On The Road With Kia’s Latest Sportage
Andy Harris, Motoring and Property Editor
Kia has enjoyed a much deserved reputation for selling decent cars at affordable prices. Backed by an industry-leading seven year warranty, the cars have proved to be reliable and cheap to run and plentiful sales have followed.
The last few years have seen a distinct move upmarket, with classy interiors and much improved driving characteristics being the order of the day. Prices on the other hand have remained affordable and as a long term private ownership proposition, a car from the Kia range makes a lot of sense.
The latest Kia Sportage ably demonstrates the strides the Korean manufacturer has made. The original model first appeared way back in 1993 and can possibly lay claim to being one of the first SUVs to grace our shores.
How the market has changed in the last twenty plus years and we now live in a world where SUVs comfortably outsell traditional hatchbacks. It is easy to see why. The combination of a raised driving position coupled with spacious, practical interiors suit twenty first century families down to the ground.
The early Sportage was more an off-road vehicle that could be used on the highway, but the opposite is now true as most SUVs spend their life in the city.
Most fourth-generation Sportage models will be front wheel drive and a quite reasonable £19,200 will buy the entry-level GDi model with a 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol engine. However, my test car tops the price list at £34,545. This GT-Line S model boasts a powerful two-litre diesel engine, automatic gearbox and all-wheel drive.
More aggressive styling is the order of the day, especially when viewed front on with a gaping grille and repositioned headlights, but I can’t help think there was little wrong with the preceding model.
On the inside high quality materials abound and all models in the range boast a most generous specification. Alloy wheels, Bluetooth, cornering lights and cruise control are the highlights.
GT-Line S takes equipment levels to dizzying heights with smart leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof, power tailgate and heated seats front and back.
There’s room aplenty for five people and the boot is large and accommodating.
The two-litre engine endows the Sportage with swift acceleration, ably assisted by the silky smooth eight-speed automatic gearbox (0-62mph in 9.2 seconds).
The test Sportage showcases Kia’s first mild hybrid powertrain. The system supplements acceleration with power from a compact 0.44 kWh 48-volt lithium-ion battery and extends engine ‘off time’ with a new mild-hybrid starter generator unit.
The switch between motor and generator is seamless.
Kia quotes 48.7mpg for the combined cycle and my overall figure of 37mpg for the test period is a tad disappointing. A gentle motorway run from Heathrow to home yielded a respectable 43mpg, with rush hour congestion keeping speeds low.
The sporty Sportage rides a little firmly for my liking, thanks in no small part to the larger 19-inch alloy wheels and specially tuned suspension. Handling is surefooted without ever being especially engaging, the all-wheel drive system giving that extra level of confidence especially in tricky driving conditions.
The test period coincided with a cold snap – a chance to fully test the AWD system. In normal driving the car is front-wheel drive, but up to 40% of the power can be sent to the rear wheels on demand. For off-road driving, owners can manually select lock mode, which gives a 50:50 split at speeds up to 25mph.
I kept moving during some challenging driving conditions, whilst many slipped and slithered.
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As a result of the measures taken first to prevent accidents and then to mitigate against the effects of them if they are unavoidable, the Sportage has a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP in the ever-tougher testing regime.
If a Kia has never been on your shopping list, a drive in the new Sportage will surely change all that. The quality shines through like never before and the accommodating interior will delight.
Much as I enjoyed all the bells and whistles on the ‘GT-Line S’ model, I would suggest that a ‘2’ with the newly introduced 1.6-litre diesel engine is the way forward.
£23,995 seems a small price to pay and with it comes good economy, low emissions and a more cosseting ride.
And in the unlikely event that anything should go wrong, there’s the reassurance of that seven-year warranty to fall back on.
Fast Facts (as tested)
Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi
Price £34,545 (range starts at £19,200)
1,995cc diesel engine boasting 182bhp
Six-speed automatic transmission
0-62mph in 9.2 seconds
Top speed 125mph
Combined economy 48.7mpg
Emissions 152g/km CO2
VED Band I (£830 in the first year)
Maximum Towing Weight 1,900kg (braked)
On The Road With Kia’s Latest Sportage, 3rd February 2019, 18:02 PM