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Road test: Kia Sportage

There are some notable new diesel options behind Kia’s refreshed best-seller, explains Alex Grant.

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SECTOR Medium SUV  PRICE £20,305-£34,545  FUEL 36.7-58.9mpg  CO2 126-178g/km

The fourth-generation Sportage must have seemed like the proverbial ‘difficult second album’ for Kia. A bold new look for a nameplate which almost single-handedly transformed the brand’s image from one of cheap runarounds and caravan-pullers to a manufacturer of stylish, desirable SUVs.

Thankfully, it’s shaped up to be a ‘Nevermind’, vastly outperforming its predecessor. In the UK, it’s become this segment’s second biggest-selling product, and 40% of Kia’s volume last year, with no signs of demand slowing. Customers for the Stonic and Niro SUVs have come from other brands, not the Sportage, and the broader new Ceed family is out to do the same.

Mid-life updates amount to a double-disc special edition, in that the packaging is pretty much unchanged; some new wheels, minor alterations to the grille and a chrome strip across the bumper that look a bit like a braced grin. The UK range comprises six trim levels, including a petrol-only special edition to mark 25 years of the Sportage, and two GT-Line versions.

Spec is generous wherever customers place themselves in that line-up. All include reversing cameras and rear parking sensors, cruise control, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity for mapping and messaging. Built-in TomTom navigation comes in at the fleet-favourite ‘2’ grade, while leather means opting up to grade ‘4’. GT-Line models, now a quarter of UK volume, feature sports styling and Porsche-like four-pod LED headlights.

Petrol engines are carried over, albeit now with particulate filters, but, without the Ceed’s 1.0-litre three-cylinder turbo, their baseline 162g/km CO2 emissions offer limited fleet appeal. However, the diesel line-up is all-new, and now featuring AdBlue injection to reduce NOx output. Notably, this replaces the old 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre units with a new 1.6-litre unit, producing 114bhp on the entry-level trim, and 134bhp for the rest of the range.

The latter is the likely fleet best-seller, available with an optional twin-clutch automatic and four-wheel drive. It means most business-bought Sportages, typically fitted with the lacklustre 1.7-litre pre-facelift, will get a desirable power uplift in the new car. WLTP-derived ‘NEDC Correlated’ economy figures hide any real-world improvements, but the most efficient Sportage (a 1.6 CRDi auto) comes in at 58.9mpg and 126g/km, priced at £25,495 in ‘2’ guise (£23,995 for the manual). Unfortunately, it wasn’t available to test.

Instead, we tried Kia’s new 48-volt ‘mild hybrid’ system, which is debuting here. This uses a motor-generator to assist the engine while it’s under load, and charges a compact, 0.44kWh battery under the boot floor when it isn’t. The aim is to reduce the workload of the engine and enable it to switch off earlier while decelerating, powering on-board systems with the battery. It’s unintrusive and offers a claimed 4% economy boost, but the 1.6-litre diesel won’t get it until 2020. For now, it’s only offered on the 182bhp 2.0-litre diesel, and with a twin-clutch transmission and four-wheel drive.

It’s not a radical change, but it puts Kia’s chart-topper in good shape.

The Verdict

Useful updates for a popular car, albeit not enough to be class-leading. Not that this has ever been problematic before.

Key Fleet Model – Kia Sportage 1.6 CRDi 2

Strengths – Spacious, well-equipped.

Weaknesses – CO2 could be lower.

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Alex Grant

Trained on Cardiff University’s renowned Postgraduate Diploma in Motor Magazine Journalism, Alex is an award-winning motoring journalist with ten years’ experience across B2B and consumer titles. A life-long car enthusiast with a fascination for new technology and future drivetrains, he joined Fleet World in April 2011, contributing across the magazine and website portfolio and editing the EV Fleet World Website.