There is no shortage of limited-edition model derivatives circulating the market as automakers scrum for any advantage they can eke out from the various hotly contested market segments and, Kia has joined in with the Sportage GT-Line as its apex model.

I was impressed with the looks of the current generation – the fourth – Sportage when it made its début in 2016 (that long ago!) as it was a clear indication of how, and where, the Korean automaker was intent on upping its game in global markets.

The GT-Line adds to this with a hefty list of aesthetics add-ons that, coupled with the all-wheel drive powertrain, make it an entirely desirable addition to any suburban garage.

Exterior styling additions, include LED combination lamps front and rear, dual exhaust outlets with chrome trim, model-specific skid plates and 19-inch alloy wheels. 

And on the inside…

The GT-Line boasts two-tone, diamond-patterned and perforated artificial leather trim on the seats, a glossy finish on the centre console, a GT-Line-specific flat-bottomed steering wheel and a comprehensive 4,2-inch colour instrumentation cluster. 

These features are in addition to standard items such as smart entry with push-button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, auto-folding mirrors, 8-inch HD touchscreen infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, electrically adjustable front seats, including lumbar support, heated seats for front and rear passengers, Bi-LED headlights, height-adjustable powered tailgate, panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charging, electro-chromatic rear-view mirror and cruise control.

A crowded segment

The playpen for this Sportage includes the Mazda CX-5 2.0 Carbon Edition, the Citroen C5 Aircross 1.5T and the Toyota RAV4 2.0 VX and, while the Kia is just shy of R55 000 pricier than the Toyota, which sits next in line on cost, it is the only one offering the benefit of all-wheel drive.

Although only available with a 1,6-litre (albeit turbo-charged) it edges out its opposition on both power and torque and is the only one offering a full-size spare wheel.

Under the Sportage’s bonnet is a 1,6-litre T-GDi turbo-charged petrol engine developing 130 kW of power at 5 500 r/min and 265 Nm of torque from 1 500 r/min to 4,500 r/min. 

This powers all four wheels via a 7-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission and the Sportage GT-Line accelerates from 0-100 km/h in a claimed 9,3 seconds and will keep going to 201 km/h.

Kia claims an average consumption of 7,5 l/100 km, however, on my test route comprising city, urban and highway the best I could achieve was an average of 8,1 l/100 km, but even if I am a heavy on right foot input, this is still well within the ‘average’ motorist realms versus someone trying really hard to conserve fuel.

Thanks to the wide spread of maximum torque, overtaking slower-moving vehicles is a doddle, even when the SUV’s luggage space of 466 litres (1 455 litres of utility room) is filled to the brim.

On the open (real-world) roads

From the driver’s seat that moves every way possible except sideways, there is a clear and commanding view of the road ahead – and of upcoming potholes! Equally, side and rear views are unobstructed so dainty manoeuvres can be handled with ease.

A wise old (sadly departed) motoring scribbler told me years ago there were no bad cars, some were just better than others.

Indeed, and very much so in the market segment in which this Kia is striving for recognition, the competition is hot and every single one comes with high levels of quality, a long list of features and the promise that, should you choose it, your lifestyle will change for the better.

I cannot say I had a lifestyle epiphany during my time with the Sportage but it certainly was one of those vehicles that becomes very easy to live with from the first press of the start button.

The turbo engine is both lively and responsive, the suspension supple and able to keep out most road ripples and bumps, even off tarmac. The all-wheel drive provides added sure-footedness and, considering the ongoing heavy rains and soaking roads, a comforting added level of safety.

Talking of which

On offer as standard are anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution and Downhill Brake Control, six crash bags, Electronic Stability Control, Hill-start Assist Control, ISOFIX child-seat anchor points and rear-view camera with front and rear parking-assist sensors.

The Sportage GT-Line works equally well as an urban runabout or long-haul cruiser, benign in its road manners and unlikely to produce any surprises if kept within the parameters of what it was designed to do. However, much as I like the styling, comfort and overall tractability of the vehicle it just seems to lack a little of the ‘pizazz’ required to stand out in its crowded segment.

The Sportage first made an appearance at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show, introducing the concept of the ‘Urban SUV’ to consumers for the first time. It set the blueprint for a compact, practical SUV suitable for use in a variety of environments when it launched in 1993. 

It was somewhat left-of-field for the time, and I really miss that spunky little 4x4.

Kia Sportage Pricing:

Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI Ignite Auto
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite PLUS Manual
Kia Sportage 2.0 Ignite PLUS Auto
Kia Sportage 2.0 EX Auto
Kia Sportage 2.0 EX PLUS Auto
Kia Sportage AWD 1.6T DCT GT-Line Review
R649,995.00 (Driven)

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Find the keys to your dream
Kia Sportage

2017 2.0D EX Auto

R 349,900

2018 2.0 Ignite

R 258,995

2018 2.0 CRDi Ex Auto AWD

R 449,900

2017 2.0 EX Auto

R 339,900

2020 2.0 Ignite+ Auto

R 379,990

2018 2.0 Ex+ Auto

R 379,900

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