At the media test-drive event held for the new Kia Sportage in Queenstown, New Zealand, one question just had to be asked: How would you differentiate the Sportage from Hyundai's Tucson? As you know, these compact SUVs share a single platform and they're manufactured by sister car companies. It is only natural for prying motoring journalists to wonder just what exactly separates one from the other.
"The skin, first and foremost," replied Kevin Hepworth, Kia Motors Australia's national public relations manager. "We honestly believe that the exterior styling of the Sportage gives it an edge."
The new Sportage was designed by Massimo Frascella, whose background includes work experience at Bertone and Ford's now-defunct Premier Automotive Group (Jaguar, Aston Martin, Land Rover and Volvo). During the presentation, he pointed out that the Sportage has a sporty, coupe-like appearance, thanks to its high shoulders and narrow greenhouse.
Another unique feature of the Sportage that is not found on the Tucson, boasted Hepworth, is the vehicle's groundbreaking all-wheel-drive coupling system called Dynamax, developed especially for the Sportage by Magna Powertrain. In the words of Kia's engineers: "Dynamax continuously monitors driving conditions, keeping the AWD system in a ready state for a faster reaction to a change in surface or conditions. Dynamax's intelligent control unit continuously analyzes data from the vehicle controller, and through a multi-plate clutch, the coupling system is fully controllable via an electro-hydraulic actuation system." Heavy stuff, man.
There are other features in the Sportage not shared with the Tucson, maintained Kevin Ahn, Kia Motors Corp.'s general manager for overseas product marketing. Among these are the gorgeous LED daytime running lights that enhance the front fascia's elegance.
In very simple terms, Kia wants you to look at the new Sportage as a special vehicle that is distinct from the Hyundai Tucson. Nevertheless, if the Tucson's smashing success in our market is any indication, expect the Sportage to be another strong offering from Kia--assuming, of course, that Kia distributor Columbian Autocar Corp. won't bungle its pricing like it did the Soul's.