Kia's sportiest Sportage yet: A mid-life makeover for the funky Korean SUV

<i>Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids</i>
<i>Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids</i>
Sergio Davids

 • Design updates refreshes KIA’s most-loved SUV in SA
 • New engines and new transmissions
 • Revised model line-up 

Kia has given its funky Sportage a mid-life refresh that includes revisions to engine and transmission options, as well as a revised model line-up. 

Prices range from R379 995 for the 1.6 GDI Ignite (6-Speed Auto) to R549 995 for the top-of-the-range 2.0 CRDI EX Plus (8-Speed Auto). Full pricing at the end of this article.

Subtle revisions to exterior and interior

The 2018 Sportage is now even more striking thanks to a slight nip-and-tuck to its exterior. At the front, Sportage retains its assertive headlights, incorporating unique LED Daytime Running Lights, as well as a slightly revised, more prominent ‘tiger nose’ grille. A new bumper design gives the SUV a more masculine, menacing visage, with a more prominent housing for the front foglights. 

GALLERY: 2018 Kia Sportage

At the rear, Sportage also gains a revised bumper and new taillight signature that emphasises the vehicle’s width.

Other enhancements include a new selection of alloy wheel designs in 16", 17" or 19" sizes (model dependent), as well as a range of new colour options. 

Revised model line-up

As part of the Sportage’s mid-life enhancement, the range is revised, discontinuing the SX AWD and GT Line specification grades while increasing the specification and value offering of the existing line-up.

Stephen Crosse, sales director, KIA Motors South Africa, said: "While Sportage has always delivered on stylish looks, abundant space for modern families and a raft of specification, we embraced the opportunity to critically assess the model in a segment that is growing increasingly competitive.

READ: Kia unveils upgraded SA-bound Sportage: new tech, fresh design

"'We are confident that the revised range, including new engines and transmissions, again places Sportage front and centre in the medium SUV segment."

KIA Motors has retained the Ignite specification grade as entry point into the Sportage range, but have enhanced the overall grade to include a raft of standard specification that includes, but is not limited to, aircon (manual), automatic headlight control (incorporating 'Welcome Home' and 'Escort' lighting), electric side-mirrors with integrated indicators, a centre console armrest with integrated storage box, Bluetooth connectivity, a radio with six speakers, electric windows front and rear, rear park distance control and high performance dampers, to name but a few.

Ignite models feature fabric upholstery, as well as a new leather-wrapped steering wheel with remote controls for audio, telephony and cruise control, and a new leather-wrapped gearshift. Newly designed 16” alloy wheels with 215/70 R16 rubber complete the picture, along with standard LED Daytime Running Lights.  

Building on the Ignite specification, the revised Ignite Plus range also includes auto-folding side-mirrors and an electrochromatic rear-view mirror on the inside, gaining notably on its exterior appeal with the addition of front foglights and stylish new 17” wheels shod with 225/60 R17 tyres.

2018 Kia Sportage

                                                                 Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids

The Sportage EX adds new 17” wheels shod with 225/60 R17 tyres. EX models also gain front parking sensors, auto rain-sensing wipers and an Electric Parking Brake with Auto Hold function.

Its Bluetooth system incorporates Voice Recognition, and the air-conditioning system is upgraded from manual to automatic. Seats are upgraded to leather upholstery, and gain electric adjustment functionality (including adjustable lumbar support). 

Notably, the infotainment system is upgraded to include a 7" colour touchscreen that incorporates not only the reverse camera display, but also Apple CarPlay (Sportage is Android Auto ready). 

2018 Kia Sportage

                                                                 Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids

Included in the EX grade is a singular all-wheel drive model, which also includes an upgrade to sporty 19-inch wheels on 245/45 R19 tyres.

The new range-topper, the EX Plus, builds on the EX specification grade, and features the same sporty 19” wheels as the EX AWD model, as well as a panoramic sunroof.

