The outgoing Sportage was a straight-dealing, unaffected sort of drive. By and large, it was how you might have hoped and expected to find a jacked-up family hatch in 2010: a touch soft-handling and only a moderately keen feel, but compliant, coherent and quite easy-going with it.
The new version is, of course, up against higher expectations and tougher class standards – to the extent that repeating the same compromise six years later would never have cut the mustard.
But it’s apparent that, in responding to the challenge, Kia may have lost sight of the sense of becalmed dynamic measure and maturity that made the previous Sportage feel less like a hatchback and more like a downsized SUV to drive – and all the more likable for it.
The new Sportage has contracted the ‘sportiness’ that some at Kia may imagine suits its identity, a bit like an opening batsman getting the yips.
Where once relaxed spring rates brought long-striding compliance, there is now a more insistent, high-frequency firmness in the ride, and a pursuit of level equilibrium that more often than not makes the car somewhat restless on UK roads.
The same firmness has undeniably allowed the handling to take some large objective strides. There is much greater high-speed stability delivered by this suspension than that of the previous car, as well as the kind of agility and lateral grip of which any crossover would be proud.