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Kia Sportage 2022 review: GT-Line long-term

Matt has been learning a few of the Sportage's idiosyncracies during his months with the car.

There are plenty of different midsize SUVs to choose from, and if you want a Kia Sportage, there are plenty of variants to pick from, too. This test is of the top-spec petrol model, the GT-Line 1.6T AWD version. Matt Campbell is going to see what it's like as a family SUV for his mob, which includes his partner, daughter and two small dogs.

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Part 1: December 2021

Before I could even get my hands on my new long-term family SUV - the Kia Sportage GT-Line petrol AWD - it was included in a CarsGuide comparison test against a bunch of its key competitors.

The Sportage petrol-turbo flagship model was in the mix against the Hyundai Tucson Highlander N-Line, the all-new Mitsubishi Outlander Exceed, and the facelifted Subaru Forester 2.5i-S.

Kia Sportage GT-Line, is a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder version with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and AWD. (Image: Matt Campbell) Kia Sportage GT-Line, is a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder version with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and AWD. (Image: Matt Campbell)

This was good. I looked forward to finding out where the new Kia Sportage stood against its rivals.

Read more about the Kia Sportage

The bad thing was, I didn’t get to join the testing. I wanted to - but instead, I was busy with other projects, so Richard Berry and the gang put the four through their paces… and to say I was a little surprised at the results would be an understatement.

I’d hoped that I’d be getting the best SUV of these four, that’s for sure. But it was found that the Sportage GT-Line petrol model wasn’t quite as good as we’d hoped it would be. 

Kia Shortage has the nice stuff we’ve come to expect of high-spec Kias, like heated, cooled front seats and leather trim. (Image: Matt Campbell) Kia Shortage has the nice stuff we’ve come to expect of high-spec Kias, like heated, cooled front seats and leather trim. (Image: Matt Campbell)

Sure, it had a lot of the good stuff we’d heard about - plenty of high-tech new standard gear, like the dual 12.3-inch screens (one for infotainment/multimedia, one for the driver’s info/cluster), and of course it had the nice stuff we’ve come to expect of high-spec Kias, like heated and cooled front seats, leather trim, and big alloy wheels - 19s, in the case of the new GT-Line. The keyless entry, push-button start, electric tailgate with kick sensor and exterior LED lighting also ticked the boxes.

Kia Shortage has plenty of high-tech new standard gear, like the dual 12.3-inch screens. (Image: Matt Campbell) Kia Shortage has plenty of high-tech new standard gear, like the dual 12.3-inch screens. (Image: Matt Campbell)

For under $50,000 - the exact price of the car was $49,370 (MSRP - before on-road costs) when CarsGuide took delivery of it - that looked like a good deal. The drive-away price at the time was appealing, too, at $51,990… but that price has since risen above $54,000.

Okay, so it’s not bad on the value front, but it was also praised by Richard and the crew for being the most outstanding in terms of its design, with a “cutting-edge cool look with pleasing craftsmanship”, and an “alien and beautiful” front-end design.

Nice big alloy wheels - 19s, in the case of the new GT-Line. (Image: Matt Campbell) Nice big alloy wheels - 19s, in the case of the new GT-Line. (Image: Matt Campbell)

That’s all well and good. But when it came to the driving impressions, things weren’t as bright and shiny.

The Subaru Forester beat it. 

To say that surprised me could have been the understatement of 2021. I mean, yes, this was a test aimed at family buyers, and that’s me now, but the last Sportage was among the best in its class for driving manners, and I couldn’t believe it would be level-pegging with the underwhelming (not-Australian-tuned) new Tucson, and the clumsy new Outlander…

But that was the finding. And it wasn’t just the steering (not tuned for Australia) and suspension (weirdly tuned for Australia) that was criticised, but also the powertrain. 

This long-termer wasn’t the spec I’d hoped for, if I’m honest. The one I wanted was the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel with the eight-speed auto and all-wheel drive. That’s the sweet spot in the Sportage range; always has been, always will be. If I was buying a Sportage, or advising someone who was thinking about doing so, I wouldn’t hesitate. Diesel is the first thing you need to choose, then the spec you want. 