Rear passengers now have access to a USB port, while driver and front passenger benefit from an upgrade to an 8” colour touchscreen that incorporates satellite navigation, the reverse camera display, full Apple CarPlay functionality (Sportage is Android Auto ready), as well as a wireless smartphone charger. 

Simplified engine options

KIA has retained both its familiar 2.0-litre Multi-point Injection (MPI) and 2.0-litre CRDI (Common Rail Diesel Injection) engines for use in the Sportage, discontinuing both the 2.4 GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) and 1.6 T-GDI (Turbocharged Gasoline Direct Injection) engines found in the previous SX AWD and GT Line models.

2018 Kia Sportage

                                                                         Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids

New to the range, however, is the 1.6-litre GDI (Gasoline Direct Injection) engine, utilised exclusively in the Sportage Ignite. This new-generation 1591cc ‘Gamma’ engine produces 97kW/161Nm. It reaches the 100km/h mark in 12.1 seconds and is capable of a top speed of 170 km/h, with CO2 emissions of 175g/km. 

The familiar 2.0-litre 'Nu' MPI engine delivers 115kW/196Nm, with a 0 to 100km/h acceleration time of 10.5 second (6-speed manual) and 11.1 seconds (6-speed automatic) respectively. Top speed is noted at 186km/h (6-speed manual) and 181km/h (6-speed automatic) respectively, with CO2 emissions at 183 g/km (6-speed manual) and 184 g/km (6-speed automatic). 

New 8-speed automatic

The 2.0 CRDI engine produces 131kW/400Nm. As part of the Sportage’s mid-life enhancement, the engine is now mated exclusively to KIA’s new new eight-speed automatic transmission in both the Ignite Plus, EX and EX Plus specification grades. 

In the Sportage, the new transmission assists in getting the SUV to the 100km/h mark in 9.3 seconds, with a top speed of 201km/h and CO2 emissions of 164 g/km. 

Driver Assistance and Safety 

The Sportage range features a full complement of safety and driver assistance systems, including ABS brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), six airbags and ISOFIX child seat anchors as standard. Vehicle safety is ensured through the standard inclusion of central locking, as well as an alarm, immobiliser and Data Dot.

2018 Kia Sportage

                                                                        Image: Kia SA

Drivers will also benefit from Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Hill-start Assist (HAC), and Downhill Brake Control (DBC). All models feature Park Distance Control at the rear, while higher specification EX and EX Plus models also gain front parking sensors and a reverse camera, displayed on the 7- or 8-inch colour touchscreen. 

A strong heritage

Launched in 1993 and spanning four generations since, Sportage is undoubtedly the most successful model in KIA’s history. In fact, earlier in 2018 – in the year of its 25th anniversary – KIA Motors celebrated Sportage reaching 5 million cumulative sales across the globe.

The Sportage made its first appearance at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show, introducing the concept of the 'Urban SUV' to consumers for the first time. It set the blueprint for a compact, practical SUV, suitable for use in a variety of environments and – unsurprisingly – was an instant hit, recording total lifetime sales of over 500 000 units.

A new version of Sportage was introduced in 2004, and after seven years of production, recorded sales of 1 223 776 units globally. 

The global award-winning third generation Sportage, which debuted in 2010, racked up a million sales in only four years, reaching 2-million cumulative sales during its sixth year in production.

2018 Kia Sportage

                                                                      Image: Wheels24/Sergio Davids

The fourth and current generation Sportage, which debuted globally late in 2015, is considered the most popular Sportage yet, reaching the 1-million-unit sales mark after only two years in production. 

Gary Scott, CEO of KIA Motors South Africa, said: "Since 1993, the Sportage has become a benchmark car in the compact SUV segment, and is not only KIA’s most popular model globally, but also one of the most successful models in the brand’s South African line-up.

"The arrival of the enhanced Sportage is the culmination of our 20th anniversary celebrations in South Africa, and we are excited to usher in the next 20 years with a car that ticks every box."


All Sportage models ship as standard with KIA’s industry-leading unlimited kilometre, five-year warranty, as well as a standard 5-year or 90 000km service plan and 5 years of roadside assistance.

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