Comfort, reliability and safety are basic elements to look for in a new car. Add agile handling, a capable suspension and an attractive design at a solid price and you have a winning formula for a medium-sized SUV. This week, Mexico Automotive Review tested the brand new 2018 Kia Sportage SXL AWD and found out why this SUV has become the brand’s champion in the Mexican market.
At first sight, the Sportage stands out because of its discrete chrome finishes, a futuristic façade and refined body design that make it clear German utility vehicles have nothing on it. Quality was at the top of Kia designers’ priority list as well. The SUV’s fine leather interiors, soft steering wheel and well-balanced dashboard are worthy of a premium-level car and although spending hours in traffic is a headache that thousands of divers must endure every day, the Sportage’s comfort and luxury features make Mexico City’s jams less of a burden.
Want to show your passenger the photos you saved in your flash-drive while waiting at a red light? Go ahead. Forgot to charge your phone at home? Just plug in your cable to one of Sportage’s USB sockets and get to your destination fully charged. Enjoy your music on a powerful but balanced audio system supported by a multi-functional infotainment system and a completely soundproofed cabin, all of which is crowned by a panoramic roof so you never miss the view.
But do not be fooled. There is more to the Sportage than just a pretty face.
What makes this vehicle a fun, sporty and comfortable drive is what is under its hood. Clients can choose among the LX, EX or EX Pack entry versions and find a four-cylinder, two-liter engine that delivers 153hp, which is more than enough for a family’s everyday routine and occasional weekend trip. If you are looking for that extra oomph, the SXL and SXL AWD versions feature a four-cylinder, 2.4-liter, GDI engine that delivers 181hp for any highway, track or a country-road experience.
A solid suspension is also crucial if you are planning a bumpy route or to navigate the many potholes in the city. The Sportage’s suspension almost completely absorbs impact. This, combined with smooth gear changes, reliable ABS brakes and either an AWD or a 2WD powertrain configuration, makes driving Sportage on- or off-road an enjoyable experience.
But what are comfort and reliability without security? Kia packed the Sportage full of safety systems that made it worthy of a five-star grade from Euro NCAP. All versions of Sportage have a total of six airbags including the ones on the front, side and screen, a reinforced-steel structure and electronic stability control. However, most accidents are annoying dents or scratches rather than full-on crashes and they are sometimes the driver’s own fault. With this in mind, Kia placed proximity sensors at the front and back of the Sportage, depending on the version, as well as a rear camera in all versions for greater awareness on the car’s surroundings.
The only downside we found to the Sportage was its fuel efficiency. After a week of daily testing, Mexico Automotive Review consumed around three-quarters of Sportage’s 62-liter tank. The vehicle was used plenty but still, in our current high-price gasoline market, any improvement is welcome.
Despite this disadvantage, Mexicans have developed a taste for Kia’s flagship SUV. Whether you want to go down to the track, take the family to a picnic or go to work, this SUV offers a great cost-benefit relation. In 2017, Sportage became the fourth best-selling SUV in Mexico and reached fifth position in the country’s top-selling light-truck segment. With 20,278 sold units by the end of 2017 in Mexico, Kia’s success with this model has prompted the brand to take advantage of the FTA between Mexico and the EU and start importing Sportage’s three entry-level versions from Slovakia now that the brand has reached its import quota from South Korea. Sportage’s two top-level versions, however will continue to be produced and imported from the company’s homeland.