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Kia Sportage GT petrol 2018 off-road review

If you look at the origins of the term SUV – short for Sport Utility Vehicle - it makes perfect sense that car makers will produce vehicles that cover both ends of that sport and utility spectrum. 

Kia's Sportage GT line falls firmly into the 'sport' category in a marketing sense, although it's not exactly a traditional sports car. It is, however, still a high-riding practical five-seat medium sized wagon … so surely it's got to have a sense of adventure about it, as well. 

Design

The medium-sized Sportage SUV is a very close relative of the Hyundai Tucson, but the two are sufficiently different in their design briefs that they do look quite different. 

The headline act for the Sportage GT Line is its unusual headlight and fog-light arrangement. The fog-lights in particular are one of the most unique sets of illumination out there in the car world today. Two sets of four LED lights are grouped together to form a pair of larger lamps, while the LED headlights also add their own distinct flavour. 

The car manages to be a little bit macho, but not too much. The car manages to be a little bit macho, but not too much.

The basic lines of the Sportage are very well-executed. The car manages to be a little bit macho, but not too much, and manages to look like one of the more stylish SUVs in the pack by underplaying its design, when compared to more design-fussy cars like the Mazda CX-5

The GT Line gets a darker grill and eschews a lot of chrome trim in its pursuit of a stylish, sporty and sleek visage. This extends to the 19-inch wheels with low-profile tyres, as well as the full-length panoramic sunroof. 

The interior shows Kia's newfound confidence in executing stylish and comfortable interiors with good graphics, with simple yet striking lines across the dash, and clever design hiding the use of cheaper materials. 

The interior treatment is stylish and comfortable. The interior treatment is stylish and comfortable.

Everywhere you look, there is something new to admire, and sometimes it's hard to believe you're still in a mid-sized Korean-built SUV. The pale interior trim certainly won't be to everyone's tastes, especially if you have a grubby family, but the black headlining does hide quite a few blemishes. 

Price and features

At $45,990 before on-roads, the GT line is absolutely stuffed to the gills with onboard equipment, including heated and vented front seats, multiple USB and 12-volt charging points, a large touchscreen multimedia system with bluetooth streaming, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, automatic headlights and wipers, a powered tailgate, LED lighting throughout, and an inductive charge mat for suitably equipped phones. 

There’s also leather-appointed (read; it’s not all real leather) seat trim front and rear, as well as driver aids including AEB, lane-departure warning and rear cross traffic alert. It does miss out on adaptive cruise control, though.

The leather-appointed seats are two-tone in this case. The leather-appointed seats are two-tone in this case.

The Sportage is strictly a five-seater, but it’s generously apportioned to fit those five in relative comfort. Up front, the leather-appointed seats have decently long bases and sufficient side bolstering to be very comfortable on long trips. 

The extra venting and heating is a unique touch, though we didn't really feel a lot of benefit from the venting mode on the front seats. With two USB charging points, as well as the 12-volt socket, there are plenty of options to keep electronic items on the go. These are complemented by a pair of 12v charging points for the second-row passengers. 

Despite the presence of a full-length sunroof, headroom in the rear is still excellent, while knee and toe room for older kids is more than acceptable. There are bottle holders in all four doors, but they are best suited to smaller capacity drink containers, and won't fit 1.25-litre bottles. There is also a pair of cup holders in the front, as well as in the centre pull-down armrest. Two ISOFIX baby seats can be mounted on the outside rears, as well.

The rear seat has great head and legroom. The rear seat has great head and legroom.

That second row can be tumbled forward to create a larger loading space, but the lowering of the seats is actually a little bit of a pain. 

We're becoming quite used to having toggles or levers in the cargo area to flip down the seat backs, but the Kia requires each door to be opened and a lever down the side of the seat to be activated. The seat backs are locked in the lower position, which also means the lever needs to be activated to raise them again. It's not a big point, but it is a little bit of an irritation. 

As well, the centre sash belt needs to be unclipped if the seats are to be lowered, and retracted into a slot in the roof. 

A full-size spare hides underneath the boot floor and there are tie-down points in the cargo area. The space itself at 466 litres (measured to the tops of the seats) is very roomy and the door aperture is large enough to accept larger boxes. With the seats down, there’s 1455 litres available, which is sufficient for even large-sized mountain bikes.

Boot space measures 466 litres with the seats up. Boot space measures 466 litres with the seats up.

Front-seat occupant comfort is pretty high, as well. The Sportage is a very easy device to get along with. There's plenty of high adjustment in the steering column and seat combination, and drivers of smaller stature feel perfectly at home behind the wheel.

The 1455 litres on offer with the seats down is enough for a couple of mountain bikes. The 1455 litres on offer with the seats down is enough for a couple of mountain bikes.

