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Kia aims to take its popular Sportage crossover upmarket with the latest round of updates

The previous Kia 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 (2010-2016) registered more than 100,000 sales across Europe, more than a quarter of the firm’s overall volume on this continent.

The new Kia Sportage faces a tough task carrying on the success created by the third generation

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 Kia 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.

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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 diesel engine and a more conservative trim level – as we tested here in 1.7-litre form. In 2020, this engine was replaced with a 1.6-litre unit, which arrived with 48v mild-hybrid assistance for greater efficiency and reduced emissions.

Kia Sportage engine line-up and trim levels

The Sportage line-up starts in entry-level '2' trim, which comes with 17in alloy wheels, an 8in touchscreen infotainment system with integrated satnav and smartphone mirroring, reversing camera, heated front and rear seats, and automatic lane keep assist as standard. 

Step-up '3' models gain larger 19in alloys, LED front and rear lights, black leather upholstery, power-adjustable seats, a panoramic sunroof and blind spot collision warning.

GT-Line cars get sportier exterior styling, courtesy of a bespoke front grille, 'ice cube'-style front foglights and dual exhaust pipes, as well as keyless entry and start. Flagship GT-Line S models get a powered tailgate, 360deg parking camera, 8-speaker JBL sound system and wireless smartphone charging as standard.

Powertrain options consist of a 1.6-litre petrol, in naturally-aspirated Sportage 1.6 GDI and turbocharged Sportage 1.6 T-GDI forms, but only the latter is paired with all-wheel drive. Only GT-Line and higher trims come with an automatic gearbox; '2' and '3' trims have manuals.  The sole diesel model is the Sportage 1.6CRDi with 48v mild hyrid assistance, and is available with either a six-speed manual or DCT automatic transmission.

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Kia Sportage 2016-2021 First drives