Kia Sportage Diesel SUV : Exclusive first drive review

Kia Sportage Diesel SUV : Exclusive first drive review

SUVs, both compact and large, are the next big trend in India. Even new international players are betting hard on big vehicles to establish themselves in the ever competitive Indian car market. Kia Motors too will start its innings with the SP Concept SUV that should hit Indian roads by next year. While we saw a line-up of cars at the Auto Expo earlier this year, the Sportage was one of the more interesting ones and it has the potential to create waves in the segment it could play in.

While Kia has not officially revealed their future plans for India post the SP Concept, I personally believe the Sportage will be on their filtered list and should be brought in quickly to lock horns with SUVs like the Jeep Compass and the Hyundai Tucson. Also, the one you see here is not an Indian spec version but still gave me an overall outlook into the way cars from this Korean giant feel.

I spent a good 8 hours with the Sportage around NCR and was quite impressed with the way it kept turning heads wherever we went. Now SUVs are supposed to be big and burly with enough street cred but this one ups the ante by offering the bling factor as well. While it does remind you of the Porsche Cayenne in certain ways, the design is radical and gives insights into what we can expect from Kia in the years to come. The ‘in-your-face’ front end with bi-xenon headlamps and those cool ‘ice cube’ fog lamps look great – the front is always the first impression you gather about the car and the Sportage scores full marks here.

During the shoot, I couldn’t get enough of those 19-inch alloy wheels. Most comments on our social posts also echoed the same thoughts – I am assuming these are exclusive to the GT Line trim that we had with us. Moving to the back, the LED tail-lamps and the horizontal running red glass finish the package. For a while, I was following the Sportage from our long term Jeep Compass and the rear looked classy. No two ways about it.

In terms of dimensions, the Kia Sportage is 4480mm long, 1855mm wide and 1655mm tall, beating cars like the Compass in this regard. Ground clearance stands at a decent 172mm but this SUV ain’t really meant for off-road pleasures. Even the version you see here had the power going to only the front two wheels.

Step inside and the impressions continue to remain positive. The overly black cabin is in sync with the sporty aesthetics and what hits you instantly is the comfort zone and this includes the ergonomics. I was getting late for my shoot and as soon as the media vehicle was handed over to me, I zipped towards our location without spending a few minutes understanding the controls – get my point on the ‘comfort zone’ factor?

The quality of soft touch materials is really impressive and gives us an idea of what to expect on the SP as well. As revealed above, this is the GT Line version which also offers a flat bottom steering and segment leading features like ventilated seats (cooled and heated), powered front two seats, a massive sunroof, wireless charging and even a heated steering – of course some of these might be left out for India.

The seats offer good support and comfort and though I had my doubts about the air-con’s performance, given that this wasn’t an Indian spec car, the Sportage kept me cool in the April heat and this in spite of the heat filtering in through the sunroof. Things at the back are good as well – with the front seat adjusted to my driving position (I stand 6 feet tall), I still had about 4 inches of space between my knee and the back of the front seat. You also get tinted glasses (might be left out for India given the rules), central armrest with cup holders, rear vents and twin charging sockets. What is good for short passengers is the airy-ness. This thanks to the large windows and the big sunroof. You don’t feel hammered in at the back and this will be a good factor for those looking at driving with their families on board.

Talking of which, the boot is pretty good at a rated 466 litres. You also get a luggage cover, a full sized spare wheel and an electric tail-gate. The seats offer 40-60 split and with the 2nd row down, boot space increases to 1455 litres.

The Sportage is offered in both petrol and diesel engine options and the one I drove had a 183 PS 2.0-litre turbocharged diesel under the hood. It comes mated to a 6 speed automatic gearbox with the GT Line offering paddle shifters too. What strikes you are the extremely well controlled NVH or noise, vibration, harshness levels. The outside world remains, well, outside and though the diesel motor can be heard running under the hood, you can easily have a soft conversation with rear seat passengers. The motor itself offers plenty of torque low down in the rev band and feels lively at all times.

You will be surprised by how effortlessly it builds up speeds – credit for this also goes to the 6-speed auto box that goes about doing its duty rather well. Until unless you are an enthusiast, you will not see the need to take over the gearbox manually via the stick or the paddle shifts. You also get driving modes including Eco and Sport and the former saw me extracting over 16-18 kmpl (via the display) easily.

While the 19-inch wheels look bling, surprisingly, they don’t end up robbing the Sportage of a decent ride quality. Yes I will not call it plush and practically, 19-inchers don’t work for India. But as I said, the ride remains decent at most times and it is safe to assume the Indian version, if it comes, will have 17 and 18 ones on the option list. The steering however floored me – I am no enthusiast and I review a car from a common man’s point of view and in this regard, the Sportage impresses. Steering effort is minimal and as speeds build or you throw the car into a curve, you feel it weighing up well. Ditto for high speed manners and this is important as the Sportage can chew up miles rapidly on open roads.

Kia has already shown us their impressive design theme at the Expo. With the Sportage, it’s safe to assume that their cars not only look good, they drive great too. In this case, the kit on offer is excellent, the diesel motor is a gem and this SUV makes you feel special, something that owners expect after putting down say Rs 25-30 lakh on-road. I see no reason why the higher ups sitting at Seoul will not approve the Sportage for India. Bring it on Kia!

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