Almost 4 000 km is a tough initiation stint for any vehicle. But that's exactly what the Kia Sportage faced only two days after arrived at the CAR offices. The reason? My midyear family holiday trip, this time to the picturesque Drakensberg region. The Sportage range was updated in 2018, which saw the entry-level 1,7-litre CRDi engine discontinued (unfortunately, since we reported favourably on this derivative when it formed part of our fleet in 2017) and the addition of a new eight-speed automatic transmission paired to the 2,0-litre turbodiesel unit found in this test unit. With 131 kW and 400 N.m, progress was bound to be swift.

Powertrain performance

This was indeed the case as, even fully loaded with family and gear, the Sportage delivered impressive overtaking punch when dealing with the vast number of trucks clogging up the N1. Setting the cruise control at the national limit saw the initial fuel consumption hovering above 8,4 L/100 km (which was slightly disappointing). Interestingly, as the kilometres piled on the consumption steadily dropped with a lowest indicated reading of 6,7 L/100 km between Beaufort West and Cape Town on the return leg.

Bells and whistles

In EX Plus specification, the Sportage is loaded with features, including an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, a panoramic sunroof, a USB port for passengers as well as a wireless smartphone charger. As a result, this is the most expensive derivative in the range at R562 995, eclipsing the AWD variant (which is offered in EX spec only). The 19-inch wheels (lower-spec models employ 17-inch items) do increase the kerb appeal but the result is a slight jitter through the chassis over ridges on the road surface. What the wheels certainly do, though, is amplify the sporty character of the vehicle, which is in tune with its nimble handling and quick-shifting transmission.

Reaching Golden Gate

The destination for our trip was the majestic Golden Gate Highlands National Park and the Sportage had to dirty its boots to reach the log cabins high in the mountains. Although this model is front-wheel drive, traction was not a problem on the cement blocks in the jeep track and I even engaged the (somewhat superfluous) hill-descent control function when negotiating the steep slopes. The Sportage is more of a city slicker than the adventurous Sorento (my previous long-termer) but managed to take our family to spectacular hiking trails without too much hassle. Although I will miss the extra space and seven seats of the Sorento when the in-laws arrive, the Sportage feels like its younger and more athletic sibling.

The only negatives noted were minor vibrations through the cabin at idle, overactive shifts from the transmission when cruise control is engaged and a slightly weak radio system when a popular song on the radio demands “sing-along volume”. Otherwise, I am looking forward to seeing how it fares in the Big Smoke when the school holiday ends.

 More about the Golden Gate Highlands National Park

If you are looking for a family break that includes nature then Golden Gate should be on your shortlist. It offers majestic mountain views, scenic walking trails and a variety of fauna and flora.

The accommodation ranges from a campsite all the way up to the Golden Gate hotel. We stayed in the Highlands Mountain Retreat, which feature secluded log cabins high in the mountains. They offer spectacular vistas and are fully equipped for your stay. The fireplace and electric blankets are a must in the winter as the morning temperatures dipped to -3°C while we were there. From the cabins you can explore the surroundings and we even spotted wildebeest, zebra and blesbok on short walks. Many birds of prey circle the mountain ranges, which should please bird lovers.

The park offers a variety of activities for the adventurous, such as abseiling, canoeing, horse riding and plenty more. We preferred hiking and you will find a path for your fitness and skill levels. As we have small children, we concentrated on the short scenic options but even these rewarded with spectacular sights of nature.

For more information visit Sanparks. Info on the Highland Mountain Retreat can be found here.

After 1 month
Current Mileage: 
3 889 km
Average fuel consumption:
7,97 L/100 km
We like:
Nimble handling and punchy powertrain
We don’t like:
Engine vibration at idle


Long-term test (Update 2):Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDi EX Plus Auto

After a mammoth mileage accumulation in its first month, the Sportage took it easy this time round. A fill-up after the holiday trip confirmed the best fuel consumption to date at 6,69 L/100 km was indeed achieved on the final homeward leg. The engine feels livelier than when it arrived and there is the temptation to enjoy the sprightly acceleration away from the lights (even with slight torque steer) to the detriment to fuel economy. 

A pleasant convenience feature is door-handle lights which automatically illuminate when walking up to the vehicle in the dark. 

