The return of Kia Philippines to the market didn’t just come with new models like the Soluto, the Stinger, and the return of the Forte. Its existing lineup has been refreshed as well – down from the subcompact hatchback Rio up to the minivan Carnival. The Kia Sportage was among the cars that were given a fresh start and it is, at least in our books, a force to be reckoned with in the compact crossover segment.
Why? First, it’s diesel, which we all know as the more favored fuel type of Filipinos. Plus, the overall updates are better, considering that I’ve adored its predecessor that I tested a few years back. To put things in perspective, continue reading this in-depth review of the 2019 Sportage in its range-topping GT Line option.
The strength of the 2019 Sportage lies in its exterior features. The range-topping GT-Line comes with LED lighting that, by our count, amounts to 34 LED lights at the front fascia. The LED lighting package doesn’t only make the crossover look good, day and night, but it also makes driving easier when it gets dark.
The shower of LEDs and arguably good looks don’t end at the front; the rear end has its own share of updates that increases the appeal of the compact crossover. The most notable would be the LED taillights at the rear that radiate a Porsche-esque vibe. Even before I got my hands on the media unit for this review, I’ve tailed a few refreshed Sportage on the road and they really caught my eyes.
And oh, those GT-Line-exclusive 19-inch alloy rims fit the overall bulky and macho aura of the vehicle.
If you’ve been inside the previous Sportage’s cabin, the refreshed model would be quite familiar to you because of the carried over driver-centric layout. It’s fairly easy to familiarize with the car’s controls even at first seating. This means the ergonomics is still there, along with supple leather seats and soft-touch materials. Even the steering wheel is wrapped in cowhide, too. However, the piano black plastic trims on the door panels and the dashboard are also inherited by the refreshed model. These types may look easy on the eyes, but they are prone to scratches and don’t age well.
Beyond the shiny black plastics, the cabin of the Sportage favors those who need to put a lot of small things inside their car. Plenty of cubbyholes can be found in the front cabin, while a total of four cup holders are available, on top of the spacious pockets on all four doors.
Space is fairly ample, at least for average-built passengers standing at 5’8” and below. The rear reclinable, semi-bench seat could readily accommodate three people of this size but for taller (and healthier) ones, it would be best to stick to just two. Trunk space, on the other hand, is among the biggest in its class with 491L, while the flat lip allows easy cargo loading and the rear backrests fold flat to the floor to maximize the cargo space at 1,480L.
Ride comfort is quite expected in a compact crossover with McPherson struts at front and multi-link at the back – steady and car-like on cemented paths while soft and absorptive on unforgiving surfaces. Although, the Sportage’s chassis does feel like a little too soft to take a constant beating, so just avoid going off-road as much as possible even with its 172mm ground clearance. NVH insulation has improved from before but would need further sound-deadening from outside city noise.
This is where most of the updates in the 2019 Sportage lie; almost everything that I look for in a crossover of this price is covered. The driver and front passenger’s seats are both power-adjustable, with the driver given with an extra two-way lumbar support. Other convenient features include keyless entry, push start engine, auto-folding side mirrors upon locking, speed-sensing door locks, auto-dimming rearview mirror, automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone automatic climate control, and cruise control. If Kia added an electronic parking brake with auto-brake hold function and automatic tailgate, that would remove almost in my description. Guess you couldn’t really have it all.
An eight-inch touchscreen infotainment crowns the dashboard. It looks good and employs a classy appeal with its monochromatic theme. It also houses Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but it’s somehow a hit or miss feature as there were times when the Apple CarPlay didn’t engage when I plugged in my smartphone. This may sound like a nitpick but when a convenient feature becomes inconvenient because of inconsistency, then it nullifies its very purpose. Good thing there's still Bluetooth connectivity so I had a choice.
During the times that the CarPlay worked, handsfree calls were loud and clear while music from the six-speaker setup is on the average, but can be improved.
The host of safety features that come with the whole Sportage lineup is a bit lacking – driver’s airbag, ABS, ISOFIX child seat anchor, driver and passenger seatbelt reminder, child lock, and four 3-point seatbelts but only a lap belt for the rear middle passenger.
On the other hand, the range-topping GT-Line gets additional front passenger, side, and curtain airbags, along with stability control, downhill brake control, hill-start assist, reverse camera, and front and rear proximity sensors.
Driving & Handling
When talking about the Sportage’s engine, it’s hard to not speak of its twin, the Hyundai Tucson. Both crossovers hail from he Hyundai-Kia global company, so both use the 2.0L CRDi diesel mill with e-VGT that spews out 185 metric horses and 400 Nm of torque. They even share the transmission type – the 8-speed ShiftTronic automatic transmission that employs linear power delivery.
However, on the actual drive, the Sportage felt a bit more hesitant in sending all that torque to the front wheels, especially when in Normal and Eco modes. It didn’t feel lacking, it’s just more conservative. That’s true even with the fact that the Sportage’s lighter than the Tucson, which kind of a mystery, really.
Handling, on the other hand, was generally satisfactory even without the all-wheel-drive system of its predecessor. There’s understeer when taking turns too fast and considerable body roll as well. In-city drives were okay for the most part, except when tackling tight spaces because of the hood’s shape. Disc brakes for all wheels meant safe halting but the media unit’s pedal felt a bit spongy.
With the mentioned linear power delivery, the 2019 Sportage returned notable fuel efficiency numbers. An hour in heavy city traffic clocked in 8.8 km/L, while faster paces on a Sunday at around 60 km/h registered 15.3 km/L. Highway stints with the cruise control set at 90 km/h read back 20.6 km/L.
Of note, I tested fuel efficiency with only two people and light cargo on board.
At P1,820,000 for the 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line variant, it’s a price tagthat most people would probably snicker at. But compact crossovers aren’t for most people – they are for those who are looking for a family car but don’t really need or want an extra third row. They’re for those who want a car that’s comfortable to drive within the city as it is on long journeys.
And to be quite honest, with the mentioned characteristics of the Sportage on this review, especially the laudable fuel efficiency, that price tag is already a good deal for a crossover of this caliber. Besides, if that’s too much, a lower diesel variant is available at P1,545,000 while the entry-level gasoline trim is at P1,290,000. Of course, that would mean fewer toys and features, but that’s a different story.