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Best of 2022

Progress report: 2003 Kia Sportage vs 2022 Kia Sportage

Kia’s glow-up shows no sign of slowing, as the fifth-generation Sportage illustrates

(2003) Kia Sportage vs Kia Sportage (2022)
  • YIKES, THESE TWO LOOK... DIFFERENT

    (2003)  KIA SPORTAGE  vs  KIA SPORTAGE (2022)

    Kia has earned plenty of plaudits for its design-led approach of late, but back in the day affordability was very much at the forefront. The first-generation Sportage, first revealed at the 1991 Tokyo Motor Show and officially launched in Asia in 1993, was essentially a Mazda Bongo under the skin, sharing several components including the engine, transmission and differentials. Two years later it made its way over to Europe where it remained on sale until 2003, when this example rolled off the production line.

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  • WHAT’S UP WITH THE NEW ONE’S FACE?

    (2003)  KIA SPORTAGE  vs  KIA SPORTAGE (2022)

    Five generations in and Kia’s really turning the design screw. The Sportage is only the second car after the all-electric EV6 to wear the company’s new “opposites united” design philosophy, but its Tiger nose grille and boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights don’t half make it look cross. It’s an altogether less boxy affair than the original, but look beyond the skin and you’ll also discover this is the first European-specific Sportage, featuring a shorter wheelbase reportedly better suited to our roads.

  • WHAT’S THE OLD ONE LIKE TO DRIVE?

    (2003)  KIA SPORTAGE  vs  KIA SPORTAGE (2022)

    The first-gen Sportage was available in the UK with just one engine, a 127bhp 2.0-litre petrol unit, paired with a four-speed auto or five-speed manual transmission – this one’s the latter. Settling in it’s noticeable how high you’re perched, while there’s little in the way of any steering feel and the comical amount of body roll means corners are best approached cautiously. What you do get, however, is a great all-round view, a glorious long-throw shift, and selectable four-wheel drive for any off-road adventures.

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  • HOW DOES THE LATEST GENERATION COMPARE?

    (2003)  KIA SPORTAGE  vs  KIA SPORTAGE (2022)

    For starters, there are too many powertrains for our small brains to count. They include basic 1.6-litre petrols and diesels, mild hybrid versions of both, a full petrol hybrid with 226bhp, and an all-wheel-drive only plug-in hybrid that gets an additional 14kWh battery pack, good for an electric range of up to 43 miles. This one’s the full hybrid, good for 0–62mph time in 7.7 seconds and on to a top speed of 120mph, making it more than sprightly enough for the supermarket or school run. There’s still little in terms of steering feel, but it rides well and offers greater confidence round corners.

  • HAVE BUYERS TAKEN TO THE NEW FACE?

    (2003)  KIA SPORTAGE  vs  KIA SPORTAGE (2022)

    Five generations in and over five million examples later, the Sportage’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down. According to the SMMT, the fourth generation (in its final year on sale) was the ninth bestselling car in the UK in 2021. The latest generation started this year in even better form, taking top spot in January, and at the time of writing sits in second place just behind the Vauxhall Corsa.

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