THE Kia Sportage has always been a success story for the Korean brand and now the appeal has increased further with a midlife refresh to the fourth-generation model and, perhaps more importantly, the arrival of a mild hybrid powertrain.
The 2018 Sportage gets a freshen up with redesigned front bumper and new fog lights, additional black or chrome trim, a redesign of the ‘tiger nose' grille plus full LED headlights with distinctive daytime running lights.
At the rear, the slim combination lights retain their horizontal shape but feature a new C-shaped LED light signature. There are new 16, 17 and 19-inch wheel designs and a choice of five extra paint colours. The car is 5mm longer, but the wheelbase, width and height remain the same.
The interior boasts upgraded infotainments systems, a new steering wheel and instrumentation layout with either a seven or eight-inch touchscreen with smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto as standard.
All trim levels are well equipped and there are six grades to choose from called ‘1', ‘2', ‘Edition 25', ‘4', ‘GT Line' and ‘GT Line S' with prices ranging from Â£20,305 to Â£34,545. The Edition 25 model is a limited-run version to celebrate 25 years of the Sportage.
The Sportage engine line-up has also been improved to meet Euro 6d TEMP emissions standards. The 1.7-litre CRDi turbo diesel engine is replaced by a new 1.6-litre engine delivering 114bhp or 134bhp and Kia says it's the cleanest engine they have ever produced.
On the petrol front, there is a cleaner 1.6-litre unit delivering 130bhp or 174bhp.
But the engine gaining all the headlines is the mild hybrid powertrain that sees a 2.0-litre diesel engine supplemented by a 48-volt battery and starter generator.
This delivers 182bhp and the compact size of the mild-hybrid powertrain made it relatively simple to integrate into the Sportage's existing architecture with the 48-volt battery located beneath the boot floor.
The boot capacity has not been compromised, but the full-size spare is replaced by a tyre repair kit.
We tried the Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48v eight-speed automatic model with AWD and in range-topping GT-Line S specification priced at £34,545.
This car can reach 60mph from a standing start in 9.2 seconds, tops out at 125mph and, according to official figures, can deliver combined fuel economy of 48.7mpg with carbon emissions of 152g/km.
I always think one of the best compliments you can make about any hybrid car is to claim it drives and feels quite normal and that's exactly the case with the Sportage.
Yes, you do feel a slight braking sensation as it recuperates energy when you take your foot off the gas but that's it.
We drove the car on a range of mountain roads with sharp hairpin bends and dual carriageways in Slovakia and it met every challenge with ease.
The acceleration through the automatic gearbox is smooth with a constant supply of power at your disposal. The steering wheel-mounted paddles offer extra control over the gear shifts if the mood takes you.
The 2.0-litre engine delivers all the power needed to climb twisting mountain roads and there is ample zip for short bursts of acceleration to overtake slower moving vehicles.
Our range-topper oozed quality throughout with a wealth of on-board technology at your disposal. The dashboard is split into two horizontal sections - the upper half houses the floating touchscreen infotainment system and the lower level is where all the controls for the audio, heating and ventilation are located.
Techno treats include black leather upholstery with red piping and stitching, 10-way power-adjustable driver and eight-way power adjustable front passenger seats, an eight-inch touchscreen sat nav system with European mapping, an eight speaker JBL premium sound system, wireless mobile phone charger, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto smartphone connection plus plenty more besides.
And with a maximum five-star Euro NCAP safety rating, the Sportage offers excellent protection for occupants and pedestrians alike. There is also a range of driver assist features to help prevent accidents happening in the first place or at least reduce the severity of any impact.
The Kia Sportage is the second best-selling car in its class in the UK and with the latest upgrades customers can now choose from a 21-model line-up based on five engines, three transmissions and six trim lines. So, there should be something to suit all budgets and requirements.