Mazda CX-5 2018 review
The new-generation Mazda CX-5 arrived just last year, but now there's a new one. We went to the Australian launch to see if we could spot the difference.
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The SUV is just an evolution of the hatchback.
It’s hardly difficult to trace the lineage. Much like small sedans were the Neanderthals to the hatchback’s Homo Sapiens, hatchbacks themselves have become the prototype for something bigger, chunkier, more secure.
Are they really better though? Our Kia Sportage here is the middle of your average SUV range in 2018. It suits the ‘future hatchback’ paradigm to a T – with its accentuated proportions looking as though someone’s just put a hatchback in Photoshop and dragged it out diagonally.
To see if the Sportage offers anything more than a hatch, I took it on a 400km round-trip camping adventure from Sydney to the Wolgan Valley (around 180km north-west). My trip involved three passengers, a boot full of supplies and camping gear, as well as varied terrain including 15km of unsealed roads.
So, has the SUV earned its spot as the car market’s apex predator? And, is the SLi the pick of the Sportage range? Read on to find out.
|Kia Sportage 2018: SLi AEB (FWD)|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
One of the big hooks of today’s SUVs is the often-ridiculous equipment levels they come with. The Sportage is no stranger to this. Since its recent 2018 facelift, it has received even more standard equipment than it had before (and a bump in price).
Standard features on the SLi now include an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Bluetooth connectivity, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as well as built in sat-nav, JBL eight-speaker audio system, dimming rear view mirror, reversing sensors, reversing camera, massive 18-inch alloys, LED DRLs and rear lights as well as a slew of aesthetic touches over the Si and Si Premium that sit below it.
Total cost for all that is $36,790 before on-roads, but our car is pushed to $37,310 due to the $520 premium ‘Steel Grey’ paint (only ‘Clear White’ is a free colour).
That cost pitches it against the Mazda CX-5 Maxx Sport ($36,990), the Honda CR-V VTi-S ($35,490) and the Toyota RAV4 GXL ($38,490). The worst part? At this price point all of those competitors are all-wheel drive (AWD) compared to the Sportage’s front-wheel drive (FWD). To get AWD on the Sportage SLi you’ll need to spend $5400 and switch to diesel.
On the upside, the SLi has power-adjustable leather seats as standard which is part of an option pack on the RAV4 GXL, and unavailable on the CX-5 Maxx Sport.
A lot of the extra cost is down to the significantly boosted standard safety offering, but we’ll get to that in the safety section of this review.
Stepping up to the top-spec GT-Line variant ($44,790) mainly adds equipment luxuries like a sunroof, auto parking assist, heated seats, a Qi wireless phone charger and sporty trim bits. It makes the SLi the pick of the range, but you’ll see there’s a bit of a catch in other parts of this review.
If you stare for too long into the Sportage’s insectoid face, you might be forgiven for seeing a touch of Porsche influence. It’s those light clusters that ride on top of the bonnet rather than integrating into the front, and the rear LED light housing that runs horizontally across the back of the boot.
Bold design choices, but they really help to give the Sportage its own personality. It looks nothing like other SUVs, whether you compare it to the delicate lines of the CX-5 or the wacky angles of the CR-V.
The giant alloys are more attractive than the ones available on the previous-generation Sportage, but the chrome bar that integrates into the fog light housings does nothing for the whole bug-like look.
I pointed it out to a friend who agreed they look like little mandibles with which the Sportage feeds… creepy, but less boring when compared to the pre-facelift model.
Inside is where the SLi starts to set itself apart from the lower grades. The powered leather seats are nice and comfortable and offer an ergonomic seating position that’s not too high up.
Smart little design bits like the asymmetrical centre console that increases knee space for the driver have been carried over from the last Sportage, as well as soft-touch surfaces in tactical positions.
On the negative side, having an 8.0-inch screen embedded in the top of the dash is starting to look a bit dated, and the abundance of similarly-coloured plastics makes it all a little boring to look at.
Another thing I noticed about the Sportage was the solid build quality. All the doors including the boot had a hefty amount of weight and a thick thudding sound when closed. Remember when that was just a European car trope?
Kia shares much of the same philosophy with sister brand, Hyundai, when it comes to cabin storage. It’s smart, and there’s plenty of it.
The nicely-sized centre console has two big cupholders to the side, a deep centre box and a large stowage area underneath the air conditioning controls. Much like Hyundai’s range, the storage available in the doors is purpose built for large bottles (even 1.25 litre vessels aren't out of the question).
In the back seat, the Sportage continues to shine with ample leg and headroom (an SUV selling point over a hatchback) as well as rear air conditioning vents, and two power outlets. Extra rear-seat luxuries include neat little cargo nets on the back of both front seats, as well as a drop-down armrest with two more cupholders.
Room is such that the middle seat would even be decent for an adult.
Boot space with the seats up is 466 litres. So yes, it’s bigger than a hatchback, most of which top out at around 395 litres. It’s also bigger than the CX-5’s 442L capacity, but is dwarfed by the Honda CR-V with its 522 litre capacity.
