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Click to view road test review picture gallery“Kia’s five-door ‘soft-
  roader’ Sportage has
  just been strongly
  revised, and now offers
  a choice of 2WD and
  4WD petrol or diesel
  models. With a unique
  seven-year warranty
  and prices starting at
  under 14k, there’s a
  lot to like...”

FOLLOWING THE SUCCESSFUL INTRODUCTION of the European designed and built cee'd five-door hatchback and cee'd SW estate ranges, Kia is on a roll with the introduction this week of the revised Picanto small five-door hatchbacks and the revised Sportage SUV five-door models, with two- and four-wheel drive variants.

Like their cee'd models, Kia's revised Sportage is now built in Europe at Zilina, Slovakia, and the models now carry Kia's industry-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty for their European manufactured models.

New Kia Sportage models with 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engines go on sale in the UK immediately; petrol-fuelled models with 2.0 and 2.7-litre engines go on sale in January. Prices for two-wheel drive variants start at under 14,000 and for four-wheel drive variants at under 15,000. The revised range has XE, XS and Titan levels of specification and there is the option of an automatic transmission for two-wheel drive 2.0-litre CRDi diesel and four-wheel drive 2.7-litre V6 petrol variants.

Speaking this week at the media launch of the two revised ranges, Kia's UK communications director Stephen Kitson said that the sales and marketing emphasis for the Kia brand in the UK is now focused
on the brand being a design led and a 'quality' volume manufacturer.
He also said that their aim was to make people choose Kia models because of their design and quality coupled with attractive pricing
and the industry's best warranty package.

Two years ago Kia's UK sales were 65 per cent to fleets and 35 per cent to retail customers. Now that has completely turned around and today fleet and business customers only reflect 30 to 35 per cent of UK sales. Kia has said they want to become a top ten manufacturer
for retail sales in the UK by 2010, with a 3 per cent market share. This year, Kia aim to sell around 30,000 new cars in the UK.

The changes in design (with more European-built models) and the ad-justment in specification for the Sportage and Picanto model line-ups now give Kia customers the specification they want at the price they want to pay.

The outgoing Kia Sportage range has regularly secured around 4,400 sales each year to UK customers — representing 5 per cent of sales in the SUV compact sector which currently attracts 80,000 new car buyers a year.

With the new Sportage range expanded to 10 models (with the addition of two-wheel drive versions), Kia expects to sell around 6,000 units a year in the UK. The introduction of the front-wheel drive only versions is Kia's answer to customers buying patterns and tastes. The two-wheel drive Sportage has better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions than its 4x4 counterparts, yet it still looks like an SUV and has the five seat, high off the ground, larger rear load area features that owners like.

Kia expects around 10 per cent of Sportage customers to opt for the two-wheel drive models. Around 70 per cent of Sportage sales will be diesel models, but only 1 per cent of customers will venture to the top of the range for the 2.7-litre V6 petrol variant. Kia estimates 67 per cent of Sportage sales will be to retail customers, with prices ranging from 13,995 to 19,995. The best selling model is expected to be the 2.0 CRDi XS 4x4 priced at 17,695. This model has a manual trans-mission and customers wanting the automatic version with the same engine and specification can only have a two-wheel drive vehicle priced at 17,495.

The realigned specification levels for the revised Sportage range is comprehensive, but still there are three levels to choose from: XE, XS and Titan. Every model has six airbags, air conditioning, remote central locking, electric windows all-round, electrically-operated door mirrors and alloy wheels. XS versions add climate control, cruise control, leather upholstery and a metallic-effect centre fascia. The new range-topping Titan level adds electronic stability control, privacy glass, heated seats, electric sunroof and larger 17-inch alloy wheels.

So what are the other changes to the latest Sportage models? Well, the big news is that the vehicle is now manufactured in Europe and so gets Kia's amazing seven-year, 100,000 mile, bumper-to-bumper warranty (and the anti-corrosion warranty is increased from six to ten years). The suspension has been revised for better road manners and body control, the power steering has sharper responses, there are bigger front brake discs for better stopping power and the towing weights have been increased: 1,800kg for the 2.0-litre diesel XS.

In the interest of occupant comfort, the front seats have larger cush-ions and the rear seats are now mounted lower in the vehicle and have firmer cushions. The air conditioning performance is, Kia claim, also improved, as is the general quality of the interior.

Exterior styling changes include the use of colour-coded bumpers,
a new grille and headlights and larger door mirrors.

Performance wise, the Sportage — in two- and four-wheel drive forms on-road — was generally well mannered. The handling is sharper, the steering more responsive and the previous body roll, although still evident, has been reduced. The suspension handles main road surfaces well but potholed side and town road can make for an unsettled ride. More good news: the build quality now looks really good — well up to European and Japanese standards.

The 'smart' four-wheel drive models only use front-wheel drive until more grip is needed; then the rear wheels are automatically brought in-to play. Added to this is a 4WD Lock function which works well to give extra grip for really slippery surfaces off-road. In fact, given it is a so-called 'soft off-roader', it is quite a capable vehicle off-road. Pretty impressive really — and well able to cope with the conditions the vast majority of owners will throw at it.

The 2.0-litre, four-cylinder turbodiesel under the bonnet puts out 138 bhp and 225lb ft of torque from a reasonably low 1,800rpm which is enough to power it up to a top speed of 110mph and reach 62mph from standstill in 12 seconds. And average fuel consumption, at 39.8mpg, ain't bad, either.

With the seven-year warranty and accommodation for five people plus good load space I can see quite a few country folk in the form of farmers being keen to look at this vehicle. Seven years of farm work — now that will be interesting for warranty claims.

It will also appeal to younger families where sporting activities are their lifestyle — boating, and caravanning, for instance. The Sportage looks smart but it is the price and warranty that appeal even more. My only real complaint was that the electronic stability programme was not a standard-fit item on the 2.0-litre CRDi XS 4WD manual model I tested. On the plus side, the revised Sportage is capable both on and off road, well equipped, seats five with ease, and has good build quality and a brilliant warranty. It's also competitively priced. An easy car to say Yes to! — David Miles

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Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi XS 4WD | 17,695
Maximum speed: 110mph | 0-62mph: 12 seconds
Overall test MPG: 39.8mpg | Power: 138bhp | Torque: 225lb ft

CO2 187g/km | VED Band F 205 | Insurance group 9
Visit Kia's website Click to go there now

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