Mon | Oct 22, 2018

2018 Sportage GT line is here to conquer

Published:Sunday | May 27, 2018 | 12:00 AMKareem Latouche

At this point, Jamaicans' love for SUVs is undeniable and for good reasons such as their ground clearance and versatility. So the Kia Sportage, a mid-size SUV, will definitely have its work cut out for it in a strong existing market. Luckily, it came prepared.

The Sportage first appeared on the scene in 1993 with an exterior that mostly had curves and a passive appearance. However, in 2010, the brand ditched the mundane designs of the past and decided to do something sleek and risque for the third generation. The facelift gave the vehicle a lot of notoriety, and the company decided to keep the same mindset when designing the current fourth generation.

Premiering in September 2015 at the Frankfurt Auto Show, Kia stated that much of the design had been inspired by fighter jets. It's clear that the company was going for a finesse look that still appeared robust. At first glance, it's hard to overlook the pronounced grille. It's definitely a stand-out feature that comes with mixed sentiments.

Flanking the grille on both sides are LED daytime running lights that are housed in a circular shell. As for the fog lights, they are a cluster of four square lights that form a bigger square and give the vehicle a futuristic look, which is a concept that seems to be inspired by Porsche's Matrix headlights. The overall look of the front fascia is one that is unique and is certain to stand out among all its competitors.

From the side, there is a high beltline that sits above the pronounced 17" chrome rims that gives the vehicle an aggressive look as though it was ready for any challenge.

 

An inside with a pleasant surprise

 

Stepping inside the vehicle, there are piano black accents all over with soft leather on key areas like the steering wheel and gear lever to ensure that it has a nice feel. I have to give Kia a lot of credit for having a strong awareness of where they are in the market and what they want to achieve.

Going up against titans like Toyota Rav4 and Honda CRV, which have dominated the market with consistency and reputability, they are fully cognisant that they will have to do a lot to woo the potential customer. For this reason, they have packed it with standard features galore like dual climate control, cruise control, and rear view camera with dynamic guidelines, while staying at an extremely competitive price.

The trim Level I tested was the GT line, which comes with a panoramic sunroof that allows you to retract the veil to allow all passengers to see the beautiful sky while driving. What's great is that it is tinted in a manner that blocks a lot of rays even on a sunny day, which is good for our climate.

The front seats are electronically controlled for multiple preferences in addition to the lumbar support. As for the rear passengers, the door opens at close to 90 degrees, which allows for easy access and there are rear AC vents mounted at the back of the centre console.

However, what surprised me was the large angle of degree that the rear seats were able to recline at. It's the most I have seen in a vehicle, even those in the premium brackets. This means that on long journeys, the kids can recline the seats and comfortably take a nap.

 

THE DRIVE

 

The first thing I realised was how comfortable it felt going over potholes. The suspension dampers were definitely doing a great job, and the chassis feels well built.

All this is done to complement the two driving modes, which can be activated by pressing the allotted button to the right of the gear shifter. Once it is in sports mode, which is given by a visual cue of an orange sign in the gauge cluster, the vehicle's overall feel drastically changes. The suspensions become stiffer, the gears are held longer for optimum performance, and the overall engine performance feels extremely peppy.

This was a major surprise for me as most vehicles only keep the vehicle in a selected gear longer in sports mode. However, the six-speed automatic transmission comes to life, and the fun factor starts to kick in. Drivers must be aware, though, that the circular speedometer predominantly shows miles per hour (mph). So at one point, I kept looking at the cluster thinking I was going 70km/h, when I was really going 70mph, which is equivalent to 113km/h.

To increase the adrenaline rush, drivers can opt for the paddle shifters. However, I rarely used it due to the responsive performance of the two-litre engine. This mode is an ideal option for out-of-town driving. In contrast, if you are driving in the congested city, Eco mode is the ideal preference as it extends your mileage significantly.

Another standout was the intuitive cruise control, which I used on the North-South Highway. After setting it at 80km/h, I gave my foot a break and removed it for the floor-mounted gas pedal and watched it work. Unlike most vehicles, it kept the feature engaged on the steepest of incline, and declines.

All these things made the driving experience a total pleasure. Kia threw everything into this vehicle, and one can easily make the argument that it might be the best mid-size SUV in the market, where value for money is concerned.

 

WHAT I LIKE

 

- Rear seats recline at a steep angle

-Thrilling Sport mode

- Intuitive cruise control

- Intuitive alarm with visual cue with the turning of the side mirrors

- Panoramic sunroof

- Designated button to activate 4WD

 

GRIPES

 

- Only one USB port for the first row

- No voice dialing

 

INFORMATION

 

Engine: two-litre petrol

- Transmission: six-speed automatic transmission

- Fuel tank: 62 litre

 

COST OF TESTED MODEL

 

- $5,900,000, 4x4, high spec

 

TRIM LEVELS

 

- 4x2 entry level - $4,666,000

- 4x2 mid spec - $4,800,000

- 4x2 high spec - $5,785,000

Test drive provided courtesy of Kia Jamaica. Telephone: 754-0013-5, 979-0020-3.