2022 Kia Sportage SX FWD Review

8.0/10Score

Score breakdown

8.5

Safety, value and features

8.0

Comfort and space

7.5

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Ride and handling

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Looks great even on smaller wheels
  • Mostly terrific interior
  • Good ride and handling balance

Not so much

  • Scratchy plastics on the doors
  • No wireless CarPlay/Android Auto
  • 2.0-litre a bit underdone

8.0/10Score

Score breakdown

8.5

Safety, value and features

8.0

Comfort and space

7.5

Engine and gearbox

8.0

Ride and handling

8.0

Technology

Things we like

  • Looks great even on smaller wheels
  • Mostly terrific interior
  • Good ride and handling balance

Not so much

  • Scratchy plastics on the doors
  • No wireless CarPlay/Android Auto
  • 2.0-litre a bit underdone

Kia’s new Sportage is pretty good. With striking, art-worthy looks and a terrific cabin, it has pretty much thrown all the cards in the air when it comes to Australia’s mid-size SUV segment. It’s a very strong contender against the sales heavyweights of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and its under the skin sibling, the Hyundai Tucson.

Up until now, I hadn’t driven the six-speed automatic front-wheel drive petrol Sportage, having had several different tests of the twin-clutch turbo-engined GT-Line. I had a suspicion that the petrol front-wheel drive would be a more agreeable car more of the time, despite the undoubted charms of the top-of-the-range Sportage, which narrowly beat the Tucson in a straight fight.

The SX is the second step in a Sportage range that is more expensive than before but a lot better equipped, better looking and, one imagines, a better drive. This is the one that looks like the sweet spot of the range at well under forty grand but with a pretty good spec list.

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Pricing and features

The Sportage SX spec is an appreciable jump over the base model S. It’s not as though the S is a bare-bones hack, either, sporting an identical safety package to the higher models. The car I had was the SX petrol automatic starting at a neat $37,000 before on-road costs, two and a half large over the S automatic. Both S and SX are available with a manual transmission for an equally neat $2000 less.

You get 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker stereo, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, keyless entry, front and rear parking sensors, adaptive cruise control, automatic LED headlights, sat-nav, heated windscreen, leather wheel and shifter, powered heated and folding mirrors, auto wipers and a full-size spare.

The huge safety package features seven airbags (including a front centre airbag to save you from head clashes in a side impact), the usual traction and stability controls, forward and reverse auto emergency braking, reverse cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning, lane-keep assist, lane following assist, blind-spot monitoring, exit warning and speed sign recognition. A bunch of the cleverer safety features are not available on the manual, however.

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For the kiddies, there are two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchors.

The Sportage is as yet unrated by ANCAP, which is probably pandemic related. Given the presence of the centre airbag and all the other stuff, it’s likely a five-star result will be awarded but given it’s ANCAP, I wouldn’t bet my house on that. It doesn’t yet have a EuroNCAP rating or IIHS result either.

Annoyingly, only white is free, the other five colours (Steel Grey, Gravity Grey, Vestra Blue, Dawning Red and Fusion Black) are $520 extra. Not a huge amount but not cheap either.

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Comfort and space

As has become the norm with Korean SUVs, the lower end of the range sports a different cabin design, at least in the front. You’ll have the upgraded 12.3-inch touchscreen (the S has the 8.0-inch unit). It’s massive, quite nice to use and is paired with a digital dashboard that is simpler than the GT-Line’s. It’s quite clear and easy to decipher and still changes theme when you change drive modes.

There is also a traditional T-bar shifter and from the pictures, you’ll notice it’s very traditional. I kind of like it, a bit of a retro moment in a very tech-forward cabin. The cloth seats are very comfortable and supportive in the front, too, and I’m That Guy who very often prefers the textile upholstery for both look and feel.

You also get two cup holders and bottle holders in the doors, space for your phone under the screen and a generous console bin.

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Moving to the rear, the seats are very comfortable and you get rear air vents to help keep your cool when you find out there aren’t any USB ports back here. The transmission tunnel isn’t too big, but it will still be a struggle for three adults across the back without clashing feet. Headroom is expansive, as are foot and knee room.

Boot space starts at a hefty 543 litres, expanding to an impressive 1829 litres with the seats down, which is quite a lot. You can carry more by towing 750kg unbraked and 1900kg braked – but with the least-powerful Sportage engine under the bonnet, you won’t be setting any land speed records.

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On the road

As we discovered in the GT-Line, the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol and its seven-speed twin-clutch transmission are not the greatest pairing. As with the Seltos, the lower-end versions have a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol (and a diesel, but I’ve not yet driven that to comment on it). That same engine is found in the Seltos and is more agreeable than the 1.6 in general duties.

The 115kW and 192Nm on offer is adequate in the sense that most people aren’t looking for startling performance in their medium SUV. Unlike the GT-Line’s turbo (and the gasping 2.0-litre Mazda CX-5, which is a chore), the Sportage’s slower version is a smooth, silent type.

You will notice the lack of grunt when fully loaded but in everyday driving, it’s really nice to drive – quiet, smooth and composed. Then again it’s not a surprise to find out that a 1500kg SUV with those figures available isn’t a fireball. If it’s just you and one other person, it does go okay and as I say, it’s lovely and smooth and stays out of your ears.

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Also riding on 18-inch wheels with a bit more sidewall, the ride is markedly plusher on the SX, adding to the more relaxed vibe introduced by the engine. You do lose a bit of the keenness of the GT-Line’s front end and the exclusively front-wheel drive motivation means a little less of that smug security in the wet. In the dry – we had about twenty minutes where it wasn’t raining the week I had the Sportage – it was pretty good.

The steering is nicely weighted and the body goes with you so if you’re on your own fancy a bit of a laugh, the Sportage does its best to stay controlled and planted. It also rides really well, shrugging off the bumps and slaloming required by Sydney’s understandably potholed roads. If you’re not from between Brisbane and Bateman’s Bay, you’ve missed out on about fifteen metres of rain and for once I’m cutting Sydney’s road network some slack.

It’s a very relaxed car and it’s really about being a nice place to be while stuck in traffic, which it absolutely nails.

Kia’s ADR testing yielded a fuel consumption result of 8.1L/100km on the combined cycle. A fairly sedate, mostly suburban week in my hands returned 9.7L/100km.

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Ownership

Kia’s ground-breaking seven-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty applies, as does roadside assist.

The capped-price servicing regime covers the first seven services and you’ll need to return to Kia every 12 months or 15,000km. The prices themselves are identical to the turbo petrol but you have to roll in every 10,000km with those cars. Over the seven services, you’ll pay $3749, Incidentally, this is what Qantas wants to charge me to fly to Singapore from Sydney at the moment, which seems a trifle pricey for the flight.

It’s not especially cheap for the servicing either, especially when you see Toyota’s $200-odd-per-interval servicing and even Mazda’s pricing is cheaper (although with shorter intervals).

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VERDICT

I knew I’d like this car before I got it partly because this engine and transmission combo is predictably solid and predictably leisurely but without the turbo 1.6’s gearbox histrionics. It’s very comfortable, good value and packed with safety gear.

It also looks absolutely fantastic. You’re not supposed to be able to buy cars that look this good at this price and I reckon if I had one on the driveway, that would never get old.

What might get old, though, is the lack of power when you’re out on the freeway and need to overtake, or you need to break into fast-moving traffic.

If the Sportage had a better base engine, it would be night on perfect.

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