MOBILITY: Long-Term Test Drive, The KIA Sportage

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At around this time last year, I decided it was time to say goodbye to Cooper, my trusty Honda CR-V, one of the original batch imported from Japan when it was first introduced to the Philippine market. My brother had bought a Hyundai Tucson about six months earlier and was pretty happy with the vehicle, so I thought it would be nice to get a twin. So I made a reservation—and waited, and waited.

One fine day I caught a glimpse of a then-newly launched Kia Sportage and thought to myself, “That’s not a bad-looking SUV.” So I did my research and asked some motorhead friends for their opinion. The consensus: Why not?

Although supply was still a bit tight at that time, in just a little over a week, I got a call from my enterprising sales executive that a red Sportage 2.0-liter 2WD was available for delivery within a couple of days. So it came to pass that my daily drive is now named “Scarlett.”

The 2.0L 2WD EX A/T G as variant is the base model f or the Kia Sportage line. It is powered by a 2.0L Theta II gasoline engine with 16-valves, multipoint injection, double overhead camshaft (DOHC) with dual continuous variable valve timing (D-CVVT). Maximum power is 166ps @ 6200rpm, and maximum torque is 20.1kg-m @ 4600rpm. The front-wheel drive powertrain is mated to an automatic transmission with shiftronic control.

kia sportage

How do these numbers translate in real life driving? Well, I must confess that, sadly, quick acceleration is not this SUV ’s strong suit, and you’ll need a heavier foot on the gas pedal to make the Sportage sprint. It’s not very nimble in crowded stop-and-go traffic, as it seems sluggish at lower speeds. Once I hit the 60kph mark, though, there is a marked difference in performance, and the car feels lighter and smoother to drive. I also noticed that, contrary to popular belief that you get better fuel economy at lower speeds, I get the best fuel mileage a t 80-100kph. Adjusting for this quirk instead of allowing the car to slowly build up speed, I now tend to step on the gas pedal to quickly get to 60-80kph, at which point the rpm drops down to around 1800rpm. Over the past year, my fuel mileage has ranged from about 6km/liter.

With regard to pulling power, the Sportage definitely makes the grade. With a towball installed, I used it to tow a dinghy on a trailer, and had no problems at all keeping speed at both SLEX and STAR tollways and then navigating the winding, rolling roads to Taal Lake.

As an everyday ride through Metro Manila traffic, the Sportage may not be the quickest off the mark, but its front Mcpherson strut and rear multilink suspensions provide excellent riding comfort. Noise, vibration and harshness are kept to a minimum.

The trim level of the Sportage is a mixed bag. Since the driver’s seat is eight-way adjustable with lumbar support, it is comfortable even on long drives. The front passenger seat, on the other hand, is another story. Almost everyone, as soon as they take the seat, remark on how low it is—and missing a height adjuster, the front passenger seat somehow feels a bit off. There is enough head and legroom on the back row to comfortably seat three regular sized adults, so long drives are not a problem.

However, I have issues with the Sportage’s rear cargo space—it is barely enough to hold all my grocery bags when I go to the supermarket, and finding space to hold large boxes or luggage can be a bit of a problem.

Another major complaint I have is the large blind spot while turning. The Sportage’s A-pillar is too big and I feel I have to take extra care during cornering as I’m afraid of I might hit something.

In the looks department, the Sportage is a head-turner. I have had the pleasant experience of random people approaching me in parking lots to compliment me on the car and inquire about its performance.

Of course, fuel efficiency depends on driving conditions. On purely highway, long-distance travel, I have been able to squeeze out as much as 14-km/li. For mixed city-highway driving, fuel consumption ranges from 8 to 11-km/li. When stuck in stop-and-go traffic, it is a guzzler a t 5 to 6-km/li.

One year and 7,500-km later, am I happy with Scarlett? It’s not perfect, but I love its exterior design and am relatively happy with its performance and driving comfort.

First published in Gadgets Magazine, June 2013

Words by Belle Alba