Road test: Kia’s entry-level Sportage drops manual gearbox

Image: Warren Wilson
Image: Warren Wilson
kia,sportage,kia sportage

Kia is no stranger when it comes to SUVs. In its arsenal it has two of these model ranges - the Sportage and Sorento - that both do more than their part in filling the market.

But it’s the Sportage that’s one of Kia’s more successful products locally and the Korean manufacturer updated the range in the second half of 2018. The range kicked off with the 1.6-litre Ignite in manual guise, but with the refresh the automaker instead opted to take away the manual and replace it with a new six-speed automatic variant.

READ: 5 things to know about Kia's family-friendly Grand Sedona

Fair enough, given that the market heavily favours automatic gearboxes over manuals, it made sense from a business point of view for Kia to do it.

The question is, though, whether or not the automatic ‘box is a right fit for the engine.

Rev happy

The entry-level Kia Ignite is fitted with a 1.6-litre petrol engine and has to make do without a turbocharger. Naturally-aspirated engines are nothing strange or uncommon, but when 97kW and 161Nm has to carry 1568kg around it does tend to show a few holes in the formula.

During city driving, while in traffic and crawling from robot to robot, one does not feel the shortcomings with the drivetrain, but on the open road, when scaling inclines, the engine tends to rev quite freely and the gearbox cogs down to fourth - sometimes third gear - just to attempt to keep its momentum. 

Gallery: Kia Sportage 1.6 Ignite auto

But it’s not all doom and gloom with the Sportage, as one can get respectable levels of fuel economy from it. During one of my extended drives with the SUV I managed to achieve a fuel return of 7.5-litres/100km (Kia claims an average of 7.7).

Despite it being achieved on the open road at a constant speed of 120km/h and aided by a tailwind, that does make for encouraging reading. The entire Kia Sportage range has a very good architecture on which the vehicles are built and the SUV has really good on-road mannerisms. 

Read Charlen Raymond’s review on the Kia Sportage 1.6 Ignite auto below:

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