Looking at the new car you can tell it is a Sportage; there are familiar lines. Most obvious is the side profile, and in particular the rear door. At the front the grille is the Kia ‘family’ shape, and almost shouts at you. It’s a rather bold front, with aggressive headlights and gritted teeth. The First Edition gets 19-inch, two-tone alloy wheels, along with privacy glass, chrome window surround and a side skirt decal. At the back the tail lights are connected with a chrome strip, and a more prominent rear spoiler frames the back end. There’s just a more premium appearance to the new car, yet it looks bold and rugged too. I think it will split opinion, as the old model played it safer with looks, but I’m certainly in the love camp on the new one.
On the inside the First Edition is treated to a two-tone grey leather interior, and it is a breath of fresh air. A lot of cabins are getting darker, and the Sportage feels light and airy. The dashboard is grey up top and beige below, offering a wonderful contrast, and the stitched effect on the top of the dash is a wonderful touch of quality. The ugly steering wheel is gone, and scratchy plastics are kept to a minimal. Piano black finishers finish off the interior, while the crisp LCD dials catch the driver’s eye. Considering the number of buttons on the dashboard, Kia have done well to avoid making it feel cluttered. All the switchgear is where you would expect it to be, and the centre console is slightly angled toward the driver. It’s a simple yet effective touch.
The First Edition has one choice of powertrain only. You get a 2.0-litre diesel engine with 182PS and 400Nm of torque. This is sent to an AWD system through a 6-speed automatic gearbox. This engine is powerful and suits the automatic gearbox which, generally, keeps the revs below 2,000rpm or so. At this level it feels smooth and refined. The AWD system makes it easy to get the power down, with no torque steer or any hint of wheel-spin. On the motorway the Sportage will happily sit at 70mph, yet a mere stab of the right foot will provide suitable overtaking momentum. The 0-62mph sprint takes 9.2 seconds, and the First Edition will hit 125mph. For a 1,690kg 4x4 that’s not too bad, although a bit of extra power wouldn’t go amiss.
The AWD system in the Sportage gives a sure-footedness to the driving experience. Even in torrential rain- when the spray reduces visibility to around 25cm, and standing water is sending everyone else into the central reservation- the Kia feels planted, assured and civilised from behind the wheel. Through B-road corners the Sportage leans a little, although it’s generally very good thanks to the new stiffer steel frame. The Kia rides its 19-inch shoes well; I was impressed with the ride quality even on big wheels. On the motorway the Sportage is comfortable and soft, making long commutes pleasant. The variable power steering has gone, and Kia has replaced it with a new variable-assistance power steering setup. The assistance motor is now located on the rack instead of the steering column, and overall the feel is better. Weighting of the steering can be adapted with the Drive Mode select; with Eco, Normal and Sport options. I like the weighty feel in sport mode, but this does also affect engine and gearbox dynamics.
Economy – 7/10
Fun – 6/10
Thanks to all the tech, the Sportage keeps you interested. It will take you a considerable amount of time to get to grips with everything, and I would imagine it can do things which I simply did not discover in my week with it. But as far as the driving experience goes, the Sportage lacks a certain something. I think it could be an essence of sportiness, which almost adds a playful edge to a sensible family car such as the Sportage. Happily there is an alternative trim- the GT Line- and this features sportier bumpers, alloy wheels and all the key equipment you’d want. There’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine available too, with a choice of 6-speed manual or 7-speed DCT gearbox, and this could perhaps appeal to the petrolhead- I’m tempted to get hold of one to find out…
So there you have it. The Kia Sportage First Edition. It has taken the baton and it running with it. The styling has given it a more luxurious edge, as well as bringing its face in line with the rest of the updated Kia model line-up. There are some interesting new engines, including a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol with a DSG gearbox. The standard specification is as generous as we have become accustomed to, and the 7-year warranty will give you peace of mind in ownership. And at £31,650 for the First Edition represents good value for money. There is, however, one small problem; the Hyundai Tucson. You see it is better looking than the Sportage on the outside, has the same engines and technology, and costs very much the same too. It makes your decision a little more difficult. For more information log on to the Kia website or visit a dealer. The Kia Sportage; many, many reasons to wow you.
Total Score – 40/50