As the only brand in the UK to provide a seven-year warranty on its cars, Kia is clearly confident in its products – and with the new Sportage in its line-up, it’s easy to see why.
While the Korean machine does not quite match its competitors for prestige, it makes up for this with style. Design boss Peter Schreyer is the man behind the Audi TT
, and it shows – the Sportage garners more admiring glances than the BMW and Land Rover put together.
Up front there’s the familiar Kia bow-tie grille, flanked by sharp headlamps with fashionable integrated LED running lights. And despite being the shortest car here, the Kia – with its tiny side windows and deep body – has a purposeful stance. In flagship 3 spec, you also get attractive 18-inch brushed-alloy rims and chrome trim for the handles, roof rails and windows.
Inside, the cabin isn’t quite as adventurous, but it’s far from disappointing. Heated leather seats are standard, even in the back, and 3 models also benefit from climate control, a panoramic glass roof and parking sensors. The new integrated sat-nav system merits a special mention, as it includes one of the best iPod interfaces we have used – it also comes as standard.
Trim quality is generally good and the car-like driving position doesn’t seem to have affected comfort, as there’s plenty of room in the back. The sloping roofline restricts headroom for taller passengers, though, and the spacious boot is no match for the Land Rover’s. Still, it does include a 12V power socket, two hooks, a luggage net and a lidded cubby.
As the Sportage offers 114bhp and 260Nm of torque – 27bhp and 60Nm less than its nearest rival – you’d expect it to trail at the track. But while the performance figures look disappointing on paper, the car never feels slow on the road. This is partly due to the fact that peak torque is delivered at only 1,250rpm (500rpm earlier than either rival). And while the diesel isn’t the quietest unit, it’s settled at cruising speeds.
The car’s downsides include rear visibility, which is limited by the thick C-pillars and letterbox-style back window, plus grip levels, which are the lowest of our trio. The Sportage is also wayward under heavy braking – it was the least stable model in our tests.
Hit the road, and the Kia is more nimble than the Freelander. However, it can’t match the precision of the X1, while the steering is too light and numb to inspire real confidence.
An EcoDynamics badge suggests the model should offer impressive economy and efficiency, and during its time with us, the Sportage led the way, returning 36mpg. It also emits 143g/km, and sits between the Land Rover and BMW in the CO2 stakes. This rounds off an impressive showing – so has the generously equipped, economical and stylish Kia done enough to win?
Chart position: 1WHY: Radical looks and a list of standard kit rivals can only dream of make the Kia a strong contender. Factor in impressive economy and efficiency, and there’s lots to like.