Looks – 8/10
Well I think one of the reasons may well be the looks; the Sportage is a rather stylish thing. The front end is rather recognisable as a Kia. The chrome grill surround and daytime running lights really give the front end a premium look, whilst the prominent badge reminds you exactly what you’re driving. The side profile is unusual, due to the oddly-shaped rear door. But I rather like it; balancing curves with straighter, simpler lines. At the back there’s less going on; a line across the boot and a shark-fin aerial. I wasn’t so keen on the wheels; I thought they were a bit plain, and look smaller than the 18-inch diameter they are. And although I like the privacy glass and touches of chrome I thought the silver paint didn’t do the styling any justice; I much prefer the white or burnt orange options.
On the inside the blend of simple style and quality continue. The dashboard isn’t the most complex of designs, but with the trim used it looks good. The centralised media screen is nice, as are the instruments in front of the driver. The seats are a nice design with contrasting stitching, and there’s a twin sunroof to really finish off the interior quality. I found the steering wheel a bit odd; especially the buttons at the bottom. The handbrake and gear knob were also on the cheap-looking side, but these are only minor touches on an otherwise pleasant cabin, so overall the Sportage scores well.
Handling/Performance – 6/10
The engine in my test car was the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine, with Intelligent Stop & Go (ISG). It’s not a massive powerplant; offering up 114PS and 260Nm of torque. In a car this size that isn’t an awful lot, meaning the Sportage will go from 0-62mph in a rather pedestrian 11.9 seconds and on to a top speed of 107mph. The 6-speed manual gearbox does help to offer what little power the engine has at all times, such that it doesn’t feel as slow to drive as the figures suggest. The in-gear acceleration is good, and on the motorway there’s plenty of overtaking oomph and cruising is easy in 6th gear. This is a car with economy in mind more than power, so bear that in mind.
The handling isn’t the best either, mostly because of the large wheels and tall body. The steering assistance can be altered between Normal, Comfort and Sport, although I didn’t find this altered much apart from the weighting. There was no feel from the steering to communicate the road to the driver, although given the noticeable lean on entry into corners I’m glad it wasn’t more responsive. The ride is comfortable in general; motorway driving is by far the best driving experience though. The 18-inch wheels are to blame for making country roads unpleasant, meaning you certainly have less forgiveness over the bumps than models with smaller wheels and more rubber to soak them up.
Economy – 8/10
So the advantage of buying the 1.7-litre surely comes with economy? Well yes and no. The combined fuel consumption of 54.3mpg doesn’t sound bad at all. Nor does the CO2 emissions figure of 135g/km. But the problem here is that cars are becoming more and more efficient, with lower CO2 figures. The Sportage here sits in VED band E, and that means £125 road tax in the first and subsequent years. Given that this isn’t the heaviest of cars and has the ISG technology, I would have expected better from this engine.
Practicality – 10/10
The Sportage is even bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside. Rear legroom is extremely generous, and that applies to the cabin as a whole. The boot is plenty big enough for all your shopping and then some, and should you fold the rear seats down you can fit bikes in no problem. We had two in, with all the gear, and the Sportage gobbled them up without issue. It’s also a nice car to live with. Visibility is good, and parking isn’t a problem. There’s cruise control, a reversing camera and dual-zone air conditioning which make life easier as well, and the satellite navigation system, Bluetooth and iPod connectivity complete the package when it comes to media and communication. The heated rear seats were a great touch, and you can have a 4WD system if you want to go further afield; pardon the pun.
Fun – 7/10
So how does the Sportage make you feel when driving; does it manage to put a smile on your face? Well overall I’d say yes, it does. The stylish looks catch your eye as you drive past shop windows. It may not be a car to set your hair on fire, but it is nice enough to drive that I enjoyed grabbing the keys and giving it a new challenge. And no matter what we threw at it the Sportage coped effortlessly. There are a few niggles, such as the lack of power and the colour, but despite all this I couldn’t help but like the Kia. I wouldn’t mind trying out one of the 4WD models to see how it copes with the tough stuff, but I’ll save that for another time.
So the Kia Sportage then. I enjoyed my week with it, and in particular it was nice to be able to get the bikes out and shove them in the back with ease. Everyone who saw the Kia commented how impressed they were with the quality of the finish, and that’s testament to the effort Kia have put into their current cars. The 7-year warranty will give you peace of mind, and shows the confidence Kia put in their cars. The prices for the Sportage start at £17,500 but by the time you get to the ‘3’ with satellite navigation you’re looking at £23,900. It actually represents rather good value and given the level of equipment on offer at this spec, and so is probably one of the many reasons people are buying them. For more information pop into your local Kia dealership or visit the Kia website. The Kia Sportage; the sensible and stylish choice.
Total Score – 39/50