Whatever may be wrapped up beneath it, the Sportage’s bodywork will be key in determining whether Kia can continue riding the wave of its handsome predecessor’s success in Europe.
To our eyes, the new version fails to conjure the same instant visual allure as the last model, although it’s far from unattractive.
And before you write it off on the basis of our test car, bear in mind that the GT Line version gets a high-gloss radiator grille, extra satin chrome body mouldings, 19in wheels, gloss black wheel arch spats and sill cladding, twin exhaust pipes and chrome skid plates to perk up its look, while the GT-Line S gets bi-xenon headlights giving it a more intimidating pose. And they do make a difference.
The all-new platform is made of more than 50 percent advanced high-strength steel and is 39 percent more rigid than that of the previous car, as well as being 40mm longer (30mm of which has gone into the wheelbase). The other major structural change is to the floor height, which is 40mm lower than before – permitting the seats to be lowered and entry and exit to be made more convenient.
Suspension is via struts up front and multi-links at the rear, just as it was, although several key efforts have been made to improve both ride refinement and handling dynamism.
A new geometry features at the rear, as well as a new bushed subframe, and other bushings have been firmed up and new rebound damper settings applied to improve the car’s ride on rough roads. The biggest change at the front of the car, meanwhile, is the R-MDPS electromechanical power steering system mounted directly onto the steering rack rather than onto the column, for better stiffness and response. It has also appeared on the latest generation Sorento and Optima.
The engine range includes two variants of both the 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre diesels, with the former available with 114bhp and 139bhp, and the latter in 134bhp and 182bhp guises. A pair of 1.6-litre petrols complete the range, with 130bhp and turbo-assisted 174bhp power outputs on offer. Clutch-based four-wheel drive is available on all but the bottom-rung petrol and diesel options.
Although greater improvements to power, torque and emissions have been delivered on the European-engineered 2.0-litre diesel than on the Korean-developed 1.7, the lesser four-cylinder gets a lighter iron cylinder block, a new oil cooler bypass valve, new high-strength valve springs, a higher-pressure fuel injection system and a slightly lower compression ratio compared with its predecessor. Emissions of CO2 from 119g/km still aren’t particularly competitive, though.