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The rise of the Kia Sportage

By raccars Published

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The Kia Sportage has been improving since 1993. So what makes it a leading choice SUV in the UK?

While an inordinate amount of automotive press lineage is devoted to important German brands and exciting supercars, in the background one name has been quietly but determinedly creeping towards mainstream status. Kia has cemented its growing status by opening a headquarters in the UK, in Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, levelling out the playing field with the major Japanese and British brands.

Fourth generation Kia Sportage

One of the key models contributing to this image re-alignment programme is the new, fourth generation Kia Sportage SUV. Released in 1993, the Sportage had a slow start and a couple of years later couldn't even manage 700 unit sales annually. However, last year the Sportage hit a record, making up more than a quarter of Kia's total UK sales with more than 23,000 units sold.

The latest Sportage is better and more expensive looking than previous versions. Kia's distinctive tiger nose front grille has been updated and while cosmetic improvements have been made, overall there's nothing too revolutionary to report. Spec levels are simply 1, 2, 3 and 4 and all road versions of the 4x4 crossover are given the prefix 'KX'.

There's a smart GT-Line model with an impressively smooth and supple gearbox, although there's not a seriously racy performer among the range. The GT-Line gets from 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds and reaches a maximum of 126mph, so it doesn't even pretend to sports car status. However it does look the part, with tinted windows, leather upholstery, a leather steering wheel in a sporty D shape, twin exhausts, heated seats and 19 inch alloys. Ignition is achieved using a neat push button starter.

What do you get?

The entry level '1' model as a manual 1.6 litre GDi costs from £17,995, while the range-topper is the full fat 2.0 litre CRDi First Edition, with a six speed automatic transmission and 182bhp for £31,645. This is loaded with modern technology including a retractable panoramic glass roof, a smart tailgate which automatically opens when you stand close with the key fob for three seconds and stop/start ignition technology. You also get autonomous emergency braking, lane keep assist, blind spot detection and self-parking which can find a space and put you neatly within it.

All models above the baseline get satellite navigation as standard. Unfortunately multi-adjustable electric seats can only be found with the highest spec First Edition model and while the engine range has been updated, the Sportage is nowhere near as clean and green as some of its rivals, with the GT-Line model still pushing 177g/km.

Bigger and better

As an SUV or crossover the Sportage offers an elevated ride height for a comfortable view of the road, but the newest edition features a lower floor pan and wider door openings for easier access. In fact the new Sportage is larger and therefore more spacious all round than its predecessor, with a capacious boot and more rear passenger legroom. A lowered boot rim makes loading and unloading easier while the rear seats can be folded almost completely flat, giving the latest Sportage more appeal as a load lugger than earlier models.

Kia has cleverly made sure that all the basics are in place with a maximum five star safety rating from Euro NCAP safety testing and the company's trademark 100,000 mile or seven year owner transferable warranty giving it immediate appeal in the competitive crossover market. The order books are open now on the new Sportage.

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