At $35K, the Sportage S is the most affordable variant in Kia’s award-winning medium SUV range. But does cheapest necessarily mean great value? Glenn Butler finds out.
- Sharp entry price
- Class-leading safety equipment
- Roomy and refined
- Powertrain is underwhelming
- Thirsty too
- No digital radio or sat-nav
If the reigning 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV – and Overall Winner – is going to have a chink in its armour, this is it. The 2022 Kia Sportage S is the least-expensive variant in the award-winning range, therefore you’d expect it to be the least impressive, right?
The Kia Sportage range has 11 variants, beginning with the S FWD petrol manual at $32,445 plus on-road costs and stretching to the GT-Line diesel AWD auto at $52,370 plus on-road costs.
The variant we’re testing here is the S FWD petrol automatic, which has a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a six-speed manual (plus $2000) and Vesta Blue metallic paint ($520), raising the price to $34,965 plus on-roads.
According to Kia’s drive-away calculator, this example will cost $39,446 to park in your driveway, using a metro Melbourne address.
|Key details||2022 Kia Sportage S FWD auto|
|Colour of test car||Vesta Blue|
|Options||Metallic paint – $520|
|Price as tested||$35,485 plus on-road costs
$39,466 drive-away (Melbourne)
|Rivals||Hyundai Tucson | Mazda CX-5 | Toyota RAV4|
The Sportage S’s interior is predominantly black, and the seats are cloth – leather trim is only standard on the SX+ and GT-Line variants.
The base Sportage also misses out on the impressive 12.3-inch touchscreen display (SX up) and 12.3-inch driver instrument display (GT-Line only), which initially makes the interior feel a touch austere, especially if you’re familiar with the more expensive variants.
That said, there is still plenty here to like, including a lower-spec digital instrument multi-function display flanked by LCD speed and rev dials that adds a splash of colour to the cabin, along with chrome highlights on the wheel, dashboard and doors.
The driver’s seat has manual adjustments, as does the steering wheel, but there’s no need to compromise the driving position because all adjust over a generous range.
Below the central touchscreen are the air-conditioning controls – non-climate-controlled – and below that again are two USB ports (one USB-A and one USB-C), and a 12V charging port ahead of the PRND automatic gear lever. Five switch blanks next to the gear lever are constant reminders that other Sportages get more gear than your one.
Behind the transmission lever is a drive-mode dial with Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart, which changes powertrain characteristics and the colours on the driver display to match.
There are cupholders between the front seats, and in each front door they’re big enough to take a water bottle.
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The back seat has plenty of room for adults – leg, foot and head room, and the backrests can be reclined. It also has two air vents but no USB ports, and there ISOFIX mounts in both outboard seats. A fold-down central armrest has two cupholders, and there are seatback map pockets and door pockets on both sides.
The Sportage’s rear door opens manually to reveal a boot with 543L of space, which can be expanded by folding the rear seats 60/40. All Sportage variants have full-size spare tyres.
The floor has two setting heights, which means there can be room to store items out of sight beneath, or you can prioritise load height above. The Sportage S has a retractable cargo blind rather than a hard shelf.
|2022 Kia Sportage S FWD auto|
|Boot volume||543L seats up / 1829L seats folded|
Infotainment and Connectivity
The one area where the most affordable Sportage betrays its budget price is the infotainment set-up. Whereas more expensive variants have two 12.3-inch, very colourful and feature-packed screens covering two-thirds of the dashboard, the Sportage S makes do with an 8.0-inch central touchscreen and a second digital/LCD combo unit in front of the driver.
The one in front of the driver houses digital dials for speed and engine speed, plus a fairly basic four-screen trip computer.
The 8.0-inch central touchscreen houses sound system controls and smartphone mirroring. It claims to have voice recognition, but that’s only if you have your smartphone hooked up.
There is no digital radio or satellite navigation.
This is arguably the Kia Sportage S’s strong point. Kia has loaded the Sportage with active safety features right from the bottom of the range to the top. Standard features include the latest-generation autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic alert and assist, lane-keeping assist, active cruise control with intelligent speed limit assist, driver attention alert, plus safe exit assist.
Rear parking sensors are standard, as is a rear-view camera with moving guidelines, high-beam assist and dusk-sensing headlights.
Rain-sensing wipers are not available on the base model, but are standard from the SX up.
The only other driver-assist safety features missing from the S are blind-spot-view monitors, a surround-view monitor and park collision avoidance assist, all of which are GT-Line only. While all of those are nice to have, they’re not must-haves.
The Kia Sportage has not yet been crash-tested by the ANCAP independent safety body.
|2022 Kia Sportage S FWD auto|
Let’s do a quick head-to-head with the most affordable Toyota RAV4 variant to see how the Kia Sportage S stacks up on value against the country’s most popular mid-size SUV.
The RAV4 GX FWD petrol auto costs $34,695 plus on-roads, making it $250 more expensive than the Kia. Both are decent-sized five-seat wagons with room inside for four adults (five at a squeeze) and have good-sized luggage bays (543L v 542L) with retractable cargo covers. Both have full-size spare tyres.
In terms of exterior features, both have LED headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels, and a combination of black plastic cladding on lower sections and touches of chrome elsewhere to give the exterior some panache.
Inside, both have air-conditioning with first- and second-row vents, six-speaker sound systems, 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment systems and 4.2-inch LCD displays in the instrument binnacle (but the Kia has a digital display for speedo and tacho).
