Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring


Diesel is dead, long live diesel – All hail the Kia Sportage!

More affordable oil-burners give Kia Sportage edge over Hyundai Tucson, VW Tiguan and Mazda CX-5.


Not all that long ago, it seemed as though diesel was a dying breed in the mid-sized SUV segment.

In Ford’s stable, the Kuga disappeared altogether. Volkswagen discontinued the oil-burning Tiguan. And the diesel Kia Sportage disappeared.

But despite VW’s “Dieselgate” scandal, passengers cars with diesel engines are still very much in demand in South Africa.

Even VW themselves brought back an oil-burning Tiguan to the local market very recently. Now Kia is following suit with the reintroduction of a diesel Sportage.

The fifth-generation Kia Sportage was rolled out locally late last year, and while the car itself is a seriously impressive offering, there was a glaring omission. It was only offered with a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine.

And it wasn’t a case of Kia snubbing diesel technology as sister company Hyundai did introduce its latest Tucson range with an oil-burning offering.

Kia Sportage reintoduces diesel

But now Kia has finally come to the party with the reintroduction of a diesel powertrain. Unlike Hyundai, which only offers an oil-burning option in top spec guise, Kia has introduced three diesel derivatives to the Sportage line-up. The first is in entry level LX spec, the second in mid spec EX guise and the third in GT-Line Plus trim.

All three Kia Sportage derivatives are powered by the same Common Rail Direct Injection (CRDi) 1.6-litre turbodiesel mill. It produces 100 kW of power at 4 000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque at 2 000 to 2 250 rpm.

The engine is mated to seven-speed dual clutch transmission sending the twist to the front wheels. Kia claims the diesel Sportage will reach 100 km/h from a standstill in 11.4 seconds with a top whack of 180 km/h.

Kia Sportage diesel
The Kia Sportage diesel in GT-Line Plus guise. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Frugal offering

The Citizen Motoring had a first taste of the oil-burning Kia Sportage during a launch drive in Johannesburg which consisted of both highway and inner city traffic.

It’s hard to believe that a diesel mill was once renowned as a noisy, clanky and smoking thing that belongs at the front end of a tractor.

The diesel engine in the Sportage is as refined as you can hope to find. Not only in the segment, but across the board. Along with a supersmooth gearbox, the drive is nothing but a pleasure.

Going along at 100 km/h on the highway, the rev counter hardly threatened 1 600 rpm, which would explain the appealing fuel consumption of 6.3 L/100 km recorded over our 60 km trip. This will go up sitting in daily traffic. And most certainly go down during an open road trip.

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Kia Sportage
The cabin of the Kia Sportage is a modern day tech fest. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Diesel rivalry

The Kia Sportage is up against the VW Tiguan 2.0 TDI, the Mazda CX-5 2.2 DE Akera and the Tucson 2.0 CRDi Elite.

The Tiguan and CX-5 are the most expensive between the lot. But both come in all-wheel drive, something not offered in the Sportage and Tucson.

What does count heavily in the Kia Sportage’s favour is its generous standard specification list across all three models.

While the top spec 1.6 CRDi GT-Line Plus features in the R700 000 to R800 000 price bracket alongside the Tiguan, CX-5 and Tucson, the LX and EX have no competition.

The LX becomes the only oil-burning mid-sized SUV in the R500k to R600k bracket. And the EX the only diesel option between R600k and R700k.

The introduction of a diesel powertrain, and especially over three time levels is very calculated and clever move from Kia. And something that should be well-received in diesel-mad South Africa.

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