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Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD 2023 review


Kia’s Sportage is in massive demand, especially in flagship GT-Line guise, but is its turbocharged petrol engine option the weak point in this otherwise superb medium SUV?

Good points

  • Beautiful and spacious cabin
  • Luxe and high specification
  • Cruising ride comfort
  • Digital dash and infotainment panel
  • Comprehensive safety kit
  • Seven-year warranty

Needs work

  • Hesitant engine/DCT auto combo
  • No wireless CarPlay/Android Auto
  • No heated rear seats
  • Looks are polarising
  • Expensive servicing
  • The diesel’s the pick of the range

The flagship Kia Sportage GT-Line is perhaps the best illustration of how very far Kia has come in the last quarter-century.

Australians are queueing out the door and around the corner to buy the midsize SUV, and such pent-up demand is commonplace across Kia’s range.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 rear 3/4

It’s richly deserved, too. There’s the seven-year warranty, distinctive styling and cabin design, and finish and quality that truly challenge prestige brands.

The Sportage is a real zero-to-hero model. It launched as a single grade here in 1998, promptly scoring a disastrous one star out of five in ANCAP safety testing. Apparently, the seatbelts failed and the vehicle’s structure collapsed. Hardly confidence inspiring.

Contrast that to 2023. Today’s fifth-gen Sportage has the maximum five-star ANCAP rating, there are no fewer than nine different variants offered and the model has a host of awards under its belt.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front grille

Aussies bought almost 19,000 of them last year against serious, quality opposition from the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Mitsubishi Outlander and many more.

While you can hop into an entry-level FWD Sportage S from $32,795 plus on-roads, higher grades such as our GT-Line are more ubiquitous on our roads.

The most you’ll pay is $52,720 plus charges for the flagship diesel GT-Line (all oil burners are AWD), while our tree-topping petrol GT-Line AWD with 132kW/265Nm 1.6-litre turbo here on test is $49,720 plus on-roads.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front 3/4

Its petrol engine mated to a dual-clutch transmission is one of few disappointments about the car, albeit an important one for many buyers. The gearbox suffers the classic DCT jerkiness at low speeds, and the boosted four-cylinder is hardly a firecracker.

But there’s so much to inherently like about the Sportage GT-Line. The general drive experience is standout, it’s safe, spacious and the cabin has genuine wow factor.

What are the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD’s features and options for the price?

It’s obvious you get more when you pay more, but there’s something about upper-range Kias that seriously trigger the desire sensors.

Hop into the Sportage GT-Line and you start asking why people pay tens of thousands more for Audis and Benzes for similar cabin class.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 interior

Entry-level Sportages don’t offer the same pizzazz, so while I’m usually loathe to suggest going for the range-topper, the GT-Line (or at least the rung-down SX+ AWD) make solid sense if you can stretch.

Part of the reason is the antique 2.0-litre petrol engine Kia slings in its front-wheel-driven S ($32,795), SX ($35,350) and SX+ ($41,850) Sportage variants.

The motor’s a trusty ol’ workhorse, but feels as athletic as an elderly pokies addict. Sportage AWDs in SX+ ($43,850) and this GT-Line ($49,720) score a zestier 1.6-litre turbo petrol.

Diesel may suffer a PR crisis – not helped by its price at the servo, for months now, hovering around 30c per litre more than unleaded – but the Sportage’s 2.0-litre oil burner’s mighty torque, superior drivability and better economy make it the pick of the drivetrains.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 engine

There’s a premium though. In diesel guise, the AWD S is $40,195; SX is $42,750; SX+ $47,250 and GT-Line $52,720.

So, what do you get? ‘S’ grades enjoy 17-inch alloys, 8.0-inch infotainment, a 4.2-inch basic digital display, wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, cloth seats, leather steering wheel, PVC gear shifter, LED lights all round and a full-size spare.

Upgrade to the SX and things feel more special. Alloys are now 18-inchers, while inside the infotainment screen becomes a superb, high-res 12.3-inch widescreen with inbuilt navigation.

Also added are digital radio, power lumbar for the driver’s seat, rain-sensing wipers, dual-zone climate control, auto windows, leather shift knob and remote folding second-row seats. Bizarrely, your Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are wired – only the entry level gets the wireless treatment.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 digital dash

Hop in the SX+ and alloys are 19-inchers, there’s a smart key with push button start, and features include steering wheel paddles, premium Harman Kardon audio, faux leather seats with quilted inserts, heated front chairs, power driver’s seat, smart power tailgate, LED front fog lights and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror.

