A special ‘First Edition’ model will be the only car available with 4WD, 2.0-litre diesel engine and costing £20,777.
In November they will be joined by the 2WD 1.6-litre petrol and 1.7-litre diesel models costing sub-£17,000.
Michael Cole, managing director for Kia UK, revealed to Car Dealer that the launch was originally intended to be in quarter four – but they decided to bring it forward due to dealer demand.
‘When we saw the interest at Geneva and the demand from dealers to get their hands on the new Sportage we had to do something,’ Cole told Car Dealer.
‘We had discussions with Korea and Kia Europe and managed to get our hands on these First Edition models. That means we can get it on sale in time for the crucial September plate change.
‘It would have been more economical to launch all the models at once. Sportage sold very well in the first half of the year and we were in danger of selling out of the old model and having a gap in between that and the new one.’
Cole has high hopes for the new Sportage too – by the end of the year he expects dealers to have sold 4,000. And in a full year that will rise to 10,000. No orders have been taken yet – but that’s because no details on price or spec had been announced.
The First Edition boasts 18-inch alloy wheels and leather as standard.
‘The sales will really take off when the 1.6 petrol and 1.7 diesel models arrive,’ Cole added.
‘Nissan has proved how successful smaller-engined SUVs can be and Kia aims to take a slice of that market.’
Cole was buoyant about the remainder of 2010 too and declared ‘Kia will sell more cars this year than in 2009’.
‘We’re already up to 35,000 units – last year we sold just over 55,000 in total – so the signs are good,’ Cole said.
‘A lot of that is scrappage but with the new Sportage arriving we’ll beat last year’s total.
‘Scrappage gave us a huge awareness boost and the new design of the Sportage with its new look will win it buyers.’
Cole also revealed Kia is looking to increase its network from 157 to 170 by the end of the year.
The rate of dealer appointments has been frantic this year and Cole told Car Dealer they agreed another on Monday and have six more with contracts signed.
However there are still open points in difficult to fill urban locations like Croydon, Solihull and south west Manchester.
‘These are urban areas where it is very difficult to find a location – the partners are there but it’s finding the right site,’ said Cole.
‘We know we’re not the only manufacturer having problems in these areas. We’d consider sharing showroom space to solve it too – but just not with Hyundai.’
By JAMES BAGGOTT