Is the best car on the road a Kia?
Those were the days and my what a breakthrough car it was. This vehicle was regarded almost as a novelty. Koreans, moving from budget cars to SUVs. Whatever next?
And while the first Sportage was with hindsight only so-so with unmemorable styling but decent equipment levels and low, low prices, it has blossomed into a brilliant all-rounder. Quite possibly the best on the road.
It’s no longer a cheap choice but it is still exceptionally well equipped for the money. Maybe even extravagantly equipped. The range costs from around £26,000 and even the big-selling model tested here, the 3 as Kia call it, costs £30,165.
Sportage comes as a 2, 3 and 4 plus GT-line and GT-line S. The 3 is probably the best combination between value and trim.
I must say, that is a few thousand less than I expected for such a classy car which stands comparison with premium marques from Germany and elsewhere. So £31,000 is still a hefty wad but find something better for the money and I’ll be surprised.
Now, let’s deal with the elephant in the room. Sportage used to have such a happy, elegant face but now it has a growling, honeycombed affair. I wasn’t a fan and am still not keen.
But it does give the car a fashionable look which I’m sure many will appreciate. What’s more friends and colleagues don’t seem to find the Sportage nose as controversial as I but I insist the previous generation was a prettier car. Time will tell if I was right.
What is beyond doubt is that the new Sportage is much improved in equipment terms and in all-round versatility.
No wonder Sportage is on a high. The first generation sold in modest numbers but versions two, three and four grew in popularity.
The 3 tested here adds 18in alloy wheels, rear privacy glass and LED front fog lamps. Inside there’s black cloth and faux leather upholstery, driver’s lumbar support, front power adjustable seats, including height adjuster, heated front and rear outer seats, heated steering wheel, engine start/stop button and an aluminium pattern finish for the centre fascia and door garnish.
Smart Cruise Control with Stop and Go functionality, Highway Driving Assist (HDA) and paddle shifters are fitted to automatic variants, while cruise control and a speed limiter is provided for manual gearbox versions. A 12.3in display with navigation system welcomes occupants, along with a 12.3in supervision colour cluster display, six audio speakers and DAB radio. A free seven-year subscription to Kia Connect is included, too.
If you want a panorama sunroof, wireless smartphone charger, Harman Kardon premium audio system, 360-degree Around View Monitor, Blind-Spot View Monitor (BVM), Blind Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) and Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA), then you would need the Sportage 4.
It is good to drive, considering it is such a substantial car. And the cabin is a delight. The huge screens are easy to navigate and give the car a modern edge.
If you really want to splash out you need the GT-Line S specification. This is offered with the 148bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi engine with 7DCT and 48-volt mild hybrid technology and all-wheel-drive as standard, priced from £38,445.
In addition, two 226bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi hybrid options are offered, with a choice of two-wheel drive (from £38,645) and all-wheel drive (from £40,245). Sportage PHEV GT-Line S models, with all-wheel drive, represent the peak of the range, priced from £43,795. The sporty appearance of the ‘GT-Line S’ takes the ‘4’ model as its basis and adds the following GT-Line’ styling, 19in alloy wheels, ventilated seats and power adjustable seats plus a powered tailgate.
Now £40,000-plus sounds a lot for any car, let alone a Kia. But to be honest the 3 tested here is probably the best choice. Who needs a powered tailgate anyway?
Kia Sportage 3
Price: £30,165. Range costs from £25,965.
Engine: a 1.6 litre 148bhp petrol engine
Performance: Top speed 113mph and 0 to 60mph in 9.9 seconds
Economy: 41.5mpg average. I averaged just over 40mph with a lot of motorway miles
Warranty: Seven years/ 100,000 miles