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MotorBar - New Car Reviews
Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI ‘2’

Click to view picture gallery“Mid-size SUVs are available wearing
  badges ranging from the prosaic to
  the premium but it
s Kias restyled
  and refreshed Sportage that
s
  the front-runner to seize the coveted
 
Nations Fave accolade...”


FOR A START it's got 'the look' — that über-popular mix of crossover and family hatch, recently dressed up some by a well-considered makeover. Even in the lower '2' trim spec it looks every inch the urbane SUV, standing smartly out from a pack of predominantly 'identikit' peers.

The brand's trademark 'tiger-nose' grille and sleek boomerang-shaped headlight units cut distinctively into the front wing-tops and a bonnet that runs back to a steeply-raked front screen. Its stance is SUV-esque while its high-sided flanks are punctuated by black protective wheelarch inserts and smart alloy wheels, all of it topped by a classy glasshouse finished-off at the back with a tailgate-topping spoiler and slim wraparound rear light clusters.

While the engine line-up now includes a new mild-hybrid, this week we've been driving the 130bhp 1.6-litre petrol powered entry-level model, not least because it undercuts rivals price-wise. Partnered with a six-speed manual 'box, it's a naturally aspirated direct injection four-pot (a more potent turboed petrol version is also available, as too is a new 1.6 diesel that replaces the previous 1.7 along with the mild-hybrid that greens-up the 2.0-litre diesel at the top of the range).

It’s a capable motor,
this 1.6 GDI, and the
clean-changing six-speed
manual gearbox makes
it easy to get the best out
of its 130bhp.
It comes with a perfectly
usable 113mph top speed
and zero to 62mph
acceleration in 11.1
seconds — that’s enough
fuss-free performance
to keep it nimble in town
traffic and let it cruise
sweetly at the
legal limit...”
This 1.6 makes use of Kia's 'EcoDynamics' stop-start technology (and it operates seamlessly) to maximise the economy which, officially for the Combined Cycle fuel consumption, is 39.8mpg. Over the course of seven hard-driven test days we averaged an honest 38.9mpg not many cars come so close to matching their official figures.

It's a capable motor, this 1.6 GDI, and the clean-changing six-speed manual gearbox makes it easy to get the best out of its 130bhp. It comes with a perfectly usable 113mph top speed and zero to 62mph acceleration in 11.1 seconds that's enough fuss-free performance to keep it nimble in town traffic and let it cruise sweetly at the legal limit.

The recently upgraded cabin is both spacious and inviting, with a 'twin-cockpit' feel and fine fit-and-finish. The commanding driving position is spot-on with the wing-tops and bonnet all in view so placing the Sportage in traffic is a no-brainer. The views though the back screen is also unimpeded.

The fabric-upholstered seats, with 3D-look centre panels, feel good and the driver is pampered with power-adjustable lumbar adjustment; both front seat users get 3-stage seat heating and height-adjustable belts. Lightly bolstered and with good shoulder and back support, and further enhanced by long base cushions that provide agreeable under-thigh/knee support, they're comfortable whether you're just nipping out to the local Tesco Express or trekking down to Cornwall for the half-term to ride the waves.

The dash is neat (in a very good way!) and the driver's instrument cluster houses two dials either side of a comprehensive driver's information screen; refreshing to see, too, a posted speed limit close by the large digital road speed readout. Also, it's nice to find that the central seven-inch infotainment display is set in the fascia at the same height as the instrumentation, making it easy to flick your eyes across, with minimal distraction, when you're driving and navigating.

From behind the new-style and logically laid-out multifunction three-spoke wheel (with a great-to-hold leather rim), the comms are easy to reach. The central touchscreen is satisfyingly quick and responsive and the navigation powered by TomTom is foolproof with 3D mapping and straightforward full postcode destination entry with clear directions given in ample time.

The fabric-upholstered
seats, with 3D-look
centre panels, feel good
and both front seat users
get 3-stage seat heating.
Lightly bolstered and
with good shoulder and
back support, they’re
comfortable whether
you’re just nipping out to
the local Tesco Express
or trekking down to
Cornwall for the half-term
to ride the waves...”
You also get European mapping as well as essential driving-oriented information such as speed camera locations and alerts, live traffic updates, local search, and weather forecasts. Additionally the accompanying Kia Connected Services system has been updated and now shows the location and real-time availability of parking spaces and the price of fuel at nearby filling stations.

Smartphone connectivity is taken care of by Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, both with voice recognition. Entertainment features include a DAB radio and Bluetooth with music streaming. Higher spec models include things like a 320W JBL sound system and wireless smartphone charging.

Other features drivers will be likely to appreciate include sensible (and physical as opposed to touchscreen-only) controls for the two-zone climate that are within reach and easy to use on the move (a 'climate' button lets you display all the current settings whenever you wish), a strip of hard menu buttons to jump direct into a specific menu such as the map, navigation, media, and the driver-set 'favourite' function. Also liked will be the wheel-mounted button to manage and flick through the driver's information screen, as too will be the keyless start and pull-up handbrake.

