I have been a huge fan of Kia's Sportage for a number of years now, I've always found it capable, pleasant, good off and on road and although it did have some body roll and the handling could have been better, I found it to be great value for money. Well I've just finished driving Kia's all new replacement for the Sportage... The all-new Sportage, and trust me when I say its all-new I mean its totally new, nothing of the old remains. Kia have really pulled out all the stops for this new Sportage, its bigger, beefier, way way way more aggressively styled, its got ultra bright LED running lights along its big slab fronted face, a massive new grille that totally dominates the front end and its taller and wider than the old model. Its a totally different car!
Now totally different it might be but is it better? Is it still available in both 2 and 4 wheel drive versions? Auto and Manual? Tell us oh wise one I hear you cry (well actually all I heard was 'get on with it for christ sake' but I choose to hear what I want, SUE ME lol).
Well simply put YES DUH! obviously they aren't going to release a worse car! However, that said, Kia have massively toned down the off-roady side of the Sportage with this new model, and now its billed as an SUV Crossover rather than a soft-roader. It now has hill-descent, traction control and many other initials knocking around the spec sheet that were not found on the previous model. But, the ground clearance is not as great and the overall appearance may be butcher than a bull dyke brandishing a sock full of pool balls (and its way prettier than the aforementioned image), but I cant help but feel that the Sportage is now very much a Crossover than a light off-roader. What I can say without doubt is that handling and driving wise, its head and shoulders above the model it replaces, feeling under control and tight into corners and with minimal body roll and understeer in even sharper bends. I went all the way to Slovakia and 3,000ft up the side of a mountain to test drive it to the fullest. I have to say it really impressed me, handling the unforgiving icy, twisting, turning and very steep (both inclines and declines) Slovakian mountain roads, without once making me take a sharp intake of breathe or muttering a Hail Mary.
Its easy to pick on Kia and live in the past, but without doubt Kia both as a brand and as a motoring manufacturer have almost totally changed over the past 3yrs. First came cee'd the hatchback, which made everyone sit up and take notice. Then came pro_cee'd, the fairly cool 3dr sport hatch, then its big SUV the Sorento got the 'All-New' motor makeover. Kia have just unveiled the replacement for its not-so-great Kia Malteaser or Magentis, whatever the hell its called, if you had a fiver for every time one drove past you, you'd probably have a fiver lol. Anyways the all new model (to be named 'Optima' I would imagine will certainly be making Ford and Vauxhall develop migraines with the stress of how they'll replace the shortfall on Mondeo's and Insigna's when it arrives on UK roads, because it is quite simply a beautiful motor and its kitted up to the nines. In fact with the arrival next year of the new Picanto and Optima, Kia will have the youngest and newest full range model lineup of any manufacturer in the business.
Kia have been on a mission over the past 3yrs to prove themselves not a budget brand but a value-for-money brand. Whats the difference I hear you ask? Well quiet simply put, the god awful SSangyong and Proton are budget brands, this is beautiful demonstrated by the fact that a) they both manufacture crap cars (all models they produce), that are terrible to drive, have terrible reputations for quality and reliability and lastly (and the defining prove positive, if there was any doubt) both manufacturers cars contain more plastic than a tup-ware party and you can double the value of your brand new car by simply filling the tank with fuel.
Value for money is one of the most significant things most of us look at when we buy a car, whether we're spending £10,000 or £100,000, we as humans fundamentally need to feel as though we got a great deal. We need to feel pretty much like we rode into the dealership on horseback, brandishing a sawn-off shotgun and all but stole the car.
So in the New Sportage thats exactly what Kia have done, the quality of the interior materials, dashboard and comfort have been massively upgraded the to same levels as those found in the Cee'd and the all new Sorento. Out goes blocky hard dashboards and in comes soft-feel composite dashboards with touch-screen full colour Sat-Nav and rocking sound systems. Kia have been continuously introducing (onto all its models) AUX, iPod and MP3 player connectivity, complete with cable included and Bluetooth handsfree systems (as standard even in the entry level models) and the Sportage is no different.
Space wise its a very spacious 5 seater 5dr SUV, great rear legroom and boot space, front seat passenger and driver have an airy, light filled cabin with again plenty of space and comfort. So its got great levels of equipment regardless of the spec model you choose, its upmarket, quality and a good value for money buy, it looks great, whats the down side?
Well there really isn't one! You get Kia's standard 7yr warranty, which in turn gives 7yrs of peace of mind. My choice if I'm honest would be the 1.6L Petrol or the 2.0L Diesel, both are great responsive engines to drive and ensure you get great performance to match the great looks of your new motor. I found the 1.7L Diesel great on economy but lacking somewhat in oomph and it felt as though it struggled up some of the steeper roads and when I needed to overtake.
The Kia Sportage is on sale now and the range starts at £16,450 OTR. That will buy you the entry level 1.6L 2WD Sportage 1 (the car I drove and would recommend!) right up to just under £24,000 for a top of the range 4WD 2.0L Diesel Automatic Sportage KX3 with Sat Nav.