► Mid-spec Sportage driven
► Qashqai rival for family cash
► Sportier to drive than before
When you’ve turned over your left shoulder to scream at the kids to stop poking pieces of Kinder Egg plastic toys up each others’ noses, and you’ve accidentally veered into the oncoming lane causing chaos on the High Street, it’s best that you’re in a car that nobody can quite remember. For the job of escaping such censure, you shall need a Kia Sportage.
The Kia Sportage is a stalwart in the ranks of those middling things from respectable brands – think Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga - that tool about from school to shop to work and back again offering neither much surprise or oodles of delight, but delivering on one very important role: fuss-free family transportation.
It could be argued that the Sportage, in its first three iterations at least, delivered Kia from cheap, cheerful apologist motoring into the zone of mid-to-upper table mediocrity. And actually, there’s not much wrong with that when you’re on a budget and want something trusty. With sales now topping five million globally, it’s been a remarkable success story for Kia, and fully deserved.
So what’s new?
The fourth generation looks to move the game on a bit further, with a better quality interior and a more sumptuous ride. I don’t think it moves the game on aesthetically; where the old Sportage was previously handsome, the new one is both generic and undemonstrative. The cabin is rather the same: dark and not exactly sprinkled with details that make you smile, but everything works in a handily prosaic fashion, and is logically laid out.
I could find things quickly and easily, even while multitasking on back seat crowd control, while the odd smear of chrome and some black gloss on the centre fascia are about the only things to light the gloom.
But this '3' car comes with a decent amount of kit: reversing sensors, automatic lights and wipers, dual automatic air conditioning, a cooled glovebox, Lane-Keep Assist, automatic high-beam assist and speed limit information functions, 19-inch alloys, black leather upholstery, heated front and outer rear seats and a JBL® premium sound system, which is a pretty solid list of essentials for just over £25 grand. Although the leather seats seem more cut from the sheets of cow cloth earmarked for stain resistance rather than Hermes handbag, as you might expect.
Added to which, there is as much space as a Qashqai in the back, and more in the boot. As a space for trapping a family for long hours, it’s perfectly judged.
What’s it like to drive?
I would thoroughly recommend one if driving ranks alongside ironing or mowing the lawn in life’s list of tasks. But if you want any sort of thrills, I wouldn’t.
Kia has apparently injected some sportiness into the Sportage, possibly after somebody spotted they had used ‘Sport’ in its name by accident, and thought it should be true to their wordplay.
In truth, though, it hasn’t. The 112bhp 1.7-litre diesel engine will outrun the school bus if you’re running late, but that’s about the limit of its ambition. Sedentary, a bit noisy when revved and running out of breath halfway round the rev counter, I found the best approach was to get into as high a gear as quickly as possible and accept your (not) a lot.
It handles adequately and there’s not too much body roll, and what there is of such things is consistent and controlled, which for those of you carrying green skinned packages full of Kinder Egg and Quavers about will know is a very positive thing.
The ride is a bit niggly for a car of this type, and certainly not as nicely pliant as previously, despite the Sportage sitting on struts fronts and a multilink rear, while the steering now electromechanical power steering at the rack intended to give more feedback and heft had a slightly odd inconsistency in the weighting, in which resistance seemed to appear in steps rather than a linear progression. Overall, it’s better to drive than Qashqai, less nimble than a 3008 - more a Transportage than a Sportage, which is fine, if that’s your sort of thing.
I like the Sportage a lot, as a useful tool for the family, and you might well appreciate this car’s talents as much as you appreciate your fridge. It’s a three star vehicle doing a five star job.
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