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.

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style

Sales of the tablet are set to fall again, say analysts

Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Arts and Entertainment
George Lucas poses with a group of Star Wars-inspired Disney characters at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2010

George Lucas criticises the major Hollywood film studios

football West Brom vs Man Utd match report: Blind grabs point, but away form a problem for Van Gaal
Arts and Entertainment
Bloom Time: Mira Sorvino
tvMira Sorvino on leaving movie roles for 'The Intruders'
Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Adel Taraabt in action for QPR against West Ham earlier this month
footballQPR boss says midfielder is 'not fit to play football'
First woman: Valentina Tereshkova
peopleNASA guinea pig Kate Greene thinks it might fly
Chris Grayling, Justice Secretary: 'There are pressures which we are facing but there is not a crisis'

Does Chris Grayling realise what a vague concept he is dealing with?

Life and Style
The charity Sands reports that 11 babies are stillborn everyday in the UK
lifeEleven babies are stillborn every day in the UK, yet no one speaks about this silent tragedy
Blackpool is expected to become one of the first places to introduce the Government’s controversial new Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs)

Parties threaten resort's image as a family destination

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    History Teacher

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

    ** Female PE Teacher Urgently Required In Liverpool **

    £120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Secon...

    ** Cover Supervisors Urgently Required In Knowsley **

    £60 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Liverpool: Job opportunities for Seconda...

    Java developer - (Intershop Enfinity)

    £40000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Java Developer...

    Day In a Page

    Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

    Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

    Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
    British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

    British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

    Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
    Let's talk about loss

    We need to talk about loss

    Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

    Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
    Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

    'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

    If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
    James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

    Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
    Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

    Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

    Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
    Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

    Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

    Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
    How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

    How to dress with authority

    Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
    New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

    New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

    'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

    The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
    Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

    Tim Minchin interview

    For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
    Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

    Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
    Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

    Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

    Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album