The all-new 2016 Kia Sportage – First Impressions
Moving here to the UAE in 2001, the first thing that I witnessed was the overabundance of cars lying just about anywhere and of course from everywhere around the world. In a group of 10 cars at a stoplight, you can’t miss an exotic sports car or a top-dollar luxury car, then there will be 3-4 German cars: be it BMW, Mercedes or an Audi followed by gulf essential 2 Toyota Land Cruisers and a Nissan Patrol apart from other Japanese and American makes.
Making inroads in a highly saturated market is not easy, yet Korean companies from the leading electronic brands like Samsung and together with automotive giant Hyundai and Kia open the floodgates for each other. It’s a tag-team effort. The situation is changing. Yes, there’s still an exotic there at the stoplight along with 3 German and 2 American and the rest is the mixture of Japanese and Korean. How did that happen?
It was a chilling surprised morning, the temperature was indicating at 14C yet with crisp sunshine falling over the luxurious Dubai Meydan hotel, home for the most expensive horse racing in the world. The feel index probably was low around 9C as everyone had seen rubbing their palms and keeping the hands in the pocket. Inside the hotel, media personnel were gathered for the regional launch of Kia Sportage enjoying casual breakfast and hot coffee. Meet and greet seems to be the order of the moment when a gray suit-clad Korean approached and ask us to make our way towards the hall for the official media press briefing. I realized that in fact there weren’t many arrived, however, as per the given program the show must go on at 08:30 am hours. I guess I started to find the clues for Kia success.
All the new 2016 4th generation (codename QL) Kia Sportage made on the key points which are based on raising the expectations of the customer’s both emotional and logical thinking. Starting from enhanced emotional attachment for quality through a unique design that leads to sporty performance with the added SUV’s versatility aspect.
What am I about to say may raise a few eyebrows, nevertheless surprisingly seeing the new 2016 Kia Sportage didn’t put me in a shock ‘n awe state. Since it’s 3rd Gen model from a 2011 Kia bagged IF design award 2011 to Red Dot design award in 2011. Is it any wonder that the new one would be out-of-tune? No wonder now in 2016 once again Kia was announced as the winner of the coveted IF design award.
This time around new to this 4th Gen model, Kia added the new ‘ GT-Line grade to its lineup. The GT-Line is designed and engineered to attract youthful customers. For the first time Kia Sportage GT-Line is available with a turbocharged 16. T-GDI engine mated with a 7-speed dual clutch transmission delivering 177 Hp. I was lucky enough to be assigned to drive this particular car. Even though there were around 22 cars for the press drive event and I am sure there were more than 7 GT-Line cars were available other than the 2.0-liter / 155 Hp MPI ‘Nu’ with 6-speed automatic and the larger and heavier 2.4 GDI with 6-speed automatic. The turboed GT-Line caused a fracas among the journalist from all across the region, I had to give up the car in their favor. Not that I was asked by Kia or its respective PR/ media agency, but I was in no mood for playing musical chair as well. Yet everything happens for a reason and brought a happy ending as the kind gentleman Samee Ahmed, Kia Marketing Manager offered his 2.0-liter car to me. This actually gives way to two things. One, Samee Ahmed rode shotgun with me most of the trip, allowing me to have full control of the car, unlike other media guests cars which were shared by at least two to three journalists and they must have to pass on the driving seat to others! Secondly, I get to collect the knowledge directly from the source, which I never knew of and was certainly a good thing after all.
Well Rounded Design 8.5/ 10
The all-new 2016 Kia Sportage looks fresh and stylish from any angle, yet it’s not a departure from the previous 3rd gen CUV. Instead, it is better looking than Toyota Rav 4 and Honda CRV due to its well-rounded organic lines, I found Sportage attractive and soothing to the eyes rather than, character lines going wild cutting the tangents in the name of ‘revolutionary-design’. You may find design wise similarities to other cars and you’re not wrong as the Kia design team is headed by non-other than ex Audi chief designer Peter Schreyer. Kia took global participation and feedback inputs from its Namyang based studio in Korea and Irvine, California and dumped the data at its design studio in Frankfurt, Germany.
There are very few cars that can be identified without the logos on their bonnet/ hood or the rear deck. BMW is the one with its double kidney grille design and then Aston Martin’s winglike grille design and now if you remove the badge from Kia it will always be identified as Kia forever, thanks to its ‘tiger-nose’ grille! Another exterior element that can distinguish GT-Line from other Kia are the ice-cube LED fog lamps 19-inch alloy wheels and dual exhaust pipes along with a metallic front and rear skid plates. The rear end of the 2016 Kia Sportage now wears a permanent spoiler with integrated third-brake-light and a sleeking looking taillights bar LED inserts.
