No, that’s not a typo. Kia Australia is finally bringing the Sportage Hybrid (or HEV) to Australia, and it’s likely to arrive early next year.
Speaking with CarExpert, Kia’s local boss for product planning, Roland Rivero, confirmed production of local models will commence in South Korea during the fourth quarter of 2023 ahead of a sales launch early in 2024.
That timeline aligns with Kia’s typical pattern of introducing new models at the Australian Open tennis grand slam, of which the Korean brand is the official partner and recently extended its contract until 2028.
After a stellar year that saw it finish third overall in the manufacturer sales race, Kia will finally have a rival to the top-selling Toyota RAV4 Hybrid, and finally offer an electrified option for its popular mid-sized crossover.
2022 saw the new-gen Sportage return 18,792 registrations, placing it fourth in the segment behind the Toyota RAV4 (34,845 units), Mazda CX-5 (27,062 units) and Mitsubishi Outlander (19,546 units).
Both the RAV4 and Outlander offer an electrified option, and the RAV4 Hybrid accounts for the overwhelming majority of orders for Toyota’s mid-sized SUV.
Power in the Sportage HEV comes from the same 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol-electric hybrid system as the larger Sorento HEV, which combines a 132kW/265Nm four-cylinder petrol engine with a 44kW/264Nm electric motor and 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery.
System outputs are quoted at 169kW and 350Nm, which would make the Sportage one of the more powerful vehicles in the segment, period. The RAV4 Hybrid offers 160kW-163kW (but doesn’t quote system torque), while the Subaru Forester Hybrid only generates 110kW and 196Nm.
In overseas markets the Sportage Hybrid can be had in both FWD and AWD versions, with all variants featuring a six-speed automatic transmission as standard. The US model, which shares the same long body as Aussie variants, quotes up to 43mpg on the combined cycle, which converts to 5.47L per 100km using local metrics.
The North American arm also claims the Sportage Hybrid can achieve over 500mi (804km) between fills of its 52-litre tank, which is bordering on diesel-like range.
Mr Rivero added that supply for the Sportage Hybrid will be better than what we’ve seen for the Sorento HEV, and that the local division is looking into offering more than one variant. CarExpert expects a top-spec GT-Line to be offered based on previous form, as well as a low- or mid-spec grade in line with the existing S or SX specifications.
Kia was recently forced to close local order books of the larger Sorento Hybrid and Plug-in Hybrid due to a growing log of backorders and crippled supply of electrified variants – which were maxing out at 20 HEVs and 10 PHEVs per month. It’s a similar story for the smaller Niro HEV, of which Kia gets about 50 units per month.
The supply situation will likely determine the breadth of variants the local arm offers, and pricing is expected to follow the structure of the larger Sorento Hybrid.
Currently, the Sorento HEV FWD and AWD demand a $4700 premium over the equivalent GT-Line V6 FWD and Diesel AWD versions respectively. Given the more price sensitive segment the Sportage competes in, we’re anticipating a similar $4000-4500 premium for the Sportage HEV – Kia has acknowledged previously that this aspect is critical.
By comparison, Toyota charges around $2500 more for the 2WD Hybrid over the equivalent 2WD petrol, with the E-Four AWD version adding a further $3000. The Subaru Forester Hybrid is $3000 dearer than the equivalent 2.5i AWD petrol in Australia.
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