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Review and photos by Paul Williams
Selling the new 2005 Kia Sportage compact SUV is proving to be something of a challenge for Kia Canada President, Bill Porter.
“I just can’t get enough of them,” he explains. “We’ve been allocated 4,000, and I know I’m going to need more.”
The reason is that Canadians are quick to spot a bargain, and the new Sportage (which shares no components with the previous generation Sportage) packs a lot of vehicle into its starting price of $19,995. Even the top-of-the-line EX-V6 AWD, with leather and air and a full range of luxury and safety amenities, stickers at a very competitive $29,995.
At Autos, we like a bargain, too. But we also want value. As a wise retailer once said to me, “There’s a difference between ‘cheap’ and ‘inexpensive.’ What we sell is inexpensive,” he cautioned, “but nothing here is cheap.”
Nothing seemed cheap in our Steel Grey Sportage EX-V6, either. The leather-faced seats were comfortable, supportive, and nicely tailored; the carpets were carefully installed and of good quality; as were the well-designed interior panels. Outside the paint was even and deep, and the standard 16″ alloy wheels and integrated roof rack were stylish finishing touches.
Maybe the Sportage looks good and is well-built, but so are several competitors, you might think. But it’s the standard equipment and price that really sets it apart.
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Anti-lock brakes you expect, but electronic stability control and traction control are rarely offered in vehicles at this price point, let alone as standard equipment. Likewise for the full side curtain airbags (one of several features that differentiates the Sportage from its Hyundai equivalent, the Tucson).
Other equipment includes power sunroof; air conditioning; power windows, doors, locks; power, heated mirrors; MP3/CD audio system; trip computer; heated front seats; cargo cover; leather wrapped steering wheel and shifter; woodgrain interior accents (we’ll get back to that); luggage net; fog lamps. All this is included as well, so you won’t be lacking in buttons to press and gadgets to operate.
Room for rear-seat passengers is generous, and the seats there are comfortable. Behind the rear seat is a useful 667-litres of cargo space, and a selection of cubbies for small items below the hinged rear floor.
Fold down the split rear seats, and the seatbacks click into place with an extra little push. This creates a perfectly flat floor behind the front seats, and creates 1,885-litres of cargo room.
If you want to access that cargo from outside the vehicle, the rear door features two methods of entry. One opens the lift-back door, but if you don’t want to do that, you can just flip up the rear window. If you’ve opened the door, there’s a big grab-handle to help lower it.
On the road, the 173-hp V6 and four-speed automatic transmission operate smoothly and efficiently. At speed the Sportage is quiet and wind-noise is only occasionally noticeable. It’s very stable, even in windy conditions.
In fact, this small SUV corners well and handles much like an intermediate sized car. You do sit higher than sedans, but you’re not way up there like in a full-size pickup truck. In other words, the driver still feels reassuringly in contact with the road.
The all-wheel drive system works well and adds to the vehicle’s surefootedness, but the Sportage isn’t designed as an off-road specialist, even though it seems quite tough.
An area of concern for consumers is fuel economy, especially in SUV-type vehicles. Here again the Sportage excels. Part of the extensive standard equipment is a trip computer that tracks fuel consumption, and at reasonable highway speeds, we averaged around 9.0-litres/100 km. City driving was up to around 12.0 L/100km, but these numbers are good for a vehicle of this type, and very close to the Energuide official figures.
True, there are some things you don’t get in the Sportage that are available in more expensive compact SUVs. A navigation system, for instance, auto dimming mirrors, xenon lighting, rear proximity sensors, five-speed transmission, DVD system…these are things that are not uncommon on some competitors models.
But you’ll have to pay close to $10,000 more to get into a vehicle where you can check these extra-cost items on the option sheet.
As it is, we think Kia Canada has included exactly the right blend of features in the comparatively inexpensive Sportage, and we’re particularly impressed with the inclusion of side curtain airbags, traction control and electronic stability control.
Our only real dislike is the nasty wood-effect trim panels on the EX-V6. We think these really let down the interior, and drive attention away from the Sportage’s otherwise excellent presentation. Fortunately, Kia Canada doesn’t like them either, and word has it that classy, brushed aluminum will replace them before long.
With this level of quality, content, and a five-year warranty over 100,000 km, we think Bill Porter should be able to sell all the Sportages he can get for Canada.
Technical Data: 2005 Kia Sportage EX-V6 AWD
|Price as tested||$31,295|
|Type||Four-door, five passenger compact SUV|
|Layout||transverse front engine/all-wheel-drive|
|Engine||2.7 litre V6, DOHC, 24 valves|
|Horsepower||173 @ 6000 rpm|
|Torque||178 lb-ft @ 4000 rpm|
|Towing capacity||454 kg (1000 lb)|
|907 kg (2000 lb) w/trailer brake|
|Ground clearance||195 mm (7.7 in.)|
|Curb weight||1,600 kg (3,527 lbs)|
|Wheelbase||2910 mm (114.6 in.)|
|Length||4,350 mm (171.2 in.)|
|Width||1,800 mm (70.9 in.)|
|Height||1,695 mm (66.7 in.)|
|Cargo space||667 litres (23.6 cu. ft.) (seats up)|
|1887 litres (66.6 cu. ft.) (seats down)|
|Fuel consumption||City 12.4 L/100 km (23 mpg) (Imperial gallons)|
|Hwy: 9.4 L/100 km (30 mpg) (Imperial gallons)|
|Fuel type||Regular unleaded|
|Warranty||5 yrs/100,000 km|