Kia gets serious about its SUVs.
It had been a good two or three years since I had last given a Kia a good run – just after the launch of the Soul (the car with a dazzling array of colour options and the looks of a squashed shoe box, although I did grow quite fond of the thing).
In between reviews, it is obvious Kia has gotten more serious about its cars and in particular its engines and the premium touches which are fast becoming the norm for manufacturers to offer.
There was no better way to get back into the brand than starting at the top with two Platinum grade SUVs which are fresh to Australia.
The Sportage is a classic example of a “soft” SUV – it seems perfectly at home around city streets and owners do not seem too eager to get out into the country for a more challenging and strenuous workout. To be fair it was never designed to take on a LandCruiser in off road performance and the latest model has an urban feel (and all the mod cons to match) but it does have a few tricks.
The all-wheel drive Platinum (available on other variants) comes complete with a diff lock and gave me enough confidence in its ability to get out there.
The 2.4-litre petrol engine is smooth, sharp and (almost) silent, with enough about it to get you most places you want to go. With passengers and a full load there is still enough power for some impressive acceleration.
Without the extra weight, it’s actually a lot of fun to race around in although this did put fuel consumption way above the 9.2 litres per 100km official average but this seemed easily achievable at a more sedate pace.
Admittedly the high-end Sportage Platimum should be expected to have a fine engine to accompany the mass of extras but it is the same one used on some of the less flashy variants too.
Among the full-on features are some really nice touches, such as the air-con vents in the driver’s seat (a lovely touch and not as cold or hot as you might imagine, providing a gentle cushion of comfort) and the double sunroof which allows for some versatility.
The interior is nicely finished and comfy but the driver may need to spend some time getting the seat just right thanks to the host of positions and options.
Unfortunately the rear window is quite small and with people in the back the view is even more restricted but otherwise there has been a lot of attention to detail. Of course the Platinum variant includes a sizeable reversing camera which goes some way to negating the problem.
Like the Sportage, Kia’s Sorento (pictured above) has also gone through a recent revamp and it has also been done well – from its fancy looking radiator grill to its smooth stance and lines.
The Sorento has a more masculine feel and appearance about it and of the two, this would be my pick.
Part of the decision could be how it’s longer, taller and roomier inside (a seven-seater option) or it could be that the turbo diesel Platinum I tested had the most entertaining Kia engine I’ve experienced.
It produces 145kW of power and 436 Nm of torque (a fraction less for manual transmissions) but most importantly it has enough about it to grab you and push you back in your seat when your foot is down firmly on the accelerator.
At a more sedate pace, it’s a sturdy and confident car to drive and as the Sorento (like other models) comes with a five-year warranty, it seems to be confidence Kia is willing to back.
As with the Sportage Platinum the emphasis is on premium finishes and features.
Again there is the smart sunroof, fully adjustable seating (at least for the driver) and excellent quality sat nav/audio system which will turn itself down when a speed camera is nearby. It had the desired on me as slowed right down to see if there was something wrong with the iPod connection.
The touch screen makes scrolling through iPod/iPhone menus much less of a chore than with most other systems and this needs to be applauded because what is the point of providing connectivity to a nice shiny MP3 player if it takes 10 minutes to find a song.
Kia has called the new design for the body sleeker, sportier and stronger. Thankfully I never got to test the latter of the three but the first two are definitely correct, it is a stylish vehicle.
Part of the design overhaul was to cut down on vibration and it seems to have worked on the whole but there was the occasional rattling of my head when resting back on the head rest at traffic lights.
This is probably my only fault with such an impressive car which was a real pleasure to drive, well kitted out and a sharp design - in short, the best Kia ever.
Engine: 2.4 litre, 4-cylinder petrol
Power: 130kW (@6000rpm)
Torque: 227Nm (@4000rpm)
Fuel consumption (combined): 8.8 litres per 100km
Towing capacity (braked): 1.6 tonnes
Engine: 2.2-litre, 4-cylinder diesel
Power: 145kW (@3800rpm)
Torque: 436Nm (@1800-2500rpm)
Fuel consumption (combined): 7.3 litres per 100km
Towing capacity: 2 tonnes (auto)/2.5 tonnes (manual)
*Plus usual costs.
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