Is the new ‘made for Europe’ Kia Sportage the perfect family car?

Kia has made its new Sportage specifically with Europe in mind. DARREN CASSEY finds out if it has what it takes to still be a sales hit.

The Sportage might just be the most important car in Kia’s line-up. And this new fifth-generation version is the first to be specifically made with Europe in mind. It’s actually slightly different from the one the rest of the world gets.

It’s not at all surprising that the Sportage is a big seller, though, offering good value for money in the SUV market, which typically targets families. This new model brings smart new looks and a wide range of powertrains.

The new model is, as we mentioned, bespoke to the European market and comes with a choice of petrol, diesel, mild hybrid and hybrid powertrains at launch, with a plug-in hybrid powertrain on the way.

Photos: PA Media

It gets Kia’s new ‘Opposites United’ design philosophy that was first seen on the EV6 and is built on the firm’s new ‘N3’ vehicle platform. There’s a modernised, tech-heavy interior with a cool switchable screen in the middle, as well as extensive driver assistance technology.

In total there are eight powertrains on offer, but the car we’re testing today is the regular hybrid model. There’s no plug-in power here – that model comes later – but this model combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor to provide a healthy 226bhp and 350Nm of torque.

Fuel economy comes in at 48.7mpg on the official tests, and we achieved about 47mpg on a mixed test route, which is surprisingly and refreshingly close. With this not being a plug-in the battery is pretty small, so don’t expect to be pootling all over town with zero emissions. Instead, the hybrid Sportage slips into EV mode at low speeds and in traffic just to stop the petrol unit being used when it’s at its most efficient.

In the family car segment what you’re generally looking for is something comfortable and easy to drive so it’s one less thing to worry about when carting your kids around. First impressions are good for the Sportage, which has a quiet, refined feel on the move. The suspension feels a little hard at lower speeds but smooths out on dual carriageways.

It’s no hot hatch in the corners but the steering weight is brilliantly judged, which means it’s easy to thread along a country lane or pilot through heavy urban traffic.

There are a couple of small complaints, with the gearbox being slow and jerky when you ask the car to go soon after coming to stop, while the driver assistance systems are too intrusive. It shouldn’t be enough to put you off what is an excellent all-round package, though.

While this new styling language looked great on the EV6, it hasn’t translated quite so seamlessly to the Sportage. The details are fantastic on their own, with those boomerang-shaped daytime running lights and that wide, chunky grille.

However, when you see it in person it’s a little less cohesive. It’s not the biggest SUV on the market and it looks like Kia has tried to cram too much design into too little package, giving it a slightly awkward stance.

That said, there’s a definite premium appeal and the South Korean brand has done a great job of lifting the Sportage’s quality.

The interior meanwhile, is a definite hit. The driving position is quite high, even in its lowest setting, but once you get past that it’s clear Kia has spent a lot of time (and money) bringing the Sportage’s cabin up to 2022 standards.

Entry-level ‘2’ trims get an eight-inch touchscreen, but all other models get a 12.3-inch unit that sits proudly in a long, sweeping unit alongside the digital instruments. Beneath that is a quirky innovation, with two physical dials either side of a display that can be switched between heating systems and radio controls, with the dials changing function depending on the screen that’s selected.

It’s pretty spacious, too, though it’s worth noting that hybrid models have a slightly smaller boot because of the battery pack.

There are five trim levels, with the entry model being called ‘2. Standard equipment includes an eight-inch infotainment display, 17-inch alloy wheels, cloth upholstery with a leather steering wheel, LED headlights, and cruise control.

In the middle sits the ‘3’ trim. This gets 18-inch alloy wheels, LED front fog lights, rear privacy glass, black cloth and faux leather upholstery, heated front and rear seats and the 12.3-inch infotainment systems.

At the top of the range is the GT-Line S, and gets dual LED adaptive headlights, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, Harman Kardon sound system and a wireless smartphone charger.

Updating your best-selling model is always a nerve-wracking moment for a car manufacturer – what if you ruin the recipe that’s clearly resonating with buyers? However, with the new Sportage, Kia appears to have hit the nail on the head by creating a genuinely appealing family car that’s refined without losing any character.

The wide range of engine options and impressive equipment levels will only make it more appealing, while the introduction of the ultra-efficient plug-in hybrid soon will add yet another dimension. As it stands, the regular hybrid we tested is a quiet and comfortable family car worthy of the firm’s lofty ambitions.

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