Motoring writer Ian Lamming opens his eyes to Kia’s brand new Sportage…
For generations, in fact make that forever, cars have mimicked the human form.
Ask any child to draw a car and it will resemble a face – headlights for eyes, grille for a mouth, whether that is turned up to be cheeky or down to be aggressive.
But things are changing. Look at the new Kia Sportage and there’s a massive honeycomb grille, but where are its eyes? It throws you at first and that’s probably the point as Kia dares to be different.
The way lighting technology has moved on means there is no longer any need for round saucepan lid sized headlamps to illuminate the road before you. LEDs are small, more powerful, whiter and more defined so no need for the big-eyed look on this super hi-tech model. This leaves the front end sleek and modern, its accent arrow-shaped day running lights giving the impression of forward motion even at rest.
It is radical but it works leaving the latest range of Sportages standing out from the huge crowd of ubiquitous SUVs which cram our highways.
Since the day it was born, Sportage has always been a worthy adversary and the new model not only cements that reputation but also takes it on in leaps and bounds.
The spacious interior is so 21st Century with a virtual dash stretching across the front, merging seamlessly with a large touchscreen. You could just sit in the driveway for hours playing with all the tech – in fact that wouldn’t be a bad idea so you discover where everything is before heading out. There are touchscreen controls which double up a variety of functions. Press an arrow one way and it reveals controls that deal with the climate controls; press it again and the same area becomes the means to control the infotainment.
Right from the basic 1.6, Sportage excels. The petrol motor is ably assisted by a turbo offering the Kia plenty of power for quick getaways, hill climbs and safe overtakes. You can then add in mild hybrid, full hybrid and plug-in hybrid all of which make it better still.
The two full hybrids are astounding and well worth the extra dosh. Not only are they much more powerful (260+ HP compared to 148 and greater torque) but because they don’t have to work as hard and have electrical assistance so they are more economical too, not to mention near-silent when running in EV.
All of the models handle and ride supremely well. They are comfortable when cosseting is required on long journeys, particularly when you are tired, but sharp and dynamic when you are in the mood for a fun drive, which is the perfect combination.
None of this is any surprise, of course, when you look at the brand. A quick flit through the whole range leaves any driver as happy as Larry. I’d forgotten how utterly brilliant Stinger is until I jumped in the latest version. What a fabulous drive thanks to a lusty 3.3 turbocharged V6 with rear wheel drive, gorgeous looks and amazingly plush interior. Pumping out 361HP and 550Nm of torque, it will still return 36MPG.
The Picanto GT is equally impressive. Stick 100HP in a souffle-light little yellow buzz bomb and you have a recipe for nothing but fun.
Go full electric and you are spoiled for choice. The Soul EV is a stunning drive, blisteringly quick for its class and a riot down country roads. EV6 is the real thing and you’d struggle to find a better thought-out electric. There’s even a new GT version that offers an incredible 585hp and a sprint to 60mph time of just 3.5 seconds – that’s proper sports car performance. Brand new Niro is here too and looks to be very promising.
I’ve always looked forward to the next generation of Kias because the designers are never satisfied with just a lukewarm makeover and their changes make a real difference to the way we drive.
New Sportage is a fine example of this relentless pursuit of meaningful automotive development definitely making it the modern face of 21st Century motoring.
Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 3
Engine: 1.6 petrol
0-62mph: 9.9 secs
Top speed: 113mph
Combined MPG: 41.5
Transmission: six-speed manual
CO2 g/km: 154