Alfa Romeo
Land Rover
Kia Sportage EX CRDi
Whole new world
November 2007

I CLEARLY recall the first Kia Sportage brought to our shores in 1997. It was a pretty good all-round car, with two exceptions.

The first was the badge. It came at a time when Korean cars didn't have the best name for quality. Second was that the test car I drove had an oil leak, and so did many of the others I found in carparks.

Ten years on and the Sportage has come ahead in leaps and bounds, with 16,000 sold here in that time, and any gremlins like oil leaks well and truly in the past.

Up until now the model has been limited to V6 petrol power in four-speed automatic with electronic 4WD system only - not exactly spoilt for choice.

As of right now, there's not only also a two-wheel-drive version with a 2.0-litre four cylinder, but also a ripper of a 2.0-litre common rail direct injection turbo diesel in four-wheel-drive.

The two-wheel-drive LX comes in either four-speed auto or five-speed manual. The V6 EX comes in auto only.

The EX CDRi diesel is mated to a six-speed manual, and the combination is so good you'll need to lift the bonnet to confirm it is diesel.

Bill Gillespie, Director of Sales and Marketing at Kia Motors Australia, said the 2WD would appeal to a two new key demographics.

"Many of these potential buyers are younger urban-dwelling families looking for a functional wagon that delivers the benefits of an SUV - higher seating position, a functional interior and more aggressive styling - without the drawbacks of higher purchase price and higher running costs," Mr Gillespie said.

"The other market for the 2WD Sportage LX is the older buyer for whom ease of access and clear visibility are strong plus-points and - given they are paying for their own fuel - lower running costs are an important concern."

he said demand continues to grow for diesel-engined variants across all SUV segments, and has now extended to the compact SUV segment.

"The compact SUV market continues to grow and we think it important that, with the release of the Sportage EX CRDi, Kia is extending to the compact SUV segment its reputation as a provider of innovative and environmentally-friendly technology," Mr Gillespie said.

The 2.0-litre engine in the LX delivers 104kW, while standard inclusions are 16" alloy wheels, ABS brakes, power windows and mirrors and manual air-conditioning.

The EX has a 129kW V6, standard four-speed tiptronic style automatic transmission, larger tyres on different 16" alloys, additional body styling and the other features from the LX model.

Top of the range is the Sportage EX CRDI which offers the new 2.0-litre common rail direct injection diesel delivering 103kW, offering all the features of the EX V6 model but with the addition of Electronic Stability Program (ESP) for added safety and traction in all driving conditions and a trip computer.

In keeping with Kia's reputation for delivering quality and safety with strong value across its model line-up, each model in the Sportage range is also available with new extra-cost option packs.

The 2WD LX model can be ordered with an Option pack that adds Electronic Stability Program (ESP) and side and curtain airbags for an extra $1600.

Both the EX V6 and CRDi models are also available as a Limited model with side and curtain airbags, leather interior trim and sunroof. The EX CRDi Limited costs $3000 over the base model, while the EX V6 Limited also adds Electronic Stability Program (ESP) to the Limited pack for an additional $4000 over the base EX V6.

We drove the CRDi for a week and were astounded by its performance, but mainly the ease of driving in city traffic - you don't notice the fact it's a diesel or any turbo lag at all.

The interior room of the car is great and feels far more spacious than its dimensions would allude to.

Its roadholding and handling are also a pleasant surprise, as is the overall NVH (noise, vibration and harshness).

The CD player is only a single disc, but is MP3 compatible and pumps out a better-than-average sound for six-speakers with front tweeters.

With pricing from $24,990 driveaway for the base model, up to the diesel at $32,490 plus on-roads there's something for a varying budget as well.

And when you keep in mind the most expensive Sportage is the same as least expensive Toyota RAV4, you'd be made not to take one for a test.

Oh, and for the record, not a drop of oil in sight!



ENGINE: 2.0 litre direct injection, turbocharged diesel

POWER: 103kW @ 4000rpm

TORQUE: 304Nm @ 1800-2500rpm

TRANSMISSION: Six-speed manual


FUEL CONSUMPTION: 7.1l/100km average

PROS: Fantastic performance from a diesel; low-down torque; drastically improved quality

CONS: Not many - perhaps still the stigma of Kia badge, but you should be able to get over it for the price