The arrival of our long-term Kia Sportage slipped in between the two apocalyptic events of 2020 - the bushfire crisis and COVID-19. It was a welcome relief, and brought with it the promise of honest, value-for-money motoring.
Our Sportage was the entry-level S and is an exemplar of the notion that we don't really have 'base model' cars anymore, and we kind of have Kia to thank for that.
Standard equipment includes, 17-inch alloys, dual-zone climate control, cloth interior, reversing camera, forward AEB and collision warning, rear parking sensors, remote central locking, auto headlights with auto high beam, lane keep assist, leather wheel and shifter, powered, heated and folding mirrors, auto wipers and a full-size alloy spare wheel.
Just that last item is an oddity, let alone dual-zone climate control in a roomy, five-seat mid-size SUV.
The S is one of those finely-judged things, where you just know the team at Kia spent a lot of effort picking the right bits and pieces because it doesn't feel cheap. Even the dash doesn't have any blanks, something most buyers at this level would have expected not so long ago.
The interior might be a touch on the gloomy side, but the seats are comfortable and the cloth trim is actually quite nice.
The Kia went straight to work. As the smoke had largely cleared and country NSW endured an uneasy heatwave before a downpour right at the end of the legendary Bathurst 12 Hour, I pointed the Sportage west and took the long way to Bathurst, shadowing a gaggle of Lotuses hither and thither, down the 'back way' into Jenolan Caves, up through Oberon and on to Mount Panorama.
Like its sibling brand, Hyundai, the local arm has its own committed team of suspension engineers and I could certainly tell. The backup road in to Jenolan is like a mini Rally Monte Carlo stage.
While, obviously, the folks in the Lotuses were having more fun, the Kia rode a lot better and was actually up for the challenge.
You couldn't say that about Sportages past.
What you could say about them, and still say about this one, is it's no fireball. The 2.0-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine spins up 114kW and 192Nm to shift 1.5-tonnes.
A proper six-speed automatic transmission feeds the power to the front wheels only. It's not quick and needed a fair bit of encouragement when going uphill. In the cruise, however, it was quiet and very thrifty.
Passengers climbed in and out of the Kia over the two day trip and were pleasantly surprised that for just $30,190 you get all of this and decent ride and handling to go with it.
The Kia cheerfully swallowed three overnight bags, a number of helmets and their various-sized owners. The rest of the month it acted as family transport and nailed that down very nicely.
Acquired: February 2020
Distance travelled this month: 684km
Average fuel consumption for February: 7.91L/100 (measured at the pump)