Kia’s new Sportage offers a high-tech ride
The nation’s second-largest automaker didn’t hide its confidence in the model at its media showcase, held at the W Hotel in Gwangjang-dong, northeastern Seoul, boasting that it spent the last 44 months developing the fourth-generation Sportage at a cost of more than 390 billion won ($329.8 million).
That investment, it says, has resulted in the most innovative exterior design since the model debuted in 1993, as well as high-tech new features and segment-leading safety options.
The next four months will be a big test for the Sportage, which is entering a domestic compact SUV market that already includes Ssangyong Motor’s Tivoli and Hyundai Motor’s Tucson, as well as imports like the Jeep Renegade.
“The sales goal for the Sportage in the next four months is to sell 30,000 units,” said Park Han-woo, president of Kia Motors.
“With a goal of selling 60,000 units per year, we expect the Sportage to become the top compact SUV in the country and to lead our sales in the global market as well.”
The company also expects the Sportage to help it achieve its most significant goal for this year: breaking its all-time annual sales record.
Through August, Kia sold 332,524 cars in Korea - an 11.9 percent rise year-on-year - which gives the automaker a domestic market share of 28.8 percent, according to the company.
However, Kia is aiming to sell more than 500,000 cars by the end of December, which would break its previous sales record of 493,003 set in 2011.
The company says it feels good about the goal, considering the increasing popularity of SUVs in Korea.
Kia has already seen big sales numbers from its large-size SUV Sorento, which rolled out last year.
One of the most noticeable changes in the Sportage’s exterior is right up front. The front headlamps, traditionally set on the corners of its front grille, were lifted above the hood to make the model appear more aggressive.
The company is marketing the Sportage to male drivers between 30 to 45 years old who want a car that performs well in the city but is also suited to outdoors activities.
Some auto critics, however, question the novelty of the design, which resembles Porsche’s popular SUVs like the Cayenne and Macan.
“There were also many opinions on the design when its predecessor Sportage R was introduced four year ago, but it soon became one of the most popular SUVs not only in the country but overseas as well,” Seo Bo-won, Kia’s domestic marketing director, told the Korea JoongAng Daily.
The Sportage includes new features to attract its target demographic.
One of the most notable is the wireless smartphone charging system, which allows drivers to charge certain Apple and Samsung devices by placing them under the center console. The Sportage is the first Korean SUV to offer the system in the segment.
The company also improved overall safety conditions, which has been an important issue for both Kia and its sister company Hyundai Motor.
The company said 51 percent of the new SUV’s body is made up of advanced high strength steel (AHSS), which is about 10 percent lighter but twice as strong as normal steel.
Only 18 percent of the new Sportage’s predecessor, the Sportage R, was made up of AHSS.
Kia also added other safety options as standard, including Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and a lane departure warning system.
The basic R2.0, developed with a diesel engine, offers 186 horsepower and 41 kilogram-meter (296.1 pound-foot) of torque, with fuel efficiency at 14.4 kilometers per liter (33.9 miles per gallon) and a starting price of 23.46 million won.
BY KWON SANG-SOO [firstname.lastname@example.org]