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Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi KX-4

Click to view picture galleryKias Sportage a Streetcar,
  sorry, Crossover named Desire.
  Not surprising given its head-turning
  looks, and the fact that a fully-
  loaded 2.0-litre turbodiesel in range-
  topping 4WD spec can be on your
  drive for 27K. Tempted? You
  should be...


IN FACT THERE ARE SIXTEEN DIFFERENT Sportage models to choose from
within a 17K-28K price spread. And the secret of the Sportage's success? They are many, but a very good place to start would be its sharp-suited Sports Utility body.

And, of course, its intelligent four-wheel drive —
now a major pull for many drivers. Whereas not so long ago crossover buyers tended to favour two-wheel drive models, the times they are a-changin' — and for that you can blame the weather. As the climate inevitably blusters its way to meltdown, so you need more driven wheels on your wagon to hold your own.

“Whatever colour the
Sportage wears, it looks
great — in gleaming
white it looks spaceship
dramatic; dark colours
are equally stand-out
thanks to
the crisp styling
...”
Whatever colour the Sportage wears, it looks great — in gleaming white it looks spaceship dramatic; dark colours are equally stand-out thanks to the crisp styling: distinctive 'tiger's nose' front-end; angular window-line and raked glasshouse above a high waistline; and the 'waiting to pounce' rear haunches. Kerb-appeal the Sportage has in spades.

Climb aboard — actually, its big doors make the Sportage very easy to board, and keyless entry means not having to bother to remove the key from your pocket — and you'll find yourself sitting in a conventional five-seater hatchback cabin defined by admirable fit and finish and a high-end ambience.

Settle in one of the big, leather-upholstered (in a smart and practical mid-grey) front seats with nice bolstering and you'll feel comfortably at home —
views out are good thanks to the elevated seating positions, which is good news for lower leg comfort on long trips. Also appreciated are the 'don't look big' but all-seeing door mirrors.

Naturally the comprehensive kit-list helps, as too does the panoramic glass roof panels; the front is a one-shot-op tilt 'n' slide sunroof; the rear panel is fixed. Between them they flood the interior with light but if you're not a sun-worshipper you can always close the blinds.

The driver is very well catered for with a seat that offers plenty of adjustment, including for height and lumbar, generous space in the footwells for happy feet (whatever boots she, or he, is wearing), a nicely grippy leather-rimmed multifunction (audio, cruise, voice) steering wheel that adjusts for height and reach, a fast-acting two-stage heated seat and height-adjustable seatbelt (the front passenger gets the same), auto-dimming mirror, auto one-shot up/down driver's electric window, plus cruise control and a relaxing left foot-rest for longer journeys.

And there's more —
in fact we really couldn't think of anything else that you could ask for. Among other things you also get a rear-looking camera, START button (keyless start), powerfold door mirrors (on demand), a dual-zone climate control system that blows some seriously cold air, SatNav with a crystal-clear 3D touchscreen, drive-off auto locking, auto lights and wipers and Parking Assist (there's more, but no room to list it all).

“Settle into one of the big
leather-trimmed and
nicely bolstered front
seats and you’ll feel
comfortably at home —
views out are good
thanks to the elevated
seating positions
...”
Showing the degree of attention to detail are sun visor extenders that cover the gap around the rear-view mirror, neat filleting on the switchgear, lit and knurled climate knobs, a grab handle for the front passenger on the silver-grey centre console, smoothly adjustable headrest cushions that tilt to perfectly fit your neck, an armrest between the front seats that doesn't stop you using the handbrake (as far too many others do), kick plates, tailored mats, and a good-sized lit, lockable and cooled glovebox.

Try the back cabin: you'll easily get comfy in either of the two nicely sculpted outer seats —
and there's ample head and leg room as well as room for your feet. Even the fifth seat centre spot makes travelling something to be welcomed. All rear seat passengers sit higher than those in front, which makes for more interesting journeys.

Behind the rear seats is room for 564 litres (that's quite a lot) of luggage. Fold the 60:40 split rear seatbacks (they drop down virtually flat at the push of a button) and the load space jumps to 1,353 litres. So if your shopping list includes other crossovers, make a note that few will better the Sportage's cargo space.

A handy feature should you need to occasionally move something so big you can't fully close the tailgate, is that because the number plate and brake/indicator light units are part of the rear bodywork and not part of the tailgate you can lash down the tailgate as much as possible and still drive legally. This proved a boon when we ahd to transport a very large six-foot high wardrobe.

