They are an imaginative lot in the motor industry. Where you or I see a car, they conjure visions of something quite different. Take a look at the new Kia Sportage, for example. It’s quite a sleek piece of kit, although some might argue that the window area is a bit on the small side in relation to the high-waisted bodywork.
But wait, Kia talks about the car’s family face with its distinctive ‘tiger-nose’ grille. When this new, fourth generation Sportage was unveiled at the Frankfurt Motor Show last autumn, the company eulogised about its sharp edges contrasting with smooth surfaces, and how they were inspired by modern fighter jets.
That’s a lot of hype for any car to live up to, and anyway, you might think it all a bit presumptuous from a brand that used to be known for its budget cars that sold more on price than quality.
Come a long way
Kia has been around since 1944, and it has come a very long way in that time. In 1998 it merged with the other big Korean car company, Hyundai. But even as recently as the turn of the millennium, Kia made cars best known for their unremarkable body styling, rustic driving manners, and bargain price.
Then Kia became ambitious. In harness with Hyundai, the cars’ engineering quality rose sharply, and under the direction of German-born design chief Peter Schreyer Kia’s cars started to look a lot better too. Prices went up, somewhat inevitably, but so did the length of the warranty. Buy a new Kia today, and the warranty will last until 2023. At seven years of cover, it’s more than double the industry norm.
Which brings me back to the new Sportage. The car has undergone extensive renovation to change its look, improve its interior calibre and enhance its driving manners. It has caught up with other cars in the Kia range by acquiring the now signature feature of a ‘tiger-nose’ grille. There is a silver kickplate low on the front of the car, and upgraded lighting.
Side-on, the waistline is higher, the roofline a little more raked, and the wheel arches more pronounced. There has been a big upgrade inside too, in response to existing owners telling the company what they liked, and didn’t. Pliant surfaces, better quality materials and a classy re-design have transformed the Sportage’s cabin.
Behind the wheel of the Sportage you’re reminded of how far the brand has come for driving calibre too. The Sportage is one of the more likeable cars of its type, out-shining some of the other mid-size crossover models. It is grippy on the bends, cruise-comfortable on a motorway, with flexible performance and good refinement.
The engine choice is between 1.6 litre petrol in two power versions, and 1.7 or two-litre diesel, and manual or auto transmissions, both six-speed, and a seven-speed twin-clutch auto.
As so often happens with progression to a new generation of a popular car, the price has gone up, and by quite a hefty amount. Buyers have to stump up around an extra £500 compared with the old model. Prices start from a fiver short of £18,000, while the likely-popular 1.7 litre diesel in base trim is almost £17,750. A top-notch two-litre GT-Line car is priced at £27,160.