Monday, June 17, 2013

Used Car Review - Kia Sportage (1995-2002)

With June a rainy month, Myk Belmonte pitches a compact SUV that can hack the floods without drama.

1995-2002 Kia Sportage

In college, suspension of classes are declared at the discretion of the school (it is heaven when the local government would announce it) and at that scenario, floods attack the roads which means commuting can be hard while taking a sedan is a risky choice. In that scenario, an off-road (in this case, flood) capable vehicle must be the doctor's order.

One of the worthy choices for students is the first generation Kia Sportage. Bet you didn't know that majority of the components are supplied by Mazda with the base from the Bongo van. From its 1993 launch, standard and extended length (dubbed as the Grand Sportage) as well as convertible versions were made available. 2002 saw the discontinuation in South Korea (it didn't sell well) and United States with other countries following suit.

Columbian Autocar Corporation brought in the Sportage in 1995 as a part of their product line-up expansion (the company used to build and distribute numerous brands back then). Initially available with a gasoline engine, with a diesel under the hood of the Grand Sportage model replacing it in 1999. After its 2002 discontinuation, first generation models were popular second hand imports in Cebu and most of Mindanao.

Value and Costs
Local and imported units are priced between P90,000-P250,000, which is reasonable for its age and Kias of old are not known for their stellar residuals. While Korean surplus units are worth looking, dubious papers and document deficiencies are problems, so be careful with them or you wouldn't want your car to be impounded.

With the influx of Korean specialist shops, as well as the numerous surplus imports, parts are easy to find and purchase. Various nibbles include ignition problems (for gasoline variants), dirty sensors, and engine overheating. Going to the concern of students, since the diesel engine isn't CRDi, wading through floods isn't a problem.

Exterior and Interior
Rugged is the word to describe the Sportage's exterior, despite the influx of competitors boasting sleek lines, this stood time and does not get old. The Grand Sportage model can be differentiated from the short length model sold from 1995 to 1998 with its long body, no spare tire at the back, hood scoop, and body stickers. Opening the rear door for those models with a spare tire is complicated, and this impedes rear visibility; so the logical choice is the extended version which is a conventional lift type.

Whether the short or extended wheelbase, the interior is basic but does the job well. Another plus are the legible labels and controls are within driver's reach. However there are some quality quirks that cannot be avoided on some 90s era Korean vehicles. Downside is for the passengers who love to sit at the back is the limited legroom there, but cargo space for the extended model is excellent.

Both engines are supplied by Mazda, and the short wheelbase pre-1999 models have the FE 1,998cc gasoline which churns out 130hp at 5,500rpm and 172Nm at 4,000rpm. Those with extended bodies have the RF 1,998cc diesel with 91hp at 6,000rpm and 205Nm at 4,200rpm. How do they perform in the real world? Gasoline engines have decent acceleration but isn't behaved, diesels are economical but very weak. The manual would be standard transmission with an automatic being added in the 1999 update.

Driving Impressions
Do not expect too much on this aspect, as this one has a handling which reminds you of a truck (you wouldn't doubt since it is based from the Mazda Bongo), refinement isn't to the levels of the same time RAV4 or CR-V, crude suspension settings, and while the manual is vague, matics has the tendency to hunt for gears. There is one aspect where the Sportage shines, off-road capability. The sub-par refinement levels would give you confidence off the trails (or in this case, flooded streets).

Students on a tight budget who need a flood wading vehicle should look no further than the Sportage. However, at that price better (and way superior) choices can be had. My tip? Study all available options.

The Good: 
  • Affordable
  • 4WD ready
  • Rugged looks
The Bad:
  • Questionable reliability
  • Not a driver's delight
  • Tight inside
The Pick: AVEX Diesel

Engines: 1,998cc FE I4 gasoline and 1,998 RF I4 diesel 
Power: 130hp @ 5,500rpm (gasoline), 91hp @ 6,000rpm (diesel)
Torque: 172Nm @ 4,000rpm (gasoline), 205Nm @ 4,200rpm (diesel)
Fuel Consumption: 7-10km/L (city), 9-12km/L (highway) (*estimated and varies)
Transmission: 5-speed manual, 4-speed automatic
Suspension: Front independent double wishbone, rear rigid axle five link with coil springs

Price (New): P680,000-P870,000
Price (Now): P90,000-P250,000
Rivals: Suzuki Vitara, Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4
On Sale: 1995-2002

VGT Korean Auto Parts - 0922 266-1106

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