Kia Sportage 1.7

CRDi 2 Eco

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi, front
Kia Sportage, front action
Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi, rear
Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi, interior
Kia Sportage, boot
Kia Sportage, 2016, front
Kia Sportage, rear action
Kia Sportage, side static
Kia Sportage, top static
Kia Sportage, 2016, rear

TWO recent events highlight the journey Kia has undertaken from a car maker associated with cheap and cheerful budget motors to one praised for quality automobiles.

The first relates to an award for its Sportage model I have just been driving - but it is perhaps the second that shows how times have changed as Kia finished at the summit of an influential US car quality study usually the preserve of luxury brands.

The annual survey by consultancy JD Power asked more than 80,000 car buyers their opinion and discovered that Kia had the fewest problems in the first 90 days of ownership - followed by Porsche, Hyundai, Toyota and BMW.

It is the first time a non-premium brand has topped the study and shows the giant strides Kia is making in changing customers perceptions of its cars.

The latest version of the Sportage, launched earlier this year, does nothing to spoil that improved view - evidenced by it recently winning Diesel Car Magazine's car of the year award.

There are 18 versions of the new Sportage based on four power units, a choice of transmissions and the option of two or all-wheel drive as well as five trim levels called 1, 2, 3, 4 and GT-Line.

Having just driven the 1.7-litre oil burning front-wheel drive mid-range Sportage 2 it is easy to see why this compact SUV, or family crossover as they are now called, has created such a good impression.

It is the complete package offering lots of goodies with even entry-level models including Bluetooth connectivity, 16-inch alloys, DAB digital radio, LED daytime running lights, leather trim and air conditioning as well as a dynamic drive with great handling characteristics and a distinctive design.

The 2 model adds further baubles such as 17-inch rims, cruise control, sat nav, reversing camera and sensors, roof rails and privacy glass to the mix.

Kia hasn't forgotten its value for money roots though so the range is competitively priced with all models covered by the industry leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty. No wonder then that the company reported more than 14,000 orders for the Sportage in its first four months on sale.

The 1.7-litre CRDi 2 I drove is available only with front-wheel drive as Kia claim market research has shown demand for a four-wheel version at this level would be almost non-existent. So for those wanting the option of some off-road fun extra cash must be forked out for one of the more expensive models.

The 114bhp diesel model, priced at £22,050, has a six-speed manual gearbox and can sprint from 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds on its way to a top speed of 109mph. It sips fuel with refreshing frugality with Kia claiming a combined fuel economy figure of 61.4mpg - helped by a stop-start system - and carbon dioxide emissions at 119g/km.

The fourth generation of the Sportage is all-new from the ground up with the exterior a bit of a departure from what went before with a re-worked grille dominating its face.

Athletic, muscular styling is the order of the day, thanks to ex-Audi designer Peter Schreyer, with a sculpted bonnet and chiselled rear end catching the eye.

The cabin is also much improved with good quality materials much in evidence while the smartphone connectivity demanded of modern motors these days is a given.

There's plenty of interior space for five adults thanks to the new Sportage being longer and wider allowing greater leg room for those in the back.

There are plenty of cubby holes for your bits and bobs while boot space is plentiful.

FAST FACTS

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi 2 Eco

Price:£22,050

Mechanical:114bhp, 1,685cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox

Max Speed:109mph

0-62mph:11.1 seconds

Combined MPG:61.4

Insurance Group:13

C02 emissions:119g/km

Bik rating:21%

Warranty:7yrs/100,000 miles

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