New Sportage heads

electrical charge

Kia Sportage, side action 2
Kia Sportage, front action
Kia Sportage, front action 2
Kia Sportage, side action
Kia Sportage, rear action
Kia Sportage, boot 2
Kia Sportage, dashboard
Kia Sportage, rear seats
Kia Sportage, boot 1

KIA has stepped up its charge to electric power with a new range topping version of its best seller in the UK - the Sportage SUV.

With four in ten Kias wearing a Sportage badge it's an important vehicle for the firm, outsold in its class only by the Nissan Qashqai.

That means more motorists were tempted by a Sportage than an Audi Q3, Ford Kuga, Peugeot 3008, SEAT Ateca, VW Tiguan or Range Rover Evoque. So yes, it's important.

Important, then, that the Sportage stays fresh in the minds of potential purchasers. So say hello to a gently refreshed version of the Slovakian-built sales success, which hits the showroom from £20,305.

There are the mandatory, but modest, tickles to looks outside and in (front bumper, fog lamps, grille, steering wheel, instruments) and the old 1.7 litre diesel engine option is replaced by a cleaner and more powerful 1.6 unit in two states of tune (114bhp or 134bhp and 130g/km and 126g/km).

The two 1.6 litre petrol engines remain almost unchanged, with 130bhp/162g/km and 174bhp/173g/km on offer, although that's an £830 first year hit on road tax for the latter.

Which is precisely the same substantial first year figure for the newest and dearest Sportage, the £34,545 GT-Line S with 2.0 CRDi 48V engine.

That's because, although there's a modest electric motor assist for the engine the fuel it uses is diesel and the government increasingly dislikes the stuff and penalises users who choose it.

This sort of engine is called a mild hybrid - and mild it is. There's a small extra battery beneath the boot floor, charged from a motor that does service to both start the engine or turn generator when you lift off the throttle.

That way there will often be a little extra electrical oomph to help out the diesel.

It means official economy and emissions are improved over the old 2.0 litre, with overall consumption improved from 44.8mpg to 48.7mpg and CO2 down from 166g/km to 152g/km. The new cleaner exhaust misses saving £315 on first year tax by a single g/km.

The new engine comes only in a top spec Sportage, which means there's an automatic gearbox on board, along with all-wheel drive.

Standard spec is lavish, from adaptive cruise control and ventilated and electrically adjusted front seats and heated steering wheel to a JBL sound system, powered tailgate, sunroof, leather upholstery and a 360 around view camera system.

It felt lively and smooth on the move, staying calm and quiet on some winding mountain roads in the Slovakian mountains near where the Sportage is built, offering the sort of undemanding progress and commanding driving position that builds long term loyalty for the best SUVs.

The test drive produced a 40.1mpg read out on the trip computer, not quite the sales clincher you might have hoped for. Especially as the less expensive 1.6 diesel in similar trim costs £31,245 - saving £3,300 and showing better official economy figures.

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