But instead this was the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder version with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic and AWD. With 132kW and 265Nm, I’d thought it would be something worth being excited for. Indeed, Kia Australia told me this powertrain was expected to be the biggest-selling one, this time around.

However, that powertrain also left our comparison testers underwhelmed. “Lurching gear changes” and “frustrating” low-speed driving comments made me worry I’d be left unhappy with the car, too.

Obviously there’s a lot more to what makes a good family SUV than the way it drives, but for me - a car tragic, motoring journalist who loves to drive and will find excuses to do so - it’s an important consideration. 

In this review I’ll cover off my impressions of the drive experience, but also share with you my findings when it comes to family duties - luggage space, interior comfort and practicality, infotainment and technology impressions, whether it’s a good comfy cruiser, and how it fits into my “new dad” lifestyle as a follow-up to the Skoda Octavia RS I’d just spent six months with.

Stick with me over the next few months as we find out whether there are hidden qualities to the new-generation Sportage GT-Line petrol AWD, or if it really deserved the flack it copped in the comparison test (which the Forester facelifted model won, in case you haven’t read it!).

Acquired: 2 December 2021

Distance travelled during comparison test: 426km

Odometer: 1481km

Average fuel consumption for comparison test: 10.1L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 2: December 2021

The lead-up to Christmas is always a stressful time, no matter whether you’re staying home, heading across town or, like myself and my family, heading across the state to multiple locations over a 10-day period to see literally dozens of people who haven’t met your newborn child.

Yep. Stress.

And to add to that stress factor, I’d pre-arranged with Kia Australia to get a set of roof racks and roof storage pod for my new Sportage long-termer, knowing that I’d need that much space (or I’d need to arrange a bigger car!) for my Christmas jaunt around NSW.

When it was getting down to the wire - a few days before we were supposed to leave - my stress meter was already high. But eventually the lovely people at Kia hooked me up with a set of genuine roof racks and a Yakima storage pod, which - having spent time with pods in recent months - is a brilliant bit of kit.

It’s light enough to remove or mount on the racks by yourself (if you’re totally ripped and buff and staunch like me, that is), it has a simple clamp mechanism to align and secure it to the roof bars, and it opens on both sides, meaning you can mount it left, right or middle on top of the car.

The Kia Sportage has a simple clamp mechanism to align and secure it to the roof bars, and it opens on both sides, meaning you can mount it left, right or middle on top of the car. (Image: Matt Campbell) The Kia Sportage has a simple clamp mechanism to align and secure it to the roof bars, and it opens on both sides, meaning you can mount it left, right or middle on top of the car. (Image: Matt Campbell)

I went for the middle, knowing it would scratch my itch for symmetry, and also because I wasn’t sure how much I’d be putting up top, so wanted to keep it central for weight distribution.

It’s a big deal, having a roof pod. I’ve told plenty of friends and relatives just how good it is, because you might spend $1500-$2000 instead of $15,000-$20,000 for a larger car, and you can remove the pod if you’re not using it, provided you’ve got somewhere to store it.

Locking in the roof racks (Image: Matt Campbell) Locking in the roof racks (Image: Matt Campbell)

After I’d mounted the roof racks (about 15 minutes) and pod (20 mins or so), it was time to pack. I used the CarsGuide luggage as my actual additional luggage in this instance, with a bunch of baby stuff and presents in the biggest suitcase. We also had our suitcases, a pram, bassinet, folding baby high chair, our baby’s plastic bath, dog beds, and plenty of other odds and ends.

All told, the boot - 543 litres (VDA) - was full. Up top, the Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite 450L box was pretty much chockers, too. I had become accustomed to loading the roof box on the Skoda wagon, and not requiring a step ladder to do so, but with the much-desired SUV ride height comes a higher load-in for a roof-mounted box, so I strapped on the leotard and used the stairmaster to load it up.

