Long term test report: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi KX-2 4WD
For the first time in a year, the Diesel Car fleet is Sportage-less. How will Richard Dredge cope?
Exactly a year after our first Sportage was delivered, its replacement has been returned to Kia. For 11 months and 21,000 miles we ran a 1.7-litre front-wheel drive car, then for the final month, as a comparison, we put another 2,500 miles under the wheels of a 2.0-litre four-wheel drive edition. When that first car arrived – one of the very first examples off the production line – there was virtually no awareness of the Sportage and they were a very rare sight. But twelve months on it’s very different; everyone knows what the Sportage is, because they’re everywhere.
As I’ve been writing over the past year, it’s not hard to see why there’s now a Sportage on every corner; it’s an easy car to admire and appreciate, although I’d stop short of claiming I fell in love with ours. That says more about me than the Kia though; SUVs aren’t my thing as I dislike their raised centre of gravity that takes its toll on handling and economy. I’m nothing if not open-minded though, and it’s fair to say that there were few occasions over the past year that I wished I was behind the wheel of something else. One of those occasions was the day it arrived, when I took the Sportage to the Lake District and had to abandon it in heavy snow; a four-wheel drive edition would probably have been OK. Having sampled the all-wheel-drive edition more recently, I’d say it’s the one to choose, as it has more power and torque, and it can deploy them more effectively – no surprises there. But these are the versions you’ll struggle to buy, as Kia can’t make them fast enough.
Having to settle for a 1.7-litre front-wheel-drive Sportage isn’t exactly a hardship though; it’s plenty quick enough most of the time and it’s more economical too. And whatever you buy there’ll be ample space in the cabin and more standard kit than you’ll find in anything else for the money. Indeed, our top-spec model had everything imaginable shoehorned into it, from touch-screen satellite navigation and dual-zone climate control to leather trim and heated seats front and rear. Yet at £22,195, it’s still cheaper than most rivals. Surprisingly, despite 18-inch alloy wheels as standard, the Sportage’s ride isn’t crashy or uncomfortable, even though its suspension is relatively stiff, so the handling isn’t destroyed. Indeed, when driving Sportages on 16-inch wheels, they don’t offer a more comfortable ride, so don’t assume your spine will suffer from those big wheels. Even better, there’s a full-size alloy wheel in the boot so you don’t have to faff about with cans of goo and inflators in the event of a puncture, as we found recently.
… should you buy a Kia Sportage? It’s an easy question to answer; unequivocally, yes.”
What was more of an issue was the xenon lights, which were set too low on our car; a mandatory self-levelling mechanism means you can’t adjust them manually. As a result, the halogen units of our later car provided better illumination on dipped beam, but this lack of light was the only real gripe with our Sportage in twelve months. Sure there was too much wind noise from the tilt/slide glass roof and the satellite navigation wasn’t perfect, but the fact they’re included in the Sportage’s relatively low price is surely cause for celebration rather than criticism.
But the key question has to be – should you buy a Kia Sportage? It’s an easy question to answer; unequivocally yes. It’s one of the most stylish cars in its segment, extremely well equipped, great to drive, frugal and comfortable, while also being highly practical. It should also prove very reliable; the fact that it comes with a seven-year warranty highlights Kia’s faith in the car. In 21,000 miles with our first Sportage, the only glitch was a faulty display for the climate control, which was soon fixed. And while 21,000 miles may not seem much of a test of any car, a year with the Dredge family will soon show up any shortcomings. Which is why many of our friends are now thinking that for them perhaps it’s time for a Korea move.
Date arrived: 28th October 2011
Mileage to date: 17,568miles
Combined fuel consumption: 49.6mpg (official combined) / 37.6mpg (on test)
Costs to date: None
Faults to date: None
After my last report, in which I pointed out that the Sportage’s factory-fitted satellite navigation could be better, it really disgraced itself this month. On a walking weekend in Derbyshire, it failed to recognise most of the destinations I needed to get to, including a friend’s address in Buxworth. Instead of just plugging in my TomTom, I resorted to setting the nav for the village centre and trying to find my own way. What I didn’t know was that my friend lives on the approach, so I drove straight past his close, only to pick up some debris in the road in the centre of Buxworth, destroying one of the rear tyres in the process.
At this point I was seriously annoyed that I’d wrecked the tyre when I didn’t even need to be there, but the Kia redeemed itself by having a full-sized spare on board – and it wasn’t even a cheap steel item, but the proper 18-inch alloy rim. Most of the Sportage’s rivals offer just a can of goo, never mind a space saver, so in the end the Kia came up trumps, despite its satellite navigation having failed me.
Still, it’s all history now, as the car will have gone back to Kia by the time you read this. But before it went, we reached 20,000 miles with it, which meant a service was required. We booked it in to Edwards Kia near Worcester, and the quote of £161 was a pleasant surprise, as it was almost £20 less than the 10,000-mile service I paid for on a Kia Rio four years ago. Unsurprisingly, the service went without a hitch. The front tyres still have five millimetres of tread left on them and the rears are sitting at six millimetres. Bearing in mind they start with only eight millimetres, after 20,000 miles I thought that was pretty impressive, although the fact that the Kia did so many motorway miles had quite a lot to do with it
With the Sportage on the ramps, I took the chance to have a chat with salesman Steve Newman, who told me what a success the Sportage has been for Kia. Too much of a success in fact, because he’s missed out on sales due to a lack of supply. While the two-wheel drive editions are fairly readily available, anyone wanting four-wheel drive might struggle to get what they want, because Kia can’t build enough 2.0-litre diesel engines to satisfy demand. It’s the Sportage’s great looks and seven-year warranty that have had potential buyers flocking to the showroom. Those happy to settle for a front-wheel drive car have generally bought one and been very happy, although the small boot and the fact that the back seats don’t fold flat have proved too much of a hurdle for some. Neither of those things have proved an issue for us, however.
While talking to Steve I took the opportunity to ask what he’d bid for our test car, if he had the option to buy it. With no Glass’s Guide listing and no other cars available with such a high mileage as ours, Steve could only guess, but he reckoned on offering us £15,000, on the basis that it would go on the forecourt at £17,000. The leggiest Sportage on his system was a 10,000-mile car, which was the same spec as ours; its asking price was £19,500.
But with the Sportage soon departing, it’s not quite over yet, as for the last few weeks of our 12-month term we’re running a 2.0-litre all-wheel drive edition for comparison. It’ll be interesting to see what the performance and fuel economy are like, although it’ll be a pain if the car proves to be even more impressive than the front-wheel drive edition we’ve come to like so much. Kia salesmen nationwide are already having to divert buyers from all-wheel-drive into front-wheel drive editions, and we at Diesel Car wouldn’t want to make their lives any harder.