Kia Sportage Ltd Diesel 2012 Review

Kia Sportage Ltd Diesel 2012 Review

Massimo Frascella’s chunky wheel arches and chopped roof design gives Kia’s Sportage Ltd the right attitude for a go-anywhere compact SUV.

The exterior is lead by Kia’s Tiger nose. LED daytime running lights underline the headlights, which themselves form a strong pointer along the prominent shoulder line extending to the rear lights. The design of the front is one that is very coherent where others can sometimes be messy and disjointed.

The side profile is enhanced by

handsome 18-inch wheels wrapped in 235/55R18 tyres. A door crease adds interest to what would otherwise be a slab-sided design, and the thick rear pillars which abruptly terminate the rear passenger glass create a solid visual break extending down the rear door’s shut line and into the rear wheel arch.

Kia’s Sportage has some road presence. It also has Dynamax AWD and (according to Kia’s website) a “unique suspension package engineered for New Zealand conditions.” New Zealand’s roads are bumpy with coarse surfaces, just like those in Wales, rural Italy or outback Australia, and you can purchase the Sportage in each of those markets. I’m not sure how it would be tuned differently here – perhaps you can ask the Kia salesperson to see if they know!

What you get in the Sportage is a practical small SUV with the ability to get places that a stationwagon can’t. As well as the four-wheel drive, the Sportage adds Hill Descent Control which controls your speed on steeper inclines so you can concentrate on the steering, and a lockable differential to give you extra grip in the more slippery areas.

Other driving safety features include ABS, electronic brakeforce distribution (which automatically varies the amount of force applied to each individual brake to give the maximum braking effect), brake assist (which detects when you might need full brake power in an emergency situation), electronic stability program (which is designed to brake one or more wheels in the event of a skid to help you regain control), and six air bags. The Sportage gets the maximum 5-star ANCAP crash safety rating.

The engine is a two-litre DOHC CRDi diesel turbo mated to a six-speed automatic with sports shift. With 392Nm and 135kW this pulls strongly but is quite noisy under acceleration. The Sportage will tow up to 1600kg on a braked trailer, which is good enough for a smaller boat or other toys like motorcross bikes. It also comes with a roof rack good for 60kg.

Quoted fuel economy is 7.5l/100km. We achieved around 9.5l/100km in mostly city and motorway driving.

One of the disadvantages with having that sleek roof and thick rear pillars is that rear visibility is restricted, therefore the reversing camera with its display integrated into the rear view mirror is welcome for assisting with manoeuvring. Reversing sensors also help.

The driving position is excellent and is only let down by the steering feel which is a little vague and spongy around the mid-point, then over-assisted once you get into the actual business of turning.

The driver’s seat is comfortable, electronically adjustable and comes with two-stage heating, as does the front passenger seat. Controls on the steering wheel for cruise control, Bluetooth connectivity and the stereo are easy to use.

With its leather seats, dual zone climate air conditioning, automatic lights and rain-sensing wipers, the Kia’s interior specification is reasonable. Unfortunately the seven-speaker stereo is quite tinny sounding which is unusual because the stereo in the Sorento is better and I would have expected the same quality. It will accept six CDs or your MP3 player/iPod.

Keyless entry works well and allows you to keep the key in your pocket at all times, including for locking/unlocking the doors and stopping/starting the engine.

The Kia is a competent compact SUV that’s up against some very stiff competition (Mazda’s CX-5 being the stiffest). It has road presence and a reasonable level of interior comfort for driver and all passengers (rear legroom is good). The luggage space is practical and the four-wheel drive with lockable diff gives the Sportage some off-road credibility, while its strong design gives it urban street cred.

Price: from $51,990


  • Looks so much better than Sportages of old
  • Well-appointed interior


  • Tinny-sounding stereo
  • Vague steering feel
  • Noisy acceleration

Words and photos: Darren Cottingham

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