Trading up to an SUV means big money: far more expensive to run than a regular hatchback and a bigger initial outlay. There’s no escaping the plain figures, right? The Kia Sportage proved that’s not always the case.
Continuing the Korean firm’s value for money ethos into the leisure 4x4 market was a wise move - plenty of buyers found the right combination of looks, utility and performance at the right price. Now the Sportage has been refreshed, and like all good facelifts this one is subtle but effective.
The changes to the exterior are relatively minor, with restyled body protection down the flanks, new headlights and resculpted bumpers. Yet the Sportage is still instantly recognisable, fitting neatly between chunky and discreet and packing good space into a modest footprint.
This is certainly not an SUV that takes up more space than necessary. The revised version also comes in two-wheel drive form, for those who really don’t need off-road ability. It also hits the mark in terms of the all-important height factor. A step up is required to get inside, but a step ladder is not required.
Once in the driver’s seat the commanding view of the road is there, putting you above the hubbub but without the need for a HGV licence. The easy-going nature continues when it comes to operating the Sportage: the cabin layout is simple but attractive, with decent quality switchgear and sensible controls.
The upgraded stereo system now benefits from an auxiliary input and a USB connector, so you can plug and charge your iPod rather than use up its battery on the move. It’s also packed with kit: the mid-range XS models get climate control, leather, automatic headlights and heated door mirrors just to start with.
Cabin space is good too. Those up front can relax with substantial head and legroom as well as a clear view out. The same can be said for rear occupants: only the exceptionally tall will have anything to grumble about from the back. The boot is also usefully sized, giving the Sportage the practicality and space to cope with family life without breaking sweat.
The engine options remain the same, though it barely needs mentioning that the diesel is the powerplant of choice.
With a healthy 135lb/ft of torque being managed by all four wheels, the Sportage has sufficient punch to make town traffic or motorway cruising an effortless experience.
Noise levels are kept in check and the six-speed manual makes it easy to keep in the torque band for maximum pull. Using the engine and gearbox to their strengths delivers great economy too: with 39mpg available on the combined cycle, the Sportage needs no justification on environmental grounds.
The rest of the driving experience is equally trouble-free. Ride quality has been improved with some subtle suspension tweaks, and while it will never be a back-road stormer, the Sportage neither complains nor struggles when driven hard.
Tweaks to the steering have improved feel and larger disc brakes are reassuring. At a more sedate pace, comfort levels are right up there with the class competition and long journeys can be despatched with ease. Arguably the biggest change to the Sportage is one you can’t see. Production of the Sportage has been switched to the new European factory in Zilina, Slovakia alongside the ceed hatchback.
Such is Kia’s confidence in the quality of production from the new plant that the Sportage now gets a 5 year, 100,000 mile warranty, just like the ceed. If ever there was a sure sign of confidence in a car, this is it.
FACTS AT A GLANCE
Engine: 2.0-litre diesel producing 138bhp and 135lb/ft of torque.
Transmission: 6-speed manual gearbox as standard driving all four wheels.
Performance: 0-62mph in 12secs, top speed 110mph.
CO2 emissions: 187g/km.