It doesn’t feel long since Kia emerged in the UK as a leading manufacturer for affordable quality and refined practicality, but surprisingly, the Kia Sportage is now in its fourth generation, and the latest version looks to build on the brand’s position in the mid range crossover segment. I took one for a drive around some quintessential British countryside to see how at home it would be with demanding British roads.
The answer is very at home indeed. The ride quality is vastly improved, and the Sportage is certainly one of the most comfortable cars I’ve driven of this type in a while. It certainly win any prizes for outright performance, the basic 1.7 car I drove tops out at 113mph and will get to 60 in 11.1 seconds, but that’s supplanted by the fact that the smooth delivery of power settles things down inside the cabin – wind, road and general interior noise is very low and is impressive when compared to other cars in this sector.
There are a number of engine and driving options available to suit most buyers, with entry level 1.6 petrols receiving 2-wheel drive only, and the higher spec petrols and 1.7 and 2.0 diesels having AWD as standard. In fairness, the diesel powertrain does suit the look and feel of the Sportage more, and brings a slightly more rugged quality that would feel at home with a range of practical tasks.
Following Kia’s trend for going a bit all out with the spec and interiors of their cars, the Kia Sportage is certainly no exception, and the interior has been nicely revised to bring in on-brand with a high spec – the model I drove being the updated GT-Line version with a flat bottom steering wheel, black piano interior and rather nice aluminium pedals. It has a feeling of quality about it which is backed up by the excellent infotainment and sat-nav system – one of the highest resolution and best systems on the market within this price range, I think.
The way it looks has also been brought in line with the current Kia lineup, and it won’t be to everyone’s taste. That’s not to say that it doesn’t look good, though…the twin tailpipes and striking rear end of the GT-Line version don’t look out of place at all, and the car suits the brand’s familiar front grille. It’s a big step in terms of upgrading the look of the Sportage, and a significant improvement on the previous generation. The engines, however, have remained the same, so under the bonnet it’s more or less business as usual, apart from some good improvements in economy.
Not that this car feels the same as the other ones did…it’s a lot, lot better. Kia have upped their game, but there’s also a genuine feeling of quality, reliability and safety – thanks to a 5-star NCAP crash test rating. It’s a comfortable car – it rides the bumps well and on the test drive, it provided a good impression of softening the impact of often bumpy and well worn Buckinghamshire roads.
All versions of the car are very well equipped, and although the engines haven’t been hugely updated, the fact the interior is one of the best bits of the car seems to exemplify Kia’s commitment to providing excellent value for money – with a seven year warranty across the range sweetening the deal.
The Kia Sportage is a stress-free, comfortable, stress-free joy to drive. It won’t set your pulses racing and it won’t compare to the likes of the Jeep Renegade for 4×4 crossover ability, but it will sit on your drive very happily for years, costing you very little and being an attractive, capable AWD machine.