Car review: Kia has power to surprise but should you be?

By Steve Berry

THE Sportage is Kia’s best-selling model in the UK.

So, it’s no surprise to stay ahead they’ve introduced a face-lifted model that looks better inside and out and introduces new engines as well as new tech.

On the outside, the new Sportage features a larger ‘tiger-nose’, a redesigned front bumper and new full-LED headlamps.

At the rear, is a new C-shaped, LED light signature with reversing light and reflectors integrated into the rear bumper.

In the top-of-the-range GT-Line and GT-Line S trim it looks decidedly sportier too with bigger 19in alloys, LED rear lights and diffusers both front and rear in contrasting colour.

There is also an ‘Edition 25’ version to celebrate 25 years of the Kia Sportage (£25,655 OTR) which features a 1.6 GDi petrol engine and manual transmission.

It also has many of the higher-spec features such as uprated JBL sound system, bigger alloy wheels, cloth and leather upholstery, premium paint colour and 8in touchscreen with Sat Nav.

The line-up of petrol engines remains the same in the upgraded Sportage but with minor modifications.

Buyers are able to choose between two powerplants – the 1.6 GDi non-turbo unit and the turbo-charged 1.6 T-GDi.

It is also available in all-wheel-drive with a 7-speed dual-clutch auto box.

The 1.7 diesel unit has been replaced by a more efficient 1.6 CRDi unit with the more powerful unit also being available in AWD with Auto gearbox.

The most powerful engine is the new 2.0-litre CRDi diesel (only available on GT-Line and GT-Line S models) which uses mild-hybrid technology to deliver greater efficiency.

Kia are calling this technology EcoDynamics+ and it involves a compact 0.44 kWh 48-volt battery which extends engine ‘off time’ using a new mild-hybrid starter-generator.

When braking or coasting toward a junction or downhill the system recuperates energy to the battery which can then be used to provide more power, more efficiently when you’re accelerating.

Or it can actually turn OFF the combustion engine when decelerating with the MHSG then re-igniting the engine when you press the throttle.

However, you will notice the acceleration as this engine provides 182bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 9.2 seconds.

With a combined mpg figure of 53.3 and CO2 emissions of just 141g/km it shouldn’t cost a lot to run either.

Equipment levels are typical Kia -generous. Even the entry-level ‘1’ gets 16in alloy wheels, leather-trimmed multi-function steering wheel and gear-shifter, four electric windows, DAB radio, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth, reversing camera, trailer stability assist,hill-start control and cruise control. Prices start from £20,305 OTR

Grade ‘2’ (from £22,405 OTR) gets 17in alloys, 7in touchscreen with Sat Nav, reversing sensors, auto wipers, auto dimming rear mirror, dual-zone air con, heated front seats, lane keep assist and high-beam assist.

Step up to grade ‘4’ (from £27,260 OTR) and you get a larger, 8in touchscreen, panoramic sunroof, black leather upholstery, 10-way driver’s power-assisted seat, engine stop/start button with smart entry, rear USB charger, heated steering wheel, 360-degree around view monitor, a 4.2in LCD TFT colour information display and an 8-speaker JBL premium sound system with sub-woofer, external amp and front centre speaker.

GT-Line (£25,510 OTR) sits in the range between grades ‘2’ and ‘4’ and has sporty styling flourishes which mark it out as a more dynamic version. There is also a top-dog GT-Line S (£31,245).

I drove a Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V model equipped with an 8-speed torque convertor auto gearbox and felt rather spoilt.

Inside, you’ll find quality soft-touch materials aplenty. Kia is  getting very close to the best the Germans can offer in this department.

I expected the Sportage to feel a little different on the road due to its mild-hybrid system.

But  I didn’t notice any difference except when the engine shuts down approaching a junction.

The 8-speed gearbox shifts sweetly enough but this is a family SUV after all and not a Porsche Macan chaser.

Ride quality is on the soft side too with some body-roll around corners.

It rides our pock-marked roads very well – part of the reason, I’m sure, SUVs have become so popular.

The steering had more feel to it than I expected and it loads up nicely at motorway speeds so you don’t need to constantly adjust.

Kia’s tagline is “The Power to Surprise” but it’s hardly surprising the Kia Sportage is such a hit in the UK. It does everything so well. Not outstandingly well, but easily well enough to impress when you take into account its price.

RATING: *****

AT A GLANCE: Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V Auto AWD
OTR Price: £31,245
Engine: 2.0 turbo diesel
Power: 182bhp
Transmission: 8-speed Automatic
0-62mph: 9.2 secs
Top Speed: 125 mph
Combined Economy: 53.3mpg
CO2: 141 g/km

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