Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Review: 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line Diesel


Filipino car buyers are a cruel, finicky bunch. When Kia’s then distributor launched the fourth-generation Sportage in 2016, they brought along a well-loaded GT-Line trim equipped with a diesel engine and all-wheel drive. It sure had all the ingredients for success until everyone saw the price tag: P 1.795 million. After that, the complaints all rolled in: too expensive, ill-equipped, etc. Well, here’s news for you: three years later, the refreshed Sportage is out. Now sold by Kia’s new distributor, guess what? It’s actually more expensive, and that’s not even considering it’s lost all-wheel drive in the process.

It sure elicits a strong “what are they smoking” reaction, especially those considering a compact crossover with good punch. But then look at the two other compact crossovers in the market offering a diesel with a 2WD layout: the Honda CR-V S Diesel and the Hyundai Tucson GLS CRDi; it dawns on you: holy shit—the Sportage GT-Line is now the most affordable top-trim (ish) diesel-fed compact crossover on the market today.



For sure, the loss of all-wheel drive will be lamented by some, but for 99 percent of Sportage buyers, the trade off is worth it simply because the heaviest trailing they’ll be doing is climbing up parking inclines. In return, this Sportage GT-Line remains largely inflation-proof while keeps all of its exterior and interior goodies which put it, at least, at par with the competition.

Outside, the changes are fairly minimal. The Macan-esque front-end is far less of a Porsche facsimile thanks to the revised lower front bumper, new grille, and headlights. That said, the new lighting signature—the four LED dots in the headlights and the slit-like pattern in the taillights are much more inline with what Stuttgart churns out these days. Deliberate Teutonic connection or not, it is undeniably handsome. Even in subdued shades like Mercury Blue, this GT-Line ticks all the right boxes from its aggressively-offset 19-inch wheels to its right mix of lines and curves. It doesn’t look as boxy or bulky as most other crossovers, yet maintains a sense of gravitas enabling it to play with the big boys.



Inside though tells a very different story for the Sportage. It’s clear that Kia wanted to create a minimalist cabin, but what they came up with is something somber and cold. The experience can feel particularly discontenting for the passengers, front or back, who’ll have to stare at an empty plastic dash or plain door trims; devoid of any trimming. After a while, you’ll start to wish for a panoramic sunroof (removed with this update), fake wood, or carbon fiber just to bring light in and break the monotony. And that’s a shame because start poking around and the cabin’s actually well-constructed with well-damped switchgear, quality leather, and soft-touch plastics (well, at least the upper part).

The experience is very different for the driver. With all the instrumentation and controls canted towards him, he’ll feel immediately in control. This might be a conscious design decision on Kia’s part, but this formula works for a sportscar and not a family-oriented crossover. Still, at least the ergonomics are solid with ample adjustments to the steering wheel and seat, and clear view of the instrumentation and ginormous infotainment screen. Visibility is more or less alright, but the thick A-pillars do tend to obstruct cyclists and motorcycles from time to time.



Despite its compact-looking exterior design, the Sportage is actually roomy. The front seats are supportive and comfortable, while the back row is spacious with ample foot, leg, and knee room. There’s no power tailgate here, but open the cargo hold and there’s an impressive 491 liters. The cargo hold is wide and long, but not nearly as deep as its rivals. Thankfully, it can be expanded up to 1,480 liters with the rear seats folded. There are also plenty of storage options too, and a commendable amount of charging ports be it USB or 12-volt outlets.

Carried over from before is the Sportage’s 2.0-liter turbodiesel engine. Making 185 horsepower and 400 Nm of torque, there’s always plenty of punch. In the urban confines, it moves briskly off the line, with the 8-speed automatic working effortlessly to keep things moving. The shift quality is smooth and close to imperceptible. Of course, stomping on the accelerator brings out some gruffness, but drive it civilly, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell that it’s a diesel. Great as it is in the city, the Sportage feels even better out on the open road. The powertrain makes eating miles effortless, with enough grunt to surge it forward against slower traffic effortlessly. It’s also mighty refined too, with just the coarse tire noise being the only chink in its armor.



