More striking and poised than ever, we sample the new-generation Kia Sportage…

Okay, now here comes a true story I haven’t told before… Years ago, my partner and I stayed in a quaint area called Harfield Village in Claremont, Cape Town. We lived here for eight blissful years. In our little 12-unit gated cluster, we had a rather unusual situation; we didn’t have just one Ian or two Ian’s; it turned out there were three living near us. Ian number one, aptly dubbed as such because he lived in unit number one, then short Ian, who also happens to be my hairdresser, and then last, but not least, tall Ian. He stretches about 2.1 metres into the sky, towering over everyone. Unfortunately, he tragically passed away a couple of years back, so this story is more of an ode to him than anything else. 

Kia Sportage

I had just started my career as a motoring journalist. All the neighbours, other than Ian, always flocked to our carport to see what I bought home for the week. He was pretty much set in his ways and in love with his gold MK3 Polo hatchback. Anyhow, cars came and went out of our little complex gates. Some were exciting, and some not so much. Then one day, the most unusual thing happened. I pulled in with the then-new Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD AT. A tall figure approached me in my blind spot as I parked. First, I was too scared to look. I thought I was irritating a neighbour with Avicii blasting over the radio, but no, it was tall Ian, and he wanted to know about the Sportage. I was in my element. It was the moment I had been waiting for, for years — some recognition from the tall, grumpy oke that barely spoke a word to me. 

We chatted for about 30 minutes, after which I took him for a spin around the block. Two weeks later, he bought one. This was one of the coolest moments of my motoring career. When I asked him what it was about the Sportage that made him take note, he said, “Name another good-looking, budget-friendly car that turns heads and melts hearts.” At that moment, I had nothing to say back. I was still just stoked that I managed to get him to interact with me. Anyhow, you can say history was made that day. 

Kia Sportage

Fast forward a couple of years; the new-generation Sportage recently finally touched down in South Africa. But first, a bit of history…

Kia has a very interesting history with the Sportage. The first generation was loosely based on the platform underpinning the Mazda Bongo, and the second iteration was based on Hyundai architecture. The third version (Ian’s car) broke the mould — it was all Kia! It even had a 12-month waiting list. With the fourth generation, Kia stuck it to everyone again. They scored a Guinness World Record for the longest test drive and walked away with a Red Dot design award in 2018. Then we waited for the fifth generation to drop for what felt like a lifetime. The wait was worth it! 


The local launch of the latest Kia Sportage took place at the picturesque Mount Nelson hotel in Cape Town. Did our friends from South Korea match their car with the location on purpose? We think so, and they pulled it off with the same finesse and charm associated with the luxe hotel. 

From an exterior point of view, the Sportage has had a complete facelift. This has been one of the best generational facelifts we have seen on any model in the Kia stable. It brings a level of poise that’s met with a futuristic design that will age gracefully. Kia’s new design for the Sportage embodies its ‘opposites united’ design language. A new grille, with sharper, more modern design lines around the headlights, makes a memorable first impression. The derivatives sport 17-, 18-, or 19-inch wheels, depending on the model. There are 12 exterior colour options with three new options to the colour pallet, including Experience Green, Orange Fusion, and Splash Lemon.

The line-up is pretty solid. There are five derivatives to choose from, starting with the LX. Then there’s the EX, GT-Line, GT-Line Plus, and the range-topping GT-Line S. All models come with various standard features. Even the entry-level variant is kitted out with an array of items one would not usually find on a car at the bottom of a range. 

Features include automatic LED headlights and DRLs, fog lamps, a posh leather-cladded steering wheel, an adjustable steering column, a reverse-view camera, and a larger-than-usual, curved 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system incorporating Bluetooth and is compatible with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. We tested the connectivity on our launch drive, and the connection was seamless and effortless with Android and Apple devices.

Additional features in the EX and GT versions include heated seats, fancier upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, and steering wheel-mounted paddle shifters to get into character to sample the GT-line S properly.

The Sportage caters for the whole family, with plenty of head- and legroom and ample luggage space. This makes it a commendable car for driving around town and going on long-distance trips. 

With all the bells and whistles aside, Kia didn’t drop the ball with the actual driving experience. The all-new Sportage comes with one engine and transmission combination across the range. It’s powered by a 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine coupled with the front axle via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The powertrain produces 132 kW and 265 Nm of torque. The nippy four-pot packs more than enough punch for effortless overtaking and has the most gentle purr while cruising at 100 km/h-plus.  

At a glance

Kia Sportage

Building on the popularity of its forebears, the new SUV bearing the “Sportage” namesake is as commendable as ever. Considering its generous level of specification, interior and driving comfort, and poised ride quality, the box-fresh Sportage is difficult to fault. With the latest iteration, Kia has its sights firmly set on dominating the midsize crossover/SUV segment. And the new Sportage might just take the spot. We’d argue the Sportage in EX (R593 995), or GT-Line (R649 995) spec are the ones to go for. 

  • Price: R539 995 to R734 995
  • Engine: 1.6 L, 4-cyl, turbopetrol
  • Transmission: 7-spd dual-clutch
  • Driven wheels: F
  • Power: 132 kW @ 5 500 r/min
  • Torque: 265 Nm @ 1 500-4 500 r/min
  • 0-100 km/h: 8.8 seconds
  • Top speed: 201 km/h
  • Fuel consumption: 6.5 L/100 km
  • CO2: 149 g/km