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Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi Titan 4WD

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Dont buy a Kia
  Sportage just
  because of its
  no-catch, seven-
  year, 100,000-mile
  warranty. No, sir,
  buy one because
s five-door soft
  roader is a well-
  equipped, multi-
  tasking five-

PRICES START AT A KEEN 14,395 FOR KIA'S SPORTAGE and, if you want the top of the range model, the Titan 2.0 CRDi with four-wheel drive, you still don't need break through the 20K ceiling: the fully-spec'ed top model costs 19,395. The Sportage can be had with either petrol or diesel power, two- or four-wheel drive, auto or manual transmissions and in three trim levels.

Despite the crossover looks, the Sportage's functional five-door bodyshell only takes up the same road space as a medium-sized car or estate car. The price may be cheap but the looks definitely aren't: the Sportage is a smart-looking vehicle marked out by its distinctive nose, sharply-defined bonnet and shapely body-cladding and sculpted wheel arches. Our test car looked especially good finished in smart metallic silver and drew a number of admiring looks wherever it was parked.

It may look high off the ground but getting in (and out again) is easy: swing open a door and the seat base is just the right height to 'sit and swivel' into the car. Cabin ambience is good, helped by an attractive mix of trim materials and the interior well laid-out. The seats — with good-sized cushions — are upholstered in leather; and it's smooth, good quality leather. The seats are also well-proportioned and provide good lumbar support along with long-distance comfort.

'Creature comforts' are also well covered with heated front seats, climate control air conditioning that does 'icy cold' obligingly quickly, electric windows, privacy glass, electric tilt-and-slide glass sunroof (with auto one-shot open function and a lined sunblind), ample storage bins and cubbyholes for cups, bottles and all your bits and pieces — and room to feel at ease. Front legroom and rear leg and headroom are, incidentally, amongst the best in class. Rear seat passengers can also recline their backrest to one of five positions to really make themselves feel at home, and the third side windows keep the rear cabin light and airy.

A handy feature is the
one-touch Fold-and-Dive
rear seat system that
provides hassle-free
conversion from
five-seater to useful
The driver is well looked after, too, with a commanding view from the height-adjustable seat — you sit high enough to look down on most other road-users. A leather-wrapped, tilt-adjustable steering wheel — the lack of reach adjustment isn't a problem — makes setting a good driving position easy. Dials are clean with clear white on black graphics that at night are lit by a restful greenish-yellow that's easy on the eyes.

Thoughtful touches include the illuminated ignition key lock, buttons on the sides of the rear headrests to lower them (so much easier that the usual fiddly catches), the six bag hooks in the boot, the 'masked' area between the sun visors and above the rear-view mirror that blocks the dazzle that many other cars don't and a proper pocket adjacent to the AUX/iPod/USB ports for holding whatever device you're connecting to.

Other cabin kit includes electrically-adjustable and heated door mirrors, cruise control, six airbags (twin front, side and curtain), passenger airbag cut-off switch, auto lights, an aluminium 'assist' grab bar above the lockable glovebox, auto-dimming rear-view mirror with compass, USB and AUX ports, iPod connectivity cable, aluminium door kick plates, chrome interior door handles and overhead sunglasses holder. The integrated CD/MP3 audio with six speakers and large easy-to-use controls plus the climate controls are all neatly housed in the metallic-effect centre fascia.

The Titan model also comes with on-demand four-wheel drive, an electronic stability program and ABS with electronic brakeforce distribution and a set of smart 17-inch alloy wheels wearing 235/55 rubber.

With seating for five adults and a decent-sized boot, the Sportage will particularly appeal to families. A handy feature is its one-touch Fold-and-Dive 60:40 split rear seat system that means hassle-free conversion from five-seater to useful load-lugger. At the touch of a button, the seat bases dive forward down into the rear footwell areas (headrests still in place) allowing the backrests to drop flat, flush with the floor. A nice feature here: when folded flat like this, the rear seatbacks lock properly into place for a sturdy load base.

With the rear seats folded, you have a spacious, square-sided cargo bay of approximately 1.5 metres with a load capacity of 1,887 litres. The loading sill/bumper is just above knee level for most people and combined with a high-opening top-hinged tailgate makes loading easy. The front passenger seat backrest also folds down for transporting even longer loads.

All-in-all, the Sportage
is a very pleasant 4x4
to own
A stretchy luggage net helps to keep your load exactly where you put it and two boot lights make it easy to find things after dark. The boot also has its own 12v power socket. Adding to the user-friendly versatility is a glass rear screen that opens independently of the tailgate — great for getting, or putting, small items in a confined space.

The spare wheel is stored under the boot floor and, good news if you ever have to use it, is that it's a full-size matching 17-inch alloy. Under the boot floor you'll also find a handy cargo storage tray.

The Sportage will also appeal to those with active lifestyles who need to tow boats or trailers — its braked towing capacity is 1,800kg, and in Titan spec it won the 2008 Towcar Award for Best Budget 4x4.

On the go, the Titan is well mannered; the handling precise and the power steering responsive (it has a compact turning circle of 10.8 metres) with body roll well checked. The suspension manages most road surfaces well and the ride is smooth; on motorways its very stable at speed. In fact, both in town and on country roads, the 2.0 CRDi is very agreeable to drive thanks in part to its compact external dimensions that make it much more manoeuvrable than many bulkier SUVs.

The brakes have recently been upgraded with 16-inch discs all round (ventilated at the front) and consequently stopping power is more than up to scratch. And talking of stopping, you won't be too often for fuel — our average test consumption worked out to 36.7mpg. Kia's official figure is 39.8mpg, with 31.7 and 45.6 respectively for urban and extra-urban.

The Sportage's self-managing Active Torque Transfer four-wheel-drive system is foolproof, progressively transferring drive from front-only to all four wheels automatically if slippage is detected. For most of the time in normal weather on normal roads you'll be driving a front-wheel drive vehicle. In severe conditions — including off-road — 4WD Lock can be engaged manually for a maximum 50:50 torque distribution.

Should you decide to enjoy some recreational off-roading, you'll find the long wheel travel, good approach and departure angles (28.8 and 28.9 degrees respectively) and decent ground clearance together make the 4WD Sportage more capable than many rival compact SUVs.

Matched with a six-speed manual 'box, the 138bhp 2.0-litre turbodiesel diesel performs well. There's plenty of torque low down — thanks to 225lb ft on tap from a fairly low 1,800rpm — and it will get from standstill to 62mph in 12 seconds and on to a maximum speed of 110mph. Make good use of the gears — easy to do as, unusual for a diesel engine, it's particularly happy to rev; and the gearbox has a nice precise shift action — and you'll find the four-cylinder 2.0-litre willing while proving smooth on motorways where the Sportage turns out to be a quiet and refined cruiser.

All-in-all, the Sportage is a very pleasant 4x4 to own. It's roomy, has a family-friendly boot and versatile load space, lots of kit for the money and is competent enough should you need to go off the beaten track. And it's affordable. Plus it comes with an industry-best seven-year warranty that covers everything and also includes a ten-year anti-perforation warranty as well as seven year's cover against paint defects. And the warranty is fully transferable to subsequent owners. —

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi Titan 4WD | 19,395
Maximum speed: 110mph | 0-62mph: 12 seconds | Overall test MPG: 36.7mpg
Power: 138bhp | Torque: 225lb ft | CO2 187g/km | Insurance group 11