TO determine just how this week’s drive — the latest Kia Sportage — has evolved you
TO determine just how this week’s drive — the latest Kia Sportage — has evolved you need to go back just over two decades.
There in the mists of time lurked a very different Sportage — it was boxy and probably bumpy to drive and not a lasting success.
What was for sure was that it was altogether nothing like the 2016 version.
That first-generation Sportage was discontinued in South Korea in 2002, and in the United States after the 2002 model year. By 2003, most international markets had discontinued the Sportage range.
But jump to 2009 and a revived second-generation car bearing the Sportage name was singled out in a survey as “one of the most reliable vehicles” of that year.
Of course this is how any car evolves — that is if it doesn’t cease production altogether and at best end up in a museum.
But having been revived and in great form by its third generation in 2011, designed by Peter Schreyer, the Kia Sportage became a real contender.
Now, in 2016, we get another new Sportage — the fourth generation of this car.
The third generation was seriously popular, especially in the UK, where in recent years the Sportage has led the South Korean carmaker’s sales performance.
The inevitable question: what’s the new one like? And does the 2016 model stand up to scrutiny against the very successful third generation, which at one point registered more than 100,000 sales across Europe?
It’s something of a gamble when you think about it: you have a car that is the equivalent of a “smash hit” pop record and you try to make it even better and presumably score another “number one”.
But to my mind this illlustrates perfectly a company ethos that Schreyer has brought to Kia, where he is now president.
I find the phrase “going forward” — usually applied by politicians when they can’t think of anything better to say — overused and meaningless except if you apply it to Kia.
Schreyer, one imagines, thinks of nothing else. To this wunderkind of 21st century car manufacture “going forward” is the place he wants to be with the entire Kia range: in other words in a perpetual state of development and thus improvement.
And, I have to say that with the 2016 Kia Sportage I think he has yet again pulled it off. This car delivers the goods on meaningful fuel economy and safety improvements, but there is something more — the very attractive look of the new Sportage.
My only qualification of my overall praise for this car is that if you are considering buying a Sportage, when choosing look carefully at the spec and the model version you want to satisfy your needs.
The test car was a Sportage ‘2’ 1.7 CRDi six-speed manual. Looking at Kia’s price list for 2016, the all-new Sportage model range starts at Â£17,995 and rises to Â£27,160.
The test car came in at just Â£50 over the Â£22,000 mark and for that, as I have said, you get an accomplished car — one that I believe Kia expects to be its best seller in the UK market.
But I found myself wondering continuously as I drove it, what must the higher spec, more powerful versions be like?
This is no doubt a question of engine power. The 1.7 CRDi has 134bhp (brake horse power). One of the top of the range Sportages — the ‘KX-4’ 2.0 CRDi (six-speed auto) — has a 182bhp engine.
I think I must be a two-litre engine man. In any case, there is plenty to choose from: 18 variants based on four engines and three gearboxes.
I obviously like to drive a car with a bit more power than that offered in the 1.7 CRDi 134bhp test car. It is really a matter of personal taste and you could not say that in the all-new Sportage you do get a wide choice of specification.
It’s up to you to determine what is best for you. The 1.7 engine was fine and dandy in its performance, especially for motorway cruising. But I definitely wanted a tad more oomph to satisfy my particular style of driving.
Today someone again asked me the perennial question: I want to buy a new car, which would you recommend?
He named two models. I said my preference — actually because I had recently driven the car — but could not emphasise enough that this was my personal viewpoint. Motorists are incredibly fickle about buying cars. It’s a bit like going on holiday. No two people would probably choose the same style of holiday, let alone go to the same place. That is very much about personal taste and choice. It is the same with cars.
The upshot is that I would like to try and test at a later date the higher spec (and more powerful) Sportage before reaching any (personal) lasting conclusion about the all-new 2016 version.
One tempting specification, for example, is powered by a 174bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes.
Suffice to say, this fourth generation still demonstrates that Kia (and Schreyer for that matter) is still on top of its game.
With the third generation Kia Sportage it set the bar high. This all-new car, though it may have appeared to be a gamble, is the best demonstration yet of Kia’s “going forward” strategy.
Kia Sportage facts
All-New Kia Sportage ‘2’ 1.7 CRDi six-speed manual
Maximum speed: 109mph
Fuel consumption: 61.4mpg (combined cycle)
CO2 g/km emissions: 119
All-new version of Kia’s best-selling model in the UK. All models more fuel-efficient, with CO2 reductions of up to 29g/km
New connectivity and advanced driver Â assistance features
New GT-Line trim level
18 variants based on four engines, three Â gearboxes and six trim lines