Behind the wheel: Kia Sportage review

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While the Kia Sportage has been around for two decades, it's really come into its own in recent years 

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Launched in 2016, the fourth generation Sportage is Kia's best-selling model, accounting for an impressive 39,683 of the South Korean company’s record-breaking total UK sales of 93,222 in 2017.

Classified as a compact SUV, the Sportage range is priced from £19,195 to £32,425 and available with front-wheel drive or as a 4x4. It’s safe too, gaining a maximum five-star safety rating in the Euro NCAP tests with an excellent 90% adult occupant protection score and 83% child protection score. Rivals include the Nissan Qashqai, Renault Kadjar, Seat Ateca, Ford Kuga and Mazda CX-5. 

First impressionskia-sportage

The Kia Sportage is chunky and distinctive with those classic SUV characteristics of a high ride height, short overhangs front and rear and a commanding seating position.

Inside it's spacious and practical with a quality feel. The instruments and infotainment system are well laid out and intuitive.

There's a good sense of space up front and room for adults in the back, plus lots of small storage spaces. There's a decent 503 litres of luggage space in the boot (491 litres in four-wheel drive models) or 1,492 litres (1,480) with the back seats folded down. Overall, it's hard to fault the build quality. Engine choice

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Kia offers the Sportage with four engines ranging from the 130bhp 1.6-litre GDi and turbocharged 174bhp 1.6 T-GDi petrol units, to two diesels - a 114bhp 1.7 CRDi and 2.0-litre CRDi, producing 134bhp or 182bhp. All are available with a six-speed manual gearbox, while all except the 1.6 GDi can be specified with either a six or seven-speed automatic transmission (depending on the engine size).

The fastest model is an automatic 1.6 T-GDi petrol with a 0-60mph time of 8.8 seconds (manual 9.2 seconds) and top speed of 125mph (126mph). The 1.7 CRDi diesel is the most frugal, with claimed fuel economy of 61.4mpg and low emissions of 119g/km. This would be our engine choice because it offers the best blend of performance and economy, though expect up to 50mpg in real world driving. Trim options

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There are five trim levels, ranging from one to five, plus three range-topping sporty high spec grades - GT-Line, GT-Line Edition and GT-Line S. Versions with four-wheel drive are identified by a KX in front of the number (eg KX-2).

We'd recommend stretching to at least a 'two' grade which comes with a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system (including sat nav and DAB), 17-inch alloys, privacy glass, a height-adjustable driver’s seat, dual-zone air-conditioning, a rear-view parking camera and rear parking sensors.

How does the Kia Sportage drive?

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The Sportage is one of the few SUVs that handles well. Despite its height, I found that there’s very little body lean when cornering and even if the ride is on the firm side, it's a good balance between comfort and driving engagement. With light steering and good visibility, it's also an easy car to drive. The 114bhp 1.7 CRDi diesel, especially, seems faster than the official 0-62mph time of 11.5 seconds suggests and works well with the slick six-speed manual gearbox.

I drove the Sportage on a wide variety of roads in the town and countryside, including long motorway stints with family and luggage on board, and it performed admirably. And perhaps most importantly from a driver’s point of view, it’s one of those rare cars that immediately makes you feel at home and you’ll enjoy driving.

Kia Sportage: the verdict

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Competitively priced, easy to drive, spacious, practical, good looking and well equipped, the Kia Sportage is one of the best SUVs on the market. And we haven't even mentioned its trump card - that unbeatable seven-year warranty.

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