Our first introduction to Kia’s latest Sportage confirmed the automatic transmission to be a chink in its otherwise well-polished armour. Our main gripe centred on sluggish behaviour to everyday situations, so it got us thinking: should you save the extra cash and opt for a manual ‘box instead?
Buyers have pure petrol or petrol-electric versions of the medium-sized SUV to choose from if a manual transmission is the preferred option. Offering six cogs, it is available on ‘2’, ‘GT-Line’ and ‘3’ – which is tested here – but not the range-topping and sports-focussed ‘GT-Line S’ derivative.
Providing momentum for the front-wheel-drive people mover is a turbocharged four-cylinder, 1.6-litre T-GDi (Turbo Gasoline Direct Injection) engine. Without even mild hybrid assistance, the 148bhp seems paltry and from the driver’s seat that much is confirmed as you need rev the motor consistently to make headway. In turn, the noise from beneath the bonnet finds its way inside.
Toggling between ‘Eco’, ‘Normal’ and ‘Sport’ via a button on the lower console helps to either dull or sharpen throttle response depending on your personal preference, though the first is probably best avoided as the sensation is akin to trying to work your way through a river of treacle – uphill.
Another concern at a time of spiralling fuel costs for owners is economy. On the combined cycle Kia reckons you should expect somewhere in the region of 41.5mpg – but we barely managed to better 36mpg and that was with mostly one or two people onboard with only a few belongings.
As for the transmission, the spacing between each gear is perfect and the action is slick, though the presence of a mechanical clunking sound as you row back and forth is impossible to miss. A light clutch comes into its own in heavy traffic, whilst precise steering helps you place the Sportage exactly where you want it. A MacPherson front suspension and a multi-link set-up at the rear strike the perfect balance between composure through corners and comfort on poorer surfaces.
For £32,560 you would – quite rightly – expect Kia to throw everything into ‘3’ versions of their Hyundai Tucson, Ford Kuga and Seat Ateca rival – and they have obliged. Save for the occasional scratchy plastic lower down, material quality is strong with the same also applying to build levels.
As far as equipment count goes, the star of the show is the South Korean brand’s digital offering, particularly the digital screen that merges the 12.3-inch multimedia display and same-sized driver binnacle into one. A reversing camera system, multi-zone climate control, heated steering wheel and front and outer rear seats as well as black cloth and faux leather upholstery are only a few of the features that appear in a well-packaged cabin that will easily meet the needs busy family life.
Externally, bi-tone alloy wheels, LED technology, dark tinted rear windows and a silver finish for the make-believe skid plate integrated into the back bumper complement give an already easy-on-the eye car some extra presence in an increasingly congested section of the new car market.