2024 Kia Sportage S diesel review

It may be a niche in a huge market segment, but if you need a medium SUV and the long-distance range of a torquey turbo diesel, the Kia Sportage may be the solution you’re looking for. All available in a keenly priced base-model package.

What we love
  • Comfortable and absorbent ride
  • Useful interior storage
  • Good on-road refinement
What we don’t
  • Interior shows too many signs of being a base model
  • High service pricing
  • Big price step from petrol to diesel

2024 Kia Sportage S diesel

It feels like the fundamentals of the Australian car market are changing fast. For some, the winds of change may leave them feeling a touch uncertain.

So, what if you just need something simple? For a lot of Aussies, especially those outside of major towns, it’s not over-the-air connectivity and flash styling black packs that matter. It’s getting to your destination safely and comfortably, no need for bells, nor whistles.

Australia’s rural roads offer a patchwork of surfaces, from freshly laid tarmac to rough-shod gravel. Some are top-coated in sand and fine dust, some are a large part clay and behave very differently in the wet to the dry. It’s here that a hardcore four-wheel-drive might be overkill, but all-wheel drive is key.

And high-torque low-RPM diesel engines are handy too. It might be a niche, but it’s an important one, and it might not just be rural Aussies, it might be fringe-dwellers, holiday adventurers, or any number of situations where Kia’s Sportage offers the right solution.

Over the years, brands like Toyota, Honda and Mitsubishi have dropped diesel engines from medium SUVs, opening the floor to the Korean brands, Hyundai and Kia, to step up.

How much does the Kia Sportage cost in Australia?

Kia offers a fairly broad range of variants within the Sportage line-up. There are four models to choose from: S, SX, SX+ and GT-Line, each more feature-laden as you step up the range. Kia also offers a choice of 2.0-litre non-turbo and 1.6-litre turbo petrol engines, and a 2.0-litre turbo diesel. The turbos are paired with all-wheel drive, but the base petrol is front-drive only.

It’s a complex range. S and SX offer a choice of 2.0-litre petrol and 2.0-litre diesel, the SX+ offers all three options, and the GT-Line forgoes the base petrol powertrain. The one constant is the diesel, available across the range.

It’s fitted to the car I’m driving here. It’s a base-model Sportage S, which kicks off from $32,995 with a six-speed manual or $34,995 with a six-speed automatic, both before on-road costs. The move to diesel is the more pricey option, at $40,395 plus on-road costs. As you step up through the range it’s possible to spend as much as $52,920 on a GT-Line diesel, so the car shown here still keeps its pricing at the low end of the range.

The Sportage S can be identified by its 17-inch alloy wheels, reflector-type LED headlights, partial LED tail-lights (with indicator and stop light bulbs), matte plastic wheel arch moulding paired with silver roof rails and body-coloured mirrors, cloth seat trim, an 8.0-inch infotainment system and LCD instrument displays, and six-speaker stereo.

Higher up the range, features like 18- or 19-inch wheels, dual-zone climate control, larger 12.3-inch infotainment, rain-sensing wipers, premium audio, and leather seat trim with heating and cooling are available, plus more – depending on how much you’re prepared to spend.

Key details 2024 Kia Sportage S
Price $40,395 plus on-road costs
Colour of test car Steel Grey metallic
Options Metallic paint – $520
Price as tested $40,915 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price $45,679 (Melbourne)
Rivals Hyundai Tucson | Mitsubishi Outlander | Toyota RAV4

How much space does the Kia Sportage have inside?

The higher-spec variants in the Sportage range really suit the interior styling best. It seems Kia worked out the design details for top-spec cars and then worked backwards.

The Sportage S has a modern and functional interior, which is a big plus. It also has a lot of blank space for additional switches and features that aren’t fitted to the base model, and can feel a bit like Kia taunting you for not speccing more. These are most obvious on the centre console to the left of the gear selector.

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The interior is spacious, though, which is great. Its front seats are a comfortable and natural height off the ground, making entry and exit effortless.

There’s a useful place for just about everything you carry with you. A slot under the dash for your phone or wallet (though it’s not a wireless charge pad), two cupholders further back on the console and out of the way of driver controls, and extra open space again behind them, plus a lidded armrest bin with a decent capacity. Each door has a bottle holder and moderate-sized map pocket.

The rear seats sit a little higher than the fronts, providing stadium-style seating for a clearer view for rear-seat passengers. Leg room is generous for a medium SUV, as is head room. The rear windows cut off just slightly at the bottom, so little ones might miss some of the scenery, but teen and adult passengers should be fine.

A centre armrest folds down and reveals two cupholders, though this makes it a bit firmer and higher to sit in than the outboard seats. Rear-seat passengers get face-level air vents in the back of the centre console, but not charging capabilities, with the Sportage’s two USB ports (1x USB-A, 1x USB-C) located in the front of the centre console.