  • 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot
  • 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot
  • 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot 2022 Kia Shortage I Part 2 Long Form I Boot

Then it was time to sort out the interior. I fit our little one’s rearward-facing Nuna Klik baby capsule in (no hassles with that!), and then I had to set up the other side of the rear seat with the dog’s quilt (yes, they were the original grandchildren) and seatbelt harnesses. All told, this five-seater SUV was about to have all five seats, the boot and the roof pod full for a big-old country adventure.

(Image: Matt Campbell) (Image: Matt Campbell)

This wasn’t going to be the first time I’d driven the car, but as we set off a few days before Christmas, it was the first time we’d been in it as a family. Sure, I couldn’t see out the back window, but we fit everything in… just.

The front passenger seat was in a more comfortable position for my partner than in the Skoda wagon we’d had most recently, the cooled front seats came in handy early on. The media screen hooked up to Apple CarPlay by USB, our favourite podcast and baby-friendly music playlists were lined up, and we headed off.

The drive from our house in the lower Blue Mountains down to Cooma, where my family live, was a largely easy one. We stopped off in Goulburn for a break/bottle/nappy, and hooned on home from there, with all occupants (including our then-six-month-old) getting out in a good mood.

At highway speeds I’d barely noticed the engine’s haphazard turbo-lag interference, the dual-clutch auto’s frustrating manic low-speed indecisiveness, and the not-quite-right steering. I’ll go into more depth on my urban driving findings in the next update.

The Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite holds 450L. (Image: Matt Campbell) The Yakima SkyBox 16 Carbonite holds 450L. (Image: Matt Campbell)

What I had noticed was how soft the rear suspension felt with the whole lot of us and our stuff on board, as it bobbed up and down more over bumps than I’d predicted it would. The springs are quite soft, which is good for comfort, but they felt too soft at times.

As did the brake pedal, which had a noticeably different reactiveness to it when loaded. At one point I had to give it a very hard press, and I was surprised it took a bit more to stop than expected.

It wasn’t alarming, but I did expect a bit more of it. I found out there were some positive elements to it a few days later, as we made our way from Cooma over to Cowra to my partner’s parents place. 

The roads between those towns vary greatly. There’s the “only okay” Monaro Highway, the section beyond Murrumbateman which is so badly designed that it’s amazing it still exists, the short stretch of dual carriageway past the Yass services, the bumpy, rugged track from the Federal Highway towards Boorowa, and then the drive from there onwards to Cowra, which is actually the most relaxing part of the trip.

After a few days with family - during which I discussed the positive points of a smaller car with a cargo box with the relos, one in particular who thought it was better to just get a bigger SUV - and then another hour or two repacking the Kia, we headed home. 

Over the thousand-odd-kays I’d been driving the Sportage over this period, I’d learned a few important things.

The safety systems - lane keeping assist, in particular - is easy to switch off. I found it a bit frustrating when switched on, so it’s now become a default for me to turn it off when I’ve driving at higher speeds.

But I also loved the adaptive cruise control, which managed to keep speed pretty well, without the big deviations below or above the set speed that some other recent test cars had displayed.

The surround-view camera - with its clever Augmented Reality display to show you a 3D render of your car in its surroundings - had impressed me, though I wish you could customise the illustrated car to be the colour of your actual car.

And the fuel use hadn’t been too bad, all things considered. The roof box may have some kind of aero engineering to it, but a car with one of these is never going to be as efficient as a car without one. And so, when I saw a real-world fuel use figure of 8.65L/100km over the entire trip, I was fine with that.

In future updates I’ll fill you in on my real-world fuel use without the pod fitted, how easy it is to fit a dash cam setup, and plenty of other findings besides. Oh, and in the next update, I’ll also hand over the Kia to fellow road tester Tom White for a few days, just to see whether we share the same findings.

Acquired: 2 December 2021

Distance travelled this month: 1458km

Odometer: 2939km

Average fuel consumption for December: 8.65L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 3: January 2022

This month started off with a trip down to Wollongong to celebrate a socially-distanced New Years Day with friends, and I once again felt that the Kia’s highway manners were totally acceptable.

