Debuting at the Frankfurt International Motor Show in September 2015, the all-new Kia Sportage arrived in the shores of Melbourne, Australia—a charming, stylish, multi-cultural make-up reflects the city’s Gold-rush history. A city that tries to continually reinvent itself, fusing old industrial buildings into malls, coolness about its roof-top bars on century old buildings, chic laneway cafes and restaurants, with a multi-cultural populaces. A handfull of media journalist from the Philippines enjoyed a four-day adventure to try out Kia’s globally popular compact sport utility vehicle (SUV), the fourth-generation Sportage while relishing the beautiful outskirts of the Victoria State of Australia.
Melbourne, the venue of the Kia Australian Tennis Open, plays a significant location where Kia Motors Corporation (KMC) organized the launch of the all-new Sportage. Present during the launch were KMC General Manager for Overseas PR Michael Choo, head PR for Australia and Philippines Jungwook, Kia Philippines head of Sales Team Chut Velasquez and Kia PH president Ginia Domingo.
Excited to be in Australia for the first time, together with journalists from different parts of the South America, we started off the day with a short presscon with Choo who gave us a hindsight of what the Kia brand value is and how KMC has grown significantly in a short span of time. After a short tour around Melbourne’s lush greenery, we proceeded to the Rod Laver Tennis Arena where we got the chance to tour the facilities and watch the Australian Open.
After the game, we hurried back to our hotel to start our test drive adventure. Charlie Cruz and I, riding shotgun, was assigned the top-of-the-line Diesel Platinum/GT-line. Among the five choices of either Coastal routes of the Peninsula Hot Springs, Dandenong Ranges or Yarra Valley National Parks, we chose the Hanging Rock formation in the upper Northwest from Melbourne City. Driving on the wrong side of the road was challenging since you have to program your mind to think on the opposite side – we eventually got used to it.
We enjoyed the rich countryside ambiance complete with rolling hills of grassy meadows, huge cows, sheep, horses and yes, kangaroos that are fenced in private estates. We headed up to the chilly mountains of Mount Macedon, where huge trees were coming up as we rolled down our windows and enjoyed the fresh smell of Australian air. You feel so one with nature because of better visibility and unobtrusive sounds because engineers have improved insulation in the cabin, and additional rubber bushings were either added or increased in size. The new design has a surprisingly low 0.33 cd drag coefficient for a compact SUV, by having less drag and wind noise equals greater fuel economy in cutting thru the air.
Yes, there is still that tinged of diesel clatter but it is subtle, so driving has been very relaxing while reaching the Hanging Rock. We were able to get a glimpse of the beautiful mountains where a hanging rock actually rests on two formations from a far.
The Sportage’s all-new VGT (variable geometry turbo) CRDI (common rail direct fuel injection) diesel power plant is more efficient with Euro V technology and is more advanced than its rivals and the one found in the previous model. Great timing, now that the Philippines being Euro IV compliant, is at par with the fuel standards around the world. With advances in technology, bigger displacements are things of the past, so Kia engineers were able to extract 181 PS (178 horsepower) at 4,000 revolutions per minute and 400Newton-meters of torque of just under 1,750 rpm only from just 2.0 liters – of course being cleaner and efficient. Climbing the mountains was done with ease, and a slight depress on the pedal of the Sportage comes the torque instantaneously. The engine is match with a six-speed Sports-matic transmission.
The 18-inch wheels I find a bit too stiff for rumbled roads. In case we came to an obstacle that required serious off-roading of slippery hills and articulations, the GT-line could surely deliver because it is equipped with Downhill Brake Control and Hill Assist Control with Electronic Stability Control with Traction Control System and, lastly, Center Differential Locks. As the day ended, we headed back to the city for a sumptuous seafood dinner.
On the streets of Melbourne
The next day started off with the high-end front wheel drive Sli. So Charlie and I drove briefly into the afternoon on the busy streets of Melbourne enjoying the mix of old and new along side the train trams. We also took some great urban pictures while out all the safety features like; FWCS or Forward Collision Warning System; LDWS or Lane Departure Warning System; BSD or Blind Spot Detectors; LCS or Lane Change Assist; and, my favorite, SPAS or Smart Parking Assist System. All told, the Sportage has just as many features as its bigger brother Sorento. We finished early rushing to watch the men’s final of the Australian Open that was another first for us – ending with Novak Djokovic winning against long-time rival Andy Murray.
The all new exterior and interior design, adding a host of technological advancements and sophistication in the new GT-line, SLi and Si packages, exemplifies its bold new design fusion from Kia’s European design in Frankfurt with inputs from the brand’s Namyang, Korea and Irvine, California design studios. So the fourth-generation Sportage is a fusion of dynamic talent rolled in a remarkable concept of overall functionality.
Kia has set the bar again on their compact Sportage by packing all the amenities of a modern mid-sized SUV in a condensed package. To top it all, we enjoyed the men’s tennis finals and drove around the charming south side of Australia. What a “Power to Surprise” Kia, that’s one check off my Bucket list.