The Road Ahead : June July 2008
48 JUN/JLY 08 under boot storage tray helps). The Kia hits back by enabling the rear window to be opened separately to the hatch door, which is handy when loading and unloading. Neither has reach-adjustable steering, but the Vitara provides steering-wheel-mounted audio and cruise controls. Each vehicle exhibited some variable body gap margins. On & off the road Testers concurred that the Kia felt more responsive although, like the Suzuki, it gets caught off turbo boost. The six-speed gearbox shifts more smoothly and seems better matched to the engine than the Vitara’s ‘? ve-speeder’, which sometimes feels crunchy when up-shifting to third. Second gear is too high and, at lower speeds, the Suzuki develops engine harshness that intrudes through the car. While quieter at idle, our noise meter readings showed it to be markedly more raucous in the mid range when cruising. Off road, the Vitara has an advantage due to the availability of low range when the going gets tough. Selection is simply a case of rotating a switch on the dash from ‘four-high’ to ‘four-high-locked’ then ‘four-low locked’. On the daunting Telecom Hill at LandCruiser Mountain Park, the Kia, with only high range, was found wanting. The Vitara scurried up the steep climb without losing momentum, making it all the way to the top in one swoop, albeit in a ? urry of wheel spin. Thereafter, we were more selective with what challenges we put to the Sportage, but it handled water crossings and other obstacles with equal aplomb. Ditto a run along the beach. Ironically, it did not fall again until the last hurdle, failing to negotiate the deep, loose sand when coming off the beach. Kia offers a more re? ned, comfortable ride. The Suzuki reveals itself to be quite taut but better than the older Vitara. Although its steering tends to load up as lock is applied, the Sportage handles more like a car on smoother surfaces. Testers praised the Vitara’s meaty, leather-trimmed steering wheel, which has a better feel than the thinner Sportage item. There is little difference with ground clearance, approach and departure angles, ramp-over angle and turning circle, and this is re? ected out in the real world. The same for brake performance. In a succession of emergency stops from 80 km/h, the Suzuki – despite having rear drums compared with the Kia’s four-wheel discs – pulled up in 26.1 m on average, just 0.2 m shorter than the Kia. Conclusion If your driving is more about ‘soft roading’ than ‘off roading’, then our test suggests the Kia Sportage shapes as the better buy. It is compromised more towards a car, than an SUV. As we proved, not having low range is the Sportage’s Achilles Heel, which is somewhat ironic, as earlier models used to offer this. Maybe its new guise is more attuned to what buyers want at this end of the market and its added civility enhances appeal accordingly. Conversely, if following in the wheel tracks of the more heavy-duty 4WDs is your bent, then go for Grand Vitara. What it lacks in re? nement relative to the Kia, the Suzi makes up for by being a tough little customer when the blacktop stops. Kia Sportage Ex CRDi PRICE: $32,490 SAFETY: Two airbags, anti-lock brakes (ABS), brake assist (BA), electronic brake distribution (EBD), adjustable headrests, lap/sash belts all round, traction control, electronic stability control (ESC). KEY FEATURES: Central locking, airconditioning, split/fold rear seats, MP3 compatible sound system, power mirrors/windows (tinted), intermittent wipers, full size alloy spare. ENGINE: 2.0-litre, turbo-diesel, 4-cyl. FUEL (ADR ? gure): 7.1 litres/100 km CRASH RATING: n/a EMISSION RATING: ???? FOR: Re? nement, warranty, running costs. AGAINST: No low range, safety inventory. OVERALL STAR RATING (OUT OF 5): ??? Suzuki Grand Vitara DDiS PRICE: $34,999 SAFETY: Six airbags, ABS, BA, EBD, adjustable headrests, lap/ sash belts all round, traction control, ESC. KEY FEATURES: Low range, central locking, airconditioning, split/ fold rear seats, MP3 compatible sound system, power mirrors/ windows (tinted), intermittent wipers, full size alloy spare. ENGINE: 1.9-litre, turbo-diesel, 4-cyl. FUEL (ADR ? gure): 7.6 litres/100 km CRASH RATING: ???? EMISSION RATING: ???? FOR: Low range, safety, ruggedness. AGAINST: Lack of re? nement, gearing. OVERALL STAR RATING (OUT OF 5): ???
April May 2008
August September 2008