Kia Sportage

There's an awful lot to like about this tall, dramatic crossover car

There are some subtle marketing distinctions going on here.

So subtle that only marketing people appreciate them. The new Kia Sportage you see here is a "crossover", whereas the car it replaces was a "compact SUV". The former is meant to be more car-like, more stylish, less ultimately able off-road but better suited to real lives. The latter, being an SUV, is supposed to be perceived as less green and to impart more aggression against the world.

But I am struggling to detect any practical difference in concept. The new Sportage is wider than the old one and has a broad, chromium-plated grin on its visage. It is tall, and its deep flanks give an air of impregnability. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, it's an intimidating SUV.

Some crossovers redeem themselves by toning down the visual 4x4 references and by feeling car-like to drive. That means they sit well in the road rather than seeming to be perched on it; they steer with precision; are wieldy; and don't have the uncomfortable, lateral-rocking sensation typical of an SUV. This is caused by the stiff suspension, especially the anti-roll bars, needed to keep a tall car level in corners, and it's exaggerated by the fact that the occupants sit well above the roll axis, the imaginary line on which the car pivots as its body leans over.

The Nissan Qashqai, cited by Kia as a key Sportage rival, is a fine example of a car with mild SUV overtones. The Skoda Yeti is another. Compared with these, the Sportage feels much more the traditional, compromised SUV, a little too firm and fidgety on our ripply roads, and a little too vague in the response from its weighty but anaesthetised electric power steering. This, more than anything, is what makes it feel cumbersome in a tight spot, although those high flanks, a nose invisible from the driving seat, and thick roof pillars also make it hard to judge the Sportage's precise position. Just as well, then, that it can be had with a truly excellent reversing camera whose crisp, bright image appears within the interior mirror.

Maybe buyers (it costs £20,777) won't mind the cumbersomeness. They might consider it an advantage, because it adds to the SUV-like experience. And there is much else to like about the Sportage. Designed in Germany, built in the Czech Republic, it does look dramatic with those shallow windows, the hewn flanks, the racy roofline and a windscreen shaped like no other with its raised upper corners.

Inside it looks crisp, clean, futuristic, and of higher material quality than it actually is – although the leather is genuine enough. The detailing is painstakingly neat, and only the hard plastics of the upper door trims and the lack of non-slip rubber mats in the storage recesses spoil the picture. You might be disappointed that the rear seats neither slide nor fold fully flat, but the false boot floor is level with both the high rear sill and the folded seats. Cabin space is plentiful.

The first Sportage on sale in the UK is the range-topping First Edition version, as seen here. It does have four-wheel drive – a system which majors on the front wheels until a lack of grip under them encourages the engine's output rearwards – although most Sportages will be front-wheel drive only. Such Sportages, mainly with 1.7-litre turbodiesel or 1.6-litre petrol engines, arrive from November, but the lavishly equipped First Edition uses a new 2.0-litre turbodiesel with 134bhp and a 156g/km CO2 output, provided you specify the six-speed manual gearbox. The six-speed automatic increases this to 183g/km.

This new engine is one of the Sportage's best features. Somehow the residual clatter in diesel engines transmutes here into a crisp, aural edge like a good petrol engine's, with an accelerator response to match. It pulls vigorously and must be one of the best diesel engines currently on sale.

As a compact SUV, the Sportage is an interesting and striking possibility. But as a credible alternative to a regular family hatchback it's too unwieldy. There's a remarkable seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, though. And that is very hard to ignore.

The Rivals

Nissan Qashqai 2.0 dCi Tekna 4WD: from £24,695.

Good-to-drive crossover, expensive in this 4WD form, but well finished and equipped. More power than Kia, worse CO2.

Peugeot 3008 2.0 HDi Sport: £20,095.

No 4WD, but the 3008 copes well on poor terrain. Upmarket, sophisticated cabin, smooth and crisp engine with a healthy 150bhp, curious looks.

Skoda Yeti 2.0 TDI 140 Elegance 4WD.

£21,825. Most likeable of compact crossovers, here with top trim level. Lively engine, looks neat and friendly, great cabin quality, great to drive.

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

    £30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Engineers - Doncaster / Hull

    £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Service Only Engineers are requ...

    Recruitment Genius: Employability / Recruitment Adviser

    £23600 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Employability Service withi...

    Day In a Page

    Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

    The secret CIA Starbucks

    The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
    Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

    How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

    The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
    One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

    One million Britons using food banks

    Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

    Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

    The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

    The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
    Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

    A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
    Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

    Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

    They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
    Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

    The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
    The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

    The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

    Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
    How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

    How to run a restaurant

    As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
    Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

    Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

    For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
    Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

    Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

    The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
    10 best tote bags

    Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

    We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
    Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

    Paul Scholes column

    I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

    The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...