Diesel is dead! Long live the diesel. Yes, while European markets continue to ban diesel as a source of vehicle fuel, it means that demand for this fossil fuel is slowing in those parts. As the stringent carbon emission standards’ noose continues to tighten, many manufacturers have discontinued diesel offerings all together in favour of mild hybrids, hybrids and EVs. I get the gist, however, in the Mzansi context, there is still room for diesel-powered cars, and then some. As our beleaguered currency continues to lose ground against international currencies, fuel price is astronomically high, so for many South Africans looking to save on precious pennies, diesel remains a viable option.
So following the launch of the well-received, fifth generation Sportage in September last year, the South Korean manufacturer has bolstered the model range with the addition of the 1.6 CRDI - turbodiesel engine - that will sit alongside the existing 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine derivatives. The former boasts outputs of 100 kW and 320 Nm via a 7-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission), while the all important fuel consumption is pegged at 6.5 litres/100 km. Three trim levels are also offered in this variant, namely; LX, EX, GT-Line Plus and GT-Line S. Right off the bat, the Sportage is a very good-looking car, thanks to a rather progressive styling language that, granted, might not be to everyone’s taste, but that doesn’t detract from the fact that it remains enchanting to behold at best.
Cabin appointments come from the top-drawer in quality, thanks to excellent perceived and tactile quality of the switchgear, while the layout is both airy yet classy enough to be classified as contemporary. The seats, meanwhile, offer great scope for adjustment and are fairly conducive to long spells of travel. Passenger space is commodious at worst and most body frames will find a fairly comfortable seating position, even in the rearmost seats. Luggage space, meanwhile, measures a commodious 571 litres in standard form and can be expanded to 1 760 litres with the rear seats folded, making it one of the most generous in the segment.
Performance-wise, we thoroughly enjoyed the sprightly nature of the turbo petrol when we drove it last year, but the relaxed driving disposition and thrifty drinking habits of the diesel will likely have more buyers swooning over it. During our brief drive, the diesel variant proved to be smooth in its power delivery, making for a rather relaxed driving experience. The torque figure is where this unit comes to the fore, pulling with enough conviction without needing to rev up the engine as is the case with its petrol-powered sibling.
It works really well with the 7-speed dual clutch transmission as the two seem to be singing from the same hymn sheet. Having recently hopped out of the Tiguan 2.0TDI R-Line with its 130 kW and 380 Nm, I was expecting the Sportage to feel a tad underwhelming in comparison, but in fact the opposite was true. We managed to average around 6.6 litres/100 km of fuel consumption during our launch drive, which was only 0.1 litres off the manufacturer's claim. I reckon with a more mindful driving style, that figure can easily dip below the 6 litre/100 km mark.
As a package, the Kia Sportage diesel makes a strong case for itself with pricing starting from R597,995 for the LX and topping out at R735,995 for the GT Line Plus, which is competitively priced. With fuel prices remaining volatile and household income under great deal of pressure, diesel SUVs continue to make a rather enticing proposition and the Kia Sportage diesel covers this brief to the tee.