There is also plenty of on-board storage for your odds-and-ends with bottle-holding boor bins, a drop-down storage case for your glasses or shades as well as, of course, twin cupholders and a good-size storage box under the central front armrest.

Kia treat their customers right even the modest '2' spec model is well kitted out with desirable equipment: 2Zone climate, reversing camera with rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rearview mirror, four electric windows (driver's is one-shot), drive-off automatic door locking, heated and powerfolding door mirrors (on-demand and automatically when locking and leaving), cruise control and speed limiter, privacy glass, auto lights and wipes, LED daytime running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.

Additionally, safety kit and driver assists are comprehensive: Trailer Stability Assist, hill-start assist, Downhill Brake Control (maintains a steady 5mph speed when descending steep or slippery off-road slopes so the driver doesn't need to worry about braking), Lane Keep Assist (alerts a tired or distracted driver about to stray into the path of a vehicle approaching from behind), and Speed Limit Information (usefully shown adjacent to the actual speed readout in the dash).

The ride is fine and
while comfort levels are
good enough, Kia’s
engineers have dialled-in
enough body control
and firmness in the
suspension to ensure
this ‘chuckable’ Sportage
is more than happy to
sweep along quick
A- and B-roads without
upsetting your
passengers...”
There's also High Beam Assist (maximises light at night but switches automatically between full and dipped beam when other vehicles are about), driver attention warning, tyre pressure monitoring, electronic stability control and vehicle stability management systems, six airbags, and a roll-over sensor.

The Sportage's ride is fine and while comfort levels are good enough to keep all aboard relaxed, Kia's engineers have dialled-in enough body control and firmness in the multi-link rear suspension to guarantee reassuring high-speed stability. Overall it's a good blend and a good fit with the style of driving the average family buyers, who will most likely form the largest group of customers buying into this fourth-generation Sportage.

Despite their SUV-style looks, front-wheel drive is often the first choice for midsize crossover drivers. That said, the two 130bhp 1.6 GDI models ('1' and '2' trims priced at, respectively, £20K and £22K) don't come with the 4WD fitted to the more powerful Sportage variants. Which, actually, is fine and dandy because the 1.6 petrol models drive perfectly predictably with the power put down through just two front wheels grip is adequate for all conditions, as it proved ploughing through the torrential rain we encountered during our test week.

Add in well-judged steering and this 'chuckable' Sportage is more than happy to sweep along quick A- and B-roads without upsetting your passengers. And even if you over-egg it some you won't be punished well, only with some good-natured progressive understeer to keep you focussed.

Entry to and exit from the rear cabin is easy; it's a friendly place with long windows keeping it light and airy plus very smooth, stepless adjustable backrests, generous headroom, masses of elbow space and ample room to stretch your legs. There's also plenty of room for even the largest feet while a low central floor tunnel makes even three-in-a-row on the back seat agreeable although if adults really want to chill-out then two's the number.

The easy-to-load boot
swallows 503 litres,
putting it up there with
the best in class.
Levers in the boot let you
release and fold the rear
backrests without having
to open the back doors;
dropped, the 60:40-split
rear seats create
a seamless and level-
floored 1,492-litre
loadbay...”
Dedicated air-vents and outer armrests add to the ambiance for back-seat passengers enjoying a take-out coffee (twin cupholders are built into the central armrest) while they watch the world sliding quietly past and it is pretty quiet in the Sportage, particularly when cruising. Those with youngsters will be glad of the Isofix child seat fixings.

Matching the cabin for space, the Sportage's easy-to-load boot swallows 503 litres, putting it up there with the best in class. Levers in the boot let you release and fold the rear backrests without having to open the back doors; dropped, the 60:40-split back seats create a seamless and level-floored 1,492-litre loadbay.

Fans of Marie Kondo's decluttering philosophy (as seen on Netflix's Tidying Up With Marie Kondo) will appreciate handy features such as the dedicated storage slot for the load cover rollerblind as well as extra storage, all under the boot floor. Standard-fit roof rails provide the option of using a roof box when four or five seats are in use plus there's always the alternative of towing in 130bhp 1.6 guise the Sportage hauls a braked 1,400kg.

Choosing one of Kia's facelifted Sportage models is a no-brainer. Not only do they epitomise family-friendly motoring but prices are reasonable, the cabins practical, comfy and well specced, and they're nice to drive. Plus it's very hard to overlook the benefits of Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. ~ MotorBar
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Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI '2' | £22,405
Maximum speed: 113mph | 0-62mph: 11.1 seconds | Test Average: 38.9mpg
Power: 130bhp | Torque: 118lb ft | CO2: 162g/km

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