We have the first drive of Kia's most-popular vehicle, a medium-sized SUV
When Kia New Zealand launches its all-new Sportage, the company will be following an astounding trend when it comes to medium SUVs.
In the past three years, there has been a 196 per cent increase in under-30s buyers of medium crossovers in New Zealand.
No, it's not because Gen Ys get paid more than the rest of us, but more to do with our housing crisis.
Many under-30s realise they'll never be able to afford to buy a house so instead, face renting for most of their lives. Their money goes on holidays, new vehicles and the trappings of wealth, instead of mortgage payments and rates.
Kia NZ managing director, Todd McDonald, told Driven that the under-30s were renting but still on a "decent income" and the medium SUV suited their lifestyles of weekend trips away.
"But the highest volume of buyers of medium SUVs in New Zealand is still the under-60s," said McDonald.
Though, the response to the Sportage nearly 10 days before its official New Zealand launch may see that age bracket decrease.
The customer demand has the first shipment accounted for with pre-sale interest in new Sportage an all-time high for a Kia model in New Zealand.
Last year, Kia NZ sold 3290 vehicles with the previous generation Sportage accounting for 1156 of that number.
"With the all-new Sportage, we expect to exceed that number," said McDonald. In the UK, 1500 customers placed orders in the first weekend of sale for the Sportage at the beginning of February, making it the best-ever three-day order take in Kia's history in Britain.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
Kia UK's chief executive, Paul Philpott, told Automotive World that, "our dealers currently have only one worry: can we satisfy the demand? Well, both Kia in the UK and our factory in Slovakia are working flat-out to ensure we can".
And supply could also be an issue for McDonald.
The SUV segment continues to dominate new-vehicle sales in NZ, accounting for 34 per cent of registrations last year, so competition will be fierce in this arena for the Sportage.
The Kia faces a battle for customers from within its own stable from the Hyundai Tucson, and within that price bracket is the the Honda HR-V, and Suzuki's new Vitara, while the Mazda CX-3 will prove a rival when it comes to technology and safety features.
The all-new Sportage sits on a new platform and is "slightly larger" than the outgoing model, said McDonald. It has a 30mm longer wheelbase for a more accommodating interior than the previous generation and is 4480mm long, 1885mm wide, and 1665mm high.
The medium SUV came with a five-star EuroNcap rating, but was calibrated for Australasian roads and came with Kia's Anzac suspension system.
While Kia NZ won't reveal the new prices until the official launch on February 22, the current line up starts at $32,990 for the SX Urban.
But with the all-new Sportage, Kia NZ has decided to mix up the line up, adding a fourth model.
The Sportage starts with the 2-litre LX 2WD on 17-inch tyres, the EX sits on 18in while the Limited is on 19in and the line tops off with the new edition of the GT Line, though McDonald was quick to point out the that GT "didn't stand for performance but instead was a variant".
The EX is available with a 114Kw/192Nm 2-litre petrol (giving fuel economy figures of 7.9l/100km) or 136kW/400Nm 2-litre diesel (6.8l/100km).
The Limited has the 2-litre diesel or the 2.4-litre petrol engine, which is new to the Sportage family.
Photo / Ted Baghurst
McDonald said the previous generation Sportage only came as a 2-litre as it was built at the company's Slovakia factory, while this latest line up is from Korea.
The GT Line all-wheel-drive is paired with the 2.4-litre, four-cylinder petrol engine (135kW/237Nm) offering 8.5l/100km for fuel economy.
All models have a six-speed automatic transmission.
McDonald said although the 2WD "traditionally sells well" he expected models such at the "highly specced" Limited and GT Line to do well.
While Kia NZ is also keeping many specifications of the Sportage under wraps until the official reveal, McDonald did say that the GT Line came with blindspot monitoring and lane-departure warning.
Driven was given the Limited (pictured) for a three-day exclusive test recently, and our GenY staff member was certainly impressed with the styling of the new Sportage, saying that the look would put Kia on his shopping list.
Kia's continuation of the tiger-nose grille with the diamond-shaped highlights gives the brand strong road presence, while the all-new trisector headlight was a new design feature for the front of the Sportage, though, I found it too galvanising.
At the rear, the U-shaped three-dimensional-style lights gives it a premium appearance with the sculptured lines on the side of the Sportage merging into them. Kia wins points as a manufacturer for its clean dash and simple-to-use infotainment screen.
While the steering wheel had volume controls, it's great to be able to also control functions via the touchscreen rather than have to dial in information.
Notably, the road noise is reduced over the previous model, while the Kia also gets bonus points for introducing the 2.4-litre petrol engine to the line up.
The uptake in power was immediately noticeable, and makes it a vehicle suitable not just for city driving but for long road trips -- just what those mortgage-free, under-30s can afford.
Kia Sportage Limited
PRICE: To be announced ENGINE: 2.4-litre petrol engine, six speed auto. PROS: Kudos for head-turning styling and addition of 2.4l engine. CONS: Trisector lights one too many style factors on the bonnet.