It was just the around-town driving bit that had been sticking out as a sore point for me, the more I drove it in those sorts of situations.

For instance, even just driving out of my driveway had become a “that’s a bit annoying” moment.

In my previous long-term loan car, the Skoda Octavia RS wagon - which also had a turbo engine and dual-clutch automatic transmission - I had no issues simply getting in the car, reversing out the driveway with the back of the car heading downhill, and then moving away from the hill-start to the nearby intersection and on my way.

Even just driving out of my driveway had become a “that’s a bit annoying” moment. (image: Matt Campbell) Even just driving out of my driveway had become a “that’s a bit annoying” moment. (image: Matt Campbell)

In the Kia? Not so simple. The dual-clutch take-up point is less predictable, so there have been times when the car will lurch backwards under light- to mid-throttle, while in other instances the engine and transmission lag, leading to slow rearward progress.

The shifter - a rotary dial, rather than a lever/t-bar - is quick enough to respond and easy to get used to. But even so, once I’ve reversed out, the rear of the car is facing downhill, and I’ve shifted to D, there’s more transmission lag to contend with.

There is an auto hill-hold ascent system, and auto-hold for the transmission in flat or downhill situations too, but usually when you’re in a hurry you just want to get from R to D and on the road without halting. It’s not as good as it could be.

The lag is further exacerbated by stop-start traffic and intersections, with the engine and transmission at times getting quite confused as to the smoothest path of progress. Suffice to say, there have been moments over the first six weeks of my tenure with this car that there’ve been expletives, as I’ve not been confident I’d make a gap in traffic.

This month I installed a dash cam to make sure I have a record of anything that goes wrong on the road. (image: Matt Campbell) This month I installed a dash cam to make sure I have a record of anything that goes wrong on the road. (image: Matt Campbell)

That’s the problem, in a nutshell. Unlike a conventional automatic (or even a smarter DCT or DSG from the VW Group), you actually have to think about what’s happening with the engine and transmission in this petrol-turbo Sportage. The turbo-diesel with the eight-speed auto? Smooth, smart, simple. The standard 2.0-litre four-cylinder non-turbo with the six-speed auto may be a bit lethargic, but it, again, is simple and smooth.

I think the biggest thing here is that I’m disappointed that the powertrain is not better, because it really does let down what is an otherwise pretty-decent midsize SUV.

I can live with the not-quite-right ride (it’s a bit floaty at the rear, while the front feels stiffer). I can live with the oddly weighted steering (it can be hard to judge at times). But I really, really am struggling to live with the powertrain when it comes to urban driving.

I decided to share the Sportage with fellow tester Tom White this month, to get his thoughts on the car and also so I could have a go of his long-termer, the Mazda MX-30 Electric.

I find that for a family car, a dash cam adds a level of peace of mind. (image: Matt Campbell) I find that for a family car, a dash cam adds a level of peace of mind. (image: Matt Campbell)

In short, Tom and I are on the same page. He’d driven it on the recent comparison but hadn’t had any real-world time with it, so he was thankful for the chance to have a weekend with his partner, driving it as they would any other test car. And he was also thankful to hand it back.

Tom’s lifestyle is more urban-focused than mine, and he agreed about the serious shortcomings of the Sportage’s turbo-petrol powertrain. 

Like me, though, he felt he could forgive the ride and steering, enjoyed the interior tech and packaging, and thought there was promise in plenty of different areas, but we both agreed the turbo-petrol isn’t the best powertrain on offer in the Sportage range.

For what it’s worth, we shared pretty similar thoughts on his long-termer, too - make sure you read his review of the electric Mazda MX-30.

I decided to share the Sportage with fellow tester Tom White this month, so I could also have a go of his long-termer, the Mazda MX-30 Electric. (image: Matt Campbell) I decided to share the Sportage with fellow tester Tom White this month, so I could also have a go of his long-termer, the Mazda MX-30 Electric. (image: Matt Campbell)

An interesting finding - during my weeks with the Sportage, before handing it over to Tom, I was averaging 7.71L/100km, with mainly highway driving but a few (frustrating) urban drives, too. 

