The Sportage crossover SUV is a big deal for Kia. In 2015 the outgoing version achieved its best ever UK sales, accounting for more than a quarter of the Korean company’s entire UK sales.
Kia is ambitious and the all-new fourth-generation Sportage is central to those plans.
So, not only is the new car following a tough act, it’s also up against some stellar opposition – try these for starters – the sector-leading Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Renault Kadjar, Toyota RAV4 and VW Tiguan.
There’s also the Hyundai Tucson, which not only shares the same parent company, but also the platform and many of the mechanicals.
Designed in Europe, from the outside it’s clear that the latest Sportage is more evolution than revolution. Kia’s decided to stick with that distinctive side profile while giving the car a more curvaceous overall look.
Slightly more controversial is the adoption of the corporate Kia nose as seen on the other models in the range, but it works for me.
I tested the new Sportage in £22,050 1.7-litre form – the expected biggest seller – but there’s also a 2.0-litre diesel, 1.6-litre petrol and a new 1.6-litre petrol turbo. My car was front-wheel-drive with a six-speed manual gearbox, though elsewhere in the range automatics and four-wheel-drive are available.
The 1.7 CRDi ‘KX-2’ offers a good combination of grunt and economy, while the six-speed manual box is a joy, though despite improvements in the cabin refinement, you’re always aware that there’s a diesel under the bonnet, especially during more spirited driving.
The car’s official figures of 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds and a top speed of 109mph seem just right. That said, you don’t buy a crossover for performance. It’s all about good visibility, comfort, practicality and value for money – and it’s here that the Sportage excels.
Inside there’s plenty of space up front and at the rear. Even with a tall driver, there’s ample legroom for an equally tall passenger.
The seats are comfortable and it’s easy to find a good driving position thanks to the multiple adjustments available.
The boot is an impressive 491 litres, or 1480 litres with the 60/40 seats folded flat.
The instruments and infotainment system are well laid out and intuitive, there’s a classy generally feel to the materials used, while the build quality is superb.
It drives well too, thanks to light steering, controlled body roll when cornering and a decent (if slightly firm) ride.
Kia claims 61.4mpg and 119g/km CO2, though judging by my relatively short test drive, economy closer to 50mpg would be good going.
It’s safe as well – the new Sportage gained a maximum five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP tests with an excellent 90% adult occupant protection score and 83% child protection score.
This is largely due to the generous amount of standard safety equipment. Alongside the usual traction control, stability control and anti-lock brakes, there’s also a braking assistance system, which ensures maximum braking force is used in an emergency, no matter how much force you put through the brake pedal.
Go for a higher spec version and there’s more safety tech including blind-spot monitoring with rear cross-traffic alert – great for when you’re reversing out of a drive because it beeps when there’s oncoming traffic.
Verdict: Mission accomplished. Kia has managed to make a best-seller even better. Safe, spacious, practical, easy to drive and well equipped, the new Sportage is more than a match for some tough competition. And remember, it always has that trump card no other manufacturer offers – a seven-year warranty. With PCP deals available for as little as £139, Kia’s onto a winner.