Sportage price set to spark Seoul sibling war?

An aggressive pricing strategy for the new Sportage includes a launch special entry model pitch that significantly undercuts the Hyundai equivalent. How relevant is that?


ADOPTION of a lower-tech engine and absence of an infotainment technology in the entry Sportage might at least partly explain why Kia’s new entry into the sports utility sector has been able to embarrass its Hyundai equivalent on pricing.

Kia New Zealand has raised eyebrows by positioning its entry Sportage, LX 2.0-litre with a six-speed automatic (the sole choice transmission for the entire range), at $29,990 as a launch promotion.

It’s an attention-nabbing ploy that will raise a lot of comment. The sticker sites Sportage as the cheapest offer in the medium category by some margin.

The promo price removes $6000 from the model’s regular list sticker that is already $4000 less than Hyundai asks for its least expensive Tucson, also a 2.0-litre auto front-drive model with a six-speed auto.

Kia New Zealand’s public relations spokesman declined to comment on the pricing strategy when approached, saying it was probable an explanation will come when the car is shown to motoring media, this writer included, in Auckland.

Kia NZ has also not specified how long the special price will last or if it relates to a specific count of cars.

But are the entry models exact Seoul siblings any way?

In general terms, the Sportage is certainly DNA-related to the Tucson that landed last year and has gone on to be a sales success – insofar that they are off an identical platform.

Like Tucson, Kia’s car also offers as a five-seater crossover, with very similar interior dimensions, but no exterior panels appear to be shared.

The Sportage is more rakish, with a sharper nose styling that is bound to split opinion, apparently reinforce Hyundai headquarters’ determination to present Kia as a sportier choice for younger buyers – another sign of this intent is the renaming of the top Sportage models as GT-Line choices.

But when it comes to actual get up and go, then the Tucson appears to have an upper hand – at least insofar as the petrol engine choices are concerned.

Though they have a common 1999cc capacity, the entry engines are different, the Kia product maintaining the so-called 2.0-litre MPI that Hyundai apparently used in the preceding iX35 (and Kia in the outgoing Sportage).

With Tucson, Hyundai upgrades to a more complex direct injection GDI unit that creates more power and torque.

Kia claims 114kW and 192Nm for Sportage versus the Tucson’s 121kW and 203Nm.

No New Zealand market economy claim has been sighted, but in Australia the MPI is said to be good for 7.9 litres per 100km on the combined cycle – the same return Hyundai NZ has claimed for their GDI unit.

They head different directions with the second petrol engine on offer. Kia has not gained access to the direct-injection turbocharged 1.6-litre and seven-speed direct shift gearbox that has flagship status in the Tucson range so has instead gone for another well-proven powerplant; a 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol shared with the larger Sorento (and Hyundai Santa Fe) in marriage with a six-speed auto.

In Sportage application, it generates 135kW and 237Nm – outputs which beat those from the 1.6, which gives 130kW and 265Nm. On optimum economy, however, the the Kia with a claimed 8.5L/100km is 0.8L thirstier than the Hyundai.

The cars do, however, mirror on diesel choice, both running a 1995 turbocharged mill making, in either camp, 136kW and 400Nm and returning 6.8L/100km in auto format.

Also absent from Sportage, at least at launch, is the Apple CarPlay/Android Auto connectivity that Hyundai offers. Overseas’ experience suggest this app-based infotainment feature might yet be introduced in due course and enabled in early cars as a software patch.

The primary usage is music sourcing and being able to use your phone’s mapping software to negate the need for a ‘proper’ satellite navigation system. However, because it also actively employs Apple’s Siri voice activation set-up, there’s also ability for the car to read out inbound messages and turn dictated outgoing communications into text format.

There is still some question about whether the cars will be immediate equals on crash-testing scores.

Sportage has yet to be tested by the ANCAP crash testing regime that has New Zealand Government funding and whose findings are promoted as being most relevant to New Zealand.

It does hold a five star rating from Europe’s NCAP, whose test schedule is also used by ANCAP, however that result came from testing a left-hand-drive car.

The Tucson is now considered worthy of the top, five-star, score from ANCAP, but only after a relatively recent retest. Initially ANCAP called it a four-star car as result of it having an apparent design issue that, ANCAP believed, could cause potential for the front passenger sustaining a leg injury. Whether Sportage also trips on this remains to be seen.

On pure pricing comparison, though, it appears Kia New Zealand will have the cheaper car on a model-by-model consideration – as much as that applies. Kia also has eight versions to Hyundai’s nine. Both brands offer three cars in front-drive.

Kia’s recommended price list starts at $35,990 and tops at $54,990, the latter buying a four-wheel-drive turbodiesel, in a new specification called GT-Line. Hyundai begins at $39,990 and tops at $63,990, again with an automatic turbodiesel in Elite Limited specification.

This is the fourth generation Sportage and it has a higher specification than its predecessor. All but the base model has dual zone air conditioning and every variant runs a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Bluetooth, has cruise control and power windows. The big dash display also runs the view from a reversing camera.

More expensive models adds 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat, leather trim, LED tail-lights, swap from 17 to 18 or 19 inch alloys and adopt rain-sensing wipers, sat-nav, heated and ventilated front seats, an electric tailgate, paddle shifters, panoramic sunroof, bi-Xenon headlights, and a wireless mobile device charger. The GT-Line brings sportier styling flourishes and a unique suspension set-up. 

Active safety systems adopt from EX level upward. Kia can offer autonomous emergency braking, lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, blind-spot detection, a lane-change assist warning, high-beam assist and a self-parking system and parking sensors.

Across the Tasman Kia has taken to call the new model as the “best-handling Sportage yet”, thanks largely to a local ride and handling programme which has previously been marketed here as an ANZAC tune.

Up front the fully independent front suspension carries over but with a number of modifications including stiffer wheel bearings and bushings and revised bushing mount positions for “more direct handling and greater stability”. 

The rear set-up is fully independent and includes dual lower-arm multi-link suspension for both two- and all-wheel drive variants. A stiffer cross-member is also used to help reduce road noise, as well as other changes to suspension geometry help quell understeer and improve handling. 

Improvements to the column-mounted electric motor-driven power steering system make for quicker steering responses and better steering feel around the centre. 

The new car is 40mm longer at 4480mm, maintains the same width (1855mm) and height (1635mm) and the wheelbase has grown by 30mm to 2670mm ensuring greater passenger space. Headroom is up by 5mm up front and 16mm in the rear, while legroom has increased by 19mm and 7mm in the second row. The cargo area is 35mm wider and cargo volume has increased by one litre to 466 litres.