Those were the days and what a breakthrough car it was. This vehicle was considered almost a novelty. Koreans, moving from cheap cars to SUVs. Whatever?
And while the first Sportage was only so-so in hindsight, with memorable styling but decent trim levels and low, low prices, it’s evolved into a brilliant all-rounder. Possibly the best on the road.
Volkswagen, SEAT, Skoda, Ford, Audi, Mazda, MINI, Vauxhall and others – they can all be different. But there is no doubt that Kia is now dining at the big table and it does so on merit.
It’s no longer a cheap choice, but it’s still exceptionally well equipped for the money. Perhaps even extravagantly equipped. The range starts at around £26,000 and even the model tested here, the 3 as Kia calls it, costs £30,165.
Sportage comes as a 2, 3 and 4 plus GT-line and GT-line S. The 3 is probably the best combination of value and equipment.
I have to say, that’s a few thousand less than I expected for such a stylish car that rivals premium brands from Germany and elsewhere. So £31,000 is still a hefty gag, but find something better for the money and I’ll be amazed.
Now let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Sportage used to have such a happy, elegant face, but now it’s having a growling, honeycomb affair. I wasn’t a fan and I’m still not thrilled.
But it does give the car a fashionable look that many will undoubtedly appreciate. In addition, friends and colleagues don’t seem to find the Sportage nose as controversial as I do, but I still maintain that the previous generation was a nicer car. Time will tell if I was right.
There’s no question that the new Sportage is much improved in terms of equipment and all-round versatility.
No wonder Sportage is on the rise. The first generation was sold in modest numbers, but versions two, three and four became more and more popular.
The 3 tested here adds 18-inch alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and LED front fog lamps. Inside there is black fabric and leatherette upholstery, driver’s lumbar support, power front seats including height adjustment, heated outer front and rear seats, heated steering wheel, engine start/stop button and aluminum pattern finish for center panel and door trim .
Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go functionality, Highway Driving Assist (HDA) and paddle shifters are fitted on automatic variants, while cruise control and a speed limiter are fitted for manual transmission versions. A 12.3-inch display with navigation system welcomes the occupants, along with a 12.3-inch supervision color cluster display, six audio speakers and DAB radio. A free seven-year subscription to Kia Connect is also included.
If you want a panoramic sunroof, wireless smartphone charger, Harman Kardon premium audio system, 360-degree Around View Monitor, Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM), Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) , then you need the Sportage 4.
It’s easy to drive, considering it’s such a big car. And the cabin is a delight. The huge screens are easy to navigate and give the car a modern edge.
If you really want to go crazy, you need the GT-Line S spec. This is offered with the 148bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi engine with 7DCT and 48-volt mild hybrid technology and standard four-wheel drive, priced from £38,445.
In addition, two 226bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi hybrid options are offered, with a choice of two-wheel drive (from £38,645) and four-wheel drive (from £40,245). Sportage PHEV GT-Line S models, with four-wheel drive, represent the top of the range, priced from £43,795. The sporty look of the ‘GT-Line S’ takes the ‘4’ model as a base and adds the following GT-Line’ styling, 19-inch alloy wheels, ventilated seats and power seats plus a power tailgate .
Now over €40,000 sounds like a lot for any car, let alone a Kia. But to be fair, the 3 tested here is probably the best choice. Who actually needs an electric tailgate?
Price: £30,165. Range costs from £25,965.
Engine: a 1.6 liter 148bhp petrol engine
Performance: Top speed 210 mph and 0 to 60 mph in 9.9 seconds
Economy: 41.5 mpg on average. I averaged just over 40mph with a lot of highway miles
Warranty: seven years / 100,000 miles