There's no doubt about it, the Koreans are delivering the goods in the compact crossover, compact SUV class. Two of the best on offer include the Tucson from Hyundai and this, the Sportage from Kia.
Well, not to take a break and just rely on their success, Kia has just introduced the latest version of the aggressively designed Sportage, hence this new 2.4L DLX model with even more features and better specs. Let's see what it's like.
On the design front, this generation of the Sportage is a clear winner. I would even argue that it looks better than the Tucson, especially with that tiger grille, sharp, LED-lined headlamps and other details. The new DLX version gets larger rims and lower profile tires, as well as a glass roof; the latter doing well to contrast with the white body. To say it's stylish is a slight understatement.
Inside its pretty much the same as the other variants. Not much difference in terms of interior design, with the sporty three spoke wheel, T-bar shifter for the automatic, great feel to the switchgear and other bits.
There's no third row, but Kia has added niceties like a climate control system, cruise control and a push start system. For safety, you get a total of 6 over the standard dual front airbags, as side and curtain bags have been added. Side mirrors are electrochromic (auto-dimming), front seats are powered, and the upholstery is done in leather. Also standard is an electronic stability program, hill start assist, and a reverse camera for this DLX, with the LCD screen placed intuitively behind the rear-view mirror glass.
What's changed for this DLX version is the engine and transmission. Instead of the 2.0L engine we drove before in the EX variant, the DLX gets the bigger 2.4 liter motor. It gets extra power at 177 PS and extra torque at 226 Newton meters thanks to dual variable valve timing (intake and exhaust). The transmission is still a 6-speed automatic, but what's more important is when the torque comes in.
The 2.0 EX had its 197 Nm of peak torque at 4600 rpm, quite high and thus not very good for fuel economy around town or in traffic. The 2.4 DLX has its 226 Nm coming in at a much earlier 4000 rpm, giving it better fuel economy in the city, despite having a larger displacement. If I remember correctly, I was getting 7.9 km/l in the 2.0 EX, but I was really trying hard to be efficient. In the 2.4, I was getting 8.1 km/l without being too conscious on being lightfooted.
In terms of driving performance, this is a bit better than the 2.0 EX, but not really by much; after all, you're just getting an extra 10 PS. Handling is pretty good, but still, the Sportage is a rather heavy car. Being all-wheel drive, it can traverse light off-road trails, but I wouldn't do so during the rainy season.
A CRDI -especially Hyundai/Kia's R-eVGT- is really the way to go for any crossover or larger car. Incidentally, when I came to pick up the 2.4 DLX at Kia's facility, there were a few of the CRDI models there. I guess we'll see how those drive in the coming months.
The Kia Sportage 2.4L DLX does come at a rather hefty price. At PhP 1,698,000, it does command quite a premium, putting it precariously close to the larger 7-seat SUVs. It's a good car and looks great, but much like the 2.0 EX AWD that we reviewed earlier, we would still recommend the cheaper, lighter front wheel drive version (Sportage 2.0 EX FWD) for everyday driving.
The DLX may have the best features of its range, but we think the more basic EX FWD is still the way to go... or perhaps the diesel.