Kia's latest Sportage takes on the massive-selling Qashqai at its own game. Has it enough to worry the big-selling Nissan?
Inside & Out: 8/10
Kia is pretty darn handy at designing cars lately and this third generation Sportage really illustrates that. Massively different than the car it replaces, the new Sportage is a very good-looking SUV and it joins a raft of very fashionable SUVs such as the Ford Kuga and Hyundai ix35, but now also needs to take on the MINI Countryman. The Sportage is well placed for the task though, as not only does it look good inside and out, but it is ludicrously well-equipped too.
The seats are comfortable and the driving position is good and the centre stack is dominated by a one piece unit that houses the audio system. This also incorporates Bluetooth that will operate your iPhone. There is also somewhere to plug in your iPod and a USB stick and a leather steering wheel with controls for the audio too. There's loads of leg- and headroom, the boot is very spacious and you can fold down the seats with a click of a button.
Engine & Transmission: 8/10
There is a choice of two engines here in Ireland: a 1.7-litre 114hp diesel with front-wheel drive or a 136hp 2.0-litre diesel with four-wheel drive - the latter of which will sell in smaller numbers. The 2.0-litre diesel was the only choice available until the end of 2010, but 2011 sees the arrival of the 1.7-litre, which is he model we tested. On paper, it might seem that this would be a little anaemic for an SUV, but the 1.7-litre copes well. Granted it isn't that quiet - sounding a little more vocal than the 2.0-litre we had driven before - but it has to work that bit harder.
The 0-100km/h sprint takes 12.3 seconds, which doesn't make it a rocket but it doesn't feel slow either. Top speed, in theory, is 173km/h. There is certainly enough torque (at 255Nm) to keep the car from feeling in any way sluggish. The six-speed transmission is pretty good too. Ours felt a little notchy but the car didn't yet have a lot of miles on it.
Ride & Handling: 7/10
When we drove the Kia Sportage at the European launch some time back we weren't overly impressed with how it drove. At the time we found that the car didn't cope well with poor road surfaces and said we were "disappointed by the lack of feel from the steering and through very tight corners there was no real assurance of grip, with the rear end feeling a little skittish".
Back here in Ireland things appear to have improved and while the ride isn't perfect - and the handling isn't as good as the Ford Kuga's - it does feel like a much better car this time around. It feels pretty similar to its cousin the Hyundai ix35, if perhaps a fraction more firmly sprung. It is comfortable though and over a variety of surfaces coped quite well. It was particularly icy when we had the Sportage and we did miss the four-wheel drive in these conditions.
Equipment, Economy & Value for Money: 8/10
There is a heap of kit thrown in as standard, so you get things like 17-inch alloy wheels, half leather trim, privacy glass, cruise control, voice activated Bluetooth and a panoramic sunroof. The fuel economy is very good too and because this model features stop-start it has low emissions of 134g/km - meaning it sits in tax Band B with annual road tax of just â¬156.
The Kia Sportage is an impressive vehicle and our take on this car is that, given the demand, there is likely to be for it, Kia dealers might find it hard to keep them in stock. It matches the Nissan Qashqai and is good enough to take on the Ford Kuga and Hyundai ix35. The seven-year warranty also makes it a smashing buy.