And a nice bonus —
you'll find a full-sized matching alloy spare wheel stored under the boot floor. By the way, loading through the high-lifting, full-width tailgate couldn't be easier.

Parking, despite the 'letterbox' rear screen, is stress-free thanks to front and rear sensors and on-screen views with guidelines transmitted from the rear-view camera. There's also a park-assist system that steers the Sportage for you (if that's what you want) when parallel parking.

Practical and comfortable it undeniably is, but how does the Sportage ride and drive? Very well; and even rolling on large 18-inch alloys the ride was particularly easy-going.

“Parking is stress-free thanks to front and rear sensors and on-screen views from the rear-view
camera. There’s also
a park-assist system that
steers the Sportage for
you when parallel
parking
...”
Aided and abetted by a quiet cabin and cushioned ride, nodding off in the back comes easily — and very few of the 150 cars we review each year encourage passengers to do that.

Like the ride comfort, the Sportage's handling is more than acceptable thanks to the well-judged compromise between damping and handling dynamics.

The speed-sensitive electronic power-assisted steering is quick, and the Sportage holds its line and goes exactly where you point it; it's stable and predictable, too, so yes, you can press-on with confidence.

The 2.0-litre Sportage models come with an 'intelligent' electronically-controlled single high-ratio all-wheel-drive system. A mouthful but it continuously monitors driving conditions and anticipates when all-wheel drive will be needed —
other systems only react to changing conditions, but the Sportage's Dymax AWD system is always in the correct drive mode for the prevailing conditions.

Dymax makes its decisions by analysing data from the car's electronic control unit. Its fully active all-wheel-drive coupling is electro-hydraulically activated via a multi-plate clutch so that all-wheel drive is engaged only when necessary —
the result is optimised fuel economy, greater cornering stability, and the elimination of under- and over-steer in extreme circumstances or road conditions.

Further increasing safety is an Electronic Stability Control system that's linked to three additional features: Downhill Brake Control, Hill Start Assist Control, and a Roll-over Sensor.

DBC ensures the car maintains a steady 5mph when descending steep slopes off-road so that the driver does not need to touch the brakes, which might result in a loss of traction; HAC has the reverse effect, preventing slip-back when setting off uphill and eliminating the possibility of wheelspin.

The Roll-over Sensor detects when the car might be in danger of rolling over and deploys the side and curtain airbags and seatbelt pre-tensioners so that should the worst happen the occupants are fully protected.

“Even rolling on large
18-inch alloys the ride
was particularly
easygoing. Aided and
abetted by a quiet cabin
and cushioned ride,
nodding off in the back
comes easily
...”
In normal driving, 100% of engine torque is sent to the front wheels but the torque can be redistributed up to a maximum of 60:40 front-to-rear to enhance cornering stability or if road conditions deteriorate.

And for off-road driving, owners can press a button on the fascia to select Lock mode, which maintains a 50:50 torque split at speeds of up to 25mph.

Despite the best (or worst) efforts of marketeers, not everybody wants a soft-roader that drives like a flamed-out hot-hatch —
cool-headed drivers will be more than pleased with the flair with which the Sportage satisfies demands from both sides of the handling/comfort divide.

Whatever style of driving you have in mind, the 2.0-litre CRDi puts out more than enough poke —
181bhp. Keeping the turbodiesel in its peak power band (282lb ft @1,800-2,500) is not hard thanks to the six-speed box's accurate, light and smooth gearchange action.

Throttle response is sharp and lively —
charge through the gears and it zips along eagerly: the hard figures are 9.4 seconds for 0-60mph, and 120mph. In 'the cruise' on motorways, the Sportage's cabin is quiet, relaxing and a good place to be.

The Sportage range, priced from 17,300, has found much favour with car buyers since its launch in September 2010. Since then in excess of 550,000 have been sold across the globe.

In its range-topping, super-specced, all-wheel drive KX-4 guise, this family- and driver-friendly compact SUV is easy and satisfying to drive and shines with kerbside appeal. One to own! —
MotorBar

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi KX-4 | 27,195
Top Speed: 120mph | 0-60mph: 9.4 seconds | Overall Test MPG: 39.4mpg
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 282lb ft | CO2 158g/km