Kia’s new Sportage is now on sale, with a choice of four drive-trains — two with front-wheel drive, two with all wheels driven.
The new car represents something of a change of direction, aimed squarely are the burgeoning ‘crossover’ market. That puts it up against such diverse talent as the Qashqai, 3008 and Tiguan. The previous Sportage was a much more utilitarian car than the newcomer: shorter, narrower and taller, with little by way of luxury. Its typical customer would have lived in the suburbs or the country and would have bought the car for its practical qualities. The new model, on the other hand, is aimed at quite a different public: style-conscious urbanites.
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi ‘First Edition’.
Creditably, kerb masses are down by around 90kg. In common with every new model that’s appearing now, there is a greatly increased reliance on high-strength steels in the new Sportage’s monocoque, boosting the strength-to-mass ratio, though the Kia’s shell does not make any significant use of structural aluminium. Look underneath, though, and you will see hydroformed aluminium subframes carrying the front and rear suspension assemblies.
As an aside, it’s worth mentioning that designs for both a conventional SUV and a crossover were worked on in parallel during the new car’s development, with the intention that ideas from one design path could be used on the other. Kia is adamant, though, that a crossover design was its ultimate goal.
The four-wheel drive system fitted to more powerful models is variously called Dynamax or Dymax, and was designed and developed by U.S.-based Magna Powertrain. The system is designed to monitor driving conditions and anticipate AWD system requirements, though clearly it cannot truly anticipate in the true sense of the word. Dynamax’s control unit controls the coupling to the rear wheels electro-hydraulically through a multi-plate clutch. Normally, all torque is directed to the front wheels; when slip is detected, up to 40 per cent. can be vectored to the rears. As well as improving grip on low-friction surfaces, the system will intervene to balance the car’s handling. At speeds up to 25mph, the driver can engage a lock, providing a 50:50 torque split. The system’s behaviour is transparent to the driver.
Dynamax is set to appear on other vehicles in the future; we know not which ones.
Four engines will be available — two diesel, two petrol, and all meeting Euro 5 emissions standards. Kia anticipates that most buyers will be interested in the two new units being offered, which represent the lower-powered half of the range and which come with front-wheel drive.
The newcomers are a 1.6-litre directly-fuelled ‘Gamma’ petrol engine and a 1.7-litre diesel. These units come as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox and a stop-start system. The remaining two engines — one petrol (dubbed ‘Theta’), one diesel — are both of two litres swept volume; the petrol engine can be fitted with a five-speed manual transmission or a six-speed automatic, while the diesel is available with a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. Four-wheel drive is standard with both two-litre engines.
Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi (FWD).
The manual transmission is an upgraded version of an existing unit, with improvements to synchronisation, reduced power loss and greater durability. The automatic is a new transmission developed by Kia for use in a wide range of vehicles; it is already available in the latest versions of the Sedona and Sorento.
The new Gamma engine has a cast iron block and an aluminium alloy head. It is a 1591cc four-valve twin-cam unit with variable valve timing on both the inlet and exhaust camshafts. Like most directly-fuelled petrol engines, its compression ratio is high, at 11.0:1.
The familiar 1998cc Theta engine likewise has an iron block and alloy head. It has come in for some attention with the aim of reducing internal friction, and its control electronics have been revised. Like the Gamma, it has variable valve timing for both intake and exhaust camshafts.
Kia’s new 1.7-litre diesel is a derivative of the ‘U2’ engine. It was engineered at Kia’s research and development facility in Germany. Similar in construction to Kia’s European-designed and built 1.6-litre CRDi engine, but with 84.5mm cylinder bores and a 90mm piston stroke to give a swept volume of 1685cc, it was designed with European markets in mind. Like its stablemates it has an alloy head on an iron block, and like the larger diesel it uses a variable geometry turbocharger.
The two-litre diesel is an ‘R’-type, familiar in 2.2-litre form in the Sedona and Sorento.
Kia’s automatic stop-start system uses sensors for crankshaft position, battery and brake servo vacuum, plus neutral, on-off and clutch switches that feed into an electronic control unit. This operates the starter and ‘intelligent’ alternator. The air conditioning unit and bonnet switch also feed into the controller.
The crankshaft position sensor measures the crankshaft angle during the engine’s shut-down, and monitors it while the vehicle is stopped, ensuring the starter is activated for as short a time as possible. The battery sensor monitors battery condition and temperature, while the clutch and neutral switches recognise when the driver wants to drive off. The brake servo pressure sensor will not allow the engine to shut off if the vacuum in the accumulator falls too low.
A heavy-duty maintenance-free absorbent glass mat (AGM) battery delivers the power necessary to run the system. Intelligent alternator management reduces load on the engine while the car is accelerating, recharging the battery principally during overrum.
The system has been engineered not to stop the engine during the warm-up phase, or if the air conditioning is working hard. Drivers can also manually turn the stop-start system off using a switch on the dashboard.
Kia has made much of its decision to carry out final chassis testing for the Sportage on British roads. Apparently they present ‘unique challenges’.
The front and rear suspension systems are mounted on lightweight hydro-formed subframes. At the front, the McPherson strut arrangement is similar to that of the previous Sportage. New side-load coil springs reduce friction. The new multi-link rear suspension set-up sees the coil springs and dampers mounted separately to minimise intrusion into the cabin.
Braking on the new Sportage is dealt with by ventilated discs at the front and solid discs at the rear. Electronic brake force distribution (EBD) and Brake Assist System (BAS) are standard. EBD apportions the stopping power to the wheels with most grip, while BAS ensures maximum braking power in an emergency irrespective of the force exerted on the pedal by the driver.
Electric power steering is standard on all models. A fuel saving of 3.5 per cent. is claimed over the previous car’s permanent hydraulic arrangement.
Electronic Stability Control (ESC) counteracts any tendency of the car to understeer or oversteer in hard cornering or slippery conditions. It is linked to three additional systems: Downhill Brake Control (DBC), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC) and a roll-over sensor. Downhill Brake Control maintains a steady speed of 5mph when descending steep slopes. Hill-start Assist Control prevents slip-back when setting off uphill and is also designed to eliminate the possibility of wheelspin. The roll-over sensor detects when the car might be in danger of rolling over and triggers the side and curtain airbags and seat-belt pre-tensioners. Active head restraints are fitted to the front seats.
Kia Sportage (2007): shorter, narrower and taller, its aspirations more utilitarian.
Using the sensors that control the anti-lock braking system, the Sportage has electronic brake force distribution, electronic brake assist, traction control, electronic stability control and cornering brake control. These measures are intended to ensure that braking effort is apportioned to the wheels with most grip, that maximum braking effort is automatically delivered in an emergency regardless of the pressure applied to the pedal by the driver, potential understeer or oversteer is automatically corrected either by selective braking of wheels or torque reduction of the engine (or both), and that traction is maintained when setting off or cornering on slippery surfaces.
The new Sportage is built at Kia’s Zilina plant in Slovakia, where the outgoing model has been made since September 2007. The factory has ISO 14001 certification. Apparently, panel quality in the press shop is controlled by a unique inspection system which can recognise and evaluate defects in less than one millisecond.