namibia Adventure Safari KIA SPORTAGE 4WD 2.4 PETROL AUTO
There was a time when Kia’s cars were really affordable… and that was about the only good thing you could say about them. Now things are a bit different. Yes, the vehicles are still well priced, but now they offer a whole lot of luxury and comfort as well. In fact, Kia is quickly becoming one of the dominant players in the international auto industry
Star Wars, if you haven’t seen it, is a space opera filled with alien planets, weird monsters, scary villains and odd, monk-like heroes who speak only in riddles. It is also a special effects extravaganza that changed the way movies were made and heralded the birth of the summer blockbuster.
But at its core, Star Wars is a simple tale. It is the story of a plucky little rebel alliance that takes on (and eventually defeats) a massive empire. It is a timeless story that crosses cultural boundaries. Replace Luke Skywalker with George Washington and Darth Vader with William Howe and Star Wars would be about the American revolutionary war. Replace Luke Skywalker with Piet Joubert and Darth Vader with George Pomeroy Colley, and it’d be about the First Boer War.
At a stretch, Star Wars could also tell the story of Kia. For a long time, the South Korean company was the brave rebel faction taking on the auto industry of the mighty Japanese empire. And as usually happens when small groups take on far superior forces, it was thoroughly trounced.
But then things started to change. Kia became stronger and stronger, and its vehicles became better and better. A lot of this had to do with the hiring of Peter Schreyer, an Audi design veteran who rallied Kia’s troops and gave them a new focus.
Today, Kia is no longer a desperate rebel faction. It is an automotive force to be reckoned with, and has the Japanese empire looking anxiously over its shoulder.
One of the flagships of Kia’s shiny new fleet is the Sportage. And like the company itself, it has grown a lot. It used to be a basic and boxy vehicle. Now it’s a sleek and elegant compact SUV. Sporting the company’s signature “tiger nose” grille (created by Peter Schreyer), it is a sexy and aggressive-looking vehicle that manages to combine the bulk of an SUV with the smooth lines of sporty hatch.
Under the bonnet, it is equally refined. It offers a choice of three engines. There are two petrol versions – a two-litre and a 2,4-litre – as well as a two-litre diesel.
The model that accompanied us on the Namibia Adventure Safari had the 2,4-litre petrol powerplant. And it impressed us a lot. With 130 kW of power and 227 Nm of torque on tap, it made mincemeat of all the tar highways, gravel roads and sand tracks we travelled on.
Its one shortcoming was the relatively low ground clearance (172mm) – a weakness that was exacerbated by chrome nudge bars at the front and back. But even these handicaps didn’t hold it back.
The Sportage completed our Kaokoveld route without hassle and proved that Korean manufacturers now have what it takes to win the global battle for the automotive throne.
To understand the amazing evolution of Kia, one need only look at the metamorphosis of the Sportage. To put it mildly, it has changed considerably over the years. When it first appeared on showroom floors in 1993, it was a fairly utilitarian little 4×4. It was small, basic and boxy, but offered considerable off-road ability.
The second generation, which appeared in 2004, was a very different vehicle. Most noticeably, it was bigger and far plusher than the previous model. Fans of the first Sportage complained that its greatest assets – its small size and good 4×4 ability – had been lost, but overall, it was a more practical vehicle that attracted far more customers. However, it was still not an SUV that could tempt buyers away from high-end Japanese and German vehicles.
But with the latest Sportage, Kia has entered the big league. The new model is elegant and refined, and offers great engine options. Moreover, it is priced very competitively.
You might not be able to tackle Baboon’s Pass in the new Sportage, but for the majority of potential buyers, it offers everything they’re looking for in an SUV.
Trivia: When the first-generation Sportage was produced, Kia had a partnership with Ford and Mazda. Because of this, the car was based on the underpinnings of the Mazda Bongo.
KIA SPORTAGE 4WD 2.4 PETROL AUTO
Engine: 2,4-litre, four-cylinder petrol
Power: 130 kW @ 6000 r/min
Torque: 227 Nm @ 4000 r/min
Gearbox: Six-speed automatic
4WD: Permanent 4×4
Ground clearance: 172mm
Price: R322 995