When Tom had the car, the average jumped up because of his predominantly urban driving. The dash was showing 10.3L/100km, but the maths said 11.32L/100km. So if you live a city life, note that the turbo-petrol could be a bit of a thirsty thing.

Also this month I installed a dash cam to make sure I have a record of anything that goes wrong on the road. This time I’m making use of the Nextbase 622GW - which is the top-spec model in that range of dash camera systems - and I’ve also fit a rearward facing camera on the back windscreen, too.

The Kia was pretty easy to fit this setup to - the plastics don’t butt up impossibly hard to the rubbers and roof-lining, so I was able to run a cable from the tailgate to the front of the car quite easily. You might choose to have a professional fit your dash cam, but I find I can usually manage to get it to a state of “operational, but not necessarily ideal”. Like, in the Kia, I have a spool of leftover cable behind the rearview mirror.

I really, really am struggling to live with the powertrain when it comes to urban driving. (image: Matt Campbell) I really, really am struggling to live with the powertrain when it comes to urban driving. (image: Matt Campbell)

The camera itself is a beauty - simple to use, but with some of the smart stuff that, apparently, people want. Like, it has Amazon Alexa built-in. I haven’t bothered using that, but I have downloaded the MyNextbase app to my phone and any events that I save on the camera can be shared with my phone, so I can see just how crazy the guy driving that ute on the M4 heading west on a Tuesday arvo really was.

I find that for a family car, a dash cam adds a level of peace of mind. I might even drive more carefully as a result of having it in the car. Oh, and whenever the baby is in the car, too… Ahem.

Next month, I’ll take a deeper dive into the space inside the cabin, creature comforts and technology in the Sportage GT-Line. I’ve also filled the tank for February with E10 unleaded petrol to see if there’s a real-world change to my consumption average as a result. 

 

Acquired: 2 December 2021

Distance travelled this month: 746km

Odometer: 3685km

Average fuel consumption for January: 8.78L/100km (measured at the pump)

Part 4: February 2022

I said in my last update that I’d give you a bit more of a detailed rundown of the interior of the Sportage, so here goes.

Some of the bits that are the best about this new-gen Sportage are inside. Like the twin 12.3-inch screens on the GT-Line, which are crisp, lovely to look at and easy to interact with.

The media screen has a terrific level of usability, with the typical touchscreen elements, but also a touch-bar with virtual buttons below.

The cool thing about the strip of faux-buttons isn’t that it’s flagged by a pair of actual real dials (thank you, Kia!), but that it can switch between the controls for the media system (with submenus Map, Nav, Seek, Track, Radio, Media and Setup along with dials for File/Tuning and Vol), to also be the climate controls, with dual-zone temperature on both dials, Sync, fan controls and fan direction all set by the strip.

Some of the bits that are the best about this new-gen Sportage are inside. (image: Matt Campbell) Some of the bits that are the best about this new-gen Sportage are inside. (image: Matt Campbell)

You change it by triggering a switch on the left of the bar, and it really is probably the best execution I’ve seen to date for still having buttons and dials, while appeasing the touch-screen generation.

Beyond that there are physical trigger switches for the heated and ventilated (cooled) seats, and an array of USB ports (1x USB-A, 1x USB-C up front, 2x USB-A in the rear).

The best thing about the Kia’s interior design is how intuitive everything is. There’s no real second-guessing when it comes to knowing where the buttons/switches/controls you need are, so unless you’re stepping into one from a car that’s more than a decade old, you should be able to get used to everything really easily.

One thing I've really, really come to appreciate is the digital driver info screen, which incorporates left and right side blind-spot cameras. They're excellent, and only in the heaviest of rain are they a bit affected by droplets.

  • One thing I've really, really come to appreciate is the digital driver info screen. (image: Matt Campbell) One thing I've really, really come to appreciate is the digital driver info screen. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • Which incorporates left and right side blind-spot cameras. (image: Matt Campbell) Which incorporates left and right side blind-spot cameras. (image: Matt Campbell)

There are some other considerations I’d like to point out about the interior.

