KIA’s 188 dealers should be having a good weekend. Sales of the “old” Sportage ended at record levels last year. Supporting this retail proposition for buyers is Kia’s unique seven-year warranty and an instalment plan which can put a new Sportage on your doorstep for just £139 a month. Crikey, I’m almost tempted. Six in 10 retail buyers use these PCP buying plans. Add a cheap (or even free for early buyers) three-year service deal and it becomes ever more attractive.
That said, Kia whacked £500 to £1,000 on to the price of the new Sportage. The entry ticket is now nudging £18,000 for the front-wheel-drive 1.6 petrol. Most of the prices for the range of 18 variants are well over £20,000 and the average is £25,190.
There’s no need to fork out for more than the starter model unless you want 4x4, diesel, automatic gears or built-in navigation.
The entry 1 grade brings alloys, powered and heated mirrors, air con, digital audio, bluetooth with voice recognition and music streaming. Safety stuff includes trailer stability control, hill-start assistance, downhill crawling control, cruise control and a speed limiter. Level 1 prices are £17,995 with the 1.6 petrol, £19,745 with the 1.7 diesel (likely to be the most popular engine in the range) and £21,995 with 4x4 traction and a 2-litre diesel engine.
Before you high-tail it to your nearest Kia dealer (www.kia.co.uk), don’t overlook its peers. These include the Ford Kuga (Spain) and, from Kia’s parent brand, the Hyundai Tucson (South Korea), which shares much of the Kia’s mechanical stuff. The clear class champ on sales is Sunderland’s Nissan Qashqai – the UK’s second best selling car in January (4,839) behind the cheaper Fiesta (8,353).
Kia builds its Sportage in Slovakia. Significant visual changes over the 2010 model Sportage include the face, with a slimmer, pinched grille replacing the laughing grin of the Mk3 Sportage – which is more imposing. At the back, the old roll of fat bustle above the bumper is flattened and a slimming styling bar connects the tail lights. Very on-trend, as they are wont to mutter in the Camshaft Arms – lacking my presence during a successful “dry” January and indeed a dry start to February.
This is the fourth generation of a model which launched in 1993. It is all-new in structure, with improved engines, so it is a bit bigger (not by much), a bit safer (five-star NCAP rating), a bit cleaner and cleverer to boot. Ergo, what you expect from a newcomer.
Kia has sold three million. Of the last model, it sold 90,000 in the UK with 23,000 last year showing the continuing demand for this town and country estate car. To give it some context, the Qashqai sold nearly 61,000 last year and Vauxhall sold more than 45,000 Mokkas.
Kia has been hosting Sportage driving trials in the hills behind Nice this week. Yes, the better weather was a good reason on its own. The routes included motorway but were mostly rural and often hilly, reaching beyond Grasse. The overnight stop was the Mas de Pierre, a five-star Relais & Chateaux joint near St Paul de Vence and worth a look if you need to unload some modest cash (www.lemasdepierre.com). A three-nighter over Valentine’s weekend costs just £380 but is probably sold out now.
The drives started with the fully-loaded First Edition two-litre diesel automatic, the top priced Sportage at £31,495. This model includes smart tailgate opening and is on sale until September, or longer if demand is high.
Kia quotes 45mpg and 166g CO2 for this headliner. Our jaunt in the hills recorded 30mpg on the trip computer, which is not encouraging. Yes, it was hilly in parts but the drain going up was offset by the cruise going down. The up bits exposed the combined drone of the six-speed automatic gearbox and the lust of the 182bhp diesel.
Next, the hot 174bhp turbo version of the 1.6 petrol engine in GT-Line specification, a new engine and trim on this Sportage. Details include 19-inch alloys, skid plates, quad-light front fogs, a flat-bottomed steering wheel, leather and the 4x4 drive. This is the sportiest Sportage, actually, the only sporty Sportage, making 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds with the lovely seven-speed dual clutch automatic gearbox, 37mpg and 175g. At £25,650 it was the nicest of the three tested, with a lighter, easier revving feel and sharper handling. The computer showed 29mpg. A manual gearbox is also offered.
Last up was the most economical we tried, the 114bhp 1.7 diesel with stop-start ignition and manual gears. Rated at 61mpg and 119g, it is the lowest emission Sportage. Our test result was 40mpg.
This, reckoned to be a best-seller, sat between the other two for driving enjoyment – its engine still a shade loud when having to work, settling into a sublime cruise in the right conditions.
Verdict: Good enough for the money. Room for the family.