Even on a
closed test track seven thousand miles away, you could tell it was good. 'It'
was the new Kia Sportage, and the test track in question was at Hyundai/Kia's
massive R&D centre at Namyang.

I headed out
there in May for an advance taste of the car - and by 'taste', I mean we got
fifteen minutes on a makeshift course laid out between cones on strip of tarmac
the size of a runway.

Read Autocar's first drive of the Kia Sportage


Two things
really convince you about this new Kia, the first before you've even climbed
aboard. The Sportage looks genuinely desirable: it's a product of some
distinction, set apart by attractive design as much as anything else.


When you see
one, you don't think "that's good-looking, for a Kia." You just think
it's good-looking; that it'd do credit to almost any automotive brand. Apparently
it's Schreyer's first ground-up production Kia, and if so, it's a powerful
advert for the man's talents.


And second,
there's a feeling of convincing, deep-running integrity about the way the
Sportage drives that speaks of top-quality engineering and fine
attention-to-detail during development. The car I drove in Korea wasn't finished; didn't have the
chassis settings that would make UK-spec cars so refined and well-mannered. But
even so, the powertrain felt slick, torquey and well-insulated, and most of the
control weights smacked of careful fine-tuning.


Bottom line -
this car, with the refined 2.0-litre diesel lump and six-speed automatic box at
least, could almost be a junior Land Rover: that's how smooth and well-sorted
it feels. Not a bad achievement for budget brand Kia.