After 2 months
Current Mileage: 
4 112 km
Average fuel consumption: 
7,78 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 3):Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDi EX Plus Auto

Vehicle adverts, particularly those showcasing SUVs, frequently choose the great outdoors as a setting. In reality, those vehicles spend most of their time slogging in peak traffic, dropping the kids at school and running errands over the weekends. Thankfully, the Kia Sportage excels at all these tasks. You can just jump in and go; the automatic transmis- sion and punchy powertrain mean you can easily close that gap in traffic or relax while following a long snake of cars in stop-start commuting.

The Sportage’s suspension setup and responsive steering enable the driver to make it in time for that important meeting even if a few corners are in the way. The ride is slightly firm but, in my opinion, the advantage of a nimble vehicle outweighs the slight impact on comfort. Cape Town has been in the claws of a cold, wet winter and seat heaters would have been a boon in this top-spec model. At least it comes with a panoramic sunroof and the kids love how the raindrops create patterns on the glass as we drive.

The fuel consumption has steadily increased in the Sportage’s role as city slicker, but I’m to blame, too. The spread of 400 N.m available between 1 750-2 750 r/min means it is all too easy to mash the accelerator and enjoy the mid-range surge of acceleration. With more restraint, the figure should stabilise around 9,0 L/100 km in urban use. The engine is quite gruff at low speeds, sending some vibrations through the steering wheel.

In summary, the Sportage is a joy to pilot round town, although I am already planning the next getaway to pretend I’m also a rugged lead in an advertisement.

 After 3 months
Current Mileage: 
 5 273 km
Average fuel consumption: 
7,98 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 3):Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDi EX Plus Auto

Spring has finally reached Cape Town and the flowers are in full bloom. The Kia is suited equally to exploring nature’s finest over the weekend and enduring the weekly traffic. The latter is taking its toll on the average fuel consumption, though, which is now above the 8,0 L/100 km threshold.

More bad news is a slight, intermittent drivetrain oscillation when reversing at slow speed, which I will monitor this month. The main drawcards are its ease of use and uncomplicated nature which help to cushion other daily frustrations. 

After 4 months
Current Mileage: 
 5 846 km
Average fuel consumption: 
8,20 L/100 km

Long-term test (Update 4):Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDi EX Plus Auto

When it comes to an SUV such as the Sportage, outgoing tech editor and previous minder of this Kia, Nicol Louw, was the ideal candidate for a vehicle this size as it suited his four-person family well. 

Over the first three months of its time in the CAR garage, the Sportage received praise for being an effective all-rounder that can comfortably and capably manage the school run, running errands and creeping through traffic. This is largely thanks to the efficient drivetrain, plush chassis and com- mendable packaging. 

My perspective will be somewhat different, however. My single lifestyle has seen the Sportage subjected to mainly stop-and-go driving, with the spacious back seats remaining unoccupied most of the time. I feel this is worth a mention because, on my daily commute, I’ve encountered many SUVs in this segment being subjected to the same thing. My feeling is these vehicles are not being used to their full potential once resigned to the urban sprawl. 

Having spoken to some owners who use their SUVs for this purpose, they’ve confirmed they feel a sense of security from the raised ride height plus they find an SUV is more fashionable. And the Kia is more fashionable than most.

Still, while the Sportage is a great contender in the midsize SUV segment and its lofty ride height allows it to transverse pockmarked gravel roads, I can’t help but daydream what it would be like driving Kia’s own, more nimble Ceed Sportwagon on my congested route. The Ceed also offers more boot and utility space according to the carmaker’s measurements, and just 11 mm less headroom. Sadly, it’s unlikely to ever be offered in SUV-obsessed South Africa. 

After 5 months
Current Mileage:
7 201 km
Average fuel consumption: 
8,27 L/100 km
We like: 
great daily usability
We don’t like: 
a station wagon would be equally usable

Long-term test (Wrap-up):Kia Sportage 2,0 CRDi EX Plus Auto


Nicol Louw: Scaling down from my previous Sorento long-termer to the Sportage, it was easy to anticipate potential concessions: the loss of a third row of seats, all- wheel drive and increased storage space. What was not as evident before my three-month stint was the gains associated with piloting the smaller, more athletic sibling and this led to quite a few surprises along the way. 

Firstly, the stylish appearance in facelifted EX Plus specification lifted the kerb appeal towards the premium segment. Take, for example, those lovely 19-inch wheels and panoramic sunroof. Inside, there are plenty of toys such as an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav, USB port for passengers as well as a wireless smartphone charger (no heaters for the leather seats, though). The downside is that this is the most expensive model in the range at R567 995, eclipsing even the AWD version in EX-only spec. 

