Kia has quite a challenge with the new Sportage. The diesel doesn’t arrive until March, when Honda’s 2.2-litre diesel CR-V also makes its UK debut. As pleasantly surprised as we were when we sampled the Sportage CRDi last November, we suspect that it won’t provide much of a threat to the Honda.
Take 2.0-litre petrol power in your Sportage, though, and the odds switch back in Kia’s favour. At £14,495 it could be up to £1500 cheaper than the diesel (for which prices have not been confirmed), and you can have one now. With 139bhp and 136lb ft, it might have 45lb ft less than the oil-burner, but it has 28bhp more.
What strikes you first about the Sportage is how much car you get for your money. Kia has undercut every opponent for price, including the five-door Suzuki Grand Vitara and parent company Hyundai’s Tucson. This is one of the best-value cars on the road and, although there’s little chance of discounts from Kia dealers, it makes the £17,200 entry-level Honda CR-V petrol look exorbitant.
Basic XE trim is no budget affair, either. You get air-con, traction control, electric windows, roof rails, 16in alloy wheels, front fog lights and a CD player as standard. Put that kit on a CR-V and the price will swell close to £18k.
The cabin belies the Sportage’s price tag as much as its equipment tally does: there’s attractive trim, and the hard plastic fascia looks and feels solidly put together. It’s not up to Germanic standards, but then it doesn’t need to be: with the exception of the Land Rover Freelander, the Sportage’s competition is all Japanese. There’s no mistaking that this one’s Korean-made, however, with touchy over-sensitivity at the uppermost extreme of the throttle that will be familiar to most Hyundai and Kia drivers.
It’s no firebrand, but once you get used to the throttle action, the 2.0-litre engine combined with the slack five-speed ’box and absorbent low-speed ride make for undemanding progress through traffic.Kia says that it’s looking to this car to ‘accelerate the attractiveness’ of its brand.
Among its chief assets are great value, lots of kit and a three-year unlimited-mileage warranty. Add good boot space (1886 litres maximum), a roomy cabin and a driving environment as pleasant as any in the class, and the Sportage makes a persuasive case for itself. Perhaps not persuasive enough to rank it above the Honda CR-V, if you can afford one, but certainly good enough to make it worthy of consideration.