The Toyota outstrips the Kia with digital radio but navigation is only optionally available on the more expensive RAV4 Hybrid, whereas Kia’s smartphone mirroring is wireless but Toyota’s requires plugging in each time.
All Kia models come with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes eight years of roadside assist if you service it at a Kia dealership. Toyota offers only five years, but adds two more years to the powertrain if you service on time.
Servicing costs on the Sportage S auto are capped at $1280 for three years and $2395 over five years, which is marginally cheaper than the more powerful turbocharged petrol ($2465) and diesel ($2512) variants.
The RAV4’s servicing schedule is much more affordable: $230 per year for the first five years.
In terms of safety, the Kia wins this showdown by a mile because it has the following which the RAV4 GX does not: a front-centre airbag, intelligent speed limit assist, AEB with junction function, blind-spot assist, rear cross-traffic avoidance assist, driver attention alert, safe exit assist, and a rear-view camera with moving guidelines (Toyota’s guidelines are fixed), but no front parking sensors.
|At a glance||2022 Kia Sportage S FWD auto|
|Warranty||Seven years / unlimited km|
|Service intervals||12 months or 15,000km|
|Servicing costs||$1280 (3 years), $2395 (5 years)|
The RAV4 GX does, however, have a driver’s knee airbag, rain-sensing wipers, and front and rear parking sensors.
During our test drive with the Kia Sportage S auto, we recorded a fuel consumption of 10.0L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the official claim of 8.1L/100km. If fuel consumption is a concern for you, the turbo diesel is a much better choice – you can expect 20 per cent less fuel consumption, and you get a more powerful engine – but the diesel option is a costly one (+$5400).
Lastly, insurance costs. Using a 35yo male living in Chatswood with a clean driving record, NRMA quotes $886.49 per year for the Kia and $1017.67 for the RAV4. That’s a saving that pretty much negates the RAV4’s cheaper annual servicing costs.
|Fuel Useage||Fuel Stats|
|Fuel cons. (claimed)||8.1L/100km|
|Fuel cons. (on test)||10.0L/100km|
|Fuel type||91-octane unleaded petrol|
|Fuel tank size||54L|
The base-variant Kia Sportage S is powered by a familiar 2.0-litre non-turbocharged petrol engine that sends 115kW and 192Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission.
These are not stunning figures, and so the 1538kg Sportage S’s accelerative performance is not stunning either. Instead, let’s call it serviceable.
The Sportage S’s powertrain has sufficient oomph to keep up with commuter traffic, and does a decent job accelerating when needed. But because of its meagre outputs and the Sportage’s body weight, if you demand a lot from the engine you will use a lot of fuel.
The Sportage S rides on Nexen Roadian GTX SUV tyres, which do a good job providing grip without sending too much tyre noise into the otherwise quiet cabin.
One bonus of this not-so powerful powertrain is that you are never in danger of the engine overpowering the front wheels, making you wish you had all-wheel drive underneath.
The automatic transmission generally works well with this engine, although it is at times too quick to upshift, which hampers acceleration on moderate throttle inputs. By the same token, it’s also slow at times to downshift – for example, to maintain speed on hills. It feels like Kia has tuned it for tall-gear efficiency over response.
Typical of Kia models, the Sportage S rides rough Australian roads very well, and has the dynamics to respond quickly when called on to do so. That is partly down to Kia’s commitment to tune suspension settings for Australian conditions, and that’s something not all brands do.
The soft initial tune helps it soak up harder hits, but there’s an underlying firmness that keeps excessive wheel travel and body roll to a minimum.
The Sportage’s steering is light and relatively quick, which makes low-speed manoeuvres less taxing. Its 11.4m turning circle is good, but not class-leading.
|Key details||2022 Kia Sportage S FWD auto|
|Engine||2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol|
|Power||115kW @ 6000rpm|
|Torque||192Nm @ 4500rpm|
|Drive type||Front-wheel drive|
|Transmission||Six-speed torque convertor automatic|
|Power to weight ratio||75kW/t|
|Tow rating||1900kg braked, 750kg unbraked|
Peace of mind. That’s the Kia Sportage S’s biggest strength. For a sub-$40K on-road price, you get a family-sized wagon with the latest active safety systems and a seven-year warranty. For many, that’s enough, and that’s who this base-variant Kia Sportage is aimed at.
The engine might seem like a weakness when shopped against the Sportage’s other two drivetrains, but it is competitive against entry-level powertrains from rivals like the Toyota RAV4 (127kW/203Nm) and Mazda CX-5 (115kW/200Nm).
The Sportage S is not exactly brimming with luxuries, but if you want push-button start, power tailgate, digital radio, super-sized touchscreen, and a phone charging mat, then the SX, SX+ and GT-Line are relatively small steps up in price for what you gain.
That might sound like we’re making excuses. We’re not. Base variants exist for one reason: to provide the most affordable entry price. The Kia Sportage S does this very well, and it gives you peace of mind. That’s a strong foundation. Everything else is just a nice-to-have.
If you’re budget-limited, the Sportage S is good value for just under $40K drive-away. If you can stretch a bit, we think the SX is the sweet spot in the Sportage range. It adds dual-zone climate control, 12.3-inch touchscreen, satellite navigation, digital radio, rain-sensing wipers, front parking sensors, and a remote folding second row for just $2500 over the S.