Kia Sportage 1.6 diesel offers great value, especially if you can resist the GT Line

Published Jul 20, 2023


As buyers in many international markets move away from diesel engines, largely due to pollution concerns in highly congested cities, the diesel options available to local buyers is slowly dwindling.

While they’re still common in bakkie-based SUVs like the Toyota Fortuner and friends, buyers in the midsize SUV segment don’t have a lot of oil-burning options right now.

What’s more, diesels in that segment are usually the more expensive 2.0-litre options, paired with all-wheel drive and high-specification levels.

Thankfully, for those seeking a good balance between price, economy and performance, Kia is bucking this trend with the reintroduction of its 1.6-litre diesel Sportage, which is now available in the latest-generation model for the first time.

It’s priced from R609 995 in baseline LX guise, which is a mere R24 000 more than the 1.6T petrol version costs, and those wanting more luxury can opt for a 1.6 CRDi EX at R663 995 or the GT Line Plus at R747 995.

It was the latter model that we had on test recently, but keep in mind that once you get to that level it’s not too much of a stretch to some of the 2.0-litre rival options, such as the Hyundai Tucson 2.0D Elite (R764 900) or the Mazda CX-5 2.2 DE Akera (R778 700).

But what’s it like to drive the new 1.6-litre diesel Sportage?

The engine is well proven, having been fitted to previous models, and apart from the noticeable diesel clatter on start-up, there’s little to fault its overall refinement.

The engine produces 100kW and 320Nm, sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission. The latter is certainly smooth-shifting, but I do have a few reservations about dual-clutch gearboxes in general from a longevity perspective.

As for engine performance, while the 1.6 unit is not particularly fast, power delivery feels linear and there isn’t much lag to speak of. It also cruises very comfortably at freeway speeds, and will overtake when asked to, but at times you will need to coax the accelerator pedal a bit.

Economy is impressive too, and we achieved an overall consumption figure of 7.2 litres per 100km. On a highway run we managed 5.3 litres per 100km, while urban consumption after resetting the trip for some town driving amounted to 9.1 l/100km, which is still somewhat impressive for a vehicle weighing one-and-a-half tonnes.

In a nutshell, the Kia Sportage provides a very pleasant and comfortable driving experience.

Cabin insulation is very impressive, creating a cocoon-like environment inside, and the chassis delivers a good balance between ride comfort and sure-footed handling. The steering felt well-weighted too.

In essence this is a very well engineered vehicle.

Its exterior design is striking, if a little polarising in places, but most people seem to like it and the cabin is very well finished and solidly put together.

A large dual-screen panel stretches out over the top of the dashboard, incorporating the digital instruments and infotainment system, each screen measuring 1.23 inches, or 31.2cm. And interior designers have flanked it with vertical air vents so the screen doesn’t look ‘tacked on’.

Below the central air vents you’ll find another small screen flanked by two rotary knobs. This cleverly switches the entire section between controlling audio and ventilation functions, with small icons on the screen allowing you to switch over, but it could lead to a few confusing moments if you don’t know about this dual function. Well, now you do..

But is the Kia Sportage practical and well-equipped?

This SUV is adequately sized for a family car and the boot can swallow 591 litres of luggage. Sitting behind my driving position, rear legroom was generous enough and it’s also worth noting that the Sportage has two USB-C ports to keep back-seat occupants connected and charged up.

Specification levels, of course, depend on whether you buy the LX, EX or GT Line Plus.

Here’s what you can expect from each.

The LX base model ships with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, cloth upholstery, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel and driver assist systems such as Blind Spot Collision Warning and Trailer Stability Assist.

The midrange EX adds 18-inch alloys to the mix, along with cloth and artificial leather upholstery combo, electrically adjustable front seats, front parking sensors and heating for the front and rear seats as well as the steering wheel.

Upgrade to the GT Line Plus and you’ll also get to enjoy 19-inch alloy wheels, gloss black exterior trim, suede and artificial leather seat upholstery, LED cabin lighting and a panoramic glass sunroof. Additional safety features include Lane Follow Assist, Lane Keep Assist and Forward Collision Avoidance Assist.


Although not quite as sprightly as the equivalent 1.6 turbopetrol engine, the new diesel offering impresses with its combination of value and economy, and there are three trim levels to choose from. While the GT Line is no doubt the most desirable, it is priced somewhat close to its bigger-engined rivals, so the real value in the range is with the LX and EX versions.