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2019 Kia Sportage Si Premium Diesel AWD Review

The Kia Sportage has proven to be one of the more popular options for Australian families looking for a 5-seater SUV and for 2019 Kia is doubling down on the well received formula only making minor changes to the refreshed model throughout. Petrol and Diesel powerplants are available as well as all-wheel and two-wheel drive variants, combine that with the four model grades – Si, Si Premium, SLi, GT-Line – and things can get confusing.

We’ve grabbed the lower mid-spec Si Premium AWD Diesel version which should be poised to be a volume seller to see if the strong sales are set to continue.

The visual changes for the 2019 are minor with the Sportage scoring new lights front and rear and restyled bumpers to compliment. There’s far more gloss black featured on the front bumper and the previous 2×2 array of foglights that looked like Apache gunship missile pods have been replaced by a more conservative single bulb unit. Down back the tailights have also had the redesign treatment and are now connected by a thin red stripe similar to the Stinger, the whole rear end now looks tidier than before.

The latest generation of Sportage has always been a good looking bit of kit and we’re glad to see Kia didn’t attempt any polarising stylistic changes for the refresh model.

The trend of minor improvements continues inside. There’s a new steering wheel design but more importantly a larger infotainment touch screen display that now totals 8 inches across, that and the new trip display seem to be the most obvious alterations.

Everything is still built to the same high quality as before however being one of the lower grades in the line up leather has been used sparingly throughout. The driver’s doorside armrest is plastic like the rest of the door trim and isn’t the most comfortable place to park your elbow. There’s a lot of plastic used throughout that keeps the costs down and brings durability to the cabin space at the expense of comfort.

Seating is completely manual when it comes to adjustment and while the seats themselves are quite comfortable, especially the extra plush head rest, the seating position never felt quite right, with the wheel always too far and my legs always too cramped no matter what combination of positioning was used.

As before visibility is hindered by the thick A and C pillars, no blind spot monitoring means you’ll be taking lane changes with more caution and double checking the gaps in tight carparks. Helping things out falls to the reversing camera which is easier than ever to see with the larger 8-inch screen.

When it comes to storage the Si Premium doesn’t enjoy the same centre console advantages of its higher spec’ed brethren, with the manual handbrake takes up a good chunk of space and eats into the centre console storage too.

The middle row seats come with ISOFIX mounting points for the outer two and you’ll have no problems getting three children in there or three adults if they don’t mind rubbing shoulders. Space is decent too, with no issues with head or leg room and for further comfort the 60/40 seats can be reclined back from their usual upright position. Both USB and 12V sockets are provided under the twin air conditioning vents which are much needed for those hot summer days.

Out in the rear storage comes in at a hefty 465 litres and putting bulky items in and out is no hassle due to the similar heights of the scuff plating and the boot floor. Kicking out the rear passengers allows you to drop those seats gaining access to the whole 1455 litres. A full sized spare is nestled away under the boot floor which takes the anxiety of a flat away on long trips.

Our Sportage came fitted with the 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine that nets 136kW at 4,000 rpm and a mighty slab of 400Nm torque from just 1,750 rpm through to 2,750 rpm. For daily driving it’s torque, not power that you want and the diesel powered Sportage gets ample amounts of both. What you don’t get is silky smooth quiet performance as you’ll definitely hear the engine working away as you set off from the lights where it settles down as the revs drop.

If a more quiet and refined drive is more your cup of tea then the petrol unit is available but will chew more fuel. Claims of 6.4L/100km for fuel economy weren’t able to be reached as after our week long stint the Sportage totaled a thirstier 8.6L/100km. Of course with a less heavy foot, less air conditioning and Eco mode you’ll score better figures but I prefer to arrive at destinations on time and not in a puddle of sweat.

Making the most of the available revs fell to the 8-speed sports automatic gearbox which didn’t miss a beat and matched up nicely to the narrow rev range the diesel offers.

With a tare mass of 1,736kg, ground clearing suspension and a high centre of gravity the Sportage was never going to offer up sporty handling despite its name, instead you’ve got a sensible and mildly firm ride that is plenty comfortable for the variety of roads you’ll be tackling day to day. The firmness isn’t ideal for proper rough off road terrain which won’t matter much as the AWD nature of the Sportage is inclined to offer superior traction and controlability in slippery tarmac conditions rather than bush bashing capability.

One thing that stood out immediately after hopping into the Sportage were its brakes, they felt quite firm and lacked feedback. Initially I thought it could just be a lack of familiarity yet even after a week of getting to know them the precise and agile brake feel I’d prefer wasn’t to be found.

