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Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi KX-4 Auto AWD

Click to view picture gallery“Last years flooding made many
  crossover owners who
d save a few
  pennies by going for front-wheel
  drive on their SUV-styled vehicles
  realise that if four-wheel drive is
  offered, then bite the hand off...”


KIA SPORTAGE OWNERS ARE AHEAD of the game from the moment they drive their new car out of the showroom because the third-generation models now on sale all offer a no-nonsense intelligent four-wheel drive system.

While it seems that every carmaker is now fielding a crossover or compact soft-roader of some sort, the Sportage ranks as one of the smarter of the breed.

Fronted by a newer version of the now-familiar Kia 'tiger-nose' grille, the Sportage Kia's best-selling model in the UK, accounting for around a quarter of the company's sales now sports an even more polished appearance with serious presence courtesy of sharper styled LED light units beneath its clamshell bonnet, a roof-mounted shark-fin antenna, new-style 18-inch alloy wheels and standout metallic paint colours including new Space Blue and Fusion White.

“Many buyers cite the
looks as a principal
purchasing reason.
It’s easy to see what they
mean — despite its
higher-than-average
ground clearance,
the Sportage appears
long, low and wide with
an element of rakish
sportscar...
Many buyers cite the looks as a principal purchasing reason. It's easy to see what they mean despite its higher-than-average ground clearance, the Sportage appears long, low and wide; and the 'fast' windscreen angle, slim side glazing and low roofline create an unmistakable element of rakish sportscar.

Under-bonnet choices are biased towards diesel for those still attached to unleaded, there is a 1.6-litre petrol-engined Sportage. Diesel aficionados do better, with three oil-burning units: a 114bhp 1.7-litre or a 2.0-litre that comes in two states of tune 134bhp and 181bhp.

The 16-model line-up offers front-wheel as well as all-wheel drive, as identified by the logical trim designations: 1, 2, 3, 3 Sat Nav, and 4 models are front-wheel drive; all-wheel-drive versions wear a KX preface KX-1, etc.

Kia don't hold anything back when they trim their cars and it's no exaggeration to say that their cars are 'well-specced' regardless of where they stand in the pecking order. All versions come with alloy wheels, AirCon, power windows and heated electric door mirrors, cruise control, LED daytime running lights, front fogs and cornering lights, tinted glass, rain-sensing wipers, Bluetooth connectivity with voice recognition and music streaming, steering wheel-mounted controls, drive-away auto door locking, tyre pressure monitoring plus front, side and curtain airbags.

To this Sportage 2 and KX-2 versions add part-leather upholstery, dual-zone automatic AirCon, roof rails, privacy glass, reversing sensors, a one-shot-op panoramic sunroof, 17-inch alloys, powerfold on demand LED door mirrors, a luggage net, and adjustable lumbar support on the driver's seat.

3 and KX-3 versions additionally have leather upholstery with heated front and rear seats, dual-zone climate control, reversing camera, Flex Steer, Xenon headlights with washers, auto lights, a front wiper de-icer, auto-dimming rearview mirror, plus a premium Infinity sound system with seven speakers including a sub-woofer and external amplifier as well as a set of 18-inch alloy wheels. All 3 and KX-3 versions are also available as Sat Nav models with navigation and a 7-inch in-dash screen plus a rear-view camera.

At the top of the range the 4 and KX-4 available only with the 181bhp diesel engine gain a Parallel Park Assist System and front and rear parking sensors, stainless steel door kick plates, six-way power-adjustable driver's seat, heated steering wheel (very persuasive not just in the winter but also on very long trips), engine start/stop button with keyless entry and locking, and privacy glass (rear windows and tailgate).

“With 181bhp and 289lb
ft of torque there’s plenty
of mid-range pull.
Left in Drive, the six-
speed autobox makes for
a relaxing drive but
it can be overridden
by nudging the
selector lever into its
manual mode...
The 181bhp 2.0 diesel powering the KX-4 automatic develops 289lb ft between 1,800 and 2,500rpm and serves up plenty of mid-range pull while delivering more than adequate performance 121mph and 0-60mph in 9.4 seconds. Left in Drive, the six-speed auto 'box makes the Sportage particularly relaxing to drive but it can be overridden at any point by nudging the selector lever sideways into its manual mode.

The official combined figure for the automatic is 39.2mpg 36.7mpg in real-world driving. A figure achieved without making use of the active ECO mode which would have bumped up our mpg 'score'. For the record, urban and extra-urban are officially 31mpg and 46.3mpg respectively.

The intelligent electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system fitted to KX variants goes about its business unobtrusively, keeping mostly in the more economical two-wheel-drive mode (which sends 100% of engine torque to the front wheels) while it continuously monitors driving conditions to anticipate when all-wheel drive will be needed meaning the Sportage is always in the correct drive mode for the prevailing circumstances without the driver doing anything other than drive. When needed, the torque can be redistributed up to a maximum of 60:40 front-to-rear.

Going off-road? No problem you can manually select Lock mode (the button is alongside the selector lever housing), which gives a 50:50 torque split at speeds of up to 25mph. And there's even a sturdy grab bar on the centre console for your front passenger for when the going gets rough!

