What is it?
It’s the start of Kia’s new era. Er, again. After what seems like years of telling us how Audi TT designer Peter Schreyer was transforming its range, including models like the sharp three-door Cee’d, the Korean manufacturer is declaring this car, the new Sportage, to be the first wholly Schreyer Kia.
This particular Sportage – called First Edition – is like an advance party for the full line-up.
It’s available in five colours and with only one mechanical set-up: a 2.0-litre, common-rail diesel motor, producing 134bhp and 236lb ft, mated to a four-wheel drive system that spends the vast majority of its time driving only the front wheels, but offers a 50/50 lock for off-roading.
You can choose the gearbox, mind; the six-speed manual driven here is standard, but there’s also a six-speed auto.
Future variants, due from November, will include a 1.6-litre, direct-injection petrol model, and a 1.7-litre turbodiesel, both with stop-start as standard and both available with front-wheel drive.
First Editions sit the wrong side of 20 grand, but they come pretty loaded; full leather, dual-zone climate control, rain-sensing wipers, a reversing camera built into the rear-view mirror, LED daytime running lights and 18in alloys are all standard.
What’s it like?
Rather good. Schreyer’s styling hasn’t really hurt interior space, because there’s easily room for four six-footers, plus luggage.
Some of the plastics are perhaps the shiny side of harsh – there are plenty of hard finishes up front – but the packaging is neat and everything looks hard-wearing. A family with three children could live with this car quite easily.
And they’d travel in comfort, because the Sportage’s chassis – tuned with assistance from Lotus in the UK – strikes an excellent balance between body control and comfort.
Think one notch off a Kuga’s agility, but one notch more compliant, and you’d have a good idea of the set-up.
Around pothole-strewn urban roads – where many Sportages will spend a lot of their time – the car refuses to let bumps and bangs through to the cabin.
That refinement continues on the motorway, where the Sportage’s motor offers decent torque at lazy revs – barely 1000rpm and up, in fact – but fades into the background once you’re cruising.
If anything, this car seems more refined at speed than its cousin, Hyundai’s iX35. Only a bit of tyre rumble intrudes – but that could be negated on smaller-wheeled variants.
The gearshift is slick and precise, throttle response is fine and the steering is generally pretty well weighted, albeit a little short of feel around the straight ahead. This is a minor glitch, though, in what feels a very well judged product.
Should I buy one?
We can see why you would; with a seven-year warranty thrown in, this is a very competitive package in the family SUV market that gives precious little away to established rivals on the driving front, and poses a serious threat on value and running costs. Kia’s new era brings fresh promise, then.