What is it?
This is a drive in a somewhat unfinished prototype of the all-new Kia Sportage, which goes on sale here next February.
We’re here to witness - and take part in - some hot weather testing in California’s Death Valley, which is the car makers’ go-to location when consistently searing temperatures are needed in order to exercise a car’s cooling systems - for both powertrain and cabin - to limits unlikely to be seen by any Sportage sold over here.
Britain’s liking for the current Sportage is a fine demonstration of the ingredients that are priorities for many car buyers. It looks stylish. It’s good value for money. It’s on trend, being a crossover. And it’s safe to buy from its relative newbie maker because it comes with the back-up of a seven-year warranty.
That it’s stylish and fashionable have a lot to do with why it has become Kia’s best-selling model and, unusually for a value brand, sits close to the top of the range. If you’re a marque pitching cars on value, it’s more often the models at the lower end of the range that sell best.
And yet the Sportage is actually rather an average machine. It doesn’t do anything badly, but it doesn’t do much especially well, either. Had it looked nondescript, it’s highly likely that it would have been an also-ran. So the style of the next Sportage is very obviously vital to this crossover’s continued success.
Not that we’re much wiser about how it will look today, because the prototype we’re driving is artfully disguised with glassfibre and a vision-dizzying body-wrap.