7 December 2018

Kia Sportage 2018 Car Review

The arrival of Kia’s recent Sportage SUV facelift also came with a new addition to the line-up, the 2WD GT Line Urban, pictured here, which tops the four-model 2WD Sportage range, as its AWD GT Line sibling does the four-paw options.

IMG 9725 kia sportage GT line jm 18
Kia Sportage
IMG 9726 kia sportage GT line jm 18
Kia Sportage
IMG 9727 kia sportage GT line jm 18
Kia Sportage
IMG 9736 kia sportage GT line jm 18
Kia Sportage
IMG 9737 kia sportage GT line jm 18
Kia Sportage

The main improvements from this facelift are listed as the addition Autonomous Emergency braking, Lane keep Assist and Lane Departure Warning as standard.

There have also been subtle alterations to the look, especially focused on a stronger face, with a bigger air dam and changes to Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ grille.

Kia says Sportage suspension now gets settings specific to the Australia-New Zealand region, with softer ride for some, and a firmer, more agile experience for the GT Line cars, but it’s the 2WD GT Line Urban we’re focused on here.

The first thing our tester noted when collecting this Sportage is how much it’s changed from the first of the breed, which arrived a good 20 years ago with an impressive off-road ability belied by its inoffensive looks. Indeed, when launched to NZ it effortlessly blitzed a tough off-road track designed for an earlier Land Rover event, with one even accidentally driving through a water hole in a river crossing that dipped the bonnets below the bow wave and washed water across the screen – before it scrambled out, coughed, and continued without a pause.

Today’s test car is unashamedly more urban – driving just the two wheels – and considerably smarter, with a far more extensive list of features.

The GT Line Urban is powered by a four-cylinder 2.0-litre petrol engine and glitzed up via GT trim, with dashes of extra chrome and sporty-looking 19-inch alloy wheels.

Inside the spacious cabin there’s a flat-bottomed steering wheel and a larger, eight-inch touch screen, leather seats with contrast detailing, and a look which suggests quality.

The additions to the car’s safety armoury come after criticism that Kia was lagging behind in a segment favoured by families, and as a result this Sportage gets a lot of electronic safety guardians – more indeed than its bigger, pricer Sorento EX stablemate.

Most of it is sensible stuff – auto emergency braking has been proved to cut city-speed fender benders overseas, arguably the most common cause of insurance claims and painful whiplash injuries, and lane departure warning can literally be a lifesaver for those driving long distances, or heading home after a long workday a little more fatigued than is ideal when you’re driving.

Our tester, however, wasn’t keen on Kia’s active lane assist system, as you can almost continually feel it working in your hands, aiming to keep the car in the centre of the lane, and away from the white edge lines. On a wide road, with good pavements and kerbs and plenty of space for both cyclists and drivers that’s fabulous to protect other road users from a momentary lapse of attention sending you drift toward the edge lines. On many of New Zealand’s narrower roads, it may have the opposite effect. The last thing you want on a confined roadway, as you briefly skirt a cyclist at a safe distance, is to have the car firmly twitch the wheel back toward the cyclist, let alone any parked car, clot of school kids spilling over at the bus stop, or pedestrian on a rural road with no pavement – all experiences our tester encountered. We believe it’s easy to switch off – consider doing so if such auto assistance may not be beneficial over the roads you regularly drive on.  

As for driving, our tester hadn’t driven the previous version for a while, and couldn’t easily pin down exact changes to feel imparted by suspension tuned for our conditions in mind. Nor, without driving different variants back to back, could we confirm how much more athletic the GT is than its more affordable stablemates, given all are aimed at almost the same buyer. But we can confirm that while this is not a car which will ever be bought purely for high-performance jaunts, it seems confident and capable on curvy back roads, given its focus and price bracket, though the ride felt a smidge harsh at times for our tester’s taste.

As for specification, this is the top-spec of the 2WD cars – the range starts at the $35,990 LX, then the LX Plus and EV – with remote keyless entry, high beam assist, heated side mirrors, privacy glass, heated and ventilated electric seats, satnav and even a wireless phone charger amid its armoury, while out back the kids can access both a USB socket and a 12V accessory socket in the rear.

It still seems ironic that the original plain Jane Sportage was a capable little off-roader, while this 2WD GT Urban is closer to a high-riding suburban wagon. Yes, it’s kitted out with skid plates, but it’ll never need them. Bigger, more refined and with a decent features list, the 2WD Sportage GT Urban is the vehicular equivalent of a townie dressed in well-made knock-off of a designer’s take on hiking boots. It looks the part, isn’t interested in the call of the wild, but regardless does a good job of what it does, at a real-world price.


At a glance


Kia Sportage GT Line Urban


2.0-litre petrol



ANCAP safety rating


Power and Torque

 114kW at 6200rpm, 192Nm at 4000rpm


Six-speed auto

Fuel economy


Towing capacity

Braked 1600kg


2WD Front Wheels

Seating capacity


Luggage capacity/payload

466 litres (rear seats upright and rear bench forward), 1455 litres (with second row folded)


Safety systems

  • Auto Emergency Braking
  • Blind spot Detection
  • Lane Keep Assist
  • Park sensors front and rear, reversing camera
  • Forward Collision Warning
  • Rear Cross Traffic Alert
  • Tyre Pressure Monitoring
  • Bluetooth hands free phone
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