That's all about to change, however, as the all new 3rd generation model is out to prove that the Sportage has stepped up its game, and is now ready for the big leagues.
It starts with the design of the car. On the outside, I think it can be unanimously said that the new Sportage is an outstandingly conceived and designed car. The front end looks sleek and properly modern, making full use of that tiger grille and tapered projector headlamps that Peter Schreyer (the genius who designed the original Audi TT) and his Kia design team came up with to full effect. The lines are clean and purposeful, adding sporty character to the new crossover as even the windshield has some cool details. The rear end is unmistakably upmarket, and dare I say, looks quite Audi-ish. The cherry on the Sportage has to be those cool LED strips that run along the base of the headlamps, giving the car a very distinct character, lending many I encounter to ask if those are stock or if I added them as an aftermarket accessory.
The inspired design continues inside, with a very modern dash layout. Like the exterior, the interior also makes use of plenty of cool details. The deep red of the instrument displays are great to look at, and even the seats have cool little roundels that give it a great accent. If there is something lacking for design, then its the near-monotone colors of the dash materials, as the interior could certainly make use of some more brushed metal or carbon fiber-ish trim panels.
Of course, design is nothing without quality feel, and thus Sportage makes use of tactile, upscale surfaces all around, as the plastics and composites feel great to the touch. I love that steering wheel, with its thick rim and excellent leather and stitching. The buttons feel very high quality, and again, the shifter for the transmission seems very Audi indeed.
For features, the Sportage gets the fully loaded package. The car comes with a full range of power assistance for the windows, locks and mirror adjustment, along with motor driven power steering. The audio system is the same as the Kia Soul, minus the funky LEDs. The head unit has the standard AM, FM, CD, MP3 playback and 6 speakers. The audio system adds the convenience of full iPod connectivity via a special cable, a USB and an auxiliary-in port, while the steering wheel has buttons to control the audio system. The airconditioning system does not have automatic climate control, but I've always preferred manual aircons over the newer computer controlled types.
Now to the nitty gritty. Under the hood is the new 2 liter powerplant from Kia with continuously variable valve timing for both the intake and exhaust cams. The engine is capable of 166 metric horsepower and 197 Newton meters, and while that sounds good on paper, however, it does not really translate as much to the road as I would have wanted. For some reason, the Sportage doesn't perform as well as I hoped, finishing a 0-100 km/h sprint in 11.7 seconds, and has a relatively difficult time (as noted by the high revs) getting up inclines.
I found this strange, particularly because I drove the Hyundai Tucson D-CVVT before; a car that I was truly impressed with and a car with which the Sportage shares a lot with... including the platform and the engine. A quick glance at the vehicle's curb weight quickly answered my questions, as the Sportage D-CVVT AWD weighs in at over 1636 kilograms; a figure that is nearly 150 kilos more than the similarly specced Tucson.
The 6-speed automatic transmission and its shorter ratios helped in coping with the weight, but having a small 2 liter engine lug along the extra weight of an all-wheel drive transmission seems to have cancelled it out. As a result, the engine returns fuel economy figures of just an average 7.9 km/l in the city and 9.6 km/l on the highway (both in light to moderate traffic).
What makes up for the lack of punch and just average fuel economy is the handling and comfort of the car. On winding roads, the drive is progressive and predictable. Of course, at higher revs, economy doesn't matter, and the breaks of the transmission's 6-gears come into play. The all wheel drive transmission does quite well on slippery off road trails, though its best to leave the extreme off-road trails to the professionally modified SUVs and trucks. On rutted concrete and pothole-infested roads that line the metro however, the Kia performs well to contain the rough stuff, and on the highway it feels as smooth as the crossovers that Europe has to offer... at a fraction of the price.
As it stands, the Kia Sportage EX D-CVVT all wheel drive model is available at just PhP 1,258,000 from the dealerships. If you were in the market for this car, however, I would recommend you just get the front wheel drive model. It just makes more sense as a daily driver, and is a hundred grand cheaper.
The design, features and comfort were definitely great in the new Kia Sportage. If those were the only factors I had to consider for this review, then the Sportage would easily get the full 5-star rating. However, the extra weight that the Sportage carries does have a profound effect, especially on efficiency, and thus, this almost perfect Korean crossover gets just 4.