Kia best-selling rival Toyota RAV4 Hybrid is still not a confirmed starter for the Australian market, despite the best efforts of the local branch.
The Kia Sportage Hybrid (HEV) is one of two hybrid options available globally, alongside the Sportage Plug-in Hybrid. Kia is also selling 48V mild-hybrid versions of the short-wheelbase Sportage in Europe and the UK as well.
But why can’t we have it? Yes, Aussies are slow to jump on the EV bandwagon, but Toyota has been selling hybrids in significant quantities for years. We spoke to the brand’s local boss for product planning, Roland Rivero, during the recent launch of the update Kia Seltos crossing.
“It’s basically just R&D and it makes it possible to produce it in right-hand drive from the Gwangju factory. [in South Korea]“said Mr. Rivero CarExpert.
“So left-hand drive is ticked and everything is fine. Obviously if we wanted a short-wheelbase model out of Slovakia there is a potential source of right-hand drive there, but we don’t want to go for a short wheelbase and we don’t want to have to go to Slovakia where there is no free trade agreement as well.
“We are working on the version produced in Korea, and hopefully we will get an update on that in a soon feature.”
Following Mr. Rivero’s comments, hybrid (HEV) and PHEV versions of the Sportage for North America are also produced in Gwangju, although petrol versions are assembled locally.
So while the US decision to produce Sportages locally has freed up production sites for other long-wheelbase markets like South Korea and Australia, there is clearly ample demand for the hybrids that Kia’s global parent company isn’t willing to tool the facility to do right-hand-drive Sportage hybrids just yet.
The Kia Sportage Hybrid is powered by the same 1.6-liter turbocharged hybrid system as the greatest Sorento, as well as the Hyundai Santa Fe and Tucson. The outputs of the system are quoted at 169kW and 350Nmwith front and all-wheel-drive options available.
Meanwhile, Australia is content with a naturally aspirated MPi 115kW/192Nm 115kW/192Nm petrol with FWD, a 132kW/265Nm T-GDi turbocharged petrol with AWD, as well as a 2.0-liter 137 kW / 416 Nm turbodiesel CRDi with all-wheel drive. All local powertrains carry Kia’s latest efficiency-focused Smartstream branding.
CarExpert understands that the current lack of fuel efficiency and emissions standards in Australia puts less pressure on Kia’s global headquarters to prioritize more efficient and electrified powertrains for our market.
For reference, South Korean models use Euro 6 powertrains with cleaner exhaust systems and technologies such as idle stop/start – Australian models retain older and less EU5 emission control systems advances.
The latest Kia Sportage is proving very popular with Australian new car buyers.
In its first full calendar year on sale, the Sportage has registered 15,497 registrations in 2022 through October 31, marking a 141.1% growth from January 1-October 31, 2021.
Additionally, the Sportage reset its all-time Australian monthly sales record in June 2022 with 2,044 units, the first time the nameplate achieved over 2,000 sales in a single month. The October 2022 monthly result of 1,877 records was a whopping 404.6% improvement over the same month a year earlier.
The Sportage is currently fourth in the race for annual mid-size SUV sales, behind the Toyota RAV4 (30,370 units), Mazda CX-5 (23,476 units), and just on the heels Mitsubishi Outlander (15,619 units).
Given that Toyota and Mitsubishi offer hybrid and plug-in hybrid options respectively, there’s no doubt that a hybrid Sportage could add solid volumes to put Kia in the Top 3 in the segment.
AFTER: All Kia Sportage