By Patrick James on 2017-01-08 - The author has been a motoring writer for more than 16 years. Formerly motoring editor at the Coventry Telegraph, he now produces motoring copy, on new car launches and road tests on a freelance basis.
Kia Sportage CRDI 2
LOOKING at the latest Kia Sportage it seems hard to believe it has evolved from a distinctly weird-looking model I hired when in America nearly 20 years ago.
The Sportage has changed dramatically since then, but at first glance you would not think the newest incarnation had changed that much from its immediate predecessor - apart from being new from the ground up.
It is becoming one hell of a success story as the the fourth best-selling car in its class in Europe, according to Kia and outselling excellent similar models like Audi Q3, BMW X1, Range Rover Evoque, Ford Kuga and Skoda Yeti.
It is a car much favoured on the school run, with its SUV looks and commanding road presence.
It does look good for an SUV, one of the best looking on the market. The latest model is now 400mm longer, with a 30mm increase in wheelbase. There is no change in width or height, but retains a distinctly swooping profile.
Distinctive features include the so called ‘tiger nose' main grille with a chromed surround and either black diamond or high-gloss black diamond mesh. There is also a new bonnet and elongated headlamps which also house feature LED daytime running lamps.
The interior is what Kia describe as a driver-oriented cockpit-style layout with the centre console now angled at 7.2 degrees towards the driver.
The dash itself is split into an upper and lower control area, the upper area housing touch screen and associated infotainment controls.
The classy interior now features soft touch finish and the dark, potentially gloomy interior is offset by chrome and bright silver finish to doors, steering wheel, gear lever and pedals
Head and legroom is excellent and there is extra padding and support for the seats. All round vision is good and the increased size brings extra stowage space.
The boot area now has an extra 14 litres of space giving a capacity of 491 litres with under-floor cargo screen storage. Fold the rear seats and maximum capacity increases to 1,480 litres.
On the road the car is capable rather than exciting, with revised suspension providing a comfortable drive.
The improved, fuel-efficient 1.7-litre diesel engine driven here and favoured by more than half of all Sportage buyers, delivers excellent economy.
With 114bhp coming through the front wheels on this model, Kia says it delivers an extra seven miles per gallon to a claimed 52.3, while carbon emissions drop to 119g/km, making it an attractive business option.
The car hits 60mph in 11.1 seconds and the handling feels safe, with little wallow on corners and the ride is geared for comfort rather than performance.
There are 18 variants based on four engines, three gearboxes and six trim lines. Even the entry-level '1' grade comes with 16-inch alloy wheels, adjustable heated door mirrors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, all-round electric windows, air conditioning, a DAB radio, Bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming, USB and AUX ports, and LED front map light.
The 2 level trim grade adds the seven or eight-inch touch screen system, roof rails, privacy glass and bigger alloy wheels.
For safety there is a rear view, parking camera, comprehensive airbags, ABS and stability programme and to top it all for that extra peace of mind, there's still Kia‘s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty.
Kia Sportage CRDI 2 Eco
Mechanical: 114ps, 1,685cc, 4cyl diesel engine driving front wheels via 6-speed manual gearbox
Max Speed: 109mph
0-62mph: 11.1 seconds
Combined MPG: 52.3
Insurance Group: 13
C02 emissions: 119g/km
Bik rating: 21%
Warranty: 7yrs/100,000 miles
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