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Review: Kia Sportage First Edition

Kia is looking to get its Sportage off to a flying start with the First Edition special edition model. Steve Walker takes a look.

There’s a lot to be said for arriving on the scene with a bang, exploding out of the blocks and making a good first impression.

Most new cars at least attempt it with glitzy launch events and expensive marketing campaigns but Kia is coming at the task from an unusual angle with its latest Sportage.

Rather than wheeling out a value-added special edition version eighteen months down the line when interest is starting to sag, Kia decided to offer the Sportage exclusively in special edition guise from launch. The initial encounter prospective buyers have with the Korean marque’s compact 4x4 will be with a fully-loaded First Edition model. That can’t do its chances any harm. Can it?

In combination with its sister brand Hyundai, Kia has been one of the automotive industry’s major success stories over recent years. Its products have taken giant strides in terms of quality and engineering to the point where they’ve become realistic challengers in the European market’s mainstream. If recent Kia efforts have lacked anything, it’s been that spark of design flair and character that can make all the difference in helping a vehicle stand out but the latest Sportage seeks to address that. In First Edition guise, it’s also sticking to the tried and tested Kia policy of offering lots of equipment for the money so will this combination of old and new approaches work?

In the wider Sportage range, there are front-wheel-drive and petrol engine options but the First Edition comes only as a 4x4 packing Kia’s 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine. It’s a part-time all-wheel-drive system which sends 100 per cent of power to the front wheels unless slippage is detected and some drive is automatically diverted to the rear. There’s a Lock Mode for off-road driving which splits the available power 50/50 between the front and rear wheels but it only operates below 25mph. All Sportage models have Hillstart Assist Control to help with uphill getaways and Downhill Brake Control to provide reassurance on steep descents.

"The initial encounter prospective buyers have with the Korean marque’s compact 4x4 will be with a fully-loaded First Edition model."

The car has fully independent suspension front and rear with the option of fitting Kia’s Amplitude Selective Dampers which adjust their firmness according to the speed of the vehicle. Steering is via an electric system which adjusts the level of assistance according to speed. The 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine hails from the top of the Sportage range and promises strong performance coupled with good fuel economy.

Instantly looking like one of Kia’s most adventurous styling efforts to date, the Sportage follows the established compact 4x4 design cues. It’s a longer and wider car than the previous generation model, bringing it in line with today’s top compact 4x4s size-wise, but it’s also lower, helping it achieve a more streamlined profile. The shoulder line is particularly high making for a small glass area and a more dynamic appearance while the large head and fog lights produce a distinctive front end.

The First Edition models are available with a choice of five colours adorning the bodywork, including the lively Techno Orange shade. Also enlivening the look of the Sportage exterior are 18" alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights. Inside, there’s the same kind of sporty feel with a tiered dashboard and a high centre console dividing the cabin and full leather trim included as standard on this special edition.

The generous dimensions of the Sportage are made to count in the cabin where efforts have been made to increase passenger space over the old car. There’s also a substantial boot measuring in at 564 litres when the rear seats are occupied or 1,353 litres when they’re folded down. Storage space inside the Sportage includes a 6-litre centre console bin, large door pockets and a glovebox that’s air-conditioned on some models.

Equipment levels leave little to the imagination with cosmetic features like the 18" alloys and the luxurious leather interior supplemented by dual-zone climate control, automatic rain-sensing wipers and lots more. The availability of the First Edition models will be limited and Kia is hoping that customers see these well-specified models as the most cost-effective way into a Sportage.

The compact 4x4 was once a niche market product but these days, it’s unquestionably part of the mainstream. Virtually all of the major manufacturers offer a model in this class and Kia is pitching the Sportage First Edition into this fray with some confidence. The Hyundai ix35 rides on the same platform as the Sportage and together, the two models will be looking to steal sales from the likes of Skoda’s Yeti and Suzuki’s Grand Vitara – and maybe even up into Ford’s Kuga, Nissan’s X-Trail and Toyota RAV4 territory. Much will depend on how the First Edition versions are received.

Despite its 4x4 mechanicals adding extra weight, the Sportage First Edition achieves strong fuel economy figures. The 2.0-litre CRDi engine can eek out 47.1mpg on the combined cycle with CO2 emissions measured at 156g/km. Kia’s industry-leading seven-year warranty will also have a positive impact on running costs.

Kia has shown itself to be a smooth operator in the marketing and promotion of its products down the years and appears to be at it again with the latest Sportage. Paving the way for the rest of the range, the First Edition models are designed to show Kia’s compact 4x4 in an impressively high-specification light. The range-topping engine and transmission combination coupled with a bulging equipment list should get sales off to a flying start.

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