Jaco Van Der Merwe

By Jaco Van Der Merwe

Head of Motoring

Kia Sportage swaps out bells and whistles for superb diesel mill

This entry level oil-burner offers an enticing alternative to the usual petrol-powered suspects.

Late last year an update saw to the Kia Sportage range saw the entry levels models receive a more expansive set of safety features.

And as is customary, updated models are put in the media test fleet for us to experience first-hand a car in its most current form, even if only the door handles were changed. But to very honest, it wasn’t really the upgraded safety spec that got us excited when an Infra Red Kia Sportage in LX guise showed up at our office last week. It was the superb turbodiesel drivetrain that had us chomping at the bit to drive this medium SUV again.

In addition, The Citizen Motoring was also delighted to have an entry level model for a change. As manufacturers prefer motoring media to experience as much of a car’s standard and optional features, they usually only release top-end models into the media fleet. But, as bread and butter models make up the bulk of the sales, it is always a welcome change to sample a car in its most humble offering.

Plain Jane oil-burner

While the current fifth generation Kia Sportage range was not available in oil-burners during its initial introduction towards the end of 2022, the introduction of diesel derivatives was a bit of a masterstroke by the Korean carmaker last year. While an oil-burner was added in GT-Line Plus trim, the other grades to benefit from it were the entry level LX and EX models.

What makes this move significant is that two of the Kia Sportage’s rivals, the Hyundai Tucson, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, only offer one diesel derivative each and only in top spec guise.

The Toyota RAV4 is not offered in diesel, while it is highly unlikely that the incoming new Ford Territory will feature an oil-burner in its line-up.

All the competition’s diesel models range are around the R800k mark in pricing, with the Kia Sportage LX coming in at R637 995. Of course, there are less bells and whistles than in the fancy oil-burners in other stables, but that is exactly the point – offering a diesel engine in the space others only offer petrol powertrains in.

ALSO READ: Kia Sportage puts safety first in revised Mzansi line-up

Under Kia Sportage LX’s bonnet

Let’s take a closer look at this powertrain we enjoyed so much. The 1.6-litre common rail injection turbodiesel mill in the Kia Sportage produces 100 kW of power at 4 000 rpm and 320 Nm of torque available between 2 000 and 2 250 rpm. It sends the twist to the front wheel via seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Kia Sportage LX
The Kia Sportage LX rides on 17-inch alloy wheels. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

Offering four drive modes; Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart, the Sportage’s power delivery is smooth and complemented by a very efficient gearbox. Handling is very easy and the ride plush courtesy of MacPherson strut type suspension at the front and a four-link type set-up at the rear, with the chunkier 215/65 R17 rubberware wrapped around 17-inch alloy wheels also played its part.

We did not exactly achieve Kia’s fuel consumption claim of 4.9 litres per 100km, but we felt that a mid-7 number in heavy city traffic is very acceptable. Taken on the open road at the national limit did see the number dip below 6L/100km.

ALSO READ: VW Tiguan TDI makes timely return to hit the sweet spot

Upgraded safety

The only thing we didn’t like about the engine is the turbo lag when you pull away. It make acceleration a bit sluggish, further compounded by the auto-stop/start engine function which adds more time to the delay in getting off the mark.

The updated LX benefits from Kia’s in-house-developed advanced driver assistance system (Adas) technology, which was standard on the GT-Line derivatives of the medium-sized SUV before. The Adas system on the LX includes lane-follow assist, lane-keep assist and forward collision-avoidance assist.

Kia Sportage LX cabin
The cabin of the Kia Sportage LX. Picture: Jaco van der Merwe

These specs are over and above features such as six airbags, ABS with EBD, rear parking sensors and camera, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, downhill brake control and trailer stability assist. Inside, the Kia Sportage comes standard with soft-touch artificial leather finishes, 12.3-inch infotainment screen, 12-inch digital instrument cluster and driver lumbar support.

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

Kia Sportage LX hits the spot

While the absence of its fancier siblings’ creature comforts like heated, ventilated and electric seats, sunroof, mood lamp, paddle gear shifters, wireless mobile charger and adaptive cruise control didn’t really bother us, we would have preferred the addition of an electric tailgate.

After driving the updated Kia Sportage LX during its launch last year, Road test Editor Mark Jones said that this car hits the spot because South Africans love torquey, light-on-fuel turbodiesel SUVs. While it might be pricier and feature a shorter specification list than many Chinese offerings, the superb powertrain is hard to match. Or rather, to find.

The Kia Sportage LX comes standard with a five-year/unlimited kilometres warranty and six-services/90 000km service plan.

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