There was little time to admire the looks of the vehicle as 4 000 km of family adventure loomed only four days after its arrival. It was time to sample the 131 kW/400 N.m turbodiesel engine paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Even fully loaded, I was surprised at the verve dished out by the powertrain when overtaking trucks on the N1. At low speeds, there is even a hint of torque steer if the grip is slightly patchy under the front wheels. 

The disadvantage is slight engine vibration felt throughout the cabin and especially the steering wheel. Fuel consumption on the long road dropped to a best figure of 6,71 L/100 km, although the vehicle is a lot thirstier in town, as we later learnt. I did not miss all- wheel drive, as there was enough grip to scale the steep incline on the jeep track to the log cabins in the mountains of Golden Gate National Park. I engaged the slightly superfluous hill-descent control on the return journey. There is little need for all-wheel drive in most cases when it comes to soft-roaders and their natural habitat. 

Unfortunately, the outdoors as depicted in ads trying to sell the SUV lifestyle is seldom a constant reality; rather, you’ll find crossovers commuting in peak traffic or dropping of the kids at school. These are disciplines in which the Sportage excels. It is one of those perfectly sized vehicles and you just jump in and go. The auto ‘box and punchy powertrain make it easy to snatch that gap in traffic or relax and following a long snake of cars in stop-start traffic. This drive cycle and the joy of exploiting the midrange punch can have a detrimental effect on fuel consumption, however, which can quickly rise to 10,0 L/100 km if the driver isn’t cautious. 

The suspension setup and responsive steering enable the Sportage’s pilot to enjoy the vehicle through a set of curves, although the 19-inch wheels tend to add a firm edge to the ride over ridges. The plumper rubber fitted to 17-inchers would just glide over these. Overall, the slight firmness to the ride is more than countered to the ride is more than countered by the nimble feel behind the steering wheel. 

I was impressed with the Sportage as it successfully bridges the gap between city slicker and family-adventure vehicle. The surprisingly punchy powertrain did garner a few smiles along the way not normally associated with a diesel SUV. That said, the pricing is certainly robust and it may be prudent to opt for the lower-spec Ignite plus. It sports a similar powertrain but you will save R100 000. 

Over to Nikesh, whose lifestyle is quite unlike mine... 

Nicol’s routine is far better suited to test a vehicle of this sort. But what if you’re a bachelor and still want a midsized crossover to fit in with your daily activities? The Sportage offers a lot for the outdoorsy individual. It would suit avid mountain bikers who frequently travel on gravel roads in search of new terrain to conquer. Use it only in the urban slog (which, admittedly, it does very well) and the argument for owning an SUV like this does start to become trickier. 

Although the controls are light and smooth, and the steering system perfectly weighted, piloting the family-car sized Sportage through the tight backroads of Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs was an exercise in concentration and here a smaller hatchback would have made more sense. Practicality, however, is an advantage. The Sportage will happily accommodate compact furniture items, as I found loading two trestle tables and some chairs. You can store the parcel shelf towards the edge of the boot when it’s not needed. I would have appreciated a set of bag hooks to keep groceries secure but there are at least anchor hooks. I’d recommend investing in a cargo net. A rubber mat is standard which does a good job of keeping heavier items in place. 

Considering the Sportage uses a turbodiesel, I expected it to be more frugal than it was. Still, as Nicol pointed out, thanks to the engaging punch from the engine, that was probably more our fault than the Kia’s. Most of my commute consisted of stop- start driving, which saw my consumption rise closer to 9,50 L/100 km. Thankfully, Nicol’s more highway-centred commute saw us post an overall average of 8,51 L/100 km and I enjoyed 700 km as it meant I wouldn’t have to stop at filling stations too often. 

Consumption aside, the Sportage’s turbodiesel drivetrain is an impressive one. It suffers from the usual diesel clatter but there is little vibration and
it melds well with the torque converter. With access to eight forward speeds, the Sportage performs capably both in the city and on the open road. 

As Nicol highlights, the Sportage in this flagship EX Plus turbodiesel trim is a great choice for the South African family who embraces the open roads, as it offers great comfort, a generous standard-features tally and a capable drivetrain. As a bonus, it doubles up as an ideal family school bus thanks to its generous occupant space. 

While the Sportage may not have suited my specific lifestyle as well as it did Nicol’s, its advantages were too obvious and numerous to ignore, and as such I really enjoyed my time behind the wheel. 

After 6 months
Current Mileage: 
8 473 km
Average fuel consumption: 
8,51 L/100 km
We like: 
comfortable ride; standard features; stylish
We don’t like: 
thirstier than anticipated




Original article from Car