FIRST DRIVE | Limited edition 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line is an impressive all-rounder SUV

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  • The Kia Sportage's original, eye-catching seven-year-old design is now updated to keep it contemporary.
  • The new GT-Line model is packed with standard features that rivals offer as optional extras.
  • Updated drivetrain and tuning will please moms and dads who enjoy a sportier drive.
  • For more motoring news, visit Wheels24

It might not look too different from the original version of the sporty SUV that Kia launched in South Africa six years ago. But, it seemed so contemporary, to begin with, that it's mind-boggling to think that this fourth-generation version of the Sportage is already seven years old on a global scale.

I know an affinity for a particular car's styling is subjective, but it has held up well in terms of road presence and styling, considering it's more than half a decade old.

From the driver's seat, too, the latest GT-Line Sportage's chassis and its engine and transmission feel as though it's been honed in 2021. There's very little to give its age away, perhaps a slightly dated instrument cluster setup, but the 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line has been refined to a point where it is a compelling choice in this highly competitive compact to mid-size SUV segment.

2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line
2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line

A quick overview of the 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line

In Mzansi, the feature-rich 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line comes with one engine choice: a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder, direct-injection, turbocharged petrol unit. The engine punches out a healthy 130kW of power at 5500rpm and 265Nm of torque from as low as 1500rpm.

The model is also fitted with a variable all-wheel-drive system that sends power 50:50 front and back in particular situations (depending on your drive mode). Most of the time, it's pulled along by the front wheels, but when the vehicle detects that more traction is required at the rear of the car, it will start to shuffle drive torque to the rear axle.

The Sportage GT-Line is also fitted with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission that you can operate through paddles behind the steering wheel.

2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line
2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line

The launch drive

Our launch drive took place in the Western Cape, between the Cape Town International Airport and our overnight stop in Robertson. In the city traffic around the airport, the vehicle was easy to get used to, and it was easy to take gaps and keep pace with local traffic thanks to the performance on offer from the sporty drivetrain. The visibility from the car was excellent, and it gave a confident feeling from the driver's seat. There was no need to dial the car into its Sport setting from the moment we got into it, as it felt well-tuned in its default Normal mode.

The vehicle felt very stable on the highway when travelling at higher speeds, and it also felt stable under braking from these said speeds. Granted, I was the only person in the car as Kia wanted to ensure we did our best to practice social distancing at the event; it felt as though it would have no challenge loaded to the rafters with luggage and packed with family for memorable journeys.

2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line
2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line

The car came into its own as a sporty contender on one of the mountain passes leading out of Cape Town. Here, Sport mode was selected to see if it made a difference, and it did by sharpening up the accelerator input and snapping through the gears faster. You could also feel its all-wheel-drive-system working more engagingly while the electronic driving aids were ever there, cutting power when it needed to, to prevent wheelspin.

We've had the opportunity to take on some of these roads in some sporty cars, and this Sportage GT-Line can live up there with some of the most memorable experiences I've had in a while. There's just something about the way the car leans into corners with just the right amount of roll and how it can soak up bumps without jarring your spine. You know, usually, when a manufacturer slaps a GT badge on a car, you almost expect the suspension tuning to take a hit in terms of trading comfort for a harder edge feel, but Kia's engineers have done a great job here to keep things refined.

When it came down to fuel consumption, after 400km of mixed driving styles over two days, the onboard computer on our launch unit settled at 9.5-litres/100km, which is not bad considering the pace in some sections. If you are heavy-footed, you will use much more fuel, closer to 11-litres/100km. Overall, however, the amount of driving joy on offer, combined with a decent blend of comfort and sportiness, was delightful.

2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line
2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line

Worth considering as a family vehicle

If you're in the market for a new vehicle to cater for your family's growing transport needs in the coming year, and you would like something tried-and-tested but still fresh and engaging on several fronts, this 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line ticks so many boxes.

It's packed with comfort and safety features, and it even has a thumping audio system and an ergonomic interior that will, no doubt, age with grace. I am looking forward to diving deep into some of the creature comforts and technology items in the new 2021 Sportage GT-Line once we get it into the Wheels 24 testgarage in the coming weeks, but for now, you should know that you won't feel shortchanged for anything in this car and I'm thrilled that Kia is giving it one last blast before the all-new fifth-generation Sportage arrives towards the middle of next year.

If you're interested in buying one of these units, you must act fast as only 170 of them are coming to South Africa over the next few months.

All Sportage models come with an unlimited km or five-year warranty and a five-year or 90 000km service plan as standard. You also get five years worth of roadside assistance.

The 2021 Kia Sportage GT-Line costs R649 995, and it's officially on sale in SA from 15 October 2021.

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