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Kia Sportage SLi 2018 review

EXPERT RATING
7.9
Are today's SUVs more suited to active lifestyles than hatchbacks? We take the Sportage SLi on a 400km camping adventure to find out.

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)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$28,990

Is there anything interesting about its design?  8/10

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.

Design touches like the headlamps atop the bonnet and the light strip that works its way across the boot are bold, and perhaps Porsche-inspired... Design touches like the headlamps atop the bonnet and the light strip that works its way across the boot are bold, and perhaps Porsche-inspired...

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. 

Its a more futuristic look than some SUVs out there, but I can't shake the insectoid vibe.. Its a more futuristic look than some SUVs out there, but I can't shake the insectoid vibe..

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.

The interior plastics are all a bit samey, but there are some sensible design touches. The interior plastics are all a bit samey, but there are some sensible design touches.

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?

How practical is the space inside?  8/10

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.

The back seat offers ample leg- and head-room as well as power sources and nice storage touches. The back seat offers ample leg- and head-room as well as power sources and nice storage touches.

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.

The Sportage's boot isn't the largest in the segment, but it ain't the smallest either... The Sportage's boot isn't the largest in the segment, but it ain't the smallest either...

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… 

...but it was enough for a decent amount of camping gear. ...but it was enough for a decent amount of camping gear.

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?  8/10

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).

The SLi scores an impressive list of standard kit. The SLi scores an impressive list of standard kit.

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).

Our 'Steel Grey' colour comes at a $520 premium. Our 'Steel Grey' colour comes at a $520 premium.

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.

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?  7/10

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.

The 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine is willing, but needs a smidge more grunt. The 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated engine is willing, but needs a smidge more grunt.

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.

How much fuel does it consume?  7/10

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.

What's it like to drive?  8/10

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.

The Sportage was well behaved across varied conditions. The Sportage was well behaved across varied conditions.

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. 

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?  8/10

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.

The full-size alloy spare is a nice safety addition for Australia. The full-size alloy spare is a nice safety addition for Australia.

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.

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?  9/10

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.

Pricing Guides

$31,490
Based on 1488 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$22,888
Highest Price
$53,121

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
AO EDITION 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $25,990 – 35,225 2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 AO EDITION Pricing and Specs
GT-LINE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $33,953 – 50,990 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 $27,990 – 35,990 2018 KIA SPORTAGE 2018 Si (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.9
Price and features8
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption7
Safety8
Ownership9
Driving8

“The Sportage is a clear example of why people are picking SUVs over hatchbacks. ”

What’s most important to you when choosing an SUV? Safety, practicality or features? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Tom White
Journalist

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