Designed for Europe, the all-new model boasts price, specification, performance and quality that rivals the best of Ford, Vauxhall, Toyota, Hyundai and Nissan
It’s easy to talk about a new version of a car as an important step for the manufacturer – every new model should be a step forward for a brand – but some are really a big deal.
Like the new Kia Sportage.
This fifth generation of its family SUV is an important one for a number of reasons. Firstly, the Sportage is the brand’s best-selling model here in the UK, in Europe and worldwide, so the new model should maintain that performance.
Second, for the first time, Europe is getting its own custom model designed and developed for our roads and our tastes.
Third, after gradually working its way from a left-wing budget option to a solid, well-executed option, this latest model could challenge the best in its segment.
Rather than an evolution of the previous generation, the latest Sportage is built on a new platform and is longer, wider and higher. It also looks much more dramatic.
Perhaps a sign of Kia’s ever-growing confidence as a major brand, the new Sportage’s design is bold and aggressive, with a prominent full-width honeycomb grille, boomerang-shaped running lights wrapped around the LED headlights and prominent vents below. the hood lead. It is perhaps even more striking to look at than the closely related Hyundai Tucson, especially with its angular taillights and full-width taillight bar, inspired by the brand’s EV6 electric car.
Inside, Kia’s rise to serious mainstream players continues with a vastly upgraded cabin. The material quality and layout is a noticeable step forward compared to the fourth generation car and is more than a match for rivals such as the Ford Kuga, Nissan Qashqai and Vauxhall Grandland. The mix of glossy black plastic and metal effect trim is so common it no longer feels premium, but the Sportage does just as well as any rival and the interior is enhanced by subtle ambient lighting.
The dashboard of all cars, except entry-level models, is dominated by a pair of sharp, customizable 12.3-inch displays containing the instruments and infotainment system. Below the central display is an intriguing arrangement in which the heating and media functions share the same set of sleek controls, allowing users to switch between these functions at the touch of a button. It’s an interesting way to reduce clutter while maintaining easy-to-find and operate controls, including proper dials for the dual-zone climate control. Elsewhere, USB ports are built into the front seats and coat/bag hooks integrated into the headrests, among other clever user-friendly touches.
While the rear space has improved over the previous generation, it’s still not as generous as the best in class, although wide-opening doors and the SUV’s increased ride height make it easy for the very young or the very old to get in. is.
In times when I’m no longer surprised by a £40k Ford Kuga, the discovery of my high-spec test car coming in for under £31,000 really pulled the rug out from under me. Part of that is because it has a basic petrol engine rather than a hybrid setup, but even the full hybrid version costs less than £35,000 and the range starts at just over £27,000.
Once again, Kia has managed to cram more features for less money than many rivals, with everything from those twin 12.3-inch screens to heated rear seats that are standard on this ‘3’ level car. It lacks some features – wireless charging/phone mirroring, for example – but there’s nothing you would miss on a daily basis. In addition, even regular cars get pedestrian and cyclist detection, a lane assistant and front and rear sensors, plus a reversing camera.
As mentioned, my test car was the entry-level 1.6 liter petrol with a six-speed manual transmission. At 148 horsepower, the engine feels powerful enough for everyday use and is quite refined, getting a bit of a growl at higher revs. The mid-40s economy would once have been considered the witchcraft of a gasoline SUV, now it’s acceptable but not excellent. Choosing this engine with an automatic transmission adds mild hybrid assist, good for an extra 2mpg and a 6g/km reduction in emissions.
Full hybrid and plug-in hybrids are now also available for purchase. The FHEV offers 226 horsepower and 48.7 mg, while the PHEV officially travels up to 70 miles on a charge and returns 252 mpg. That’s better than a plug-in Kuga, Vauxhall Grandland or Peugeot 3008, while the FHEV is slightly less efficient than the Kuga or Nissan’s unusual range-extender Qashqai.
Part of the goal of the Europe-specific Sportage was to better match the car to our roads and handling, and the new model feels safer and more controlled than its predecessor. The handling is decent but not spectacular, but more importantly, the ride comfort is very, very good. It’s certainly better than a Kuga or Ateca and as good as a Qashqai or Honda CR-V, but with better body control.
That goes for just about every facet of the Sportage, from driving experience to design, quality and value – it’s as good or better than any of its major rivals and deserves to be considered one of the best mainstream options in its class.
Price: £30,945; Engine: 1.6-liter four-cylinder, turbo, petrol; Flow: 148 hp; Couple: 184 pound feet; Transfer: six-speed manual transmission; Top speed: 113 mph; 0-62mph: 9.9 seconds; Economy: 41.5mpg; Co2 emissions: 154g/km