Kia tweaks new Sportage for UK conditions

By David Wilkins
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Indy Lifestyle Online

Kia has announced that the final "set-up, benchmarking and evaluation stage of testing" for its latest Sportage SUV has taken place in the UK, where the new car was tweaked to provide "the right levels of comfort and performance for the very specific road conditions we have here."

There is a widely held belief among UK motoring journalists that British roads are worse than those in other European countries, and that new cars need adjustments of the sort that Kia is carrying out on the Sportage if they are to ride and handle satisfactorily here. It has therefore become very common for manufacturers to build UK-specific testing into their development schedules - Volvo, for example, has been emphasising the amount of time its new S60 has spent on British roads before being let loose on the public.

However, nobody ever seems to have rigorously demonstrated that UK roads are indeed worse than those in other European countries, although they certainly do have some distinctive characteristics - for example, many of our asphalt surfaces are rather coarse with exposed stone chips, a feature that's designed to improve grip, but which may also increase road noise. But the question of whether such differences really require a special UK-specific set-up, rather than lying within the parameters of tests to which any new car should in any case be routinely subjected, and whether the issues involved are actually discernible to normal car buyers, as opposed to expert testers, is another matter.

It's probably also worth mentioning that most British journalists' experience of continental roads is based mainly on routes that have been specially selected by car manufacturers to show off their products in the best light on launches, which must surely skew any comparisons that are made with UK conditions.

Still, while there is felt to be a problem, the manufacturers will probably continue to make a big fuss about carrying out these now almost compulsory UK-specific tweaks to their cars.

As for the Sportage itself, if it follows the pattern set by other recent Kia products, in particular the larger Sorento SUV, the new version can probably be expected to represent quite a leap forward compared with its predecessor.

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