Now in its 4th generation, the Sportage is the vehicle that helped bring the Kia brand to a wider audience in the UK, and for a good reason too, it offered style and great value, and of course Kia's industry leading 7 year warranty. As you can read here, we thoroughly enjoyed the outgoing model when we borrowed it last year.
In our mind, the outgoing Sportage still looks as fresh as a daisy, which is testament to its designer, ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer who also had a hand in styling the new model. Retaining its sloping roofline, bulging arches and minimal glass, the new model is still recognisable as a Sportage, but with a more prominent grill (which I'm sure will be a Marmite feature), and a bit more muscular in appearance.
All 1.6-litre T-GDi and 2.0-litre CRDi versions of Sportage come as standard with intelligent electronically controlled all-wheel-drive which continuously monitors driving conditions and anticipates when it will be needed, whereas other systems react only to changing conditions. As a result, the all-new Sportage is always in the correct drive mode for the prevailing circumstances. It now incorporates Advanced Traction Cornering Control, which monitors road speed, throttle input and steering angle and distributes torque between the left and right wheels to maximise cornering stability.
The AWD system normally delivers 100 per cent of engine torque to the front wheels, but the torque can be redistributed up to a maximum of 60:40 front-to-rear to enhance cornering stability or if road conditions deteriorate. Taking the Sportage off-road, you can manually select lock mode which gives a 50:50 torque split at speeds of up to 25mph.
Unfortunately we didn't get to see what the new model is like off the beaten track, but watch the space, we'll get to play with one soon enough.
Engines and gearboxes. Are you sitting comfortably? Good, I'll begin. You have a choice of four engines; two 1.6 petrols (natural and turbocharged), a 1.7 diesel and a 2.0 diesel with two power outputs (134 & 182bhp).
Gearbox wise there's a choice of three: a six-speed manual, a six-speed automatic and a seven-speed Dual-clutch automatic, aka 7DCT.
1.6 GDi, 6-speed manual: 130bhp, 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds, max speed of 113mph, combined 42.2mpg, CO2g/km 156
1.6 DGi, 6-speed manual with ISG: 130bhp, 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds, max speed of 113mph, combined 44.8mpg, CO2g/km 147
1.6 T-DGi, 6-speed manual: 174bhp, 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds, max speed of 126mph, combined 37.2mpg, CO2g/km 1771.6
1.6 T-DGi, 7DCT: 174bhp, 0-60mph in 8.8 seconds, max speed of 125mph, combined 37.7mpg, CO2g/km 175
1.7 CRDi, 6-speed manual with ISG: 114bhp, 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds, max speed of 109mph, combined 61.4mpg, CO2g/km 119
2.0 CRDi 6-speed manual with ISG: 134bhp, 0-60mph in 10.1 seconds, max speed of 114mph, combined 47.9mpg, CO2g/km 139
2.0 CRDi 6-speed auto: 134bhp, 0-60mph in 11.6 seconds, max speed of 114mph, combined 47.9mpg, CO2g/km 154
2.0 CRDi 6-speed manual: 182bhp, 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds, max speed of 125mph, combined 47.9mpg, CO2g/km 154
2.0 CRDi 6-speed auto: 182bhp, 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds, max speed of 125mph, combined 44.8mpg, CO2g/km 166
The first thing I noticed when getting into the new Sportage wasn't the comfy seats or the new dashboard, it was the doors. They say first impressions last, and from the moment I sat in the new Sportage and closed the doors I got a sense of quality and safety. the doors felt weighty and closed with a reassuring clunk... I don't think 'clunk' is the right choice of words, imagine the difference if you can between closing the door on an old Series Land Rover, and a Range Rover.
Giving the 4th generation Sportage electric steering isn't the only addition that gives it a sharper and more lively driving experience, as well as less body roll it has a new, longer platform and wheelbase that offers a surprisingly amount of extra grip through corners. Driving around Nice, my GT Line, which was the bigger 182bhp 2ltr lump made easy work of the hilly roads and the slick 6-speed manual was simply a joy. The Sat-Nav was very precise and expanded when coming up to strange French junctions, which I found incredibly helpful at times.
Being only 40mm longer in the body and 30mm longer in wheelbase, the new Sportage offers more space inside. Legroom in the back is good enough for my long legs, while the boot is bigger and more practical than before.
Up front I felt more at home than previously, everything feels classier and more solid. It's often the small details that make a difference, like the 8" (or 7" depending on spec), colour touch-screen and the fact that the front of the cabin is driver-centric with the centre console angled at 7.2 degrees towards the driver for easier visibility as well as reducing the amount of time the driver's gaze needs to be off the road.
With pricing starting at just £17,995 you have a choice of 18 variants based on 4 engines, 3 gearboxes and 6 trim lines with all models being more fuel-efficient, with CO2 reductions of up to 29g/km. There's a whole bunch of new connectivity and advanced driver assistance features, as well as a new GT-Line trim level that adds a more sporty flavour.
Undoubtably, the new Sportage is an important car for Kia, it's been their best UK selling vehicle and responsible for 30% of their overall sales, but has the 4th generation done enough to keep its momentum going? We think so.