MOTORS REVIEW: Kia Sportage

MOTORS REVIEW: Kia Sportage

By Tom Sharpe | 20/02/2019

MOTORS REVIEW: Kia Sportage

BEV, PHEV, FCEV and E-REV are among the array of increasingly mindbending acronyms which describe a growing variety of alternative-fuel vehicle drivetrains that are breaking into the UK market.

But an increasing number of manufacturers, from Audi and Mercedes-Benz to Suzuki are labelling a new breed of cars with a something of a doffed cap towards electrification as “mild hybrids”.

The chicken Korma, Timothy Taylor, Dejon, of the automotive world deliver miles of zero emissions, EV motoring or, for that matter, need plugging into a charge point, but it will claim to save you fuel.

One of very few “hybrid” systems to be used in conjunction with a diesel engine, such a system has also been added to the new range-topping Kia Sportage, the £34,545 GT Line S CRDi AWD Auto.

Based around a 48v lithium ion battery located under the boot floor, Kia’s mild hybrid system self-charges under deceleration — using a specially-developed starter generator system — in order to gather enough electrical power to supplement the engine under initial acceleration.

It also extends the scope of the Sportage’s traditional stop/start engine cut-off system, allowing it to cut power before the car reaches a full standstill in order to save a little more fuel.

It’s a bit of a shame that Kia has only fitted the system to its most powerful derivative, the two-litre turbodiesel with 182bhp, but the Korean brand claims the savings in fuel and emissions are around four per cent.

From what I could see, the system shaves less than 1mpg in fuel economy and 2g/km in CO2 emissions - at 48.7mpg and 152g/km - over a similarly-specced 2017 Sportage, but that’s not taking into account the effects of the recent shift to more stringent WLTP test regime.

Focus on the essentials and the new Sportage’s drivetrain is plenty powerful enough and feels grown-up and premium in conjunction with the smooth eightspeed automatic gearbox.

The new system shifts ratios in a far smoother fashion than the seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox found elsewhere in the range.

It doesn’t feel like it’s been tuned for outright speed, though, and a fairly conservative 9.2-second quoted acceleration to 62mph time backs this up. Kia also quotes a 125mph top speed.

The Sportage really is the Kia range’s sweet spot and in sporty GT Line S guise it rides and handles with a little more precision and looks every bit the premium SUV.

Any slight awkwardness around the latest generation’s gaping grille and slender high-set lights is lessened by the added aggression of faux air vents housing the front fog lights, 19-inch alloys, the panoramic sunroof and twin exhausts at the rear.

My test car’s optional Blue Flame paint (£595) is also new to the latest model and, to my eyes, is the best colour I’ve seen the Sportage wear to date.

Inside, brushed chrome kick plate inside the door and a small badge at the base of a stylish multi-function steering wheel denote the GT-Line S specification, while red stitched leather seats (heated and air conditioned in the front, heated in the back), stainless steel sports pedals add to the sporty feel.

Kia now knows where to prioritise its cabin quality, with touches of chrome or gloss black well used to add texture and polish to what is a stylish, well equipped and comfortable interior.

Adaptive cruise control, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment with TomTom sat-nav and an eight speaker JBL sound system, wireless phone charging plate and front and rear parking sensors boosted by the addition of 360-degree view parking cameras are all part of the GT-Line S’s packed specification.

During a 600-mile round trip to Scotland, four-up and with a weekend’s worth of luggage, the Sportage’s packaging also proved impressive.

That mild hybrid drivetrain and its batteries are accommodated with no impact on the 491-litre boot space and rear head and legroom is good for full-sized adults.

All said, the Sportage has been a force in the market since 2010 and this latest update only broadens its appeal, once again hitting the sweet spot for young, stylish families.

Most owners will never notice, or care about, the presence of the mild hybrid system, but that’s no bad thing.

It keeps this powerful, diesel-powered Sportage on the right side of ever-more stringent emissions standards and keeps the Sportage success story rolling on…

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