What is it?
It's Kia's latest generation of Sportage, now available as a full 16-model range after being introduced by the 'First Edition', a 2.0 diesel-based variant that showed the new car's strengths but came fully loaded and well north of £20k.
Four engines are on offer; as well as the 2.0 oil-burner there are 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre petrols, and the new 1.7-litre turbodiesel tested here. Unlike its bigger black-nozzle brother, it's only available with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox.
There are four trim levels for this powerplant. The base spec, 1, comes on 16in wheels but still offers air-con, Bluetooth, electric windows all round and LED daytime running lights that make the most of Peter Schreyer's sharp styling. Move up to 2 and you get 17in alloys, part-leather upholstery, reversing sensors and a panoramic glass roof.
If you want full leather then you'll need to choose 3, which also throws in heated front and rear seats, xenon headlights, dual-zone climate control and 18in wheels. However, our test car came in '3 Sat-nav' spec, which has all the kit plus an integrated 7in navigation system in the dashboard.
What's it like?
The 1.7-litre turbodiesel, which has 114bhp and 192lb ft of torque, feels pretty comfortable with the Sportage's 1490kg kerb weight. There's a decent slug of twist from a little over 1000rpm, allowing you to make relaxed, rapid progress that's pretty refined once the motor’s warmed up. And if you do need to throw gears at it, the 'box is slick and precise.
Throwing the Sportage at corners is an exercise that brings few nasty surprises and little real pleasure. The steering is precise enough and not badly weighted, but it's not particularly communicative, and while body roll is reasonably well contained, it is present. The overall package is extremely competent, without ever becoming involving.
The cabin, meanwhile, is pretty roomy and airy (particularly so with the panoramic roof that’s standard on all but the base spec). There are a few hard plastics, particularly along the top of the doors, but it's at least as respectable as a Qashqai or a Kuga. Indeed, the flashes of piano black trim in the Sportage's functional dashboard look a bit more coherent than some of the 'brushed aluminium' plastics you'll find in Fords these days.
The ride is rather less satisfactory - or at least, it is when you're sitting on a top-spec model’s 18in wheels. It's not exactly crashy, but there's a fair amount of fidgeting that finds its way through to the cabin. We also tried a 1.6 petrol on 16-inchers and it was noticeably more comfortable.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you would. The Sportage's striking design makes it stand out from the glut of crossovers on the market, and its cabin and powertrain are on a par with anything around this price range, with the possible exception of Volkswagen's more tightly specced Tiguan.
Just remember to ask yourself some stern questions about your must-have toys before choosing your Sportage's trim level; we suspect the sweet spot - on price and ride comfort - is further down the range than this.