The Sportage is the Korean company’s best seller, and these days that means a lot of cars. In the first years of operations here in the UK, Kia’s reputation grew through old-fashioned value-for-money offerings; the cars may not have been exciting aesthetically or dynamically, but they were reliable – a fact that potential buyers knew because those who owned a Kia never stopped telling them.
Just as important was the simple fact that a company which offers a market-leading 7-year warranty isn’t going to manage it on the back of unreliable motors. But these days Kia are competing with the front runners, as quality and design flair have been raised notably in the last few years.
The new Sportage for instance is claimed to be in “a new dimension of quality and aspiration”. With that of course comes the inevitable price increase, so although they may still be good value, today’s Kias are priced not too far from their competitors (which are the likes of Nissan’s Qashqai, the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Ford Kuga), and that’s a long way north of the bargain basement; the top Sportage model will now set you back £31,495.
The latest Sportage is the fourth generation, and in line with customer expectation the whole range is remarkably well equipped. Even the base ‘1’ model (now there’s a welcome simplicity of name) comes with the following collection as standard: 16-inch alloy wheels and all-round disc brakes, a black diamond-mesh grille with chromed surround, front foglights, LED daytime running lamps, cornering lights, chrome-coated belt-line mouldings, electrically adjustable door mirrors, leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear lever, all-round electric windows, air conditioning, DAB radio, Bluetooth with music streaming, USB and AUX ports, 12-volt power outlet in the front and rear, Trailer Stability Assist, Hill-start Assist, Downhill Brake Control, and cruise control with speed limiter. Bear in mind that I’m talking here about the base model.
The four engines available in the previous Sportage have been extensively revised to meet EU6 emissions regulations, with the result that they now deliver better fuel economy with lower CO2 emissions, and they are joined by a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol unit in the GT-Line model. The most popular engine is the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel, favoured by more than half of all Sportage buyers, and it’s now over 7mpg more fuel-efficient.
I drove that diesel after sampling the least powerful engine, which is the 1.6 petrol. This one is OK, but you do need to keep the revs up, or the lack of acceleration can catch you by surprise. Easier by far to opt for the diesel, and know there will be sufficient power available whenever it’s needed. If you’re the type of driver who wants to swap that aforementioned ’sufficient’ for an ‘ample’, then the 2-litre diesel is for you, and very fine an engine it is.
However, all versions with the 2-litre diesel are also powered through Kia’s ‘Intelligent all-wheel-drive’. This normally feeds all the power to the front wheels, but when the going gets slippery it will automatically transfer up to 40% of the torque to the rear wheels to maximise useable grip. It’s an excellent system, but it’s worth remembering that the benefits of all-wheel-drive are countered not only by extra cost, but also greater fuel consumption due to the increased weight of the car.
The Sportage interior is on the dark side of the colour chart, but the materials have a quality look, and feel like they’re built to last. If sizeable children are going to be regular occupants of the rear seats, buyers will be please to know that there will be plenty of leg and head room for them; indeed there’s enough of both for sizeable adults.
Boot volume is 491 litres with the rear seats in use, and that’s more than the likes of a Qashqai. Maximum volume, with rear seats folded (a very easy task), is 1,480 litres; converted to Imperial units that’s 52 cubic feet, which will make light of any serious shopping trips.
There’s little to complain about in the new Sportage, though I found parking could be awkward thanks to the rather cluttered looking rear quarters; to help with that, most models are fitted with reversing sensors as standard. It’s a practical motor, with plenty of space and boxes for motoring life’s odds and ends, and a comfortable ride with quiet engines. If you like the look of it, I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed with the driving experience.
Size: 4.48m x 1.86m
Price: from £17,995
Further info: www.kia.co.uk