Test-drive: Kia Sportage 2.0 AWD GT CRDi – Up for the party

Primed with a frugal new diesel heart, can this Korean SUV sway you away from the usual suspects?

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In a segment dominated by the usual Japanese suspects, one really needs to stand out with all the right qualities to sway buyers away from them. The Kia Sportage 2.0 AWD GT CRDi appears to have all that.

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Like most current generation Kias, it’s great to look at. There’s plenty to admire, like the snazzy 19-inch alloys, the ‘ice cube’ LED foglight cluster plus HID headlamps flanking the signature ‘tiger grille’ up front, as well as the chiseled and swooped lines. Even the missus should approve of this beauty.

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The same can be said about this Sportage’s cabin design. All the bells and whistles this range-topper is blessed with are intuitively organised and presented. You won’t find cluttered controls or buttons in unexpected places. Next, consider the plush leather seats, soft-touch trim all around and the suave gloss black theme and it becomes clear how this Sportage easily keeps occupants comfortable, even over long distances.

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Thumb the engine start button, however, and it becomes quite clear almost immediately that it’s an oil-burner. Despite the layers of sound deadening material present, the rather agricultural engine note is unmistakable, albeit faintly. Nevertheless, you’ll soon forgive it once you get going and harness what this Sportage’s 2.0-litre CRDi four-cylinder turbodiesel heart has to offer.

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Identical to the unit powering its not-so-distant Hyundai Tucson Diesel cousin we tested prior, the Sportage’s powerplant outputs a sportscar-like 400Nm of torque and 183bhp. Crucially, it holds the edge over its Hyundai cousin by having all-wheel-drive (AWD) instead of just FWD. Plus, steering-mounted paddleshifts provide added control over the 6-speed automatic box that’s paired with its mill.

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The presence of AWD translates into adequate traction and, more importantly, added stability, especially in the wet. You’ll be munching miles with greater confidence the way we did on a drive to Penang and back. Best of all is the fact it gives plenty of mileage with a single fill-up of its 62-litre tank with Euro 5 diesel.

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What deserves praise is this Sportage’s road manners. Despite the large 19-inch alloys being wrapped in low profile tyres, there’s little discomfort when taken across the urban jungle’s pothole-ridden roads thanks to the clever fettling of the spring and damper settings. There’s adequate give without trading away too much stability and comfort. Noteworthy too is the light and easy steering feel, meaning the missus won’t have trouble getting it in and out of mall parking lots.

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Truth be told, this crossover SUV feels more at home munching miles on highways than anything else. Aside from the power steering system’s predictable lack of feedback and the slight tyre roar at speeds beyond 140kph, there’s little to loathe about the way this Sportage acts on the road. If anything, it feels as planted and equally dynamic as most of its rivals, if not slightly better.

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The fully equipped, top of the range Sportage has plenty of party tricks to make long road trips less taxing. There’s power-adjustable front seats and cruise control for the driver, a touchscreen infotainment unit that’s paired with eight crisp-sounding speakers, and USB and Bluetooth connectivity. Also present is a dual zone automatic climate control plus a rear vent, and enough 12-volt and USB sockets to power plenty of devices.

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It does well in practicality and safetytoo. Complementing the 466-litre boot is the rear seat’s 60:40 split folding feature that will make annual trips to Ikea a breeze. The absence of a powered tailgate is a slight downer, but not a deal breaker considering the number of standard safety features this five-star Euro NCAP-rated SUV offers: six airbags, ABS, ESC, ISOFIX child seat anchors, brake auto hold plus a tyre pressure monitoring system, among others.

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This top-of-the-line offering from the Korean marque is priced at RM159,888 (on-the-road with insurance), which makes it slightly more affordable than most of its Japanese rivals. There’s a five-year unlimited mileage warranty to go with it. All said, this Sportage can make heads turn. The signs are there.

SPECS

ENGINE

1,995cc, 4-cylinder turbodiesel,

AWD, 183bhp, 400Nm

ECONOMY

6.5L/100km, 182g/km CO2

PERFORMANCE

0-100kph in n/a secs, n/a kph

WEIGHT

1,733kg

PRICE

RM159,888

VERDICT: 8/10

Good looks, rich kit list plus frugal and torque-rich diesel heart makes this a solid alternative to the usual suspects.

Thoriq Azmi
Author: Thoriq Azmi
Former DJ. Driver, rider & word-stringer @ Top Gear MY. Geek. Leftie. #fuelledbythoriq

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