Kia Sportage strengthens its appeal

Ah, the Kia Sportage. Let’s see. It’s a slightly anonymous looking, quite worthy but unexciting soft roader?

Umm, that would be the old one. The new Kia Sportage is a rather more extrovert design that has been winning awards since its launch in November last year. The accolades include ‘Scottish Car of the Year’, Car Buyer ‘Car of the Year’, and ‘Best Crossover’ in both Fleet News’ and Diesel Car’s awards.

Kia Sportage

Compared with the rather nondescript design of previous Sportages, the new third-generation Sportage has quite a sharp set of new clothes. It looks pretty good, although there are perhaps a few angles that look a tad awkward. With those minor caveats, It got the thumbs up from my assembled jury of car enthusiasts.

Inside it is much the same story. Much more stylish and modern (although some of the plastics are obviously from the budget end of the scale) the overall result is quite appealing – especially with the generous equipment levels on the test car, the Kia Sportage 3 1.7 CRDi Ecodynamic. (The trim levels on this Kia are utterly logical: 1, 2 and, the most luxurious, 3.)

One small niggle with the controls is a common Kia problem. The indicators don’t seem to be able to cope with British roundabouts and, unless you remember or notice the tell-tale, you are liable to drive down the road still indicating left.

Following an increasing trend, the road test car – although presenting a 4x4 image – is actually only front wheel drive. Nissan were one of the trend-setters in this respect with their Qashqai first appearing in two-wheel-drive, then adding a 4x4 version. Ford did the opposite with the Kuga, starting with 4x4, then going to two driven wheels and, shock of shocks, you can now get two wheel drive Land Rover Freelanders and the new Range Rover Evoque.

Why produce a 4x4 that is actually a 2x4 (or is it a 4x2)? The obvious reason is cost. If a customer wants the off-road look, but without actually venturing off the black stuff, then driving only two wheels is going to save money. But – and this is becoming more important – it also saves fuel, by cutting the weight and the mechanical drag of the extra driven wheels.

Kia Sportage interior

On the Sportage Ecodynamic that, the fuel-sipping 1.7-litre diesel and the now-common stop-start system, really does produce some impressive results. The combined fuel consumption of the test car is 52.3 mpg. More surprisingly, the trip computer showed my real-time economy hitting 48 mpg and – at the end of five days – I had recorded an impressive 45 mpg overall. Carbon dioxide emissions are 143 g/km.

So, it is green. How does it perform? Although it is muffled, you can never forget that you have a compression-ignition diesel engine under the bonnet. Performance is good, rather than sparkling and there is a little diesel noise and vibration transmitted into the passenger compartment. Acceleration 0-60 is 11.9 seconds and the top speed is quoted at 107 mph.

I put the Sportage to the test in the city, on dual carriageways and country B-roads. It proved a pleasant vehicle to drive. The ride quality is good and it feels well balanced and responsive, although enthusiastic drivers would crave a little more feel from the steering. The controls, too, work well together, with the possible exception of the gearchange which sometimes feels a tad “clunky” in its movement.

The Kia Sportage is also a very practical motor with good space and accommodation for four, maybe five adults. The luggage space is quite good at 564 litres with the back seat up. The boot floor is a little bit high, but there is a full-size spare wheel and some potential storage space under it.

While we are talking about the car’s posterior. The rear window is a little small and – if you sit tall – you have to bow your head a little to see any distance behind. The rear pillars are also quite heavy. Let’s say I was quite glad of the rear-view camera on this up-market test car.

Kia Sportage

The price of the Kia Sportage 3 CRDi 1.7 Ecodynamic is £22,075. So, why should you go for this rather than one of the other two-wheel-drive, off-road-style vehicles on the market?

Well, apart from the edge on economy, it might be that your eyes light on that sticker in the back window which proclaims “7-year warranty”.

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