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Driven: Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.

Driven: Kia Sportage First Edition
Kia's popular Sportage SUV, driven in bells-and-whistles First Edition guise.

   



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Kia Sportage First Edition

4 4 4 4 4

Good points: interior quality, most of the exterior styling, First Edition loaded with kit, THAT warranty.

Not so good: can be relatively pricey with all toys, unconvincing front-end styling, suspect ride comfort.

Key Facts

Model tested: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi First Edition
Price: Sportage from 18,250; First Edition was 31,645 (see copy)
Engine: 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder diesel
Transmission: all-wheel drive, six-speed automatic
Body style: five-door, five-seat SUV
CO2 emissions: 166g/km (Band H, 300 VED first 12 months, 210 annually thereafter, if registered before April 1, 2017; 500 first 12 months, 140 annually thereafter if registered after April 1, 2017)
Combined economy: 44.8mpg
Top speed: 125mph
0-62mph: 9.2 seconds
Power: 184hp at 4,000rpm
Torque: 400Nm at 1,750- to 2,500rpm

Our view:

There's no doubting the fourth-generation Kia Sportage is a clear step up in quality from its predecessor, a mid-sized crossover that we always really liked anyway. But having only driven it in pre-production guise in Germany at the tail end of 2015, we felt longer time behind the wheel was necessary to get a better picture of the car's overall make-up, with a workout on UK roads ultimately determining just how highly - or not - we rated the Kia.

Time, however, has not altered our opinion of the looks. It's a successful update of the Sportage shape, with neat, elegant lines and crisp detailing... unless you're looking at it from the front. There's something about the detached headlights, the 'tiger nose' grille in that big front panel and the mounting position of the front number plate that we just can't get past. It's not ugly; indeed, the Sportage is far from it, and there's a good case to be made in saying 'at least Kia made it distinctive, not boring', but we think the MkIII version's front was a neater arrangement of the typical car features than this. Nevertheless, it generally looks a stolid, pricey bit of kit and - for most people - the side graphics on the white bodywork of the First Edition are more likely to be a deterrent.

No major issues with the interior, although once again, the First Edition's light leather isn't the most practical finish. However, this is an example of the Koreans' fully loaded ethos made, um, flesh. There isn't a single blanking plate anywhere to be found on the console. The First Edition comes (or rather, came; sadly, it was a launch special that's no longer on sale now, so to replicate it you'll need to buy a GT-Line S and load it with a few options) with everything fitted as standard. Look to the right of the leather-finish steering wheel and you'll find a bank of driver assist functions, such as blind-spot monitoring and more. The wheel itself holds cruise, infotainment switches and phone controls, while on the centre console is a row of buttons for the screen in the dash, the twin serried ranks of the climate system and then another line of heated/cooled seats and heated steering wheel switchgear... and THEN there's another load of functions behind the gear lever. That's a lot of buttons.

Thankfully, they're intelligently laid out and the quality of everything is extremely high. This is the sort of European-rivalling cabin that ably demonstrates how far Kia has come in the space of a few years, because there's very little to fault about the look and feel of the whole dashboard. It's also a very spacious car, the Sportage easily capable of carrying five adults and possessed of a large, 491-litre boot.

This refined air is maintained once the Kia is on the move, although we would say that the 19-inch wheels of the First Edition don't promote the most unruffled of ride quality. Perhaps stick to 17s or 18s if you value comfort above all else, as the First Edition picks up slightly too many imperfections in the road surface than is strictly necessary. The flagship GT-Line S is also fitted with 19s, for reference.

But that's about the sum total of our gripes with the Kia's driving experience. It's a really refined machine, smothering wind, tyre and engine noise brilliantly to make travelling in the Sportage a relaxing affair. The steering is a two-mode set-up that's still some way off being classed as excellent, but it is vastly improved from the old Sportage's set-up, offering better weighting and more precision, if not a lot in the way of feel.

Pity, because - as we asserted last time out - this is a crossover that now feels deserving of a model name with the syllable 'Sport' in it. The Kia limits body roll well and has keen turn-in, with understeer not inordinately noticeable. There's also an abundance of traction thanks to the part-time all-wheel drive, and coupled to that fantastic 2.0-litre diesel engine (loads of grunt, far quieter in operation than before), it means you can actually stoke the Sportage up to a decent old clip on a quieter back road, should the mood take you. Flip to the turbodiesel's other field of performance and it'll generally return mid-30s economy, which isn't bad for a powerful, tall four-wheel drive like this.

So our initial impressions of the Kia Sportage MkIV being a cracking mid-sized crossover seem to be upheld in the UK. It's a very, very strong contender in this class, where it competes with any number of Nissan Qashqai-sized rivals from the more affordable mainstream brands, but with the Kia's typically brilliant seven-year warranty and its massive kit count for a price tag of little more than 30,000, it's so well-finished inside that it's not hard to see it poaching a few premium sales from the likes of the Audi Q3, BMW X1 and Mercedes-Benz GLA as well. It's therefore a really, really good vehicle... provided you can live with the front-end looks, that is.

Alternatives:

Hyundai Tucson: better-looking on the outside, not quite as nice on the inside, has a shorter warranty - the Hyundai is nevertheless a very strong alternative to the Sportage.

Nissan Qashqai: not exceptional in any area but capable in all, the Qashqai is the sales phenomenon that Kia would dearly love to match.

SEAT Ateca: one of the best-looking and best everything crossovers of the moment, making the Volkswagen Tiguan look expensive.


Matt Robinson - 18 Dec 2016



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2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.

2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.2016 Kia Sportage First Edition. Image by Kia.








 

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