New Kia Sportage prototype review

Verdict on pre-production Kia SUV during testing in California

While it’s clear Kia has focused on ride comfort and quality rather than sporty handling, the new Sportage looks to build on the old model’s success in near enough every area. We’ve high hopes for the interior, too.

As we’ve already seen, the all-new Sportage has taken huge steps towards a more contemporary, European design, but can that be paired with big improvements to refinement and comfort? 

New Kia Sportage revealed

Before Kia showcases the Sportage at the Frankfurt Motor Show, Auto Express joined the Korean manufacturer in California’s Mojave Desert to sample an early prototype.

As you can see, the pre-production model we tested was heavily camouflaged inside and out – the SUV had yet to be revealed when we got our hands on it, but you can see the new car further down the page. It feels familiar but more modern inside, thanks to the slicker dash architecture and larger integrated touchscreen.

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The 2.4-litre petrol auto we tried won’t make it to our shores, but as a package the marked step up in quality was apparent, as was a remarkably quieter ride. Acoustic shields and extra sound deadening have been added to various components to cut road and engine noise. Although we were on recently resurfaced roads, Kia confirmed UK-bound models will have further tweaks for this country’s more neglected tarmac.

The six-speed automatic transmission was, on the whole, smooth, although there were moments when there was slight hesitation. It didn’t feel that nimble, but it was obvious refinement and comfort have been prioritised. That said, the minor niggles should be ironed out before the Sportage reaches UK dealers next year.

What will help further is the likely addition of the seven-speed dual-clutch auto box recently added to the updated Kia Cee’d. This is bound to aid fuel efficiency and pack extra punch from a standing start. The steering was light and, while there was some roll into corners at moderate speeds, the new SUV generally felt solid. 

Kia made great strides in 2010 with the third-generation Sportage, which helped shift perception of the brand in the UK. This pre-production Mk4 suggests the company has made further steps to refine that reputation.

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