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The Toyota RAV4 2019 model is the most sophisticated and thoughtful version of the mid-size SUV yet.
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Although often priced within striking distance of premium options, we’re often surprised by the popularity of top-spec SUV mid-sizers from traditionally 'budget' brands.
Take Kia’s top-spec Sportage GT-Line, for example. Kia tells us it has made up 16.6 per cent of the Sportage sales mix to date, or a lot of SUVs out of the brand’s big volume Sportage sales figures of over 10,000 units so far this year.
It’s an even more significant number when you realise that for the same money you can be hopping into something like Audi’s new Q3.
The ultimate question is: Should you? Aside from the obvious things like warranty, that draws people to the Kia brand in the first place, is it really premium enough to justify its hefty price tag? I drove the Sportage GT-Line for a week to find out.
|kia Sportage 2020: GT-Line|
We’ve already covered it, but the $49,490 MSRP worn by the GT-Line diesel is straight-up expensive. More expensive by a fair margin than rival flagships like the Honda CR-V VTi-LX ($44,290), Nissan X-Trail Ti ($45,050) and Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed diesel ($46,790).
The standard spec is more than decent, setting it above similarly priced premium rivals that still lack some of the juicy stuff.
Our diesel version is all-wheel drive (AWD), and comes with 19-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity, digital radio support, a JBL premium audio system, a wireless phone charging bay, LED front lighting, heated and ventilated front seats, and satin silver trim highlights.
Rounding out the spec is a flat-bottomed sports steering wheel with bespoke GT-Line trim. Aside from the more impressive looking LED light fittings, the top-spec car doesn’t look too far removed from its base S equivalent…
Good for base model buyers, I suppose. The GT-Line is also available with a 2.4-litre engine at a slightly more affordable price ($46,490). The real draw of this top model SUV though, is the fact that it’s the only Sportage that comes with the full-fat safety suite.
There’s no option to pack active safety items like active cruise control, blind spot monitoring (BSM), and rear cross traffic alert (RCTA) on lesser Sportages, so that’s quite a drawcard.
Kia’s designers went out on a limb giving the Sportage a far more polarizing look than its Hyundai Tucson cousin when this generation launched way back in 2016.
Five years is an eternity in car years, two eternities in mid-size SUV years, so we should all be surprised at how well the Sportage holds its own against more recent rivals in 2020.
While it could have been released yesterday, the style is one that polarizes people. Some love it and see more than Kia’s fare share of Porsche Cayenne in the headlights, tail-lights and profile. Others look upon its odd insectoid face, overly-chunky haunches and odd bonnet dimples with derision.
Either way, at the very least, in a sea of samey SUV shapes, it dares to be a little different.
Inside isn’t quite as different, but still starkly contrasted from its Tucson cousin. What could have simply been a badge swap is instead an entirely different approach.
Instead of the Hyundai’s symmetry, the Sportage offers an angular, driver-focused dash, with a sporty three-spoke wheel, and an assault of shortcut buttons below its 8.0-inch screen.
The screen is nice and bright, and uses the Hyundai Group’s slick no-nonsense software suite. It’s a bit of an older-style design, having the screen embedded in the dash, but some will appreciate it over the tablet-style designs that are now the norm.
The GT-Line sets itself apart inside by the almost Audi-style flat-bottomed steering wheel (with perforated leather, no less) and an abundance of chrome and gloss highlights.
It lifts the GT-Line’s cabin above the drab grey finishes of the rest of the range. I was a fan of the upmarket-look centre console, leather bound shifter, and the way the asymmetrical design allowed my left knee plenty of room.
It’s a nice interior to be in, only let down by a few hard surfaces where there could be soft ones.
Kia’s sensible design works throughout the cabin. Front passengers get big trenches in each door, massive cupholders in the centre console, along with two more big trenches (plus a Qi wireless phone charger in the main bay). There’s a large centre console box and a smallish glove box.
Connectivity is a cinch with each port easily placed under the main controls.
The abundance of shortcut buttons that busies up the dash tape-deck style are all useful, and much easier than using a screen to achieve the same result.
A bonus is that there’s a dial for almost everything. Dual zone climate temperatures, volume, and tuning. A fan speed dial would be nice, too, but it still scores strong marks.
There’s plenty of room for front passengers, and while the sunroof eats some of the headroom, it didn’t affect me (at 182cm tall).
In the back seat there are big cupholders in the doors, nettings on the back of both seats and the deep doorhandles double as small storage areas.
Amenities for rear seat passengers are above-average, as well, with dual air-vents, a USB outlet, and a 12-volt outlet.
The Sportage’s rear seats are able to be reclined, either allowing for extra comfort or boot space depending on what you need. It’s not as nifty as having the entire assembly on a rail as in some VW Group products or something like the Nissan X-Trail, but it’s a clever feature, nonetheless.
