From £24,8157

Kia’s talismanic European-built SUV opens a new chapter in exterior design

The Kia Sportage lived a fairly quiet life to begin with as a car known to few outside of Asian markets.

But ever since it became one of Kia’s first European-built models in its second-generation form, and then led its company’s transformation into a design-centric brand in its third, the Sportage has taken on special status for the company that makes it.

Not sure if it was aircraft tail fins or T-bone steaks that those air vents reminded me of, but I certainly kept coming back to look at them. Sometimes characterful product design can be just that simple.

Peter Schreyer’s distinctive ‘tiger nose’ third-generation design drove the car to a level of UK- and European-market popularity unknown to Kia in the early 2010s, which the subsequent fourth-generation version built on.

And now, with the Sportage’s status as Kia’s best-selling model in the UK, Europe and the wider world assured, comes a fifth-generation version that looks ready to mix things up all over again.

Rather than protecting and subtly evolving the looks of its golden goose, Kia is innovating: using the most powerful sales platform it has to disseminate a new corporate design language that will roll out across its model lines and showing a strategic boldness that only commercial success can grant permission for.

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This new design language, entitled ‘Opposites United’, will evidently trade the neat appealing features and lines of Kia’s old philosophy for something even more impactful – but will it be as successful in driving sales?

On the Sportage, the new look arrives on a car that is built on a new model platform and that offers a broad range of conventional and electrified powertrains including, for the first time on a Sportage, a plug-in hybrid. We elected to test the slightly cheaper but technically related 1.6-litre HEV full hybrid, however, in front-wheel-drive form and range-topping GT-Line S trim.

Kia Sportage range at a glance

The Sportage range includes petrol and diesel engines with and without 48V mild-hybrid assistance, as well as full-hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains, with part-time all-wheel drive effectively available on all but the very cheapest models.

Engines Power From

Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 2WD 2

148bhp

£26,745

Sportage 1.6 CRDi 2WD 2

113BHP £27,745

Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 48V 2WD GT-Line DCT

148bhp £31,445

Sportage 1.6 CRDi 48V 2WD 3 DCT

134bhp £34,145

Sportage 1.6 T-GDi HEV 2WD GT-Line*

226bhp £33,245

Sportage 1.6 T-GDi HEV AWD GT-Line S

226bhp

£40,245

Sportage 1.6 T-GDi PHEV AWD GT-Line

261bhp £38,395

*Variant tested

Transmissions  
6-spd manual Non-hybridised models
7-spd dual-clutch automatic Mild hybrids
6-spd automatic HEV and PHEV

 

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Kia Sportage First drives