What is it?
Kia’s stylish baby SUV. It shares its chassis and engines with the new Hyundai ix35, and replaces the old Sportage, which was a bit of a pudding. This one is actually quite desirable, thanks largely to Peter Schreyer – the man who designed the original Audi TT – who’s now in charge of the pencils at Kia. The Sportage is part of the company’s morphology from mediocrity to general decency, and continues the form set by the commendable Cee’d and Soul.
Any excitement caused by just looking at it washes off when you drive it down a road. The sharp styling isn’t mirrored by its behaviour on tarmac, where it feels average next to more dynamic rivals. It’s a big softy, this thing, and there’s a weird hip-twist movement over lumps and bumps that’s exaggerated if you attempt any sudden steering movements. Depending on which engine you pick, you can have either two- or four-wheel-drive – the former is better for fuel economy, while the latter is useful for winter snowstorms (this is a soft roader, so don’t expect it to conquer far-flung peat bogs). There are four engines, two diesels, plus two petrols. The 2.0-litre petrol is the liveliest of the lot, but lags a way behind the others for economy and emissions, managing just 34.4mpg and a hefty 195g/km CO2. The 1.6-litre is also a bit gutless. You’d need Goldilocks to separate the diesels: the 2.0-litre is too pricey, but the 1.7 offers the best compromise between pace and price, if it can be a touch slow.
On the inside
The shallow windows make it feel a bit small inside, which isn’t helped by a dark palette of materials. The dash layout is straightforward, which is a shame – we’d like to see some of that exterior sparkle in the cabin. Otherwise, it’s roomy and functional and there’s enough rear headroom for lofty adults. Equipment levels are decent and easy to fathom, starting with ‘1’ models with alloys, aircon, auto wipers, Bluetooth and cruise control. Level ‘2’ adds parking sensors, a sunroof and part-leather seats, while ‘3’ comes with full leather, climate control and xenons.
The 1.7-litre diesel with 2WD is the slowest of all four engines, but it can return 54.3mpg. In fact, so long as you avoid the 2.0-litre petrol with four-wheel-drive, running costs will be quite friendly. It’s quite affordable if you’re buying one from new and, thanks to a clear pricing structure, you won’t get stung on the cost of extras. Kia’s standard seven-year warranty adds a bit more reassurance into the deal, and helps boost its value when it’s time to sell. After all, even if you keep the car for four years, you can still sell it on with the same warranty that most cars have from brand new.