Take Kia’s recently launched Sortento SUV as an example. The BMW X5-sized model is selling out in the top-of-the-range K3 specification – and that costs nearly £30,000! Suddenly the Sportage doesn’t look so over-priced…
It helps that the new Sportage is a stunner too – it’s the first model completely penned by former Audi designer Peter Schreyer, and it shows. What a job he’s done! From every angle the Sportage looks great – the front is purposeful with LED daytime running lights catching your eye, the side profile slopes with sashes and cuts in the right places and those alloy wheels, with black inserts, really are gorgeous.
How far Kia’s have come…
The First Edition Sportage is available in just the one flavour: 2.0-litre CRDi with 4WD. That diesel unit is good for 134bhp and produces 320Nm of torque. It’s pretty clean too, emitting 156g/km and returning 47mpg on the combined cycle.
On the road, our test car did feel a little wheezy as the revs rose, but the low-down grunt was impressive. It hits 60mph in 10.9 seconds with the manual gearbox and will go on to 112mph. That six-speed box is pretty decent compared to rivals – the Peugeot 3008’s shift is like stirring a bowl of soup in comparison – while the Kia set-up is precise and pleasantly notchy.
Steering is well weighted, but can feel a little devoid of feedback at motorway speeds. We’re not so keen on the pedals either – they’re angled high and have a tendency to make your shin muscles ache.
Inside the quality of materials has come on leaps and bounds from Kias of old. The seats – although a little short on thigh support – are comfortable on long-distance journeys, the controls for the stereo and dual zone climate control are easy to operate and the dash layout’s fresh and clean.
The First Edition comes with aux-in for your iPod, a USB slot for other MP3 players and there’s built-in Bluetooth for handsfree calling with voice command system. The latter is very easy to set up and the sound quality impressive. There’s even a reversing camera with screen built in to the rear-view mirror that works wonderfully.
On the road, it feels like a big car – the driving position is pretty lofty, but despite this there’s surprisingly little room inside. The driving position is cosy and that sloping roof makes it feel like there’s little headroom.
It’s also a little on the loud side – road roar from those big 18-inch alloys is quite high and we’re surprised it rides as hard as it does. You expect a 4×4 compact SUV like this to soak up the bumps more, but it’s actually quite jarring. Still the plus side is handling in the bends – the Sportage doesn’t roll like rivals when pushed.
Kia dealers will only have 800 of these First Edition models to sell until November when the range expands. Incoming then will be a 1.7-litre diesel and 1.6-litre petrol – both of which will be sub-140g/km cars and will cost under £17,000. Kia predicts the 1.7-litre diesel will be the best seller.
Despite the price and our minor gripes, we really do like the Sportage – it’ll sell on its looks alone and when the cheaper models arrive, buyers will snap them up. Kia is determined to move the brand further away from its budget roots and closer towards the ‘reasonably-priced premium’ market. And with cars like this new Sportage, few would bet against it.