By dropping its all-wheel drive, you’d imagine that the Sportage GT-Line should produce stellar fuel economy numbers, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. After a week behind the wheel, the average is just 8.62 km/L, figures that put it more in Mazda CX-5 territory, and that one has all-wheel drive. By comparison, the Sportage’s platform twin, the Hyundai Tucson manages 10.20 km/L at the same sort of average speeds. Weird.

Gone unnoticed, the Sportage also gets a re-tweaked suspension that improves ride and handling. Without a back-to-back comparison with the previous model though, it’s hard to feel the difference. However, it does handle well enough—solid, planted, and predictable. It also rides out pockmarked roads with aplomb despite the 45-series rubber.



Feature-wise, the Sportage GT-Line is solid, but not astounding. Aside from the sporty exterior trim and 19-inch wheels, it has everything you’d consider as “must-haves” in this price category such as LED headlights, powered front seats, dual zone climate control, auto dimming rear view mirrors, and all. The removal of the all-wheel drive and sunroof are largely forgivable, but there’s a missed opportunity here to add driver assist features or even a simple 3-point seatbelt for the middle rear occupant. As it stands, it does get a full complement of airbags, ABS with EBD, and stability control.

As solid as its road manners are, and well-speced as it is, are Filipinos finally ready to accept a P 1.820-million Sportage? Based on the price tag alone, it is expensive, but look at it more and you begin to realize that, at least among other compact crossovers, it’s well-speced. In the end, you begin to realize that perhaps its previous lackluster market performance wasn’t driven by the lack of specs or being overpriced, but simply because it just had limited appeal. It was further amplified by the fact that Kia didn’t know what to do with the GT-Line trim before. Now, with two other Kia GTs joining the line-up—the Forte GT and Stinger GT—the Sportage GT-Line doesn’t feel as alone. There’s a chance that some of that magic will rub on the Sportage GT-Line, and that may make consumers take a chance.



2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line Diesel
Ownership 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line Diesel
Year Introduced 2016 (Refreshed: 2019)
Vehicle Classification Compact Crossover
Warranty 5 years / 160,000 kilometers
The Basics
Body Type 5-door SUV
Seating 5
Engine / Drive F/F
Under the Hood
Displacement (liters) 2.0
Aspiration Turbocharged
Fuel Delivery Common Rail Direct Injection
Layout / # of Cylinders I4
BHP @ rpm 185 @ 4,000
Nm @ rpm 400 @ 1,750-2,750
Fuel / Min. Octane Diesel
Transmission 8 AT
Cruise Control Yes
Fuel Economy @ Ave. Speed 8.62 km/L @ 14 km/h
Dimensions and Weights
Length (mm) 4,480
Width (mm) 1,855
Height (mm) 1,655
Wheelbase (mm) 2,670
Curb Weight (kg) 1,593
Suspension and Tires
Front Suspension Independent, MacPherson Strut
Rear Suspension Independent, Multi-Link
Front Brakes Vented Disc
Rear Brakes Disc
Tires Kumho Crugen Premium 245/45 R 19 H (f & r)
Wheels Alloy
Safety Features
Airbags 6
Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS) Yes, with EBD
Traction / Stability Control Yes
Parking Sensors Yes, Front and Rear
Front Seatbelts 3-pt ELR with pre-tensioner x 2
Rear Seatbelts 3-pt ELR x 2, 2-pt Lap Belt x 1
ISOFIX Child Seat Anchor Yes
Other Safety Features Hill Start Assist
Downhill Brake Control
Exterior Features
Headlights LED
Fog Lamps Yes, Front (LED)
Auto Lights Yes
Rain-sensing Wipers Yes
Interior Features
Steering Wheel Adjust Tilt/Telescopic
Steering Wheel Material Leather
Seating Adjustment (driver) Electric, 8-way
Seating Adjustment (front passenger) Electric, 8-way
Seating Surface Leather
Folding Rear Seat Yes, 60/40
On-Board Computer Yes
Convenience Features
Power Steering Yes
Power Door Locks Yes
Power Windows Yes
Power Mirrors Yes, with Fold
Proximity Key Yes
Climate Control Dual Zone, with Rear Vents
Audio System Stereo
CD
MP3
Aux
USB
Bluetooth
Apple CarPlay
Android Auto
# of Speakers 6
Steering Controls Yes

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