- We like...Value; long warranty
- We don't...Blind spots when reversing
Crossovers. Cars that share the beefy looks and high-set cabins of ‘proper’ 4x4s but aren’t meant to be taken off-road. Nissan’s Qashqai has proved that we’ve a real appetite for ‘em and umpteen other makes have since bid for a share of the pie.
Kia’s the latest with its all-new Sportage. This is the make’s best-known model and has been with us since the mid-1990s. Previous versions carved a reputation as tough, good-value off-roaders: as good at tackling the school run as they were if towing a trailer.
But this newcomer takes a new direction. It’s the first Kia designed from scratch by the make’s hotshot new designer, ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer. His brief was to re-shape the car so that it would make a play for those tempted by the likes of the Qashqai, Ford Kuga or Volkswagen Tiguan. Its closest rival, however, is Hyundai’s ix35 with which it shares engines and running gear.
To do that he’s made the Sportage longer, lower and wider than before, while trimming 90kgs – as much as a hefty 6ft man – from its overall weight. The broad chrome-y grille first seen on the facelifted Cee’d hatchback makes an appearance and the car moves rearwards from its sabre-blade headlamps to a high, upswept tail. It’s neat, handsome and a big change from the chunky lines of the previous Sportage. Only the bigger-engined models come with four-wheel-drive; the others deliver power only to the front wheels and for that reason won’t do that well off-road.
Inside, while there’s nothing to amaze it’s good-looking and up to the minute, with no hint of Kia’s budget-brand past. It’s airy and feels as solid as you’d expect of a car that (like every Kia) comes backed by a seven-year/100,000-mile maker’s warranty. It’s roomy, too, easily seating five grown-ups, although the one sat in the centre rear will find the backrest uncomfortably hard. Boot space is reasonable and the rear seat backs drop to add extra space, although they don’t quite fold flat.
The view out isn’t great, though: a small rear screen leaves blind spots when reversing, as do the front screen pillars when emerging from a tight junction.
Like other Kias, the Sportage comes in ‘1’, ‘2’ and ‘3’ trim levels. The entry model is well equipped – packing air conditioning, alloy wheels, smart two-tone cloth seats and a black dash with silver trim, a rain sensor, six airbags, anti-lock brakes, leather wrapped steering wheel and gear knob, fog lamps, and daytime running lamps. Moving up to ‘2’ adds part-leather trim, roof rails, privacy glass, reversing sensors and twin glass panels in the roof. The top-level ‘3’ adds leather seats with heaters for the driver and front passenger, two-zone climate control, bigger alloy wheels, Xenon headlamps and wipers that de-ice themselves. Which would we choose? We’d be happy with the entry model because there’s no hint with it that you’re ‘doing without’.
You pick between four engines – a 1.6 petrol, a 1.7 turbodiesel and a petrol and diesel, each of 2.0 litre capacity. We’ve driven the smaller pair, which are both new. Each is modest for the Sportage’s size but they’re helped a little by having to drive only the front wheels. A stop-start system is fitted as standard to reduce CO2 emissions and improve fuel economy.
As expected, neither makes a quick car of the Sportage and demand a fair number of change-downs to keep the pace going uphill. The 1.6 petrol is the weaker and may struggle if you’ve a full load of passengers and luggage. But both engines are cultured at speed. And while there’s wind rustle around the screen at 70mph, the car’s otherwise pretty quiet.
It also makes a strong trade-off between comfort and body control although the 1.6 petrol car, being lighter, thumps over poor surfaces. It’s an easy car to drive, making it an easy one to switch to, even if all you’ve driven before are much smaller cars.
Should you buy one? Why not - it stands equal to any rival for quality and value, while its seven-year warranty (at time of writing) trumps them all. Go for the entry model, though: the 1.6 petrol ‘1’ costs the same as low-end VW Golfs and Ford Focuses – but is a heck of a lot more car.
- Engines1.6 GDI petrol
- 0-60 mph10.7secs
- Insurance groups
Motors.co.uk value verdict: