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Kia Sportage SLi diesel 2016 review

EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Sportage SLi diesel with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Peter Anderson road tests and reviews the 2016 Kia Sportage SLi diesel with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.

Believe it or not, Kia's original JA Sportage – an honest box with wheels if ever there was one – is so tough that farmers used to hoover them up from classifieds pages within hours of posting. Yes, farmers, men who test things to breaking point and then moan like creaky shed doors if they actually do break.

More than anything, it was that car that put the Kia brand on the map in Australia, with a cheap, tough-as-nails crossover that ran contrary to what people thought they knew about this Korean brand.

We're now up to the fourth generation Sportage, the QL. There's quite a bit of conceptual distance between the 1993 original and this Peter Schreyer-penned design, of course, and not just in the looks department.

There's also some pretty serious competition for the Kia to deal with; so tough in fact, you could compare it to the dependable ruggedness of the original.

Price and features

The SLi diesel occupies the middle of the range between the two-wheel-drive Si and the all-wheel-drive Platinum. There's quite a lot of space between each variant, with the Si starting at $28,990 and the Platinum diesel winding up at $45,990. Could this be the Goldilocks option?

A front-wheel-drive petrol SLi, powered by the weedy 2.0-litre four-cylinder, can be had for $33,990, which is the same price as the AWD Si. Our car was the AWD SLi, which can only be had with the diesel engine, hence the $4000 jump to $37,990.

As with the Sorento big brother, the Sportage has an interior built for containing a family and their things.

In our SLi we found 18-inch alloy wheels, a six-speaker stereo with USB and Bluetooth, dual-zone climate control, front and rear parking sensors with reversing camera, cruise control, electric driver's seat, sat nav, fake leather trim, folding electric mirrors, auto headlights and wipers, tyre-pressure sensors, privacy glass on the rear windows and a full-size spare slung under the chassis, where you can get at it when the boot is full.

The 4.5-inch central screen runs Kia's own entertainment and satnav systems, which are perfectly acceptable but not a patch on the Tucson's included Apple CarPlay system (although at this price level, you don't get Apple goodness in a Hyundai, or at all in the Mazda CX-5).

There's just the one option – premium paint for $520 - and it's fitted to our car (fiery red, if you're interested) to bring the total to $38,510.

Practicality

As with the Sorento big brother, the Sportage has an interior built for containing a family and their things. There are four cupholders, bottle holders in every door for up to 600ml bottles and a sunglasses holder up front, as long as your specs fold fairly flat.

There's plenty of space for storing bits and bobs, with a tray under the air-con vents and a decent-sized storage bin under the sliding armrest.

There are also two USB ports (one in front, one in the rear) and three 12V adapter points (two in front, one in the rear),

Boot space starts at 466 litres with the rear seats in place, increasing to 1455 litres with them down.

Design

From the pen of Peter Schreyer (his CV includes the Audi TT, followed by every attractive Kia, ever), the Sportage is a pretty bold sort of thing. There's a fair bit going on, with a ridged bonnet that looks like Peter Garrett's head during a particularly rowdy rendition of Beds Are Burning; a bluff front end with a Schreyer grille (that's what it's called, honest) and a headlight housing with two sets of what look like projectors but aren't.

Further down the deep front bumper are two actual projectors, acting as foglights Put it between a Porsche Cayman and a Porsche Cayenne and you'll see the influences. It's certainly more striking than our long-term Tucson.

Rear legroom is impressive, belting the Mazda CX-5 into submission with ample space for six-footers and easy entry and exit.

The side profile has a whacky, Ford Anglia-style glass line at the C-pillar and then a very conventional rear end. None of it should probably work but somehow it does, although you'll be able to argue the point for hours with some non-fans. It's undoubtedly sporty, however.

Inside is fairly restrained, but quite stylish, with some good materials throughout and a pretty solid feel. It's far better looking than the Sorento's cabin, with better detailing (particularly the gear shifter).

Above all, it's very comfortable, even for five passengers. Rear legroom is impressive, belting the Mazda CX-5 into submission with ample space for six-footers and easy entry and exit. The amount of space on offer belongs to a much bigger car, so it's quite impressive.

