We spent a few days evaluating the Kia Sportage 1,6 GDI Ignite and share our views here. Kia is still a bit of a fringe player in the South African new car market for many people. While sister brand Hyundai has made good strides Kia lives a little in the shadow of its better-known sibling.

However, models such as the Sportage make the Kia badge a bit more prevalent than most people would guess. Not only has this most recent version sold over a million units worldwide, it is also one of the most popular Kia models sold in SA. Kia’s top-selling, SUV, the Sportage underwent a mid-life refresh late in 2018, which is why there is a Kia Sportage 1,6 GDI Ignite in the media test fleet.

Click here to read our Hyundai Kona launch report.

What’s new?

The enhanced Kia Sportage features a mildly refreshed appearance. A more prominent version of the brand’s signature ‘tiger nose’ grille, newly profiled front and rear bumpers, as well as a new rear lighting signature, are the bulk of the exterior changes. Were you not looking at the pre-facelift and new cars side-by-side, you’d be hard-pressed to tell the differences.

New offerings

Kia Motors South Africa took the opportunity of the refresh to also revise the local Sportage range. The SX AWD and GT Line derivatives have been discontinued, while standard specification has been increased across the board.

The car we had on review was the entry-level Ignite version. This variant includes, among others, air-conditioning, automatic headlamp activation, electric side mirrors, Bluetooth connectivity, a radio with six speakers, electric windows and rear park sensors – the latter always come in handy.

While the seats are fabric covered the gear lever boot and steering are leathered trimmed, creating a premium feel for the driver. The latter offers a full suite of buttons to control the onboard computer, audio system and cruise control settings. Except for moving the shift lever, one seldom as to remove one’s hands from the wheel rim, which is a big plus in terms of safety.


A new addition to the Sportage range is a 1,6-litre GDI  engine. This engine is found exclusively in the Sportage Ignite. The naturally aspirated ‘Gamma’, as it is called internally, engine produces 97 kW of power, with 161 N.m of peak torque available at high-ish 4 850 r/min. This engine is mated with a six-speed automatic transmission that sends power to the front wheels. The six-speed transmission option is only available on Ignite derivatives. Other automatic transmissions in the range boast eight ratios.

On the road

We are of the opinion that no one should ever buy a manual SUV/crossover. It just makes no sense to us to drive a large vehicle, mostly in the city, and have to handle gear-shifting duties yourself. In this regard the Kia Sportage 1,6 GDI Ignite is great. The torque converter auto makes light work of having to contend with the increasing traffic levels and deteriorating driving quality we experience daily.

The transmission does have an odd quirk, in that it is eager to downshift when you lift off the gas pedal. If you lifted off the accelerator to coast a bit, say towards a traffic light, the transmission shifts down a gear thereby lifting the engine speed.

For some, the power output of the small-ish engine may feel a little underwhelming. A large dose of throttle is required to really get moving and the same applies to make a quick overtaking manoeuvre. The power on tap is adequate for a family crossover’s daily duties in every other scenario.


We expect the bulk of sales to go to the Kia Sportage 1,6 GDI Ignite as it is the most price-friendly model in the range. As an entry-level model one would forgive it for being less than comprehensively kitted out. However, that isn’t the case. There is very little the Ignite derivative lacks, or that most buyers would miss.

It is a simple, honest package without complex electronics, such as a satnav system, or a complicated powertrain ie no dual-clutch transmission or turbocharged engine. If something should go wrong then owners can take advantage of the standard five-year warranty and 5 years of roadside assistance. Priced at under R380 000 expect to see many more Kia Sportages on the road soon.

Model: Kia Sportage 1,6 GDI Ignite automatic

Engine: 1,6-litre inline four

Transmission: six-speed manual, FWD

Max power: 97 kW

Max torque: 161 N.m

Top speed: 170 km/h

0-100 km/h: 12,1 sec

Fuel consumption: n/a