Wednesday, 10 August 2016

COLUMN – August 2016

Here is another chance to see my column from the August editions of The Local Herald and The Clitheroe Local. As is becoming typical of my year, this was another busy month. I managed to cram in 4 reviews, with three 4WD SUV's in the Kia Sportage, Land Rover Discovery Sport and Jeep Cherokee. There's also a crossover- the Fiat 500X- thrown in for good measure. With each cars having their own strengths and weaknesses, it was interesting to test them all in a short space of time. Read on to see what I thought, and as always visit the Reviews page for full write-ups.

So in what was one of my busiest months, I begin with the new Kia Sportage. An eagerly-anticipated replacement is now in the showrooms, and I grabbed a First Edition to see if it could live up to the high standards set by the outgoing model. It can. The styling has hints of last model, whilst adding a more premium feel to both the exterior lines and cabin finish. The First Edition gets 19-inch alloys, a panoramic roof and privacy glass (amongst other things) to really give it the wow factor.

There are a host of powertrain to choose from, but the First Edition gets a 2.0-litre diesel with 182PS and 400Nm of torque. It has a 6-speed automatic gearbox and AWD. On one hand, cruising is a delight, but with CO2 emissions of 166g/km it feels like it could be greener. It couldn’t be more packed with technology though; from heated/cooled front seats to park-pilot, you’ll want for nothing.

Another exciting new car is the Land Rover Discovery Sport. I had a HSE Luxury on test, which is almost top-of-the-range. It, like the Kia, had a huge list of standard equipment. It has a 2.0-litre diesel engine and AWD, but it is a new Ingenium engine. Coupled to a 9-speed automatic gearbox, the Disco Sport can certainly pick its feet up; 0-62mph in 8.4 seconds. But with combined fuel consumption of 53.3mpg and CO2 of 139g/km it’s efficient and cheap to run, which makes it a winner.

The styling is fresh and modern, and feels more akin to a Range Rover than the Freelander it replaces. There are 7 seats, although the rearmost two are best suited to children. Prices start at £31,095 and the HSE Luxury starts at £43,400. Whilst this is a lot of money, you get a lot of car. It will do everything, from the school run to the solitary commute, and do them faultlessly.

Next I had the Fiat 500X. Fiat have several 500-based vehicles now, and this is the crossover offering. The exterior styling is rather funky; the fun, cheeky Fiat 500-ness is there, but with a more rugged stance. There are two styles to the 500X; the ‘City’ or ‘Off-road’ look. The latter is better, and suits the very nature of a crossover. The interior is OK, albeit a little on the dark side, and the standard ‘eco-leather’ looks a bit cheap.

My car had a 1.4-litre turbocharged petrol engine and 6-speed manual gearbox. It’s a rather pokey motor, with 140PS and 230Nm of torque. It cruises well, and with selectable drive modes including Sport and Traction Plus it makes the most out of its 2WD (a 4WD version is available). My car, as tested, was £21,090, making it good value in a crowded crossover market.

Last up this month is the Jeep Cherokee. This is a mid-size SUV and, in Limited trim as tested, has a whole host of creature comforts. The styling is very American, from the Chrome snarling teeth up front to the woodgrain trim and cushiony leather seats. But look a little deeper and you find a 2.2-litre diesel engine with start stop technology, a 9-speed automatic and rather good economy figures.

There’s more too. This car had just about every conceivable feature on it, from radar cruise control to heated and cooled front seats. There is just one catch; the price. At £41,560 as tested it’s not what you’d call cheap, and at that price point you can choose from quite a few cars, including the Evoque, Q3 and X3. Jeep has the heritage, the off-road pedigree and, thanks to FCA Group ownership, reliable and efficient engines. It could well tempt you.

Dan

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