Kia’s Australian division wants to bring a hybrid version of the newly revealed, fifth-generation Sportage medium SUV to this market.

    While not confirmed at this stage, an electrified version of the roomier new Sportage would give the top-selling Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the Subaru Forester e-Boxer some much-needed competition.

    The fuel-sipping Toyota is still subject to months-long wait lists as demand continues to outstrip supply well into its life cycle. About 60 per cent of RAVs sold here now are electrified, given the small price impost and big fuel saving offered.

    The new Sportage is a bigger vehicle than its predecessor, giving it more points of difference from the Seltos and getting closer to the RAV4. It also sports a whole new styling ethos that borrows from the fetching Kia EV6 electric crossover.

    “We are pretty keen and seriously looking at the [Sportage] hybrid,” Kia Australia’s general manager of product planning Roland Rivero told CarExpert yesterday. “We just need to make sure the numbers work for us. We think it can.”

    If it were to get the green light, we’re fairly certain the Sportage hybrid wouldn’t get here until 2022, a few months at least after the rest of the range touches down in dealers.

    The challenge for Kia Australia will be viable sourcing, with no official confirmation that the Korean plant tasked with making petrol and diesel Sportages for Australian dealers, will also make the hybrid in right-hand drive (RHD).

    Kia has repeatedly said that importing cars to Australia from its Slovakia plant is too expensive to be a preferable source. For the same reason, Hyundai cannot make a business case to bring the (Czech-made) Tucson hybrid to Australia.

    Besides, Kia’s European arm has said its Sportage will be a smaller bespoke model compared to the one destined for Australia. Therefore any Sportage hybrid made in the correct configuration for us would need to come out of Gwangju.

    Company sources did not confirm this was going to happen.

    Kia hasn’t actually talked at all about engines in the new Sportage, but you need only look at the new Tucson to get a guide, since they share parts.

    The Hyundai comes with a 2.0-litre naturally aspirated petrol four-cylinder with front-wheel drive, or the choice of 1.6-litre turbo-petrol and 2.0-litre turbo-diesel engines with all-wheel drive. We believe the new Sportage will follow suit.

    If the Sportage hybrid does get signed off for Australia it would run the same powertrain as the European Hyundai Tucson hybrid: 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and a 44kW electric motor with system outputs of 169kW/350Nm, and WLTP fuel use as low as 5.5 litres per 100km.

    Beyond regular hybrids, we’re also seeing steady increases to the number of plug-in hybrid (PHEV) medium SUVs offered – Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV, MG HS PHEV, Ford Escape PHEV (early 2022), Peugeot 3008 PHEV (late 2021) – to Australian buyers.

    Kia will certainly offer a Sportage PHEV in Europe where emissions regulations drive their take-up, but Kia Australia is cooler on this idea.

    “The PHEV is probably something we will keep on the back burner,” Mr Rivero told us.

    Read all about the brand new Kia Sportage here.

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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