Kia Sportage GT Line

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Good looks and performance allow it to mingle with the best of the bunch

In the past few years, Kia vehicles have been a delight to drive, thanks to their top-notch quality and much-improved engineering.

Because the last Sportage had left quite an impression, I’ve been looking forward to the new model. It’s a pity it will hardly ever be considered by compact-crossover buyers. Discussions as to the top pick in that segment still heavily revolve around the likes of the Honda CR-V, theToyota RAV4, the Subaru Forester, and the Mazda CX-5. Can’t blame them, really. It’s all about marketing.

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Proof that Kia has been upping its game is how its cars look. This year marks the 10th anniversary of Peter Schreyer as chief designer of Hyundai-Kia, with his designs becoming even bolder with each new model. While the third-generation Sportage bore some resemblance to the Volkswagen Golf, particularly in the C-pillars, the taillights, and the execution of the reflectors and indicators on the bumper, its successor graduates to something more audacious, although it still models itself on a Volkswagen Group offering — the Porsche Cayenne.

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Seoul looks to Stuttgart for some design inspiration

The front end has swept-back headlights and a grilie that’s set much lower, just like with Porsche’s SUV.

Even the ridges on the hood are a recognizable cue from the German carmaker. Central to these ideas influenced by Stuttgart is the ‘tiger nose’ grille, Schreyer’s signature. The rear is also suggestive of Porsche styling, with its red strip garnish.

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The overall shape, meanwhile, is very much similar to that of the old Sportage. Hopefully, this will be retained for the next generations to give the model an identifiable profile. Standard on the GT Line are the LED foglamp clusters, which look like Porsche’s four-point LED DRLs, and 19-inch alloys wrapped in 245/45 tires. They kind of remind me of the wheels on the pre-facelift Subaru Forester XT.

The moment you get in, the first thing you’ll notice is the flat-bottom steering wheel, which hints at one of the Sportage’s most satisfying traits. The gauges with white digits and red needles, as well as the use of minimal buttons, appear verymuch inspired by Volkswagen and Audi. There’s a bit of the Cayenne, too, in the upright A/C louvers and brushed aluminum surfaces.

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With German functionality in mind, there are convenient cubby holes on the center console (we get an extra one because we don’t get the e-brake) and two 12-volt adaptors. A tight fit and finish underlines the cabin experience; it has to feel solid for the whole treatment to flourish.

The Sportage is powered by a 2.0-liter common-rail direct-injection diesel delivering 182hp and 402Nm. It actually doesn’t feel like a diesel, owing to its smoothness and quietness. My time with the car was spent mostly within the city, and the engine returned around 9-10km/L.

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Impressive engine. It’s smooth and quiet

On my way to Magallanes one afternoon via SLEX, the fuel-consumption meter read 12.5km/L just before I exited the highway. Considering I only traveled a short distance of SLEX from moderate traffic on EDSA, the Sportage should easily reach 17km/L on longer highway trips.

As I said earlier, the steering wheel is an indication of how the Sportage maneuvers. It steers with sports-car-like heft and afirm feel, the wheel wanting to return to the center quickly and offering a nice resistance. There’s a drive mode to suit however you want to drive. Just taking into account how this car goes, its Cayenne-inspired looks are a bonus.

LIFE ON THE INSIDE

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  • The flat-bottom wheel not only looks and feels good, it also hints at the car’s bearing.
  • Instruments with white digits and red needles are all too familiar. But we’re not complaining.
  • Buttons are kept to a minimum for an uncluttered look, just like Volkswagen and Audi.
  • Unadorned head unit serves as a high-res monitor, too, for the backing-up camera.
  • Brushed aluminum and other high-quality surfaces abound. The cabin feels very premium.
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A panoramic roof is always a plus for an epic road trip

I was thoroughly impressed with the Sportage during my week-longstint with it. But does it have enough to persuade the buyers looking at the segment’s usual suspects? What are its advantages over its peers? It has a striking appearance, that’s one. It drives really well, that’s another. And it’s propelled by a super-smooth diesel.

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Considering those three points, we have to say the Sportage and the Mazda CX-5 Skyactiv-D, the hottest car in the segment at the moment, are aimed squarely at each other. Mazda is on a hot streak, so that speaks highly of the Korean carmaker. And you know what? The Sportage might have a chance.

SPECIFICATIONS

Kia Sportage GT Line 2.0 DSL


kia-sportage-gt-line-10Price: $36.000
Engine: 2.0-liter turbodiesel 1.4
Power: 182hp @ 4,000rpm
Torque: 402Nm @ 1,750-2,750rpm
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Layout/seating: AWD/5
Rival: Mazda CX-5

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