The Sportage has been one of the success stories for Kia, an SUV of compact dimensions which has captured a large audience, not just in Ireland, but throughout Europe. Now with the arrival of the fifth generation buyers are offered more than ever and throughout its history, I have been able to drive at least one from each generation and the newcomer is without question the best to date and must now take the South Korean brand to even greater heights. Kia is a brand which I have observed, not only driving many of their vehicles down the years but a number of visits to South Korea to get the full story. It is a company which has never or will never rest on its laurels.
The Sportage history can be traced back until 1993, available in its home market under a different name where it differs in many ways from versions in the European arena. Now with the fifth generation model which as I found after having driven it, now takes it to a whole new level and it is one of the best currently available in its class. The Sportage is available in many markets; however for the European market it has been developed and engineered and gone under intensive testing to suit our roads. Developed on the new ‘N3’ architecture, the Sportage benefits from a European focused high-tech engineering programme that has realised an optimal wheelbase and ideal dimensions and proportions. This approach has helped create an SUV that is a perfect fit for European requirements, underscoring its everyday practicality and usability. This progressive and tailored package also results in greater luggage capacity, headroom and legroom compared to the outgoing model, with outstanding legroom for second-row passengers. What I did observe after driving two models from the range, a much quieter cabin with higher comfort levels than previous models. The end result is a vehicle which delivers in all of the key areas and there is a Sportage to suit everyone. You can select from petrol, diesel, mild hybrid and full hybrid customers in Northern Ireland; mild hybrid, hybrid and diesel (ROI) and customers the length and breadth of our island will be delighted that diesel is included in the line up; surprising to many as we move towards fully electric vehicles. The diesel engine can also be paired with the mild hybrid technology, serving to further reduce emissions and improve overall fuel economy. The hybrid powertrains further enhance Sportage’s capabilities, serving to dramatically reduce emissions and enhance fuel economy. Later this year some markets will have further choice with the arrival of plug-in-hybrid versions; however there are currently no plans to bring a fully electric version to market, that focus for the time being will be on the EV6.
Moving to styling and this newcomer does stand out, its exterior lines more striking than those employed with earlier models and the interior, largely taken from the EV6, can only be described as outstanding for a vehicle in this class. The all-new Sportage’s interior is designed to ensure all vehicle controls can be accessed quickly and easily. There is a bold, integrated curved display featuring twin high-definition 12.3 inch screens, delivering a near-cinematic experience and the digital instrument cluster directly in front of the driver benefits from the latest liquid-crystal display technology for incredibly precise and clear graphics. In the centre is a high-tech touchscreen that caters for all driver and passenger connectivity, functionality, and usability requirements. The ergonomic centre console is optimally positioned for the driver and front passenger to provide further flexible storage and by simply pressing a button, the cupholders located in the centre console rotate outwards, and can be pushed back in when not needed, giving occupants a larger, more practical space in which to store items. The centre console also features the striking shift-by-wire transmission dial. A smartphone charging bay offers high-speed 15W wireless charging, the fastest wireless charger fitted to any new Kia model.
The newcomer is fully connected, with the Kia Connect smartphone app allowing users to connect with their vehicle remotely; you can sync calendars, plan journeys with online navigation and access key onboard features, including live traffic alerts, local fuel station information and real-time weather forecasts. A simple tap into the Remote Monitoring section of the Kia Connect app will even remind the driver if their doors are locked, the windows are up, and where they left their vehicle. On the press launch I had the opportunity to drive a 1.6 T-GDi ‘3’ front wheel drive which can reach 100kph (62mph) in ten seconds, top speed 182kph (113mph) and an all wheel drive 1.6 GT-Line S which can reach 100kph (62mph) from rest in eight seconds, top speed 194kph (120mph).
There is no doubt in my mind that the new Sportage is one of the best Kia vehicles to date in terms of handling, comfort and packaging.