The Sportage has a decent boot at 466 litres (VDA). It’s easily eclipsed by some in this class (like the X-Trail), but still above the ever-popular Mazda CX-5 (442L).
This is because of the high boot floor which is necessary to facilitate a full-size matching alloy spare – a big win for interstate or regional buyers. The GT-Line gets an auto tailgate to bolster its practicality spec, too.
The GT-Line gets a choice of the best engines in the Sportage range, consisting of either a 2.4-litre petrol engine, or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel as tested here.
The diesel engine produces a more than decent 136kW/400Nm, making it much more suited to pulling the Sportage’s weight than the plain 2.0 petrol below it.
Both the petrol and diesel versions of the Sportage feature an on-demand AWD system. The Diesel drives all four wheels via a more recently developed eight-speed automatic, as opposed to the six-speed available on petrol equivalents.
The Diesel’s power outputs are a welcome increase, although still a notch below the 2.2-litre diesel (140kW/450Nm) offered across Mazda’s SUV range.
Annoyingly, many rivals offer AWD further down their range compared to the Sportage’s pricy AWD options.
The diesel is also far better in terms of its fuel consumption than the base petrol alternative.
The claimed combined cycle figure worn by this car is 6.4L/100km, however after a week of truly mixed usage (daily commuting through Sydney as well as a roughly 500km weekend round trip to Mudgee in rural NSW) I produced a figure of 7.1L/100km. A small percentage above the claimed figure, and not bad at all overall.
The Sportage has a 62-litre fuel tank.
The GT-Line is the definitive driving experience of the Sportage range. While all cars drive well for the segment, with well balanced suspension and steering, the diesel engine shines as the best option for moving the mid-sizer’s bulk.
You’ll contend with only small amounts of turbo lag (thanks to a wide array of available ratios from the eight-speed transmission), and power is relatively instantaneous, propelling the Sportage along at a satisfying rate.
That said, the extra weight of the AWD system reveals itself at lower speeds, and while the diesel drivetrain is clearly less stressed than the 2.0L petrol alternative, it’s not particularly refined.
The diesel chug is truck-like and a little too much of that industrial noise makes its way into the cabin at any end of the rev spectrum. The refinement of this engine compares poorly to Mazda’s 2.2L diesel and turbo-petrol alternatives in other top-spec SUV rivals.
The eight-speed transmission is notably more slick than the six speeds in other Sportages, and helps keep fuel usage down on longer medium speed or freeway journeys.
One of the downsides of the large wheels packaged in with the GT-Line is more road noise. The SX and SX Plus with their smaller 18-inch wheels are notably quieter. It was a disappointment to see the plushest Sportage lag behind lesser models for cabin refinement.
The Sportage’s ride is on the sportier side, but not as hard as rivals like the CX-5 or Hyundai Tucson. It offers a nice balance between those dynamic SUVs and more comfort focused ones like the CR-V, RAV4 or X-Trail.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
The GT-Line is the only Sportage available with the full-fat safety suite, and that will be a big selling point for many buyers, even with its high price.
Active safety items include Auto Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane-Keep Assist (LKAS) with Lane Departure Warning (LDW), Driver Attention Alert (DAA), Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM), stability control, and active cruise control.
Those last two items are exclusive to the GT-Line, so it would be nice to see them arrive, even as an option on lower grades. Competitors offer some of these systems as standard across their range, or more comprehensive suites altogether, so the Sportage is slowly losing its edge in this department.
The active features work alongside six airbags and brake support systems to grant the Sportage a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2016.
There are a pair of ISOFIX child-seat mounting points on the outboard rear seats, and top-tether points across the second row.
Kia has become known for its industry-first seven-year warranty promise, which is two years more than the industry norm. The Korean brand also offers eight years of roadside assist if serviced according to schedule at an authorised dealer.
Servicing the Sportage isn’t particularly cheap, especially for diesel variants. Each yearly or 15,000km service interval will cost between $350 and $798 for a yearly average of $511.43.
While Kia’s edge is in the warranty department, it should have a fight on its hands with the launch of the SsangYong Korando next year, which also promises seven years of warranty coverage alongside a transparent capped price servicing program.
The GT-Line is the full-fat Sportage experience, but it comes at a high cost.
While you’ll enjoy its great design, practical cabin amenities, safety features and overall refinement, you’ll have to weigh that off against its high retail price and backward steps in cabin refinement.
Regardless, the Sportage GT-Line is a well-equipped, nice-to-drive and good-looking mid-sizer that will please most shoppers at this point in the SUV price scale – offering a bit extra for those who might be considering a smaller premium alternative.
|Price and features||7|
|Engine & trans||7|