There is no sliding second-row seat like you might find in other SUVs in this class, but in the outer seat base there is a lever to tilt the backrest to recline it, or fold it forward to allow easy child-seat hook-up. It’s a nice little inclusion.

While my child isn’t in a forward-facing seat, there are rear-seat entertainment options for kids that get bored on a road-trip. The front seat backs have a spot where you can hitch an iPad or tablet, so that’s pretty neat. What we've appreciated more is the Quiet Mode button on the touchscreen that shuts the back speakers off, and limits front-seat volume, so those in the back can sleep soundly.

What we've appreciated more is the Quiet Mode button on the touchscreen. (image: Matt Campbell) What we've appreciated more is the Quiet Mode button on the touchscreen. (image: Matt Campbell)

But what isn’t as good is that there are no integrated sunblinds (like we had in our previous long-term Skoda), and the knee-height rear vents don’t seem to pump out much air, which is a concern on warmer days.

Also, we’ve noticed that the doors require a fair old slam, and there have been multiple times when my partner Gemma has got our daughter out of the back while she’s still in her capsule, only for Gem to not quite shut the door behind her.

In the boot there’s a full-size spare under the floor, and I really appreciate the peace of mind that brings, but what’s a bit annoying is that the spare eats into so much space that you can’t make use of the recessed sections where you’d normally be able to store the parcel shelf when it’s not in use. Instead, when we’ve been on trips, I’ve had to remove the shelf and store it inside the house, which is a bit silly.

The boot could also be a bit smarter - it doesn't have the "sense and open" tech that you get in a high-spec Sorento, which detects you're near the boot and will open it for you; and there could be more shopping bag hooks. I’ve had a few instances where the single hook in the back is overwhelmed by shopping bags, leaving some to slide around haphazardly.

So those are some call-outs. But I put a call out on our YouTube Community tab to ask our fans what they wanted to know about the Kia Sportage GT-Line, and some of the questions were very interesting.

Rawkus919 wanted to know: "Is the glove box any good? Can it fit more than the books?"

Well, obviously I wanted to know what Rawkus919 wanted to fit in the glovebox, so I could do a proper test. They replied "Tissue box, sunscreen, hand wipes, pack plastic knife and fork…"

Obviously a picnicking parent, then. And to check, I got those items and checked if they would fit. They didn’t. If you have one of those travel packs of tissues, it’d be fine. But a box? Nope.

If you have one of those travel packs of tissues, it’d be fine. But a box? Nope. (image: Matt Campbell) If you have one of those travel packs of tissues, it’d be fine. But a box? Nope. (image: Matt Campbell)

Kia isn’t the only brand that has downsized its glovebox size (at least it’s not as compact as a Peugeot’s compartment, which is actually only fit for gloves, and the driver log book and owner’s manual are usually stored in the passenger door pocket).

As Spagman commented back on the Sportage’s glovebox: "The book they give you is little more than a pamphlet. If you want the full car manual, it’s a downloadable PDF only." In fact, you can also look through the manual on the car’s infotainment screen, as it’s all in there if you need to find anything in the owner’s manual. There's a QR code for it, which is neat.

You can also look through the manual on the car’s infotainment screen. (image: Matt Campbell) You can also look through the manual on the car’s infotainment screen. (image: Matt Campbell)

Another commenter, Martin Howe, wanted to see what pizazz the Sportage offered after dark: "Please show us the ambient lighting in the car at night."

So, I’ve put an image here for you to see. Not at night, but in a dark carpark.

  • 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell) 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell) 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell) 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell) 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell)
  • 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell) 2022 Kia Sportage GT-Line ambient lighting. (image: Matt Campbell)

Spagman (clearly a Sportage owner who could be happier about their purchase) came back with this: "Kia Australia cheaped out with it. There’s no door or footwell lighting, just a strip around the gear console and above the glovebox. I like mine, but it’s clear Kia Australia nickel & dimed us with petty exclusions such as that and no GT Line badging anywhere."

