claim the Sportage has on the road is the locally engineered suspension tune, which enables the car to manage the diverse Australian roadway network as well as the best.
The car is comfortable when you need it to be, but still sporting and direct if the roads turn twisty.
Even the SX+ on 19-inch wheels didn’t crash or thump on sharper surface changes, and there is minimal road noise at higher speeds.
Ownership has the benefit of Kia’s seven-year warranty, but service costs, especially in comparison to other cars in this segment, can start to add up. Kia offers a full capped-price calendar for seven years (15,000km intervals) so you can be clear upfront about what to expect.
But even with that considered, the 2023 Kia Sportage SX+ AWD diesel is still a very impressive mid-size SUV, and a very worthy machine to hold the Drive Car of the Year crown. Buyers get a refined and modern family car with a huge list of equipment and features that are supported by plenty of practical inclusions and a lot of usable space.
It’s a great all-rounder, and a real testament to what you can expect from a modern and accomplished SUV.
|Key details||2023 Kia Sportage SX+ AWD diesel|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel|
|Power||137kW @ 4000rpm|
|Torque||416Nm @ 2000-2750rpm|
|Drive type||All-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Eight-speed torque converter automatic|
|Spare tyre type||Full-size|
|Tow rating||1900kg braked