The rear seats can be folded in a 60:40 split, but with no levers in the boot walls, you’ll need to dash around to the rear doors and fold from there. Lift the boot carpet and you’ll see provisions for what looks like a dual-height floor, but with the full-sized spare in place, it can’t be accessed. To be fair, anyone heading out of town even occasionally is sure to find that a much better solution than a slightly deeper boot and the limiting factors of a space-saver wheel.

With the rear seats up there’s 543 litres of cargo volume, or up to 1829L with the rear seats folded. The rear seats don’t drop completely level with the boot floor, but there’s only a small step up to deal with.

Alongside rivals, the RAV4 offers 580L of cargo space to the rear seats, the Tucson provides 539L, and an Outlander has 485L in five-seat models or 478L in seven-seaters.

2024 Kia Sportage S
Seats Five
Boot volume 543L seats up
1829L seats folded
Length 4660mm
Width 1865mm
Height 1665mm
Wheelbase 2755mm

Does the Kia Sportage have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto?

The big area of difference between the Sportage S and the rest of the Sportage range is the infotainment system. As the entry-level model, the S is equipped with a smaller 8.0-inch system with big chunky bezels. Other models in the range get a better-integrated 12.3-inch system.

This system comes with AM/FM radio, Bluetooth phone and audio connectivity and wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, plus the ability for Android phones to plugged in, but no such system support for Apple devices. A six-speaker sound system does an alright job, but doesn’t particularly impress if you push it hard.

Higher up the range, other Sportage models get digital radio and satellite navigation, but lose wireless device mirroring.

The instrument cluster in the Sportage is a digital display, but rather than being a whole-screen-type display, the speedo and tacho are represented by alarm-clock-style seven-segment LCDs, with a small 4.2-inch multifunction display in the middle. There’s no head-up display on any Sportage variant.

Kia is in the midst of adding remote smartphone connectivity via an app on some of its newer models, but for now the Sportage doesn’t offer this feature, though it likely will on new cars (but not retroactively on existing vehicles) in an upgrade down the track. This lets you check things like fuel level and vehicle location, or remotely lock and unlock doors, and more.

Is the Kia Sportage a safe car?

The whole Kia Sportage range is covered by a five-star ANCAP safety rating awarded in 2022.

The five-star rating breaks down to an 87 per cent score for both adult occupant and child occupant protection, a 66 per cent vulnerable road user protection rating (relating to pedestrian and cyclist impact protection), and a safety assist systems score of 74 per cent.

What safety technology does the Kia Sportage have?

Every Kia Sportage is equipped with safety and driver assist systems like autonomous emergency braking (AEB) with vehicle, pedestrian and cyclist detection, plus junction intervention (to reduce the risk of turning into the path of an oncoming vehicle). Multi-collision braking, lane-keep and lane-follow assist are also standard.

Rear park sensors and a rear-view camera, driver attention alert, safe exit warning and intelligent speed limit assist are also found across the Sportage range. Manual Sportage variants miss out on rear cross-traffic alert and blind-spot monitoring, trailer sway assist, and high-beam assist – but as the diesel Sportage range is auto-only, those features are included here.

There are seven airbags throughout the cabin (dual front airbags, front-seat side airbags, head-protecting curtain airbags, plus a centre airbag to prevent front seat occupants from clashing in the event of a side impact). The rear seats feature two ISOFIX points for the outboard seats and three top-tether points.

In a week of testing, the Sportage did a decent job of balancing the effectiveness of these systems without overstepping or overreacting.

The lane-follow assist isn’t a hands-off system but can help keep you from straying too close to lane markings. Where needed, the safety systems can be overruled by the driver (where lane markings may have changed or been painted over), and the AEB system didn’t demonstrate any false activations.

How much does the Kia Sportage cost to maintain?

Kia owners are covered by the peace of mind of a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty for private buyers or seven years/150,000km for commercially used vehicles (like couriers and ride share operators). One exception to Kia’s seven-year coverage is a three-year warranty on audio and navigation components, and a 12-month paint appearance policy.

Capped-price servicing is available over seven years as well. Scheduled servicing is due every 12 months or 15,000km, but it is one of the more expensive vehicles in its segment at $2488 over five years. Over the same period, a Hyundai Tucson diesel comes to $2185, a Mitsubishi Outlander (petrol) is $1700, and a RAV4 Hybrid is a low $1300 over five years.

Looking at insurance quotes, we got a $1374 annual premium for the car tested here. The same details for a diesel Hyundai Tuscon returned a slightly dearer $1554 premium, or an all-wheel-drive hybrid RAV4 GX (which is a slightly more expensive vehicle when new) was quoted at $1584 based on a comparative quote for a 35-year-old male driver living in Chatswood, NSW. Insurance estimates may vary based on your location, driving history, and personal circumstances.

