What's more important for your young family, cargo space or value for family? That's the trade off if you're considering this medium SUV.
The Kia Sportage sits in the highly competitive medium SUV segment that attracts many Australian families. These high-riding wagons have hit the mark with affordability, size and versatility – you can even take some of them off road if the kids are up for it.
Kia is just one of 18 manufacturers playing in this segment and the only one that offers a full seven-year warranty. The Sportage is offered in four trim levels with the option of petrol or diesel engines and two or all-wheel-drive, though front-wheel-drive is only offered in the entry-level variant and all models come standard with a six-speed automatic transmission.
We’ve spent the past two weeks living with the entry-level Si model with a diesel powerplant and an all-wheel-drive system to test how this vehicle will perform for your young family.
Strap ’em in
The biggest issue you will be confronted with in the Kia Sportage is the lack of space for front-seat passengers when using a rear-facing baby seat (something you will need for the first 12-18months).
To fit our baby seat into the back seat we needed to push the front seats as far forward as they would go. This made it impossible for me to drive with it behind the driver seat and quite uncomfortable when behind the passenger seat. If, for any reason, you need two rear facing seats this car is probably not going to be suitable.
While my knees rested against the glovebox when sitting in the front passenger seat, my wife who is around 10cm shorter than me, did not have an issue with the seat being pushed right forward.
On the plus side, putting the baby seats in the Sportage was a painless operation that took only a few minutes whether using the seat belts or an ISOFIX system. The top tether point is on the back of the rear passenger seat and easy to access.
The door opening provides plenty of space to manoeuvre the children in and out of the Sportage and with its higher ride height (ground clearance is 172mm) you don’t need to lean down too much either.
The Si seats are covered with a hard-wearing black (you can have any colour as long as it is black) cloth material. It didn’t take long for a few scuff marks to surface on the seats, and I would definitely be looking at a seat cover.
I know it is a personal thing but I found the interior of the Si a bit bland. It is all black with some faux brushed stainless trim the only relief from the darkness. On a more positive note, the seats are comfortable and supportive and I didn’t have any trouble finding a comfortable driving position.
Kia has been working on improving NVH (noise, vibration and harshness) across its range and it is starting to reap the benefits with the Sportage cabin as quiet as any I have experienced in its class.
There’s 466-litres of cargo space with the rear seats upright and 1455 the 60/40 split rear seat is folded flat but again this is not something you are going to be doing much while you need that baby seat in the back.
The boot is wide enough to fit our rather large pram up snug against the rear seat but it did take up most of the boot space. There is room to jam in things like nappy bags, but then you have to start getting clever with your packing.
Once again, I found the cargo blind was a nuisance when putting the pram in. The only other place it can stored in the car is on the floor and it gets in the way just as much there, if not more. I would be looking to store it somewhere in the house.
For an entry level model, the Sportage is well equipped with a good-sized seven-inch infotainment touch screen that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatible.
While there is no sat nav you can plug your smart phone in and use its navigation on the touch screen, which really removes the need for sat nav in the first place. It also comes with a reverse camera, a must in my books for this style of car – especially if you have small children and parking sensors.
There are plenty of places to charge phones and tablets, with a couple of 12-volt sockets for both front and rear seat passenger, as well as USB and auxiliary in-ports.
The Sportage is available with a host of driver aids and features like an electric tailgate but they are only available in the top-of-the-range GT-Line which adds a hefty $12,000 to the price.
ANCAP Safety Rating: 5 Stars
The Kia Sportage was last tested by ANCAP in April 2016 and scored 5 stars with a score of 34.62 out of 37.
It scored maximum marks in the pole and side impact tests and 13.62 out of 16 in the frontal offset crash.
The Si model comes standard with front and curtain airbags (side head and chest) and is fitted with seat belt reminders on all seats. All models also come with emergency brake assist and hill launch assist.
The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder diesel isn’t the most powerful in the class but it’s satisfyingly responsive and there is plenty of grunt for when you need it. It also comes with a drive-mode button with Eco and Sport settings. I felt it was too sluggish in Eco mode, designed to reduce fuel consumption, but the Sport mode works well with the diesel.
All Kia models have suspension tuned specifically for Australian conditions and the ride is comfortable and compliant, absorbing most imperfections in the road while keeping the Sportage sitting nice and upright through the corners. The electric power steering is nicely weighted and keeps you feeling connected to the road.
I also like the security of the all-wheel-drive system, especially during the wetter months. While under normal driving conditions 100 percent of the power is sent to the front wheels it will automatically transfer up to 50 percent to the rear wheels as conditions start to get slippery.
The wife’s take
I really like the chunky look of this car, but I wasn’t such a fan of the dash colour scheme. There was a lot of black with red lighting. It made it look very dark. Having said that, the displays were all easy to read and well laid out, and the controls on the steering wheel were easily accessible and not too complicated.
One thing I did notice when I was forced to park and unpack my shopping on our sloping driveway was that some of my shorter friends would have struggled to reach up and close the tailgate — a problem with most cars without automatic closing I suppose.
“Cargo space in the back was adequate but not huge. Overall, a comfortable ride and good value.”
Room in the front with rear-facing baby seats was the main concern from a young family perspective. It does lack some of the driver assist technology that is available today and some of cooler features like the automatic tailgate, but if you really want or need them they are available in the top-of-the-range model. It is fun to drive and economical, both to purchase and run. And thanks to its seven-year warranty, it will provide you and your family with stress-free motoring.
Hyundai 2.0 Tucson Active AWD
Price: $35,090 (Plus On Road Costs)
Uses the same engine and gearbox as the Sportage and offers many of the same features and has a slightly bigger cargo space but only comes with a five-year warranty. It really gets down to styling and price with these two.
Mazda CX-5 2.2 Maxx Sport AWD
The top selling car in the segment does not have the most luggage space or biggest rear seat in the segment but it is a refined vehicle that offers a premium feel and good performance.
Subaru Forester 2.0 D-L AWD
This is one that will appeal to more adventurous families who are not just looking for an urban runabout. One of the few soft-roaders in the segment with real offroad capabilities.
• $33,990 (Plus on-road costs)
• Warranty: Seven-year unlimited kilometres with seven-year road side assist and seven years capped price servicing
• Fuel Consumption: 6.8L/100km (official) 7.9L/100km (during test)
• Engine: 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel (136kW/400Nm)
• Transmission: Six-speed automatic
• Visit HBF for a tailored insurance quote