Tow Vehicle: Kia Sportage

By: Steve Vermeulen, Photography by: Supplied

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Even a full year after its launch and amidst strong competition, the Kia Sportage is a mid-SUV that seems one of the more-forward thinking on the market

Tow Vehicle: Kia Sportage
Tow Vehicle: Kia Sportage
  • Styling is among the best in its class
  • Premium specification without the price tag
  • Fresh-faced and easy to use interior
  • 1600kg braked tow capacity
  • Suspension set up for NZ roads
  • Well-built with five-year warranty

Certainly on the styling front the Kia is a trendsetter. Imparting a more compact look than what’s actually on offer from the spacious interior, the proportions offer a nice blend of beefed-up ride height and edgy-design hatch practicality – everything a vehicle of this sort should offer in reality, but Kia has seemingly hit the mark dead on with Euro-rivalling looks that offer a genuinely broad appeal.

Entry / Egress is easy as it’s not something you have to hoist yourself into and once inside the interior design is fresh-faced and pleasing to use. You can control your i-Pod from the steering wheel audio controls, likewise with the cruise control; a trip computer monitors how much fuel you’re using; the centre stack is snazzily-illuminated; and all models are equipped with an alarm, active front headrests, six airbags, reversing sensors and rollover-detecting stability control. All very important considerations for open road users – as is the comfortable seating.

My tester was the Limited all wheel drive, so also picks up leather (or a relatively close facsimile of it), electric driver’s seat, reversing camera (great for lining up the towing hitch every time), dual zone climate air conditioning, a six disc CD stacker and rain sensing wipers. Given the Sportage sells at hatchback money (range starts at just $33,990 for 2.0 litre front wheel drive LX, tops out at $46,990 with 2.4 litre Limited) the specification is something the family will love you for.

The 2.4 litre ‘world’ engine co-developed with a former DaimlerChrysler / Mitsubishi alliance has proven to be a reliable albeit unremarkable performer over the years and that rings true in the Sportage.

Load it up with the amounts of gear the large cargo area is capable of holding and the 130kW / 227Nm four cylinder may be left a bit breathless, even despite having a maximum braked towing capacity of 1600kg (suitable for the smaller caravan). Don’t despair though, a brilliant R-series diesel mill is also available to Kia New Zealand in EX and Limited versions costing $47,990 and $51,990 respectively. While this offers the same tow rating, it’s low-down torque characteristics better cope with a full load of camping gear or regular towing duties.

Regardless of powertrain, the Sportage hardly embarrasses itself on our roads with nicely-damped multi-link rear suspension and Macpherson struts up front. Kia proclaim an antipodean tweaking to the ride and handling, which is good news; I found it more refined over ruts yet a crisper steer than Hyundai’s pricier ix35, which shares underpinnings with the Sportage.

A side effect of the sleek roofline, luggage space is about average with 740 litres when the rear seats are occupied or 1547 litres when they’re folded, but the aperture, while wide, doesn’t easily accept taller items. There are plenty of well-priced additional accessories available like roof racks to create extra stowage options, as well as side steps, nudge bars and the tow bar.

You’re pretty spoilt for choice in the medium SUV market these days and until my belated drive of the Sportage I probably would’ve pointed you towards the likes of the ix35, Peugeot 3008 or a 2.5 litre Mazda CX-7.

I knew the Kia looked great, offered a bunch of kit and trumped most competitors on price, but the well-sorted road manners, comfort levels and winning looks have surprised. I really like it; actually, I’d say it’s been one of my favourite new vehicles of the past year.

See the Kia Sportage for sale on Autotrader.

Specifications: Kia Sportage 2.4 Limited petrol

Towing capacity 750kg unbraked / 1600 braked
Power 130kW @ 6000 rpm
Torque 227Nm @ 4000 rpm
Transmission Six-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 9.2 l/100km
Length 4445mm
Width 1855mm
Height 1635mm
Seating capacity five
Cargo capacity 740 litres / 1547 litres (seats folded)

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