For 2019 Kia has brought Autonomous Emergency Braking, Lane Keep Assist and High Beam Assist headlights to the entire Sportage range which is great news as it’s usually the latter two that are reserved for the higher model grades. On the road the Lane Keep Assist system pins you to the center of the lane and unlike the more refined systems, offers no dead zone in the center making it feel very binary in operation. It’s useful for longer trips and tight lanes but more often than not I found myself disabling it instead.

The Premium in Si Premium should mean that the Sportage comes equipped with a number of decent features, which it does. Expect both auto rain sensing wipers and auto dusk sensing headlights and if you need to override the auto settings the trip display will briefly flash up what you’ve chosen eliminating any guesswork or clumsy glances at the stalks behind the steering wheel.

Satellite navigation is included and easy to use with the larger infotainment display, though my wallet was particularly fond of the speed camera warnings which prove their worth on unfamiliar roads. Also controlled through the infotainment display is the JBL premium sound system measuring 8 speakers in total. The audio quality is above average and only distorts up top with the volume wound all the way to the right. To make the most of it DAB+ digital radio is included and you’ve also got Android Auto or Apple CarPlay along with the usual Bluetooth, USB and AUX inputs.

The reverse camera is featured and is a must for all SUVs due to their poor rear visibility by design and the one in the Sportage gets the job done. Helping out with front and rear parking there’s also parking proximity sensors so you can dial in millimetre perfect precision. And finally the Si Premium comes with LED daytime running lights and heated folding mirrors for those frosty winter mornings.

For the extra $2,300 up and over the base spec Si, the Si Premium makes a strong case for itself due to the strong feature list alone.

So what’s missing? Well you’ll have to make do with traditional cruise control, don’t expect the more sophisticated radar cruise system to be available at this grade, it’d be nice if they could have put in speed limited cruise but that too is missing. And after being spoilt with proximity keyless entry it was a real chore to go back to a key barrel ignition but I guess Kia had to keep some things in reserve for the higher spec’ed SLi.

Verdict

Design & Comfort

7.0/10

Performance & Handling

6.5/10

Quality

8.0/10

Economy

7.5/10

Equipment & Features

8.0/10

OUR SCORE

3.7/5

Our Score: 3.7/5

+ Plus

  • Looks even better than before
  • Well priced
  • Solid feature set

Minus

  • Aggressive lane keep assist system
  • Thick A and C pillars hinder visibility
  • Brakes lacked feel and felt too firm

Overall

Kia is going to sell the Sportage almost as quickly as they can bring it in from South Korea and the Si Premium scores many of the top spec features without the top spec price. 7 years of unlimited kilometre warranty and Kia’s solid build quality are going to put the Sportage right at the top of the list for the practically minded among us.

2019 Kia Sportage Si Premium Diesel AWD Pricing and Specification

Price (Excl. on-road costs)From: $37,690
Sparkling Silver Paint: $520
As tested: $39,210
Warranty7 Years/Unlimited Kilometres
Warranty Customer Assistance1 Year Roadside
Country of OriginSouth Korea
Service Intervals12 months/15,000km
Engine2.0-litre common-rail direct injection four cylinder turbo intercooled diesel

136kW @ 4,000rpm, 400Nm @ 1750-2750rpm

Transmission8 Speed Sports Automatic
DrivetrainFour-wheel drive
Power to Weight Ratio (W/kg)78.3
Combined Fuel Consumption (L/100km)Claimed: 6.4 / Tested: 8.6
RON Ratingn/a
Fuel Capacity (L)62
Body5-door SUV, 5 seats
Safety5-star ANCAP, 6 Airbags, Seatbelt Load Limiters & Pre-Tensioners (front), Reverse Camera, Hill Holder, Forward Collision Mitigation (low speed), Forward Collision Warning, Park Distance Control (front/rear), Lane Keep Assist, Heated Mirrors, Anti-Lock Braking System, Brake Assist, Traction Control, Stability Control, Electronic Brake Force Distribution.
Dimensions (L/W/H/W-B) mm4485/1855/1655/2670
Tare Weight (kg)1,736
Boot Space (Expanded) (L)466 (1,455)
Towing Capacity (kg)Braked: 1,900 / Unbraked: 750
Entertainment8.0-inch colour touchscreen with satellite navigation, 8 speakers, Bluetooth, USB/AUX, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay

Competitors:

Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, Renault Koleos, Ford Kuga, Holden Equinox, Mitsubishi Outlander, Nissan X-Trail, Volkswagen Tiguan, Fiat Freemont, Peugeot 3008

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