During the last quarter of 2015 Kia pulled a sleeper out of the proverbial hat, living up to its tagline, “The Power To Surprise”. Coming hot on the heels of its elder sibling the full-featured facelift Sportage 2.0L AWD that was launched early in 2014, younger brother here is tasked to take on the challenge against herd favorite the HR-V, hence the more modest asking price of RM118,888.00 which pits it head on against the highest variant in the HR-V lineup. Of course, being the upstart, Kia buyers can expect lots of goodies to sweeten the deal and entice you away from the HR-V which to date still carries a 2 to 3 month waiting period and zero rebates.
Kia Sportage 2.0l 2WD
I used the expression of less show and more go to elucidate that although baby brother loses a few key aspects of the more expensive AWD older brother, the term less is more seems rather appropriate in this review. The first thing it sheds is a hefty price tag, weighing in at about RM19,000.00 less than the full-fledged Sportage. Next to go are the signature Kia daylight running lights, in return for a DRL-esque parking light or position light, if you will. Said parking lights come on only when you turn the lights on via the lighting stalk behind the steering wheel. Otherwise, they remain switched off unlike on the AWD version.
A positive note to that though, is the fact that the LEDs on the 2WD variant is of the light bar variety, in keeping with the times while older brother makes do with the older, pearl necklace type (individual LED bulbs lighting up in a string resembling a pearl necklace ala VW Golf Mk VI). The wheels are also sized down an inch, which is actually good news in trying times like these; 17-inch tires are way cheaper than 18-inch ones. Round the back, the tail lights lose the luster of the LED cluster of the pricier AWD, but they look good nonetheless. To be perfectly honest, most people couldn’t be bothered about LEDs in the rear cluster anyway since regular bulbs do a perfect enough job already. LEDs are better off placed elsewhere like in the signal repeaters or in the headlight assembly to light up the night.
Kia Sportage 2.0l 2WD: Less Show Within
Inside the new Sportage 2WD Kia continues the fat trimming exercise by omitting leather upholstery and powered driver’s seat, although a remnant soldiers on, in the form of electric lumbar support. Ok, so I can’t adjust my seat on the fly like I could with powered seats, but it’s not a deal breaker. Not in my books anyway. The goggle-eyed instrument cluster on the AWD is swapped out for a more conventional looking cluster, but the 4.3-inch multimedia unit with reverse camera stays put, this time round powered by a 7-speaker Infiniti package (that 7th speaker resides in the boot and is a full-sized subwoofer that seems to be at least 10” in diameter) in place of the usual Arkamys sound system found in most Kias, so it’s not all doom and gloom. But it’s not all roses either, with the new unit losing the Bluetooth feature so owners will have to resort to the tried and tested personal headset system for their telephony needs.
Elsewhere, the sunroof is omitted, as are the convenience of push start and smart entry, making way for a solid roof to keep out the sun while a conventional keyed system with immobilizer gives your right thumb and forefinger a much needed workout at least twice or more daily, if you could call turning the key over to start the engine a workout. In order to strike a balance and give your left digits a workout as well, Kia has cleverly omitted the automatic climate controls meant for lazy folks, so in its place (and partly sponsored by your neighborhood gym) you get a conventional single zone manual air-conditioning cluster that governs blower speed, cabin temperature and blower direction. No fancy-schmancy electronic climate control that may break down after years of abuse, so it’s still all good.
Ok, after so much talk about the new baby losing so much, it’s time for some good news. The Kia Sportage 2.0L 2WD AT still gets a cooled glovebox, auto-dimming rear view mirror, 6 airbags (not made by Takata), ESC (electronic stability control), HAC (hill assist control), auto headlights and downhill brake control (DBC) which puts it on par with most current offerings out there in the SUV market.
Kia Sportage 2.0l 2WD: Similar Mechanicals Made Simpler
Kia chose to leave the engine bay pretty much alone, so the 2WD Sportage gets the same 2.0-liter Nu MPI 4-banger petrol engine without forced induction that puts out a healthy 154PS at 6,200rpm and 191Nm of twist at 4,700rpm, mated to the company’s own 6-speed super smooth auto tranny with torque converter. Drive goes to the front 2 wheels, efficiently harnessed to the transversely laid out engine to send more power to the driven wheels. Said engine-tranny combo also feature in the marque’s other 2-liter offerings such as the Optima K5 and Cerato K3, so it’s a tried and tested unit that should be reliable enough to last way longer than the 5-year unlimited mileage warranty period offered by Kia.
Kia Sportage 2.0l 2WD :Proof in the Pudding
So now that we’ve gotten the kit section out of the way, let’s take a look at how the 2WD Sportage behaves on the road. I was fortunate enough to have been given an extended test drive to test the heck out of this baby. In total, I put almost 700 kilometers on the odo and averaged around 9.5l/100km of mixed urban and extra urban commute. Right from the get go, I could feel the smoothness of the Nu engine as it purred gently in the background while the car glided gracefully through all 6 cogs with the panache of a skater on ice.
The loss of AWD allowed all the king’s men and their horses to concentrate on hauling the roughly 1,500kg Sportage to great effect. Losing AWD is probably the best thing that ever happened to the Sportage (with all due respect to owners of the AWD variant). Although 154PS is nothing to scoff at, 154PS tasked with hauling a 1,600kg barge while being tied down to all 4 wheels is really asking too much from a naturally aspirated powerplant. Inasmuch as the AWD variant has all the show but none of the go, the inverse is true of the 2WD variant. By not being strapped down to 4 wheels simultaneously, the engine pulls strongly without hesitation with 6 perfectly spaced ratios making your everyday commute a pleasant and zippy one. Being strapped down is one thing, having to lug an additional load due to the additional hardware necessary for an AWD system really puts a strain on the heart of the car for nothing.
Well, mostly for nothing in our context anyway, the context of the urban jungle warrior who hardly has time to explore nature’s wonders off the beaten track as he’s too busy making a living to indulge in a countryside lifestyle. What an irony, isn’t it, for an owner of an AWD vehicle that never has the intention or the time to take his ride out into the rural jungle? In a similar vein, how many Q7s or Cayennes have you ever come across with even a smidgen of mud on them?
Aside from bragging rights, there simply isn’t enough reason for most people to opt for a full-fledged 4WD or AWD vehicle. In the past, when traction control systems weren’t readily available, the notion of having power delivered to all 4 wheels seemed like a great idea, to prevent a tall barge from going belly up on a twisty road, but today’s cars practically drive themselves and keep themselves firmly planted on the tarmac without AWD, thanks to sophisticated ESC systems that turn lousy drivers into proper drivers and proper drivers into Leona Chin wannabes.
The suspension in the Sportage 2WD is pretty much the same as the one found in the AWD variant, featuring MacPherson strut coilvers with gas-filled shockers up front and a Multi-link system governing the rear, also with gas-filled absorbers, offering a good balance between a firm and assuring ride quality on straights while keeping your derrière planted in most situations.
Many people who end up buying the most popular crossover at the moment fail to realize that the said vehicle is but a B-segment offering, while for roughly the same amount of coin you could be enjoying the extra spaciousness of a C-segment contender with a more powerful heart and near seamless gear change experience, not to mention getting to enjoy high quality aural entertainment to fill your senses within the 4 walls of the interior. Add the more powerful engine of the Sportage into the comparison and you will then see that the new Kia Sportage 2.0L 2WD AT is quite a compelling proposition. Just in time for Chinese New Year too.