Tested: 2022 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi EX

Life’s become incredibly difficult for anyone wanting to buy a medium-sized crossover SUV. And it must be downright scary for the companies who build them…

A few years ago we published a list of all available SUV-type vehicles which were available in our market (click here to view it) and the total number was properly frightening. With an ever-increasing consumer demand for high-riding quasi-4WD hatchbacks slash estates, those numbers will probably swell even more in the near future.

Heck, even the EV brigade quickly cottoned onto the current fad of something with generous ground clearance and more drooping lines than a Salvador Dali effort. This new Kia Sportage isn’t much of an exception, for it started life a few generations ago with such dreariness that I can’t even recall what it looked like.

Then, after following the relentless Korean march towards previously unseen style and spec levels, the previous generation appeared as a slightly blobby but extremely well-detailed crossover type. I was never crazy about the receding headlights but the rest of gen-4 Sportage was a rather handsome affair.

In fact, most of us at NamWheels were a bit perplexed when this newcomer arrived last year; even going so far as to assume that they short-shifted their internal refresh strategy. But it turns out that this car is bang on time with the company’s latest design trends and logo; also when you consider Kia’s amazing EV offerings overseas.

To dedicate an entire paragraph to this car’s design: much like the previous iteration, this 2022 model errs on the side of O.T.T.: it’s rather busy in places, although I hasten to add that it’s less so than before, and nowhere near ugly or ungainly. Its nose is like a modern art sculpture and the back… man, oh man, what a stunning backside.

What surely helped our press demonstrator was the almost-luminous metallic yellow paint job. I’ve also seen rich red and dark green around my Facebook feed but can calm the nerves of our more conservative readers by confirming that you may order the new Sportage in meat lorry white or rental car silver.

Inside this striking new Kia you get slightly less choice: various materials and no hints of colour, depending on which trim level you went for. Nonetheless, everything is as crisp and functional as we’ve come to expect from contemporary Koreans. Where others have gone for insane shapes and absurd screen sizes, this offers a restrained yet stylish alternative.

Current trends which this vehicle conforms to are the pinched window line and terrible visibility (due to its design) which is countered by parking sensors and cameras. It also matches most rivals with a digital gauge cluster, generous head- and leg-room for all passengers, plus a 590L boot which can extend to almost 1,800L.

This version was shod with 235/55 tyres on very futuristic-looking 18-inch alloys, thus providing a modicum of low-speed ride comfort to an otherwise quite firm ride. A quick corner attack revealed decent mechanical grip and a speedy yet gentle ESP intervention; which is what you want from a stylish family hauler with 170mm of ground clearance.

As for forward momentum, this is provided in a surprisingly punchy way from the 1,598cc in-line 4-cylinder turbo-petrol motor and 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. They can send up to 132kW or 265Nm through the front wheels for a 0-100km/h sprint time of 8.8 seconds (we managed 8.67) and a top speed of about 200km/h.

We tested its maximum reverse momentum with a full-bore stop from 100km/h: which was over in just 2.64 seconds and 38.28 metres. Kia alleges that, with proper care, this Sportage 1.6T-GDi GT Line will use an average of 6.5L/100km from its 54L tank, resulting in a maximum range of roughly 830km.

Urban, commuting and overtaking potential is also highly commendable because of the generous amount of cogs in this transmission. It hardly ever gets caught out and offers four distinct drive modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart) to further agitate its responses or cater to your crushed Formula-1 aspirations.

Parking-speed awkwardness may be a deal breaker to some, as this DCT follows its automated-manual roots by sometimes rolling or lurching when you least expect it. At the time of publishing, this drive-train was the only combination offered by Kia South Africa, with only spec levels changing the retail price from about R555,000 to R750,000.

Although it’s not exactly pocket change for most of us, we’d like to point out that those numbers are highly competitive in today’s market, especially when you compare spec levels. Our test vehicles (which was near the top of the ladder) included goodies like keyless entry and start, LED headlights, power everything, panoramic roof, climate seats and plenty of infotainment goodies.

Safety items include a full array of driver aids, 6 airbags, auto lights and wipers, blind spot warning, lane assist, adaptive cruise control and hill assist; to name a few. Included with each new sale is a simply fantastic, unlimited mileage, 5-year warranty. Kia also throws in a 6-year or 90,000km service plan.

Now add that to the generous specifications, efficient drive train, good versatility and amazing looks… and you have an absolute winner on your hands. Which, hopefully, you won’t order in white.

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