As the rate of introduction of diesel-powered cars to South Africa slows to barely a trickle – thanks to ever-stricter European emissions standards – the introduction of three CRDi versions of the Kia Sportage is a welcome addition to the range, and fills a void in the medium-sized SUV segment.

The Kia Sportage’s evolution is something of a proxy for the brand’s progress from a virtually unknown and struggling carmaker in the 1990s, to a global leader in design and technology. In South Africa, the Sportage is the mainstay of Kia’s local operation and is much loved by thousands of happy customers. That kind of success doesn’t happen overnight; it is the result of intuitive brand management and giving customers what they want, when they need it.

That’s why the introduction of three turbodiesel models to the Sportage line-up is a stroke of genius that comes at a time when the field of diesel-powered cars has all been wiped out in the middle, leaving only entry-level and high-end diesels available for those buyers who value power and fuel economy in the same package. 


The Sportage is a good-looking car, offering the style conscious and the practical-minded equal indulgence in a vehicle that truly breaks from the design norm. Here, futurism meets family.

From its LED headlamps (across the range), ‘boomerang’ daytime-running lights that flank the slimline ‘tiger nose’ grille, and a rising sculpted beltline that climaxes in a dynamic rear design, Kia’s new design language –  ‘Opposites United’ – influences every aspect of the car. There are also 12 available colour choices for the range.

Kia’s interior designs have always been a key differentiator, even in entry-level cars, and the Sportage’s interior is no less dynamic, futuristic, and welcoming than the exterior. 

Stylish and comfortable in equal measure, the premium interior shows Kia’s ability to blend high-tech equipment with driver-focused functionality. Of the many features that deserve to be highlighted in the cabin, the 12.3” curved multi-function infotainment display is at the top of our list. Housing both the infotainment and instrumentation screens, the display grants access to all vehicle features and functions, while climate control and audio functions are ceded to a slimline touch-activated dynamic panel with physical roundels. Either driver or passenger can control which functions (climate or audio) appear on the panel using a toggle switch.

Although the subject of some debate, the dynamic panel is a clever compromise allowing two separate systems to co-exist in one space-saving solution, especially for drivers who prefer physical switches for basic vehicle functions.

Depending on the model, a high-speed wireless tray and two USB-C charging ports take care of smartphone charging, while rear passengers can access two front seat-mounted USB ports for this purpose.

Larger families (there’s space for up to five adults) will appreciate the Sportage’s class-leading headroom, legroom, and luggage space (591 litres with the seats up), which curiously trumps its Hyundai Tucson cousin that manages 531 litres.


At R597,995, the starter LX is packed with a good amount of standard equipment, including a height and reach-adjustable steering wheel, and height adjustment and two-way adjustable electric lumbar support for the driver’s seat. Cloth seats are standard.

The driver and front passenger windows get auto-electric windows with an anti-pinch function and dual-zone automatic climate control. Drive Mode Select is also included, allowing the driver to select from Comfort, Eco, Sport or Smart sub-settings, a Blind Spot Collision Warning system, and a reverse camera with parking sensors in the rear.

The EX grade adds cloth/artificial leather combination upholstery, electric adjustment for the front seats, seat-heating all-around, and a heated steering wheel. The 40:20:40-split second-row seatbacks can be folded down with the press of a button to create a flat cargo space, and rear passengers will enjoy the addition of privacy glass. 

GT-Line Plus models are distinguished by the addition of scuff plates, a panoramic sunroof, and gloss black exterior trim. Inside, there’s an upgrade to artificial leather and suede combo, LED interior lights, paddle shifters, alloy pedals, and an automatic tailgate. Several additional dynamic safety systems also come into play here, including lane-keep and lane-follow assist (to help steer the car when lane markings are poor), and Kia’s industry-leading Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) that will first sound a warning if an imminent collision is detected. If no action is taken, autonomous emergency braking will be activated.

All models have ABS and EBD, stability control, hill-start assist and Downhill Brake Control (DBC), and Trailer Stability Assist (TSA). Across the range, you’ll also find Smart Entry with Push Button Start and an electric parking brake with auto-hold functionality.


Powering the range is a smooth-as-silk 1.6-litre four-cylinder turbodiesel engine coupled with a 7-speed dual-clutch transmission. A larger-capacity turbodiesel is available in other markets. However, we believe the 1.6 to be a good choice for South African conditions, delivering 100 kW of power and a healthy 320 Nm of torque while keeping fuel consumption low at a claimed 4.9 l/100 km.

While the available power (peaking at 4,000 rpm) is sufficient to see the Sportage accelerate off the line to 100 km/h in 11.4 seconds, the torque sweet spot (between 2,000 and 2,250 rpm) makes light work of high-speed overtaking. 

Based on Kia’s new N3 architecture, the fifth generation Sportage has a MacPherson strut-type suspension at the front and a four-link type set-up at the rear, lending a stable yet sporty character to the SUV. At the entry point, the LX derivative gets 17” alloy wheels, while the EX runs on 18” alloys, and the range-topping GT-Line Plus is shod with 19” wheels. 


With the addition of diesel power options to the Sportage range, it has become one of the most comprehensive in the mid-size SUV segment. We don’t expect other manufacturers with SUVs in this price range to follow suit soon, making the Sportage an even more enticing option for the South African consumer.


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