Inside the cabin, where I spent a good 7 hours of driving on different road conditions, but largely on, well paved UAE roads, I didn’t feel tired. The electronically adjustable seats were comfortable throughout the journey as they were also equipped with cold and warm air vents. The newly designed interior is felt better with the usage of much-improved quality material. Overall fit and finish were quite satisfactory. From the placement of air vents to the media control buttons on the steering wheel, all seems to work well. There were enough cup holders for the long distance journey. As I realized having the teacup on the center console and the water bottles in the door that never rattled thanks to the increase in subduing NVH (Noise/ Vibration/ Harshness) levels. Having said that, I was not impressed with the jaded gray colored in the interior. It made the whole cabin look banal and uninspiring.
The 2016 Kia Sportage has increased the wheelbase size with 30mm thus providing a good comfortable seating position for the passengers to enjoy their ride on the rear bench seat. Also, the rear seats now feature a 7 step 23 to 37 degrees reclining angle to relax. With the overall increment if 40mm in the car’s length, the available cargo is larger than before at 503 liters of space. That’s a good space to carry your picnic gear or should you carrying your family luggage to the airport.
The Ride – 7.5/ 10
Sometimes the media drive event isn’t exciting as you have to drive in a carcade, following a lead car and followed by the sweeper car, you pretty much control the car in between to stay behaved in the line. After our stop at the Hilton Fujairah, we were out again for our next stop after the 100km journey. Sneakily, I’ve detached myself from the group and took a detour in tight sinuous roads I the dark Fujairah mountains. If I were called by the team leader, of course, I can give them back a good reason that I’ve been miss-guided by the gentleman riding shotgun, Mr. Samee Ahmed, Marketing Manager of Kia at Al Majid motors, would anyone care?
The car I got to drive was front wheel drive only 2.0-liter MPI ‘Nu’ in-line 4cylinder engine with 6-speed automatic tranny good for 155hp and 192 Nm of torque. This engine is not new, however, Kia did a good job of upgrading the bits like advanced continuous variable valve timing (CVVT) and a new variable induction system for the improved fuel economy at 8.0 combined and 11.0 in city driving conditions. With hardly 325 Km on the Odo, the Sportage has been just off-the-boat. Still, the engine showed its willingness to drive through switchbacks with gears moving smoothly. If I had the opportunity I would’ve opted for 2.4 GD ‘Theta II’ with 184Hp. The electric power steering was vague, but not lazy. The fully independent suspension all-around was reacting to the change of camber on the bends to keep the car in the true-line with aid Kia’s Vehicle Stability Management (VSM) system helps ensure stability under braking and cornering through careful management of the vehicle’s optional Electronic Stability Control (ESC). It was a nice ride as you would drive with your family members and kids behind but certainly not as exciting to tell you that you’re not a nerd!
I had a brief session of driving the Sportage in off-road conditions, though not as in dune bashing, but on rough, rutted condition enough to test the NVH levels along with the suspension damping. The Sportage stay put and did not cause any vibrations and discomfort in the cabin.
Safety – 8.0/ 10
Being designed and developed in Europe, the all-new 2016 Kia Sportage already achieved highest 5-star safety rating from Euro NCAP crash test performance. This can be credited to the usage 51% of advanced high-strength steel as opposed to the retired 3rd Gen Sportage. You can have your 2016 Kia Sportage with six passive safety airbags and ISOFIX tethers for the child safety seat.
This time around the Sportage can be ordered with an audible alert for Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS). High Beam Assist (HBA), which automatically adjusts headlamp range according to other vehicles and road conditions. Blind Spot Detection (BSD) with Lane Change Assist (LCA), which monitors cars up to 70 meters behind the Sportage and provides the driver with a visual warning in the door mirror when another car enters the blind spot.
Buyers guide to the Galaxy – 8.0/ 10
You can have your 2016 Kia Sportage any way you like. All- Wheel drive format or front wheel drive only. With a choice of three engines to suit your driving needs. If you are the person who likes to pick and drop your kids to school to and do the other daily chores of shopping than 2.0 should be good enough for that. And if you commute on long distances than 2.4l GDI ‘Theta II’ with 184 Hp will do the job. However, if you like to show off your ride than look no further than GT-Line as it offers visually appealing appearance. During the drive, Samee Ahmed told me that the expected price for 2016 Kia Sportage would be AED75,000.
With available 5-inch touch screen to 8-inch LCD that not only provide park assist rear view camera but also feature satnav and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity and aux-in and USB ports for smartphones and MP3 music players. Unlike any other Compact Utility Vehicle 2016 Kia Sportage comes with cordless mobile phone charging! And like I told you earlier the front seats are also complimented with optional cold air and warm heater depending upon the climate and an 8 speaker JBL sound system.
My RVM/ Rearview Mirror judges the car on the basis of their intent- purpose and manufacturer’s claims. Sometimes the claims exceed the expectations. This nifty 2016 Kia Sportage proves a better improvement on its previous model and a highly desirable compact utility vehicle for its price and available grades with the options.