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Latest Kia Sportage scores on affordability and practicality

Having firmly established the Sportage as a mainstream choice for an affordable yet well-equipped full-size SUV, Kia is looking to refresh the model with a new, facelifted version.

Although almost identical to the previous generation on the surface, there are a number of new technological features.

There's also an updated range of engines, with the diesel powertrain having been replaced and a mild hybrid option being introduced.

What's new?

At first glance, you won't notice any staggering changes. However, inspect closely and you'll see the design has been somewhat streamlined, with new bumpers front and rear and updated headlight signatures.

The infotainment system hahad an upgrade, with a sleeker, frameless eight-inch touchscreen now an optional extra. Semi-autonomous features such as lane-keep assist are now standard from a lower grade than before.

There's a new choice of engines as well, with the diesel option downsized to a 1.6-litre U3 unit and a mild hybrid powertrain being offered as well.

What's under the bonnet?

We tested two different engines - the 1.6-litre four-cylinder U3 diesel, and the 2.0-litre four-cylinder 48V mild hybrid powertrain.

The most obvious choice will likely be the new 134bhp 1.6-litre diesel, which is economical and punchy, offering 58.9mpg and a plentiful 320Nm of torque. Acceleration is adequate, if a bit sporadic, with the car gaining speed at a fluctuating rate as it climbs through the gears, reaching 60mph in 11.4 seconds and carrying on to a top speed of 112mph.

That said, we feel the 2.0-litre mild hybrid is the superior powertrain. The electric element gives a great thump of instant torque - a whopping 400Nm - when you accelerate, with the engine feeling much more potent than its conventional counterpart, thanks to an output of 182bhp and a top speed of 125mph.

In addition, both these engines' performances are noticeably improved by the Sport Mode feature, with the eight-speed dual-clutch transmission we tested changing gear at higher revs.

The Sportage is also available with a 1.6-litre GDi or T-GDi petrol unit, with up to 174bhp and 265Nm of torque.

What's it like to drive?

The first thing to note is that it has the quite light steering common among the Kia range. However, this is not as much of a problem as it is with other models for two main reasons.

Firstly, whereas you might wish to have a lot of feel in a small hatchback so you can throw it into a corner and feel like a teenager again, it's sensible for a big car such as the Sportage to be easy to manoeuvre.

Secondly, that Sport Mode setting we mentioned earlier does a fantastic job of weighting up the steering, creating a much heftier feel that gives you a lot more confidence in the corners. To be able to switch between the two extremes at the press of a button is very useful.

The eight-speed dual-clutch transmission is another good point, changing gears with a focus on performance or economy - depending on whether Sport Mode is engaged - and also allowing the option for the driver manually select a gear using a pair of flappy paddles.

How does it look?

The facelift hasn't changed the aesthetics in any dramatic way. However, the new bumpers at front and rear, and the updated headlight signatures, offer a slightly smarter look. This is representative of the gradual improvement we've seen in how models from the South Korean brand both look and drive over relatively recent years.

However, the Sportage still isn't exciting or trendy looking. It stands up to some rivals, such as the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Karoq, but can't match the stylishness of examples such as the Mini Countryman.

What's it like inside?

In spite of a few scratchy plastics lower down in the cabin - which is acceptable in any non-premium model - the interior is generally a nice place to be. There's an abundance of leather for a car of this value and, despite a wide range of gadgets, the buttons have been laid out in a logical way.

The optional eight-inch frameless touchscreen is also a highlight, blending seamlessly into the dashboard.

As for the infotainment system itself, there's a pleasing symmetry between its digital layout and colour scheme and that of the Sportage's other dials and instruments.

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Kia Sportage's interior is a nice place to be

What's the spec like?

The starting price for the Sportage is £20,305, which will buy you a grade 1 model with 16-inch alloy wheels, cruise control, DAB radio and Bluetooth, among other standard features.

Grade 2 specification starts at £22,405 and adds 17-inch alloy wheels, satellite navigation and some basic semi-autonomous driver aids, such as lane-keep assist and high-beam assist.

Costing from £25,510, the GT-Line model features sporty styling, front parking sensors and a smart entry system.

The Sportage Edition 25 starts at £25,655 and comes with a JBL premium sound system, an eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system with sat-nav and premium paint at no added cost.

The grade 4 car costs from £27,260, which also gets you the eight-inch screen and JBL sound system, as well as a panoramic sunroof, forward collision avoidance assist and blind spot collision warning.

Finally, the top-spec GT-Line S model costs from £31,245 and includes adaptive cruise control, electrically adjustable seats, an electronic parking brake, a 360-degree around view monitor, a powered tailgate and a wireless phone charger.

Verdict

It's hard to find anything really wrong with the Sportage. It may not be the most interesting or stylish car in the world, but it's a winner in terms of drivability, practicality and affordability. Add into the equation the new dimension brought to the model by the introduction of the mild hybrid powertrain and it becomes clear this is a vehicle that could suit pretty much anyone's needs.

Facts at a glance

Model: Kia Sportage

Price: £34,545

Engine: 2.0-litre 48V diesel mild hybrid

Power (bhp): 182

Torque (Nm): 400

Max speed (mph): 125

0-60mph: 9.2 seconds

MPG: TBA

Emissions (g/km): TBA

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