Ride, Handling & Performance
Interior Comfort & Practicality
Technology & Safety
Value & Ownership
Entry level models are something Australian new car buyers struggle to get excited about. Overwhelmingly, we prefer to pony up for the trim levels that sit toward the business end of the range.
In something of a strange turn of events, entry models are a different breed these days. Stripped out, poverty pack variants are becoming hard to come by. High levels of competition have seen manufacturers produce entry trim levels that are loaded with more kit than ever before.
Take the 2019 Kia Sportage Si, it gets autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, high-beam assist, rear parking sensors, 17-inch alloys, rear-view camera, rain sensing wipers, cruise control, dual-zone climate control, a six-speaker audio system and a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto as standard.
Despite the good looking spec sheet, the Sportage Si is priced from $29,990 plus on-roads.
When you consider Kia’s seven-year, unlimited kilometre warranty, seven-year capped price service program and seven-year roadside assistance package the Si lines up very strongly against rivals from Toyota, Mazda, Nissan, Honda and Hyundai.
We have already said plenty about the Sportage’s design and packaging during our time with the Si Premium and GT-Line so we will avoid going down that path here. One important detail to note is the inclusion of proper rear air vents. Those considering a Sportage for family transport will be relieved to know they do make a difference on warm days by playing a vital role in keeping the complaints of younger passengers about the rising mercury to a minimum.
While there are no obvious visual cues that identify the Si as the range opener, it’s the engine and transmission combo that firmly cements our petrol tester as such.  
The Si is powered by a 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol engine that offers 114kw and 192Nm. It’s the smallest engine in the Sportage line-up and it’s the least mechanically refined. The coarse sounding unit can be recommended in isolation, but it falls down when compared to the other engine options that are found across the Sportage range.
Trying to balance performance and economy isn’t an easy task, models that achieve a balance generally win over plenty of buyers. When it comes to performance, the petrol Si feels half a litre short, similar to the 2.0-litre unit in the base CX-5. To extract anything resembling performance it needs to be revved in a way most buyers would be reluctant to do.
The six-speed automatic transmission does a commendable job of putting the available power down. All the torque is sent to the front axle, those wanting all-wheel drive will need to make the jump to the diesel variant.
Moving to efficiency, the Si petrol is competitive if unremarkable. After covering a whisker under 520 kilometres the combined consumption figure of 8.9L/100km was recorded.
Going off Kia’s list price, the diesel version of the Si costs an additional $5400 meaning it’s a significant hit to the hip pocket, however, the diesel engine and eight-speed transmission are well worth the additional spend if the budget can be stretched. The oiler offers a far greater level of performance while being more economical.
Thankfully, the Si gets a brilliant suspension tune that’s been calibrated for local roads, it keeps the large undulations from infiltrating the cabin. The engineers responsible for tuning the Sportage have delivered a level of ride comfort that will satisfy the most fastidious buyers. It’s a similar story with the steering, it’s precise and perfectly weighted.
Kia has established its commitment to sportiness through the Stinger, Cerato GT and Picanto GT. The Sportage has the chassis and body control to get a proper performance variant. The market for performance SUVs is growing and there’s an opportunity for Kia to jump on the bandwagon.
From an ownership perspective, only SsangYong has been prepared to match Kia’s after sales package. The long warranty and transparent maintenance costs can’t be ignored when the sums are being done.
Service intervals are set at 12 months/15,000km, whichever comes first. The costs average out to $392 for each service under the capped pricing structure.
The Sportage Si is a good family SUV that is remarkably strong value in its own right. As an entry-level model, it’s generously appointed and easy to live with as a family car, but it’s not the most compelling model in the range.
After driving all the engines across the Sportage range, the diesel engine is head and shoulders above the two petrol units, aided by the new automatic transmission.
The Si Premium diesel is the sweet spot in the Sportage range if the budget allows, it blends performance, economy and refinement with a substantial list of standard equipment. Those not willing to take our word for it should arrange back to back test drives to make an informed decision.
2019 Kia Sportage Si Petrol Specifications
Price from $29,990 plus on-road costs Engine 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol Power 114kW @ 6200rpm Torque 192Nm @ 4000rpm Transmission six-speed automatic Combined Fuel Consumption 7.9L/100km Tank Capacity 62L Length 4485mm Width 1855mm Height 1655mm Wheelbase 2670mm Tare Weight 1532kg Ground Clearance 172mm Turning Circle 11m Service Intervals 12 months/15,000km Warranty seven year/unlimited kilometre