Gareth Butterfield takes the new Kia Sportage on a test drive
THERE seems to be a Kia Sportage everywhere you look these days. It was very much a case of right car, right time for Kia and its sales have been boosted by the current SUV boom.
And why not? It’s a well-priced, well-made family workhorse with plenty of goodies bundled in.
And it’s just had a facelift. No, really, it has. Park one next to the older version and you’ll start to spot the differences, trust me.
There’s smarter bumpers, LED headlights, the foglights are new and the grill and skid plates are a bit different.
Inside it’s harder to spot the changes. The true geeks among you might notice new air controls, but the big news is an excellent new frameless 8-inch screen on the upper models.
The Sportage’s interior was never a dog’s dinner, and the few cheap plastics you’ll find are forgivable at this price, but it will feel inferior to some of its newer European rivals.
Not that you’ll be lacking in space. Barring a few competing SUVs the Sportage has one of the roomiest interiors on the market and it’s certainly still comfortable, with good visibility all round.
Another important change in the new Sportage is the departure of the old 1.7-litre diesel, which wasn’t Kia’s finest hour. There’s now a new 1.6-litre CRDi that produces either 114bhp or 134bhp, emits as little as 126g/km and comes with front-wheel drive as standard, or four-wheel drive if you pick the dual-clutch automatic transmission.
The 2.0-litre diesel has now includes a “mild hybrid” system. Unlike conventional hybrids, this doesn’t add in an electric motor, but it does have a beefier starter motor which takes on a little bit of load. This helps with economy without penalising on price.
In practice, you don’t really notice the system on the road. Save for a little extra grunt and a fairly noticeable dose of engine braking.
Nothing else about the oily bits has really changed, so the Sportage is still as sure-footed and nimble as it’s always been and reasonably refined, despite slightly fidgety suspension on some road surfaces.
Expect to pay a shade over £20,000 – or perhaps a little less if you smile sweetly at the dealer – for the base “1” spec but, if you can, do yourself a favour and lap up the extras in a better version.
The GT-Line at around £26,000 is probably the pick of the bunch, but be wary of engine and drivetrain choices that can send the price the wrong side of £30,000.
Having said that, especially next to some European rivals, the Sportage is good value for money. Residuals are pretty good and you won’t find a seven-year warranty elsewhere.
Its mid-life facelift might be little more than a luke-warm rethink but in all honesty there was little room for improvement in the first place.
The Sportage is still a strong contender in the crowded world of family SUVs.