However, we do get more Sportage for our money. Like, literally.

The European versions of the Sportage (and its cousin, the Hyundai Tucson) are significantly smaller in terms of length and wheelbase. In Australia, the Sportage measures 4660mm long and sits on a wheelbase (the space between the centre point of the front and rear wheels) of 2755mm.

In Europe, the Sportage is more compact. It’s 145mm shorter (4515mm total length) and has a 2680mm wheelbase (95mm less than ours). That equates to less second-row space and not as much interior room in general, which is probably why Kia in European markets has added a bit more glitz and glam in the cabin.

The Sportage sold in Euro markets also gets different engines, with emissions standards and regulations driving different choices for buyers to pick from. There’s no 2.0-litre base model - the entry engine is a 1.6-litre turbo-petrol with a six-speed manual, or you can get it with the DCT like the car I have. There’s also a 1.6L diesel turbo with a manual or DCT auto, or a 1.6L turbo mild-hybrid, or a 1.6L petrol-turbo hybrid, or a 1.6L turbo-petrol plug-in hybrid.

In Europe, the Sportage is more compact. It’s 145mm shorter (4515mm total length) and has a 2680mm wheelbase (95mm less than ours). (image: Matt Campbell) In Europe, the Sportage is more compact. It’s 145mm shorter (4515mm total length) and has a 2680mm wheelbase (95mm less than ours). (image: Matt Campbell)

Sheesh. It does make our powertrain options look a little old-school, but I stand by the notion that the best one available in the Kia Sportage sold in Australia is in fact the 2.0-litre turbo-diesel.

Even so, I said in my last update that I’d run the 1.6T DCT on E10 unleaded for a tank to see how it went from a fuel consumption standpoint - little did I realise that for many owners, E10 might be the best option at the moment because of the skyrocketing fuel prices.

Up til this point, I’d been averaging 8.71L/100km, and I’d used 95RON premium unleaded to refill both times up til the end of January, as the intention was to see how the car went running on the cheaper juice.

Was there any noticeable performance difference? No. Was it less fuel-efficient using E10? Yes. Over this month of driving, I saw an at the pump return of 9.00L/100km, which is higher than what I’d seen on premium fuel - and the car was subject to similar driving scenarios, with and without the cargo box on top, highway and urban driving.

While there was no difference in the drive experience more generally, I have noticed that the dual-clutch auto has started to feel like it's "riding" the clutch when reversing out of my driveway. It is a bit disconcerting, and I will keep an eye on this odd new characteristic in the next month of driving.

Acquired: 2 December 2021

Distance travelled this month: 439km

Odometer: 4124km

Average fuel consumption for February: 9.00L/100km (measured at the pump)

In my final months with the Kia Sportage GT-Line petrol model, I managed to do quite a bit of driving. 

First up was a fully-loaded trip for a working week away up at Nelson Bay, a few hours drive north of Sydney.

The pod added much-needed cargo space. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The pod added much-needed cargo space. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Once again I got the storage cargo pod out, and reattached it to the roof racks (a simple task that took just a few minutes) and then packed it and my family - two adults, a then-nine-month-old daughter, and two small dogs - into the Kia.

The boot was almost full - I made sure I left enough room to see out the back window - and for the first time included some beach stuff (a pop up tent and seats) and the pod was chockers. And aside from an instance of an apparently hungry dog trying to steal our baby’s rusk, we made decent progress up the coast.

The boot was almost full. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The boot was almost full. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

Arrive, unpack, relax. Sort of. As much as possible with a teething baby. Anyway, it was nice to spend a bit of time up the coast, and the space was more than suitable for a week away with a fully packed cabin. Without the pod we would have struggled, but with it, it was a cinch. 

I did, however, lament the fact that the petrol version of the GT-Line oddly misses out on the auto-opening tailgate of the diesel. In that version, the boot will automatically open when you’re near the back of the car (it senses the key and will beep a few times to let you know it is about to open), which is just a super handy feature when you seemingly always have your arms and hands full. Parents will relate.