On our trip the boot managed to swallow a four-man tent, sufficient supplies for at least two nights of camping, as well as some chairs and recreational items. It was a snug fit.
This is partially due to the high boot floor which is there to accommodate a full-size alloy spare. This is standard across the whole Sportage range, and allowed for peace of mind when driving those unsealed roads…
The 2.0-litre petrol engine in our SLi produces 114kW/192Nm. Those numbers aren’t bad, but in reality leave you wishing for just a smidge more oomph once you’ve hit peak torque at 4000rpm. This is especially true with the car loaded up with three passengers and a bunch of camping gear.
Kia has pulled a bit of a sneaky here and made the larger 2.4-litre petrol with 135kW/237Nm available on the top spec GT-Line, only at an $8000 premium. It’s exactly the power bump you’d need, but perhaps not worth the significant extra cost.
For those who don’t mind diesel, you can get your torque fix via an optional 2.0-litre diesel (that’s also AWD only) on the SLi at a $5400 cost. It has a whopping 400Nm of torque.
The SLi drives the front wheels via a six-speed traditional torque converter auto.
Unsurprisingly, asking a 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine to haul a 1532kg SUV comes at a bit of a fuel cost compared to a turbocharged alternative.
Kia claims the 2.0-litre Sportage variants will drink 7.9L/100km on the combined cycle. Not great, but not bad.
On my week-long drive over almost two tanks of fuel I landed on a figure of 9.2L/100km. It’s a little over Kia’s figure, but given I asked a lot of the free-revving little engine I was pleasantly surprised it was less than 10.0L/100km.
All petrol Sportage variants happily drink 91RON unleaded and have 62 litre fuel tanks.
The recent update to the Sportage was largely focused on safety inclusions, and the standard kit is now reasonably impressive. Annoyingly, the full active safety kit is still reserved for the top-spec GT-Line.
All Sportage variants now come packed with 'Auto Emergency Braking' (AEB), 'Forward Collision Warning', 'Lane Departure Warning', 'Lane Keep Assist', auto high beams, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors.
Only the Si misses out on front parking sensors, but even our SLi misses out on 'Blind Spot Monitoring', 'Rear Cross Traffic Alert', active cruise, and the wholly unnecessary park assist (which can reverse park for you).
I found the Lane Keep Assist is best kept for the freeway only, as it tends to make frequent micro-adjustments to the steering. It can get a little tiresome for suburban driving. It left me wishing the Blind Spot Monitoring was standard instead…
All Sportages carry a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating from 2016 onward.
Big props must be given for the full-size alloy spare which is realistically a safety feature for Aussies who face long distance drives, and there are two ISOFIX child seat anchor points on the outboard rear seats.
7 years / unlimited km warranty
ANCAP Safety Rating
Kia’s seven year/unlimited kilometre warranty as always outshines most rivals who have only just updated to five-year unlimited kilometre warranties.
The service schedule isn’t too demanding either, with the SUV requiring attention once a year or every 15,000km, whichever comes first.
Service prices are capped, but vary from $252 for the first service, to $604 for the fourth service.
The local engineering edge to the Sportage pays dividends. It’s a pleasure to commute along Australian roads and was pretty impressive on the unsealed stuff.
While it doesn’t quite achieve Volkswagen levels of suspension wizardry, the Korean automaker has relied on German expertise (via ZF Sachs dampers) when it comes to the ride.
The result is a close to giant hatchback ride and drive experience, without some of the nastier surprises that often come with extra weight.
It’s not as soft as the CR-V, but not as stiff as the CX-5, and I think that’s a good middle-ground. Reasonably heavy steering adds a bit of sporty flair, but that’s becoming more common on today’s Korean and Japanese SUVs.
I was expecting the Sportage to become rattled on the unsealed part of my journey, but it stuck to the ground and (laterally and horizontally) coped well with rutted dirt.
I put this down to the large rubber and suspension improvements but will concede the extra weight of three people and equipment on board probably helped.
As mentioned in the engine and transmission part of this review, the 2.0-litre engine could use more power to go with the well sorted road feel. It revs hard, but leaves you wanting more, especially up hills.
Around town though, it’s responsive and smooth, if a tad noisy. The six-speed torque converter auto is near-unnoticeable.
The Sportage is a clear example of why people are picking SUVs over hatchbacks.
The equipment levels and the notable bump in practicality are real boosts to the appeal and, although the Sportage SLi is a tad pricey compared to some competitors, it nails the look and feel most couples or small families are looking for.
While the SLi is our pick of the range, keep in mind there are strong rivals in this crowded price bracket that can offer all-wheel drive, a more comprehensive safety suite or are slightly more practical. So your SUV choice will largely fall to which features are more important to you.
|AO EDITION||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$26,990 – 32,990||2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 AO EDITION Pricing and Specs|
|GT-LINE (AWD)||2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO||$34,000 – 47,990||2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 GT-LINE (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|GT-LINE GREY LEATHER (AWD)||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$39,820 – 46,860||2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 GT-LINE GREY LEATHER (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Si (AWD)||2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO||$29,988 – 29,998||2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 Si (AWD) Pricing and Specs|
|Price and features||8|
|Engine & trans||7|