The next-generation Kia Sportage is being put through its paces on Australian roads, as Kia locks in a suspension setup suited to local tastes.
Kia says the new Sportage will have benefited from six months of tuning by the time it goes on sale late in 2021.
Hyundai hasn’t opted for a local tune in its closely-related Tucson SUV, the company confirmed at launch.
The development process has been made more arduous by COVID-19 travel restrictions.
Where Kia would usually have a dedicated damper engineer on hand in Australia, it’s instead been forced to test different combinations in batches shipped from Korea.
Despite the pandemic, Kia Australia ride and handling engineer Graeme Gambold says the 2022 Sportage sold locally “will be unique compared to other regions”.
Kia has been tuning its cars in Australia for more than a decade, although not every single car sold Down Under gets a bespoke tune.
The Niro sold in Australia rides on the same suspension tune as Europe, for example.
The new Sportage will offer a choice of two petrol engines and a diesel engine, shared with the related Hyundai Tucson.
Unlike the Hyundai, Kia won’t stagger the rollout of these powertrains.
The range will open with a naturally-aspirated 2.0-litre ‘MPI’ four-cylinder engine with 117kW of power and 191Nm of torque – oddly 2kW more and 1Nm less than the Hyundai according to Kia’s press release.
Above it will sit a turbocharged 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol engine with 132kW of power and 265Nm of torque and a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine with 137kW and 416Nm.
Kia Australia hasn’t specified which transmissions and drive layouts these engines will come with, but expect the 2.0-litre petrol to use a six-speed torque-converter automatic and the 1.6-litre petrol to use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic as on the Tucson.
The diesel is expected to be mated to an eight-speed torque-converter automatic transmission Kia says has been extensively re-engineered for improved control stability and response.
As on the Tucson, the 2.0-litre will likely be front-wheel drive-only while the other powertrains will come with all-wheel drive.
While the outgoing car offers a 179kW/352Nm turbo-petrol 2.0-litre four with a six-speed auto in North America, we’ve never received a turbo-petrol Sportage locally.
Instead, the current model offers only a naturally-aspirated 2.4-litre four as an up-level petrol engine, producing 135kW and 237Nm.
New to the Sportage line will likely be the option of hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.