Also fitted are several electronic driver aids that increase both on-road driving safety and the Sportage's capability off-road. First up is Electronic Stability Control and this is linked to three additional systems: Downhill Brake Control (ensures a steady speed of 5mph is maintained when descending steep slopes), Hill-Start Assist (prevents slip-back when setting off uphill), and a Roll-over Sensor that deploys the curtain airbags and seat-belt pre-tensioners should the car be in danger of tipping.
In addition, all models have Trailer Stability Assist to make towing safer (the 181bhp auto will pull a braked 1,800kg).

Inside, the Sportage lives up to its premium-look bodywork the cockpit is cleanly styled with foolproof control and instrumentation and marked out by a plusher ambience underscored by chrome and metallic highlights and a soft-touch dash, all benefiting from quality fit-and-finish.

“A full length panoramic
sunroof (the one-
shot front section opens;
the rear glass panel
is fixed) ensures
the cabin is a pleasant
and airy place to be
come rain or shine...
A full-length panoramic electric tilt-and-slide sunroof (the one-shot auto front section opens; the rear glass panel is fixed) ensures the cabin is a pleasant place to be come rain or shine. The leather-upholstered seats are set high off the floor; the driver's is 6-way electric and makes setting a commanding and comfortable driving position the work of a moment.

Visibility out to the front, sides and back is A1; placing the Sportage accurately on the road is a breeze. Most drivers will no doubt be pleased to find a traditional handbrake alongside their left thigh, and all will like the carpark-friendly doors and the effortless access in and out.

Thorough attention to detail includes sun visors that extend inwards to shield the often forgotten space around the mirror where the glare gets in, and both front seats have two-stage heating that gets good 'n' hot. The multifunction wheel is very multifunction: cruise; speed limiter; phone; voice; steering wheel weighting mode; audio; media; and a favourite button. And as for the heated steering wheel don't knock it until you've tried it: it's a real plus.

The Sportage's SatNav displays on a 7-inch colour touchscreen, and it's brilliant the colours and 3D mapping are crystal clear, it's easy to use, and commands and prompts are timely. Best of all, it has full UK postcode recognition (many still don't, even on some quite expensive cars), traffic messaging with detour function, motorway junction views, lane guidance, speed limit warnings, and multi-route planning.

A driver's information display (trip, external temperature, Parallel Park Assist information, selected Flex Steer mode, etc) uses a 4.2-inch LCD TFT colour screen between the recessed major dials to keep the driver fully informed.

Keeping the Sportage cabin shipshape is easy: there's plenty of storage including a pair of large cupholders by the handbrake, a big storage box with lift-out top tray below the centre armrest, large door bins, and a chilled glovebox.

Those travelling in the back sit higher than the driver and front passenger while lounging back at a relaxing angle with plenty of foot room and decent legroom. Three adults in the back works fine; two's better they can share the padded centre armrest with built-in cupholders. And, like those sitting up front, they too enjoy heated seats.

“Those travelling in the
back sit higher
than the driver and front
passenger while lounging
back at a relaxing
angle with plenty of foot
room and decent
legroom. And, like
those sitting up front,
they too enjoy
heated seats...
At the rear the easy-opening, self-lifting deep tailgate opens high and, in wet weather, will keep you dry. Access to the 564-litre regular-shaped boot is through a generous opening; drop the 60:40 split-fold rear seats and you'll have a capacious all-on-one-level loadbay that will swallow 1,353 litres of luggage or cargo.

Adding to the peace of mind is a proper full-sized spare wheel and you don't see many of those around! It's still the only fail-safe answer to a puncture. Folding the rear seats takes but a second thanks to useful remote release strap handles in the boot. Naturally a stretchy luggage net is also provided.

UK drivers will be happy to hear that Kia's engineers conducted final testing on Britain's rotten roads to make sure the Sportage delivers a good ride and drive over here. Ride-wise, its all-independent suspension contributes to its compliant and soft-riding comfort while dynamically it achieves a good compromise between cosseting and control.

You can press-on confidently while making good use of the 181bhp, courtesy of the decent roadholding and the sharp steering response from the electronic speed-sensitive power-assisted steering. And when you need to stop, the all-disc brakes can be totally relied upon to do just that without drama regardless of your speed when you press the middle pedal.

Kia's Flex Steer system is standard-fit and allows the driver to choose between three different levels of power assistance via a button on the steering wheel: Normal, Comfort (provides increased help for parking or tight city manoeuvring), and Sport, which lessens the assistance for increased feel and stability at higher speeds. From behind the wheel the Sportage feels involving s
o while its driver will like its predictable yet agile character, passengers will appreciate its motorway stability, refinement, practicality, roominess and comfort.

The latest Sportage will tick a lot of boxes for crossover fans who will favour its premium styling and maxed-out kit, and value the comfort and the driving experience. All will feel reassured by the excellent seven-year warranty package. True story: a friend of a friend, after a long day out in our flagship KX-4, cancelled plans for a new BMW and instead bought herself a Sportage. Now that really does say it all!
MotorBar

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi KX-4 Auto AWD | 29,505
Maximum speed: 121mph | 0-60mph: 9.4 seconds | Test Average: 36.7mpg
Power: 181bhp | Torque: 289lb ft | CO2 189g/km