The new Kia Sportage landed in Ireland earlier in 2016. This is the fourth generation of the popular compact SUV and Kia are hoping to build on the success of the outgoing model with improvements in efficiency, performance, refinement and drivability.
Kia did make real progress with this car’s predecessor, the third generation that is a common sight on Irish roads and has made the Sportage a household name in the burgeoning and fashionable compact SUV segment.
This is a brand with real prominence now in Ireland, one of the top ten selling carmakers here, and the Sportage has been a key driver in that growth with over 11,000 sold here to date.
With a strong new exterior design, which manages to both retain a classic Sportage profile but add much more definition and character, the new model certainly does look the part. There is a genuine rugged 4×4 look to the Sportage and it also has the height to indicate the same.
Of course to any petrolhead, the grille and front-end styling is strikingly similar to the Porsche Macan, which I think is a wondrous thing. Kia has pulled off the best bit of copycat styling since Ford started digging an Aston Martin grille.
Inside you can see the effort that has been made to inject the same sort of contemporary style into the cabin. It’s a mixture of black plastics, metalwork and stitched leather for a tactile finish. The design is simple and modern, and a 7” touchscreen infotainment and navigation system is standard on EX and above.
The Sportage is a five seater but increased exterior and interior dimensions mean that the new car is roomier than before. Rear legroom is generous and even the middle seat passenger can sit quite comfortably without feeling too cramped from either side. Cargo space has also grown from 465 litres to 503 litres and the sill is flat so it’s easy to slide large items in and out of the boot.
Diesels start at €27,995 in LX spec and standard equipment is good including 16” alloy wheels, front fog lights, roof rails, electric windows and mirrors, rear parking sensors, Bluetooth, cruise control, and air con. EX models (from €29,995) add 17” alloys, touchscreen, sat nav, reversing camera, driver’s power seat, half leather upholstery, high beam assist and lane keep assist. The top of the range GSE (from €34,495) adds 19” alloys, sunroof, full leather, heated seats, power passenger seat, smart key and xenon lights.
A 1.7-litre diesel is available for front wheel drive models and a 2.0-litre diesel for all wheel drive. The 1.7-litre engine has been reworked to improve efficiency and the new car also happens to have a more aerodynamic design. With the addition of Idle Stop and Go technology, emissions have been reduced and motor tax is now at a low of €200 per year.
Soundproofing has been bolstered to improve in-car refinement and on the motorway the new Sportage is impressively quiet. The 1.7-litre diesel is a bit gruff stopping and starting around town and under hard acceleration, but it is not annoyingly harsh and I found its 115hp adequate power for the car. Despite the Sportage’s imposing presence, the gearing and light steering mean it’s a pleasant SUV to drive around town and suburbia. Updates have been made to the suspension to keep the car tighter through corners and while there is lean if you push it hard, there is loads of grip and it never feels too flaccid. The engineers have definitely had a go at the idea of driver feedback when tuning the steering too. It’s reasonably effective – the steering does weight up on the twisty stuff but does feel a little bit forced and artificial at times. There is some harshness over rough/uneven surfaces, but comfort levels are generally good.
In a market where there are many slightly elevated hatchbacks masquerading as off-roaders, Kia can be commended for managing to pull off the authentic SUV feeling in the Sportage, but at a price and with a level of standard kit that makes this car a great choice if you want ‘bang for your buck’. And that’s before I’ve even written the words ‘seven year warranty’. You can see why the Sportage to date has made such an impact on the Irish market. The new 2016 model only improves again what its predecessor started with a more spacious and better finished cabin, and improvements to economy and refinement. And it’s not bad-looking either, is it?
Model Tested: Kia Sportage 1.7D EX SR
Engine: 1.7-litre turbo diesel
0-100km/h: 11.5 seconds
CO2 Emissions: 119g/km
Motor Tax: €190 per year