WHILE many rivals struggle and flounder under the economic tide of the pandemic, one manufacturer has risen and is currently riding a wave of success.
Kia has defied the odds to increase its market share in boosting sales across Britain.
Could it be just down to its generous seven year warranty? I doubt it. More likely a combination of good value, of-the-moment styling and a sound, reliable product. Obviously, the maker's faith in their range by guaranteeing their cars for longer than most, plays its part too.
The current Sportage mid-size SUV has played a significant part in wining support. It's a car that's right for its time - brightly styled in a non-aggressive sort of way, roomy enough and a decent enough drive, although by latest standards it falls behind some of the opposition in terms of dynamics.
Although electric power is clearly the path of the future, it's diesel that has won the heart of most buyers here - mainly for its frugality and accessible performance. One of the latest additions to the Sportage range, which came at the same time as a mild facelift, was the introduction of a diesel 1.6litre hybrid to replace the old 1.7litre diesel.
With the helping hand of a 48V battery, CO2 is reduced as is fuel consumption while there's a slight increase in torque - so a win-win situation. We found that the mid 40s mpg was easily attainable during cross-country running.
The new engine is also noticeably more refined with less clatter, although it can't match the smoothness of a petrol unit.
In typical Kia fashion the topline JBL Black Edition Sportage comes with all the trinkets you could wish for - privacy glass, electric heated front seats, LED headlights, reversing camera and sat nav. And we loved the panoramic glass sunroof which has a massive opening.
Appropriately adorned in metallic black paintwork with matching grille and wheels, the effect is striking.
The cabin is generously proportioned and the fascia is solidly built with plenty of soft-touch surfaces and a feeling of quality. Dark shades prevail, creating a rather sombre environment.
It's a comfy car to travel in with well damped suspension that strikes the right balance between soaking up the ruts and ripples while restricting body roll when cornering to acceptable levels. The large well-shaped seats also play their part in making it a relaxing mile-eater.
Performance is about on par with its rivals with 62mph coming up in around 10 seconds. As with most diesels, it doesn't pay to hang on too long to the revs. Better instead to make the most of the strong torque available and keep the tachometer below 3,500rpm.
The standard six speed gearbox - an automatic option is available - isn't the slickest change but ratios are well chosen for cruising and town driving alike.
The rear boot platform is set quite high for loading heavy luggage, but the rear seats flip down quickly and easily to enlarge cargo carrying capacity.