REVIEW: Kia Sportage 1.6 CRDi LX is a unique option in its class

Published May 23, 2024


Car companies don’t often give motoring journalists base models to play with, but then Kia South Africa doesn’t seem to shy away from exposing its full line-up to the world.

With that in mind we recently got to spend a week with the Kia Sportage 1.6 CRDi LX, which is the cheapest model in the midsize SUV range, although cheap is perhaps a relative term given that it costs R662,995 (in May 2024). If you’re reading this in the future, meaning you haven’t been forced to board Elon Musk’s Starship to Mars after AI staged a hostile takeover of earth, then it has probably become more expensive so go check on Kia’s website.

Future prophecies of doom aside, the Sportage LX does offer a rather unique proposition within its class, being the only diesel model in its segment barring the far more expensive Hyundai Tucson 2.0D Elite at a shade under R800,000.

In its price range the Kia goes up against petrol models like the Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4 TDI (R628,300), Hyundai Tucson 2.0 Executive (R655,500) and Mazda CX-5 2.0 Carbon Edition (R664,800).

But what’s it like to drive?

Although it’s a relatively small engine, the 1.6 turbodiesel unit punches above its weight like the proverbial little engine that could, with 100kW and 320Nm sent to the front wheels via a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox.

There is a noticeable diesel clatter on start-up, but otherwise there’s little to fault the overall refinement of this well proven engine.

On the road it’s not particularly fast, but power delivery feels linear and there isn’t much lag to speak of.

It cruises comfortably on the freeway too, and can overtake when you need it to, but at times you will need to work that right pedal a bit for comfortable momentum.

The Sportage CRDi is frugal but what did you expect from a small diesel? Picture: Supplied.

But hey it’s a diesel and that means superior fuel economy is a given. On a freeway run we managed 5.3 litres per 100km in our test car, while town driving saw an average of around 9.1 l/100km. Overall consumption amounted to a very respectable 7.2 l/100.

But doesn’t base model mean rent-a-car spec?

The Kia Sportage 1.6 CRDI is offered in three flavours - LX, EX and GT Line Plus - but don’t overlook the base model because it’s better equipped than you might imagine.

Standard features include 17-inch alloys, LED headlights, dual-zone climate control, push-button start, leather-covered multi-function steering wheel and a 12.3-inch infotainment system. But don’t expect to find any cow in here though as the seating is all-cloth.

It also has more advanced safety features than you’d expect in a base model. Not only is Blind Spot Collision Warning and Trailer Stability Assist part of the deal but a spec upgrade late last year also standardised some items previously only fitted to the GT Line, including Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Follow Assist and Lane Keeping Assist.

What’s the Sportage like inside?

The cabin feels solidly built and its surface components impart an upmarket feel. There’s plenty of screen real estate too, with the aforementioned 12.3” infotainment system joined by an identically-sized digital instrument screen on a common horizontal panel.

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..

The Sportage is as practical as you could expect at this level too. Sitting behind my driving position, rear legroom was generous enough and there are two USB-C ports to keep occupants connected and charged up.

The boot has a rather generous claimed capacity of 591 litres and should handle most family luggage needs.


The Kia Sportage 1.6 CRDi LX, with its economical diesel engine, is a unique vehicle in its class. Its looks might be a bit polarising, but its combination of practicality and refinement make it a solid player in that space, and it’s better equipped than you might expect from a base model.

Granted, it is a bit pricey at R662,995.

With a 10 percent deposit and no balloon, the Sportage LX will cost you R11,914 per month over 72 months, with an interest rate of 12.5 percent.

IOL Motoring