First Drive

2015 Kia Sportage 2.0 GDi auto review

We drive a prototype of Kia's all-new replacement for its Sportage small SUV and although it's a work in progress, the signs are good

Words ByRichard Bremner

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More than one in four of Kia’s sales are of the current Sportage, a stylish crossover that has done much to cement the marque’s reputation for producing attractive, reliable and good value cars.

This current model looks likely to achieve its biggest annual sales in the UK in its final year on sale, despite the fact that we consider its practicality, refinement, ride comfort and handling to be somewhat mediocre.

The new Sportage, which goes on sale in February next year, has a challenging brief. Not only must it keep its good looks, it will also need to show solid improvements if it’s to compete with highly competent cars such as the Nissan Qashqai and the Mazda CX-5.

We had an early opportunity to see what the new Sportage is capable of, having recently driven prototypes undergoing hot weather testing in Death Valley, in the US.

What is the Kia Sportage 2.0 GDi auto like to drive?

On the move, the Sportage feels decently civilised. Wind noise is low, road noise is reasonably well contained and the 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine delivers consistent pulling power. It’s smooth, too, although it sounds busy at high revs.

The prototype’s automatic transmission shifted with little enthusiasm and was clearly unfinished. We didn’t try a manual. The Kia's steering is far sharper, however, being more responsive and more consistently weighted. European Sportages will get a different, variable-rate steering system from these prototypes, although we’d expect the welcome added precision to be maintained.

The new Sportage corners tidily, feeling confident through bends and effortlessly manoeuvrable. There’s not much body roll by crossover standards, and it’s reassuringly stable at speed.

The ride over crests and dips is good, but small bumps are dealt with a little less well. Coarse road surfaces generate a little tyre hum but this is unlikely to be representative of the showroom-ready Sportage.

What is the Kia Sportage 2.0 GDi auto like inside?

These cars are in close-to-finished form only in terms of their (very effective) air conditioning and under-the-bonnet cooling, while their engines, suspension and detail development are a long way from being signed off.

However, it’s easy to see that the interior is a little more spacious, a lot better finished and more sophisticated. The presence of a huge array of temperature monitoring gear made it hard to see how big the boot really is, or how useful the seats-down luggage space might be.

Should I buy one?

Given Kia’s track record for consistently improving its cars with each generation, it’s safe to assume that this new Sportage will prove to be more practical and better to drive than the outgoing model. Kia’s UK operation has had a voice in its development and, given its importance to the business, it will have been keen to ensure that the new model delivers.

Don’t expect a breakthrough but do expect an improved Sportage. The pictures certainly show it’s as handsome as the departing model. Upgrades in finish, refinement, practicality, handling, performance and economy look likely, but it’s too soon to say whether the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5 face a major new challenger.

What Car? says...

The rivals...

Mazda CX-5

Nissan Qashqai

Kia Sportage 2.0 GDi auto

Engine size 2.0-litre petrol

Price from Β£17,950 (est)

Power 175hp

Torque 195lb ft

0-62mph tbc

Top speed tbc

Fuel economy tbc

CO2 tbc