It's made even more annoying by the fact there is no kick-to-open gesture tailgate opening, either. You’re going to have to either pre-empt each trip to the boot by triggering the electric opening on the keyfob, or at the boot itself. I’m spoiled, I know, but it’s something I’d seriously think twice about before buying a new family SUV like this, were I in the market.

The petrol GT-Line misses out on an auto-opening tailgate. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The petrol GT-Line misses out on an auto-opening tailgate. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

And the keyless entry system - if you’ve read all my updates, you’ll know this is a sticking point - I don’t understand why there aren’t buttons to unlock the rear doors on the exterior handles? There have been a few times when I’ve walked out the door, baby in one arm, other hand clutching a bag, key in pocket, car locked, and grabbed the back door handle - muscle memory from the Skoda Octavia RS long-termer I had prior to this car. This is made even worse in the dark, as there is no illumination on the rear door handles, unlike the front doors which have little lights so you can easily grab them.

The trip up the coast was just the first of a few family drives in these months, with a further, longer trip from Sydney to Cooma, then Cowra, then home again. And from a packaging point of view, the Sportage continued to impress.

But in driving terms, the longer I lived with the car, the less I enjoyed it. That’s primarily because of the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and its frankly substandard seven-speed dual-clutch auto transmission. I’ve explained some of my issues with it during earlier reports, but these longer trips highlight some real flaws with the powertrain.

The longer I lived with the car, the less I enjoyed it. (image credit: Matt Campbell) The longer I lived with the car, the less I enjoyed it. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

On multiple occasions - with the car in the Smart drive mode - we reached a town and urban speed limits after spending a while at highway pace, and the transmission would fumble, stumble, lurch and ultimately make you feel like a wally while driving.

The case was made all the more clear when I managed to finally get into a diesel version of the Sportage at the end of this loan.

With more than 5500km travelled in the petrol-turbo, I booked a week in the diesel GT-Line, just to get my head around the differences and concrete my thoughts around the engine and transmission. 

And what an insightful move that was. I actually came away thinking to myself, “these two SUVs could be made by different brands, they’re that different to drive”.

The diesel is grumbly, yes, and not quite as refined at idle / standstill. But it doesn’t muck around on the move, the power delivery is smooth and punchy, and it really is so much better to live with day to day. My partner Gemma drove it and came back into the house, exclaiming: “That is what the car should have felt like all along! I’d actually consider buying one with that diesel engine.”

I averaged 8.27L/100km in the petrol GT-Line. (image credit: Matt Campbell) I averaged 8.27L/100km in the petrol GT-Line. (image credit: Matt Campbell)

And it’s not just the fact the Sportage drives better when it's diesel. It also uses less fuel (I averaged just 6.4L/100km over a week/660km), and you get extra features in the diesel that the petrol misses out on - there’s an auto-opening tailgate (which will sense you’re at the boot and open it for you after a few seconds), plus it can also be reversed or driven into tight parking spaces using the keyfob! Those are things you also find on the diesel Sorento model

Acquired: 2 December 2021

Distance travelled these months: 2930km

Odometer: 7054km

Average fuel consumption for March/April: 8.27L/100km (measured at the pump)


The Wrap

To me, the decision to step up to the turbo-diesel GT-Line - an extra $3000 outlay over the turbo-petrol - would be the easy decision I could make.

And then I did the maths on the ownership front. The diesel is actually cheaper to own (servicing averages out at $466 per annum, while the petrol is $569 per year), and if you choose the diesel you don’t have to get the car serviced every 10,000km as you do with the petrol, as the diesel intervals are 15,000km.

So, in the end, it was the car I didn’t have for five months and 5500km that left me most impressed. Though there were still plenty of likable points about the Sportage more broadly, the petrol-turbo is not the one to go for, if you ask me.

Likes

Great space inside
Nice technology in-cabin
Plenty of design wow-factor

Dislikes

Dreadful dual-clutch auto
Proved hard to live with
No proximity unlocking on rear doors

Scores

Matt:

3

The Kids:

4

$49,370

Based on new car retail price

VIEW PRICING & SPECS

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