South Korean car giant KIA has been going from strength to strength in recent times.
Only today the KIA Picanto picked up ‘Bargain of the year’ in Top Gear Magazine, meanwhile I’ve been road testing the 1.7 CRDI (3) Eco Kia Sportage. The ‘3’ refers to the level of trim, with ‘1’ and ‘2’ being of a slightly less opulent nature.
Level 3 specs include, an excellent touch screen Sat-Nav / control system, Alloy wheels, Bluetooth, Fog lights, Xenon headlights, Dual-zone climate control and a great Panoramic Sunroof that opens the car right up on a sunny day.
The finish inside is more tough than lush, but there is plenty of space for a family of 5, and the kids can jump in and out without them treading on eggshells, if you get my meaning.
The Sportage is another Kia (re)-designed by Peter Schreyer, and it’s a vast improvement on the somewhat dull thing first sold in the UK in 1995. The talented German has given the car some much needed ‘attitude’, and with the KIA trademark tiger nose, the car has a swagger confident enough to turn even the most nonchalant of heads.
Squint at it, and it’s rear sloping roof and smallish high back window could even be reminiscent of the new Evoque, which in itself is no small compliment. With the 1.6D Sportage starting from £17,295 it’s also a lot more affordable than a Range Rover.
For everyday use the 1.7 has enough power, but for more challenging requirements the 4WD 2.0 litre version would seem like the better option, especially if you plan on using the car for towing, or in heavier terrain than the school run. A top speed of 107mph (173kph) is slow, but fast enough for the UK and the smooth (but slightly noisy) ride means it’s easy to break the speed limit without noticing.
0-60 in 11 seconds is not boy-racing material, and on occasion the 6 speed gearbox doesn’t feel as connected to the car as it could. Despite this it handles well in most situations and there is little body roll going into corners. The suspension is a bit on the firm side, but the ride is still very comfortable on most surfaces.
It’s a fairly green SUV, with Co2 Emissions of 143(g/km) and the diesel engine will give you a potentially very satisfying average mpg of 52.3. With a range of 664 miles on a full tank, you could do that Lands End to John O’ Groats trip you always dreamed of (814 miles) with just a quick stop on the way in Inverness for fuel and mint cake.
Competition is strong in this sector and both the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti are excellent vehicles with comparable specs and price. The Yeti is the more refined but for me style-wise the Sportage just about edges it.
In a period of economic uncertainty (like now), this is one benefit not to be under-estimated.