Finding the sweet spot in a complex range isn’t easy. Of the 11 models in the Kia Sportage range, the mid-tier Sportage SX+ delivers many of the features found in the range-topping GT-Line for several thousand dollars less.
The mid-sized Kia Sportage SUV starts from about $37,000 drive-away for a basic model with cloth seats and a manual transmission (yep, they still make those) and runs to about $58,000 drive-away for a fully-loaded turbo diesel version.
This mid-range Sportage SX+ costs about $48,000 drive-away, which feels like a fair price for a modern SUV with twin 12.3-inch digital displays, dual-zone climate control, sat nav and a powered tailgate.
The “plus” treatment adds about $5000 to the standard SX, delivering desirable features such as 19-inch alloys and smart keys, along with upgraded seats.
Our test car impressed with heated faux leather seats upfront – particularly on the driver’s side, where eight-way power adjustment made it easy to get comfortable behind the wheel.
The front chairs also have USB-C charging ports on the seat backs, along with coat hangers behind the headrests that prevent clothes from becoming creased.
An eight-speaker Harman Kardon stereo gives it a leg up over the competition.
The heated seats are a winner in the cooler months, but the black vinyl is ready to toast your thighs on hot days.
Cooled seats are available on the range-topping GT-Line that also ads ambient lighting, a sunroof and faux wood trim for an extra $6000 or so.
The Sportage is a fairly new car, having debuted locally in late 2021. As such, it’s loaded with safety gear including auto emergency braking, active cruise control and lane keeping assistance.
The mid-range SX+ has a long list of safety features, though it misses out on reverse auto braking, 360 degree camera and blind spot monitoring cameras reserved for the GT-Line.
A centre airbag mounted between the driver and front passenger help the Sportage win a five-star ANCAP rating in 2022.
The standard Sportage has a non-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder engine that sends 115kW and 192Nm to the front wheels through six-speed manual or automatic transmissions.
Mid-range models – including our test car – have a 1.6-litre turbo four-cylinder engine that makes 132kW and 265Nm, sending drive to all four wheels through a seven-speed dual-clutch auto.
The turbo engine is a sweet unit with more than adequate performance, though it’s let down by a hesitant dual-clutch auto that feels laggy and indecisive. It’s better if you use paddle shifters to pick the right gears, or you can pay an extra $3650 to swap the petrol engine for a 137kW and 416Nm 2.0-litre turbo diesel that has a smoother eight-speed auto gearbox.
Whichever way you go, the Sportage drives well, with precise responses to driver input, and a well-judged ride that feels toned but not harsh.
Well-equipped and competitively priced, the turbo Sportage is let down by a frustrating gearbox.
Hyundai Tucson 1.6T Elite, from about $48,500 drive-away
Mechanically identical to the Kia, the Tucson has fussy-looking origami-like bodywork. Tucson customers get lots of kit but make do with a five year warranty.
Subaru Forester 2.5i Premium, from about $48,000 drive-away
Strong safety and off-road credentials combine with a practical body in the Forester,
Toyota RAV4 GX Hybrid AWD, from about $50,000 drive-away
The class-leading all-wheel-drive Toyota Hybrid brings impressive power and economy, though you must settle for a sparsely-equipped base model at this price.
KIA SPORTAGE SX+
PRICE About $48,000 drive-away
ENGINE 1.6-litre 4-cyl turbo petrol, 132kW and 265Nm
WARRANTY/SERVICE 7-year/unlimited km, $3879 for 7 years
SAFETY Seven airbags, auto emergency braking, lane keep and blind spot assist rear cross-traffic alert with braking