The previous Sportage crossover was the closest thing that Kia has had to a European smash hit. It must be with considerable trepidation, therefore, that the Korean car maker has succeeded it.

Most popular of all in the final year of its lifecycle, the third-generation Sportage registered more than 100,000 sales across Europe last year, more than a quarter of the firm’s overall volume on this continent.

It benefitted from being one of the better crossovers at a time when more people started to want such a vehicle. It’s also proof of how uncomplicated the car business can be. Offer us attractive styling, lots of practicality, creditable ride and handling and a strong value proposition and we’ll buy in our droves.

If success is that simple, of course, it shouldn’t be so difficult for Kia to repeat it with this, the fourth-generation Sportage. But the more closely you investigate this new crossover, the more you realise that ‘more of the same’ isn’t quite what Kia is after.

With a broader range of engines and transmissions, more power and performance on offer, more advanced cabin and safety technology, more svelte and sporting design features and, yep, more ambitious prices, the new Sportage is clearly part of a wider effort to gradually inch Kia upmarket.

Under the bonnet, the headline addition is a 174bhp 1.6-litre turbo petrol engine, which is teamed with a choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearboxes.

Outwardly, the car’s chief selling point may well be the styling of the new GT Line and GT-Line S trims, with their added sporting flavour.

In both respects, Kia is dipping its toe into deeper and more perilous water than the Sportage has subsisted in thus far. But, for now, it expects most UK buyers to plump for a 1.7-litre diesel engine and a more conservative trim level – as we’re testing here.

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