Monday, 14 June 2021

This Kia’s pulling power was anything but flowery

WHAT better place to show off a new car than at the biggest flower show in the world?

WHAT better place to show off a new car than at the biggest flower show in the world?

The Royal Horticultural Society’s annual Hampton Court Flower Show attracts visitors from as far afield as Australia and China.

Many thousands visited the show again this year, held last week at Henry VIII’s summer retreat on the Thames in Hampton Court Park.

We have been going to the show for more than 25 years and each time I find more to see and enjoy.

What I really like about Hampton Court is that it is not a society gathering like Chelsea Flower Show but a haven for everyday gardeners.

You can view down-to-earth gardens, gardens with far-reaching esoteric themes, gardens that highlight human suffering and affliction.

But you can also buy plants and therefore transpose those ideas and themes on display back home into your own little sacred plot.

It may seem anathema to some to mention a car and a garden in the same breath. Yet in the past, carmakers have seen this gathering at Hampton Court as a great platform to show off a new model.

In 2016, again as in recent years, manufacturers stayed away, but many thousands of visitors used a car to get their annual horticultural fix.

Indeed, we met a woman from Poole in Dorset who, though in her eighties, had journeyed up by car as she always did to pay her annual visit to the show.

For many — as with this elderly driver — the car is still a vital means of getting to see the things that matter to you in life.

I last drove the new Kia Sportage four months ago. But at the time I wondered what a higher spec, more powerful version would be like.

Well, now I know. I have always said that when choosing a new car, getting the specification right is paramount. It’s not just a question of power — you also have to consider comfort, economy and what you intend on using the car for.

From Gloucestershire to Hampton Court is a journey of some 95 miles. This takes in mostly a motorway, but also a fast dual-carriageway and a lot of stop-start driving through the suburban jungle around Heathrow.

This is not what I would call an easy journey. It is not a great distance but as with anywhere in South East England, it can be protracted and difficult due to density of traffic.

My concern with the earlier drive in the Kia Sportage was that its smaller engine — a 1.7 diesel with 134bhp — did not quite give me the “oomph” I like in a car.

The model I took to Hampton Court was the 2.0-litre CRDi First Edition Auto. Now this car illustrated my point perfectly.

With more torque (pulling power) from its 182bhp engine — and a good, smooth automatic gearbox — I was a much happier driver than I had been in the lesser-powered Sportage.

There’s not much in it, but I hope you understand what I am getting at here: my personal preference is for a car with more go (and more comfort). This new test Sportage fulfilled both of those needs.

So if I were a prospective buyer, I would be avidly combing the spec sheets to find the car to suit me. All I am suggesting is that if you are going to buy a new car you do the same.

Of course, there is a question of price. The lower spec Kia Sportage I tested in April came in at £22,050. The test car I took to Hampton Court was £31,650 on the road.

But to my mind the extra £9,500 is worth paying to get the car you will be happy with. And I reckon durability and build quality are high on the priorities of Kia these days under the direction of boss Peter Schreyer. Certainly, the new Sportage oozes strength and commitment to gaining customer satisfaction.

You may use more fuel in this new Sportage (combined cycle official figure of 47.9mpg compared with 61.4mpg for the 1.7 diesel engine), but again it’s your choice to make.

Hampton Court is an all-consuming flower show — as I’m sure its 150,000 visitors would agree. The 34-acre site housed some 40 gardens, covering seven categories.

One of note was small but with a big message. This was Katie’s Garden, highlighting the work of Katie’s Lymphoedema Fund, supported by the Royal Marsden Cancer Charity.

From personal experience I know that lymphoedema is an insidious condition that can follow surgery for cancer. It is a condition we all need to be aware of as it has had limited attention in medical circles.

This awareness is improving all the time and Katie’s Garden at Hampton Court, designed by Carole Dunster and Noemi Mercurelli, was a timely reminder to us all of the importance of aftercare and recovery from cancer.

Sportage factfile

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi First Edition Auto

• Price: £31,650 on the road

• Maximum speed: 125mph

• Fuel consumption: 47.9mpg (combined cycle)

• CO2 g/km emissions: 154

• 19in alloy wheels

• Chrome front grille  surround

• 10-way power adjustable driver’s seat

• Stone-grey two-tone leather upholstery

• Panoramic sunroof — electric one touch

• 18 variants available based on four engines, three gearboxes and six trim lines

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