Kia Sportage driven
* More civilised than previous version * Improved dynamics * On sale July, price tba...
Kias chief designer, Peter Schreyer, likes to think of the new Sportage as less of a mode of transport and more as an object of desire. Our more pragmatic verdict is that its a fine new alternative to crossovers such as the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 and, of course, the Kia's sister model, the Hyundai ix35.
Theres no doubting the influence Schreyer has imposed on Kias cars, turning them from rather uninspiring transport into thoroughly modern, appealing vehicles.
The Sportage is no exception, with key design features such as the now familiar tiger nose grille clam-shell bonnet, heavy side swage line, and castellated top windscreen line echoing that of the front grille all giving the Sportage a thoroughly contemporary look.
Stlye or substance?
Even though the Sportage is bigger than the car it replaces providing considerably more leg- and shoulder room in some areas it's clearly a triumph of style over substance.
That plunging roof line, tapering side windows and heavy rear pillar means all-round visibility has suffered, and headroom is definitely on the snug side. When it comes to furnishings and fittings, however, its almost all good news.
Although some of the materials used in the cabins construction cant quite attain the plush standards set by Peugeots 3008, the Sportages interior is a quantum leap over that in the previous model.
There's an abundance of good-quality plastics and a contemporary layout for the instrumentation and major components, theres a sophisticated appearance and feel to the cabin.
There will still be four-wheel-drive cars available, but Kia expects the two-wheel-drive models to make up the vast majority of sales.
The first cars to arrive in the UK will be powered by a 136bhp 2.0-litre diesel, followed later in the year by 138bhp 1.6-litre and 161bhp 2.0 petrols, plus a 113bhp 1.7 diesel.
The launch engine is smooth, powerful and linear in its power delivery, albeit a little boomy when cruising. It worked well in conjunction with the six-speed auto fitted to our test car. Decent fuel economy and CO2 emissions of 147g/km are going to make it a tempting proposition.
After our brief test drive with the car set-up to the Asian market's favoured soft suspension and less-than-engaging steering settings its clear that the Sportage is going to be whole lot more fun to drive than its predecessor.
The new car feels far lighter on its wheels with better body control and a more supple ride than its predecessor more like a well-sorted hatchback.
What Car? says
Fresh thinking gives the Sportage a real boost.