Engine and transmission

The 2.4-litre direct injection four-cylinder petrol engine makes 135kW and 237Nm, and because it’s not turbocharged, it needs to be revved to make its power, which does increase the noise from under the bonnet.

The 2.4-litre engine produces 135kW/237Nm. The 2.4-litre engine produces 135kW/237Nm.

The six-speed auto is made in-house, and the front-biased AWD drivetrain can be locked into a 50/50 front/rear torque split if needed in loose conditions.

What's it like as a daily driver?

As a daily driver, the Sportage is hard to beat. It has great visibility all around the cabin, there's plenty of room aboard to fit four with ease, and five reasonably comfortably. There's enough luggage space, too, to deal with most of what life can throw at you. 

The all-wheel drivetrain coupled with the 2.4-litre petrol engine makes short work of the around-town workload, although we found that the brake pedal to be less grabby than we would perhaps like, and needing a firmer push than expected to bring the car to a complete stop. 

Otherwise, it's responsive and sufficiently agile under foot, and the steering is well weighted and well calibrated for a car of this size. With 172mm of ground clearance, it makes short work of steep driveways and even the worst of speed bumps, and the powered tailgate makes life easy as well. 

What's it like to drive?

The Sportage GT Line isn't exactly what you would call a Grand Tourer, but the package is quite refined, and more than competent for around town and intra-city use. It gets off the line from the traffic lights quite smartly, and the in-house built gearbox is smooth and fuss-free. 

There's a three-way drive mode switch, which adjusts the throttle and gearshift maps between eco, normal, and sport. We found that leaving it in normal mode for most of the time was preferable, although flipping it into sport mode for around town to sharpen up the gearshifts helped at times. There are paddles behind the steering wheel for the gears, but we never actually touched them once. 

Road-noise intrusion is kept to an impressive minimum, and it's a very quiet and very comfortable place to be. It handles bumps well, even when laden, which indicates a good basic suspension tune. 

All Kias, of course, come with a suspension set up that's been tuned by a local team to match ride and the handling for Australian conditions, and it's always worked out very, very well. 

What's it like as an adventure tourer?

As we've pointed out, the Sportage GT line really is oriented towards on-road use, thanks in the main to the large wheel rim and low-profile tyre combination. 

Those four little bits of rubber really are the key to how you can best use your car, and while the Sportage GT line will cope with a gravel driveway or a graded fireroad over a reasonable distance, ultimately it's not that well-suited to dirt-road work out of the box.

You can lock the AWD system to 50/50 which will be useful if you go skiing in winter. You can lock the AWD system to 50/50 which will be useful if you go skiing in winter.

It does come with all-wheel drive as standard, combined with the six-speed automatic gearbox, which does give the Sportage a greater level of confidence and grip when the going gets slippery. Kia’s also fitted the drivetrain with a 50/50 front/rear lock that operates at speeds under 40km/h, which will be pretty useful if you head to the ski fields in winter. 

The LED light combo with those fancy driving lights does give great vision at night, and there's also a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor.

The Sportage GT-Line can tow up to 1500kg of braked trailer, though this healthy figure is blunted by a relatively low 100kg maximum downball weight.

Fuel economy

Over a full tank run, we eked out 568km of range from 55 litres of unleaded petrol, which equates to a real-world combined fuel economy figure of 9.7L/100km. This is against a dash-indicated 9.4L/100km and a claimed combined fuel economy score of 8.5L/100km.

This is a pretty impressive result when compared to its claimed consumption, but the Sportage's AWD system and larger capacity engine means its fuel economy numbers will fare worse when compared to FWD versions.

Ownership

Kia’s seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty includes roadside assistance for the duration of the warranty, as well as a free first service at three months.

Capped-price servicing also covers the seven-year warranty period, and Kia recommends servicing once a year or every 15,000km.

It costs between $306 and $711 per service, with the majority of services costing less $400. The seven-year average equals $420 for a total of $2942.

The Sportage GT Line a well-packaged, really enjoyable, good looking medium SUV that really isn't that medium inside. 

It can handle a generous amount of gear as well as four people in absolute comfort (and five people easily). It's quiet, it's mostly refined, it handles and steers beautifully, and it looks pretty good, too.

Do you like your SUVs with a little more Sport? Does the Sportage GT Line fit the brief? Let us know below!

$34,450 - $42,666

Based on 25 car listings in the last 6 months

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

Daily driver score

4/5

Adventure score

4/5

adventureguide rank

  • Light

    Dry weather gravel roads and formed trails with no obstacles, very shallow water crossings.

  • Medium

    Hard-packed sand, slight to medium hills with minor obstacles in all weather.

  • Heavy

    Larger obstacles, steeper climbs and deeper water crossings; plus tracks marked as '4WD only'

Kia Sportage 2018 review

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