You’ve already got an impressively specc’d vehicle by this point, but the GT-Line sends things stratospheric.

There’s a different style of machined 19-inch alloys, a spectacular curved 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, proper leather for the seats with faux suede upper, driver memory seat, power passenger seat, heating and ventilation up front, wireless phone charging, ambient mood lighting, LED interior lights, panoramic sunroof and alloy sports pedals.

Simply put, the GT-Line is brimming with goodies. You just have to decide if it’s worth the extra coin over lesser grades. Sit in one at the showroom and it may blow you away. There’s a serious sense of quality and goodness in these uptown Kias.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 wheel

Premium paint adds $520, which is a fair price to upgrade from the only free colour – rental car white. Well, Kia calls it Clear white, but you get the point.

Aside from the expected range of monochromes, you can jazz up your Sportage with vesta blue, dawning red or (my favourite) jungle wood green.

How does the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD drive?

It’s a mixed bag on the drive front. The 132kW/265Nm turbo four-cylinder is mated to a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, and its jerkiness is apparent in the first few hundred metres of driving.

For a car that otherwise exudes smoothness and quality, it’s a conspicuous bugbear.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front 3/4 driving far

At low speed (in town, where the Sportage will do most duties) there’s a clumsy lag between pressing the accelerator and any sort of response. Getaways from roundabouts and junctions feel disturbingly tardy.

In traffic, too, the Sportage can jolt between gears, again sullying the cruisy nature of this SUV.

On the open road, if you’re gentle on the throttle the Sportage responds well. But plant your right foot and you can brew a cup of tea before there’s much go.

When it does arrive, the engine’s in full shouty surge mode. Taking charge of the steering wheel paddles improves things markedly, as otherwise it lingers in too-high a gear and the powertrain panics when you suddenly ask for performance.

Once in the correct cog, the engine displays ample shove and feels properly playful. It has the most surge in the lower rev range, so if you keep charge of those paddles it’s a much more enjoyable, eager machine.

Some Kias sporting GT-Line badges have done away with much in the way of ride comfort, but the Sportage version hasn’t fallen into this trap.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 side driving

The ride quality’s up there with the best SUVs I’ve driven. The way it deals with bumps and holes is strikingly impressive, despite its grippy 19-inch rather low-profile (55 series) tyres.

Cabin insulation and refinement is top notch, and as a highway cruiser it simply glides along. The radar cruise control works fantastically well (no jolting panic of braking or engine surging), and the overall ride is almost limo-like. It’s that good.

It’s no clown in the corners either, showing that Kia has – once again – nailed the comfort/handling balance.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front 3/4 driving

The all-wheel drive helps with tight control, body roll is well contained for an SUV and it feels light-ish and safe to chuck around a corner. Grip levels are very strong and it’s decent fun if you master those paddle gear shifts.

The comprehensive driver assist safety gear in general works well without too much distraction, bar the over-nannying lane-keep assist. Switch this off and you’ll enjoy the serenity.

What is the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD’s interior and tech like?

As this is the GT-Line, think style, quality and user-friendliness with a heavy dose of wow. Any ancient preconceptions you may have about Kia being cheap by default are smashed out of the park when you sit in one of these. In short, the cabin’s a genuine treat.

The curved screen runs half the length of the dashboard and boasts excellent image quality and fast responses. This infotainment screen merges into the digital instrument cluster, stunningly reminiscent of a spaceship’s digital panel.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front seats

The Benz-type vibes continue with your creature comforts. I loved my time in this Sportage because it was more cosseting, expensive feeling and rewarding to the senses than my lounge room at home.

Seriously, with the feel of those leathery and suede seats – warming or chilling my backside on demand – plus rather cosmic interior ambient lighting and the pumping sound system, conspire to create a special feel on the move. Or a lap of luxury to enjoy just sitting in your driveway, if you like.

The panoramic glass roof helps boost the feel of spaciousness and the living space feels really well screwed together and nicely presented. Below some stylish vents, a grey strip runs the length of the dashboard – it looks like genuine ash until closer inspection reveals the plastic truth.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 shifter

Piano black for the centre console is vulnerable to fingerprints and scratches, but the controls and almost flight deck-like curved design here are very cool. The rotary gear shifter and all switches have a robust feel, and there’s ample storage for drinks and your stuff.

A part-digital strip sits below the touchscreen and proper thought has gone in here. Kia’s left the key controls you want to access quickly, like climate temperature, as proper knobs.

