German Touches Give New Kia an Edge

By webadmin on 05:03 pm Jun 30, 2012
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Ariefin Makaminan

What do you get if you mix sauerkraut with kimchi? It’s unlikely to taste too good.

But what do you get when you mix Audi designer Peter Schreyer with South Korean automaker Kia? You get a new look for Korean cars, involving European design at a reasonable price.

The mix is embodied in the new Kia Sportage, which is now in its third generation. The look is completely different; gone are the boring, awkward lines of the previous Sportage. This new SUV is athletic and handsome.

The signature tiger nose enhances the aggressiveness of the car and the use of LED daytime running lights in the head lamps adds that continental European look. The aggressive front look is complemented with a stylish back end. Although the tail lights don’t make use of the LED technology, the rear end still looks impressive. Looking from the side, the Sportage looks like it has been carved out of a block of aluminium.

So with this stylish look, how big is the Sportage? It’s a big car: around 4,445mm in length, 1,855mm in width and 1,685mm in height, with a wheelbase of 2,640mm. There are, however, some quirks in the design, such as a narrow back window, which makes it tricky when parking or backing up. But Kia designed the Sportage with parking sensors, which help to park safely. Another design flaw is that the driver cannot clearly see over the nose, but when a person drives a big SUV, nobody wants to make eye-contact with them anyway. But despite its big size, it is still easy to maneuver in town or into a parking lot.

So what powers this car? Kia gave the Sportage the new Theta-II engine, which is a 2-liter double overhead camshaft engine with dual continuous variable valve timing. The vehicle comes as a five-speed manual or six-speed automatic. The test car I drove was the automatic version.

The Sportage can accelerate from 0 to 100 kph in about 10 seconds. But there’s still a rough noise during acceleration. The automatic transmission is smooth, but it sometimes lags if you try to push the engine too hard. So if you want to accelerate more quickly, manual shift is the way to go.

The Sportage hugs corners well, but the suspension set-up can be confusing at times. Sometimes it’s firm and comfortable. But there are moments when it is too firm, which can be bumpy for the driver and passengers.

The car’s interior has a clean design. You can sense the crisp, ergonomic German design that is a hallmark of Audi. A clear Audi signature is the gearshift knob, which looks as though it has been pulled from a spare parts bin. The car deserves high marks for its comfortable seats — the driver’s seat is electrically adjustable and well-positioned.

The Sportage uses integrated audio, which can play MP3-WMA and has a USB plug. Listening to a CD reveals strong bass and impressive clarity of voice. The car features steering-mounted audio controls, but I was hoping it would have at least Bluetooth capability, making it safer for drivers to pick up the phone.

Talking about safety, the Sportage uses double airbags as a standard and adds two passenger airbags on some versions. Anti-lock brakes and electronic brakeforce distribution are also standard.

The Sportage comes in at around Rp 299 million ($31,700) for the automatic version and Rp 258 million for the manual version. It’s decent value for the money, especially given that it comes with a five-year warranty, the longest any carmaker in Indonesia has ever offered.