Engine and transmission

The Sportage is propelled by a 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel, good for 136kW and a healthy 400Nm of torque. All of that finds the tarmac via each of the four wheels, with a six-speed automatic transmission providing the gear shifting.

If you're an owner of an older Sportage, like a farmer, you're in for a pleasant surprise. This new car is incredibly quiet and composed.

There's a central, lockable diff for off-road shenanigans, which are probably best kept to a moderate setting, owing to the road-biased tyres.

Ratings for towing range from 750kg for unbraked and 1900kg for braked trailers.

Fuel consumption

Kia claims 6.8L/100km on the combined cycle and in almost exclusively city driving we scored 7.9L/100km, which isn't bad for what is a fairly tubby car at 1716kg before you even get in.

Driving

If you're an owner of an older Sportage, like a farmer, you're in for a pleasant surprise. This new car is incredibly quiet and composed. Every single thing about the drive is better, with road, wind and suspension noise all very well-suppressed.

On top of that, once the engine warms up, the clattery diesel growl all but disappears, unless you introduce the accelerator to the carpet, and even then it's just a tiny bit rowdy. It's a strong engine, with a lot of torque to help lighten the car's heft.

Added to that, it's not hard to get reasonably close to its claimed fuel figures, so the diesel's value proposition is very strong. That's not to say you'll buy one to save fuel, the fact that it's reasonably frugal while packing a heavy punch is worth the extra because it makes the Sportage a very relaxed drive compared to the 2.0 petrol.

Passengers at the rear will be subject to a little extra noise, but nothing their delicate ears can't handle. Ride is on the firm side, but it's well controlled and the trade-off is good grip in all conditions and fewer emetic undulations than its Sorento stablemate induced.

The steering is almost as good as the dynamic class leader, the Mazda CX-5, but the car never feels quite as light or wieldy as its relative, the Tucson or as planted as the Mazda.

Safety

Six airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, brake assist and hill-descent control.

The Sportage was awarded five ANCAP stars, the maximum available.

Frustratingly, there are no safety options such as AEB, lane departure, forward collision warning or blind-spot detection – these are all standard on the Platinum but not available as a package or individually on the rest of the range.

Ownership

Kia provides an excellent seven-year warranty with roadside assist for the duration and a free first service at three months.

Capped-price servicing covers the warranty period, with $419 the lowest and $726 at the highest (four-year service). The total seven-year figure is $3695, averaging $528. The diesel service costs are higher than the 2.0 petrol by 25 percent and 15 per cent higher than the 2.4-litre petrol in the Platinum. Having said that, the diesel's extra grunt and driveability are worth the extra.

Verdict

The Sportage is an impressive machine for the money, with plenty of standard kit and tonnes of space. With the diesel engine it makes a huge amount of sense, as even a full-laden Sportage will easily dispatch its petrol brethren.

It still has the spirit of the original, with its good value and chunky feel, but with its bold design, decent technology and seemingly excellent build quality, the Sportage takes it right up to even its strongest competitors.

Would you prefer a diesel Sportage to a petrol variant? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Click here to see more 2016 Kia Sportage pricing and spec info.

Pricing Guides

$22,000
Based on 260 cars listed for sale in the last 6 months
Lowest Price
$14,980
Highest Price
$35,555

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT-LINE (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $27,500 – 33,110 2016 Kia Sportage 2016 GT-LINE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
GT-LINE GREY LEATHER (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $29,490 – 35,555 2016 Kia Sportage 2016 GT-LINE GREY LEATHER (AWD) Pricing and Specs
Platinum (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $29,999 – 33,556 2016 Kia Sportage 2016 Platinum (AWD) Pricing and Specs
PLATINUM (AWD) (GREY PACK) 2.0L, Diesel, 6 SP AUTO $30,030 – 36,190 2016 Kia Sportage 2016 PLATINUM (AWD) (GREY PACK) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7
Peter Anderson
Contributing journalist

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Pricing Guide

$19,990

Lowest price, based on 37 car listings in the last 6 months

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