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Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi

The Qashqai could be in trouble - Kia's cut-price compact SUV is here and we traveled to Korea to test it.

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The Sportage is already Kia’s biggest-seller in Europe and a big success story for the firm. But with this all-new model it’s poised to take an even bigger chunk of the Qashqai’s dominance. With good looks, a wide choice of efficient petrol and diesel engines plus Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty it gives buyers of more premium compact SUVs something to think about. As for the handling and interior quality, we’ll have to reserve judgment until we get our hands on a Euro-spec car.

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Is the Sportage finally living up to its name? The third generation of Kia’s compact SUV lands in the UK this summer - and style is top of the agenda. We travelled to Korea to test one of the first cars off the production line.

The overhauled exterior is a sleeker and more enticing proposition. Up front the new family grille gives the car an uncluttered nose, while a dynamic shoulder line and tapered roofline help to create a sporty profile. At the rear, although the styling is neat and tidy, there’s clearly inspiration taken from Audi - former employers of design boss Peter Schreyer.

Video: watch CarBuyer's video review of the Kia Sportage

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Longer, wider but lower - by six centimetres - than the car it replaces the new Sportage has a noticeably more stable stance. On first impressions it has a presence closer to a car than a lofty off-roader.

Inside our Korean-spec test car the dash plastics were harder andscratchier than we’d hoped for. However, Kia insisted though that thequality would take a leap for European-spec cars built in Slovakia.Other than that the dash is well laid-out, there’s an abundance ofstorage spaces and there’s impressive roominess and boot space.

From launch two 2.0-litre engines will be available, a petrol with161bhp and the diesel tested here. Both have the option of two orfour-wheel drive and a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. Later inthe year a 138bhp direct-injection 1.6 GDI and a 113bhp 1.7 CRDi willalso arrive in showrooms.

Our top-spec diesel punched hard from 1,800rpm but the torque tailedoff quite quickly after 2,500rpm. It was fairly refined though and theimpressive economy figures speak for themselves.

Suspension settings in the Korean Sportage have been tuned for comfort,whereas European cars will receive stiffer dampers and springs as wellas bigger anti-roll bars. But even our softly-sprung test car managedto resist body roll well – which means UK models have a chance of beingamong the best-handling cars in the class.

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