Other climate controls are in the digital panel, and touch a button here and the strip turns to quick access entertainment stuff, like volume and media selection. It works fairly well, but haptic feedback would improve its user-friendliness.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 touchscreen

Your passenger will appreciate the wireless charging as you’ll be using the USB-A or USB-C sockets to run Android or CarPlay.

This gives smartphone mirroring which runs the length of that infotainment screen, and you can easily scroll out of this and return to Kia’s own, simple to navigate menus. It’s a bloody great system.

A 360-degree camera works exceptionally well for parking. There are multiple camera modes to choose between, while a virtual reality one allows you to spin around the whole vehicle to help with tight manoeuvring.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 back seats

Family-wise, rear space is cavernous for a medium SUV – leg and head room will accommodate lanky teens, while three adults can just about be crammed across the back in some comfort.

There’s a pair of USB-C ports and air vents back here, there’s no fear of claustrophobia with the giant glass roof, and the seats recline for added comfort. The GT-Line is so well kitted out, it feels disappointing the rear chairs don’t score heating.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 boot

While we’re on First-World Problems, the tailgate doesn’t have a button where it locks the car once the boot has closed. You don’t appreciate how handy this button is until you live without it.

Boot space is very good despite the full-size spare: 543L with seats up, and mighty 1829L with them folded. A mountain bike with both wheels on fits in easily.

Is the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD a safe car?

It was awarded a maximum five stars with ANCAP on its 2022 test. Under the testing organisation’s newer, stricter criteria it scored a decent 87 percent for adult occupant safety; 87 percent again for child occupant safety, a not great 66 percent for vulnerable road user and an okay 74 percent for safety assist.

Kia’s gone big on safety kit and this range-topping GT-Line gets the full fruit.

2022 Kia Sportage frontal impact

Standard safety comprises:

  • Front central airbag
  • Blind spot collision assist
  • Rear cross-traffic collision assist
  • Lane follow assist
  • Lane keep assist
  • Multi collision brake
  • Forward AEB for cars, pedestrians, cyclists and junction
  • Intelligent speed limit assist
  • Tyre pressure monitoring
  • Advanced smart cruise control
  • Front and Rear parking sensors
  • Surround-view monitor
  • Blind spot-view monitor

To Kia’s credit, the majority of these safety features are standard range-wide. The 360-degree surround monitor and blind spot-view monitor are exclusive to the range-topping GT-Line.

The latter’s an incredibly useful feature that shows your blind spot as a live camera feed when you start indicating. A brilliant addition that makes merging into traffic or switching lanes on the freeway far safer.

What are the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD’s ownership costs?

No longer a budget brand, Kia pulls you in with decent cars and a great warranty, but they ain’t necessarily cheap to run.

Service intervals are annual or a short every 10,000km for the turbo petrol as here. The non-turbo petrol and diesel models all have far more industry-standard 15,000km service intervals.

Services add up to $2465 over five years and 50,000kms: more if you average over 10,000km per year. It costs $2478 to service the diesel version over five years (and 75,000kms) as you’re afforded an extra 5000 kilometres between visits.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 badge

Kia’s seven-year/unlimited-kliiometre warranty trumps the likes of Hyundai, Toyota and Ford, but like-for-like the Kia’s the pricey one to service at the main dealer.

Unlike many modern turbo engines, the Sportage is happy running on the cheaper regular 91RON unleaded. Its combined economy is a quoted 7.2L/100km, while our 700km test over a mix of town and highway returned 8.2L/100km.

The honest verdict on the Kia Sportage GT-Line AWD

The Kia Sportage, particularly in flagship GT-Line guise, is a brilliant all-round SUV that’s as in-demand as it deserves to be. It offers striking looks, a superb cabin design and quality, plus the correct spec, tech and luxe to suit the most demanding of sub-premium buyer.

That said, even prestige badge buyers couldn’t help but be dazzled by this Sportage.

Kia Sportage GT-Line 1.6T 2023 front 3/4

Ride comfort is standout, but the combination of turbo petrol engine and the fussy, often jerky dual-clutch transmission does spoil the party. A slick, conventional auto gearbox, as paired to the diesel option, would have pushed this car into true class-leading territory.

It makes the diesel Sportage, despite its higher price, the preferred GT-Line in the range.

Overall rating
Overall rating
Running costs
Overall rating
Running costs
Approximate on‑road price Including registration and government charges

Key specs (as tested)

1598 cc
132kW at 5500rpm
265Nm at 1500rpm
Power to weight ratio
Fuel type
Fuel capacity
54 litres
7.2L/100km (claimed)
Average Range
749km (claimed)
All Wheel Drive
4660 mm
1865 mm
1680 mm
Unoccupied weight
1643 kg

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