At a glance 2024 Kia Sportage S
Warranty 7 years, unlimited km
Service intervals 12 months or 15,000km
Servicing costs $1305 (3 years)
$2488 (5 years)
$3580 (7 years)

Is the Kia Sportage fuel-efficient?

The diesel engine in the Kia Sportage is the most frugal option in the Sportage range. Its official figure is 6.3 litres per 100 kilometres in mixed-use driving. On the highway it claims 5.4L/100km and 7.7L/100km around town.

My week in traffic saw consumption rise to the mid-10s, but on the open road, low 6s are easy to achieve. On balance after a week of workday commuting and short weekend freeway hops, consumption settled at 9.1L/100km.

At the manufacturer’s consumption claim, driving range is a theoretical 857km. With the fuel use I achieved on test, that’s more likely to be just over 590km but overall range will vary depending on your driving situation.

Fuel efficiency 2024 Kia Sportage S
Fuel cons. (claimed) 6.3L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test) 9.1L/100km
Fuel type Diesel
Fuel tank size 54L

What is the Kia Sportage like to drive?

It wasn’t too long ago that opting for the diesel version of an SUV saw you on the back foot in terms of performance and refinement, but in the Sportage’s case, that’s not so.

With on-paper figures of 137kW and 416Nm, the 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine offers competitive power alongside its petrol siblings, and the most torque by far. In the real world it’s flexible, with torque everywhere you could need it, though it may not be as brisk off the line as the petrol models.

The eight-speed automatic is a ‘traditional’ torque converter type, meaning no jerkiness or hesitation when starting off uphill, and cultured, predictable manners for slow-speed manoeuvres. At higher speeds it does tend to hold higher gears in the quest for economy, but can be pushed to kick down if you need a burst of acceleration for overtaking.

Crucially for rural road travellers, the Sportage S offers the best wheel and tyre package for comfort. The 17-inch wheels and big sidewall (235/65 R17) tyres help blot out bumps and corrugations. Kia runs a local suspension tuning program, helping tailor suspension settings to local conditions and driving styles.

That Aussie-tuned suspension finds a nice balance of fitness – enough to resist lean in high-speed corners, but not so much that you feel every bump in the road. On rural surfaces, where things can get choppy, it can keep pace with the surface below without bucking or vibrating over corrugations.

Noise suppression is good. On highway runs you’ll only detect a little road noise, and a slight bit of wind rustle around the door mirrors. At a cruise, the engine is hushed and smooth. If you floor it you’ll get some of the more prominent diesel engine notes, but it’s a cultured and quiet powertrain overall.

If anything, steering took just a touch more effort than a lot of the Sportage’s competitors. Not heavy, but certainly more settled. For highway running, I quite liked it, as it makes the car feel more settled and secure.

Key details 2024 Kia Sportage S
Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbo diesel
Power 137kW @ 4000rpm
Torque 416Nm @ 2000–2750rpm
Drive type All-wheel drive
Transmission 8-speed torque converter automatic
Power-to-weight ratio 77.9kW/t
Weight (tare) 1759kg
Spare tyre type Full-size
Tow rating 1900kg braked
750kg unbraked
Turning circle 12.2m

Should I buy a Kia Sportage?

The Kia Sportage is a very easy car to recommend, and a large part of that comes down to the number of available options in the range.

If you’re unlikely to leave the confines of the suburbs, or only cover short hops from home to school to work, the diesel may not be for you. If you’re more likely to get out of town, and want something frugal without sacrificing torque for hilly roads or a spot of towing, then the diesel fits the bill.

In base-level Sportage S trim, you may find the interior a touch spartan. Everything here is serviceable and functional, but if you want to feel just a touch more premium, the extra $2500 or so (before on-road costs) to step up to the Sportage SX could be well worth it for the added tech and features.

How do I buy a Kia Sportage – next steps?

If simplicity is key, then the Sportage S might be the right fit for you, but I’d strongly suggest weighing up the SX grade, only one model higher up the range. While you are spending more, the value equation stacks up more strongly.

The next step on the purchase journey is to check the Kia website for stock of your preferred Sportage variant. You can also find new and used Sportages for sale at Drive.com.au/cars-for-sale.

We strongly recommend taking a test drive at a dealership before committing because personal needs and tastes can differ. Find your nearest Kia dealer via this link. We’d also recommend test-driving the Toyota RAV4 2.5 Cruiser because it is popular with consumers and is a good benchmark.

If you want to stay updated with everything that’s happened to this car since our review, you’ll find all the latest news here.

Ratings Breakdown

2024 Kia Sportage S Wagon

7.4/ 10

Infotainment & Connectivity

Interior Comfort & Packaging

Kez Casey

Kez Casey migrated from behind spare parts counters to writing about cars over ten years ago. Raised by a family of automotive workers, Kez grew up in workshops and panel shops before making the switch to reviews and road tests for The Motor Report, Drive and CarAdvice.

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