January 25, 2016, 9:30 PM
The new Kia Sportage is about three months away from landing in Canada and we’re getting some intel on what is going to be available once it touches down.
Much of what is already known surrounds the looks that are evolutionary but take the style up a considerable notch inside and out, with the exterior featuring headlights distanced from the tabbed grille on a more blunt tiger nose, and the interior featuring high-quality materials and advances in comfort convenience and connectivity.
The new model is longer by 40 mm (now 4,480 mm), with three-quarters of that increase made up in wheelbase (30 mm longer, to 2,670 mm), but retains the same overall width (1,855 mm) and height (1,635mm), despite a more swept-back profile resulting from a more aerodynamic high-mounted rear spoiler. Bolder wheel arches (housing wheel sizes from 17 through 19 inches) and sharper character lines infuse a sense of sinewy muscularity to the profile the company says was inspired by the fat-free musculature of a world-class sprinter. Aerodynamic drag has been reduced to 0.33 Cd (from 0.35).
There seem to be two distinguishable levels of equipment in the fourth generation of the compact SUV, with the upper level pushing the envelope of sophistication and performance. European specs indicate a new GT-Line, befitting the continent’s top selling Kia model (accounting for over a quarter of the marque’s total annual sales) and perceived flagship of its line. Among the GT-Line’s (SX in Canada) styling cues are unique 19-inch wheels, ice-cube-tray LED fog lights and metal-effect skid plates up front, and dual exhaust pipes and metal-effect underbody diffuser in the rear.
The new interior blends cool metalwork with soothing soft-touch materials to create an ambience of comfortable high-technology, furthered by noise reduction initiatives. Space is enhanced though horizontal design that opens up the cabin virtually. The upper/lower demarcation of the instrument panel creates zones of display (marked by the gauge cluster and optional infotainment touchscreen) over control (radio, climate control, driving modes, etc.). The separation also made it easier to create 2-tone interiors. SX particulars include a flat-bottom steering wheel, piano-black fascia and metal pedals.
New onboard technologies include improved audio/visual TomTom navigation with live traffic updates, digital radio, premium JBL sound system, and wireless charging for mobile devices (a first in the segment) with charge status display in the gauge cluster.
Passenger space is increased in head and legroom, achieved through the increase in wheelbase as well as the redesign of the seats and lowering of the floor (in the rear). Rear seats also offer a greater degree of reclining comfort, with the lever relocated to ease of use., and more natural light floods into the cabin through the increase of glass space, front, rear, side and overhead (the panoramic sunroof is 104mm longer).
Cargo space is also increased and Sportage also comes with a dual height floor to make it easier to transport taller items under the cargo cover. Reworking the interior trim panels offers more cargo width than the outgoing model, while the hatch door threshold has been lowered to make lifting items over it easier. Fuel capacity is also increased, which means increased driving range.
More fuel efficient engines will also help extend the distance between fill-ups, with improvements to the carryover suite of engines. Sportage is expected to carry on with the standard 2.4-litre direct injected 4-cylinder engine and the 2.0-litre turbo “four,” though it is rumoured to be getting a power boost up to 265 hp (currently 260). Transmission choices are limited to a 6-speed manual or automatic with the 2.4, or a new 7-speed dual clutch automatic for the turbo.
The fully independent suspension (front MacPherson struts; rear multi-links) has been enhanced for sharper handling without compromising ride quality, through specially-tuned dampers, and revised bushings and mounts that take into account the new bodyshell. The new longer wheelbase also helps smooth out pavement imperfections, while new electric steering assist provides quicker steering responses to driver inputs, particularly on-centre.
Driving aids include standard antilock brakes, traction and stability control, and available automatic braking, lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, automatic high-beam adjust, blindspot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and road-sign reading technology.
Other available technology includes a rearview camera, no-touch automatic hatch door opening, steering coordinated headlights, and a greeting feature that turns on interior and exterior accent lamps and unfolds the outside mirrors when the smart key comes within the perimeter sensor zone.
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