14 MARCH 2011


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Article from BTNews 14 MARCH 2011

MOTORING UPDATE by Ted Wilkinson

Kia Sportage MY 10 1.7 CRDi Eco Sat Nav

Smart and Sensible Kia

The original Kia Sportage hit the UK roads well before the term Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) became common language.  I recall that it had plenty of sporty character and the finish was far better than that of a utility vehicle.

Kia has now pulled out the stops with its successor, described as a cross-over between a practical hatch back and a purposeful leisure machine capable of venturing on rough and/or slippery surfaces with near impunity.

Certainly there is a trace of the easy, light feeling yet positive and exceptionally enjoyable driving performance of the ‘old’ version, allied markedly to a superior upmarket package, both mechanically, quality wise and with a specification close to what we used to term executive class.

Kia has also taken on board the fact that there is now much more of a market for this type of vehicle employing front wheel drive as well as an option of 4x4.  You have a choice with the new Sportage.  Power wise the choice is of two excellent latest generation eco-friendly power units in petrol or diesel forms of capacities from 1.6 litres up to 2.0 litres.  There are three mainline specifications plus the all singing and dancing sat-nav version I have been enjoying recently.

According to model you have a choice of 5/6-speed manual gearboxes and automatic and 16, 17 and 18 inch alloy wheels including a full size spare stowed inside the vehicle under the boot floor.  Latest VAT-enhanced prices put the 16-car range around the £17,000 to £27,000 bracket.

Visually the Sportage has a sleek and somewhat domineering appearance and rides quite high off the ground to ensure good clearance when venturing off road.  I thought it would be a bit challenging for shorter drivers to access the driving seat but, despite not having a grab handle on the driver’s side, it is easier than looks suggest.

Inside there is a roomy five-seat accommodation, plenty of luggage space (the usual split folding rear seats offer further loading permutations) and in addition to high comfort levels there is a smack of quality about the product.

The driver’s life is made easy and comfortable with a supportive though slightly narrow seat, plenty of adjustment including height, good pedal positioning and a fully adjustable steering wheel.  Add to that the feel good factor of all-leather upholstery and heating for all seats and it is easy to appreciate that the going is easy.

Fascia presentation is pure and simple in the European style with conventional analogue circular dials offering plenty of useful information.  The minor controls are ‘natural’ and like the air distribution outlets for the air conditioning/dual heating systems are fiddle-free.

Driver vision, apart from slight ¾-front blind spot caused the usual large front pillars on this type of vehicle, is excellent, assisted by large automatic folding exterior mirrors and a rear view camera that shares its screen with the user-friendly sat-nav system.  The hi-tech headlight system virtually turns night into day.

Of course, the real lifestyle of this car is, not the confined usual features that are clearly in abundance but, particularly for the passengers, the twin sun roofs…come summer that’s real street creditability on the school run!

In the early days of 4x4s, SUVs and MPVs the driver’s lot was somewhat challenging and, in my experience, remains so with some current contenders but not this Sportage that feels extremely stable yet easy on the controls, compact to park and with a refined turn of performance from the flexible diesel engine.

Using a light yet positive changing s-speed manual gearbox with a smooth take up clutch pedal, the drive is hardly taxing and further enhanced by a responsive stop+start fuel saving system and a standard fit cruise control.

Kia claim a top speed of 107 mph with 60 mph from rest in a creditable 11.9 seconds while the combined fuel consumption on this 18-inch wheel version is 52.3 mpg so if you can’t see 40 mpg under mixed driving conditions you can’t be trying.

In conclusion this latest Kia Sportage is a very competent performer, whether cruising the motorways in a serene manner or dealing with the harshness of winter where the big wheels and well sorted fully independent suspension system ensure high safety levels in a vehicle that provides a top 5-star NCAP safety rating.

This Kia Sportage is right up there with the best, continuing a familiar trend with successive new Kia products.

Rivals include: Toyota RAV 4, Nissan Qashqai, Honda CRV, Peugeot 3008.

STAR RATINGS (out of 10)

Performance 9
Handling 9
Transmission 9
Noise 9
Economy 8
Ride and Comfort 9
Accommodation 9
Styling 8
Brakes 9
Finish 9
TOTAL: 89%

Price From: £23,065


Infiniti Lays Down the Gauntlett
The latest contender in the hard fought premium class market, Infiniti, has clearly matched its unique ‘5-star’ marketing activities with a rapidly expanding range of high tech products.

A prime example is the new M30d s- Premium, F 19 MM saloon, pitched at around £47,590.

I have just driven the 3.0-litre V6 turbo charged 235 bhp turbo diesel version driving the rear wheels through a seamless and very responsive 7-speed automatic transmission.

Not just a luxury car (bespoke the trim to suit your taste) this is a seriously enjoyable car for those who appreciate driving performance – to achieve this it features four-wheel active steering.

Likewise it can also demonstrate a very docile nature.  Top speed is a claimed 155 mph with 62 mph (100 kph) reached from rest in 6.9 seconds and with a combined fuel consumption of 37.7 mpg. www.infiniti.co.uk

ALFA ROMEO: Linking up with its support of UK Athletics, Alfa Romeo has announced a limited edition Sprint version of its MiTo hatch back model. Loaded with £1,500 worth of extras, including cruise control, body customising and Blue Tooth system, the price starts at £13,295 for the 1.4-litre 15-valve 95 bhp version. www.alfaromeo.co.uk

AUDI: The first long wheel base version of the top Audi A8 saloon range has arrived in the UK.  The car is 130 mm longer and includes a flagship 6.3-litre W 12 version.  Price range: £60,000 to £94,000. www.audi.co.uk

HONDA: A revised version of the popular executive class Honda Accord will be unveiled at the forthcoming Geneva Motor Show. Honda will also show a platform for a mid-sized plug-in hybrid car. www.honda.co.uk

JAGUAR will celebrate 50 years of the E type at the Geneva Motor Show in March.  The series 2 car was introduced in 1968 at a price of £2,000.  The Lotus Elan +2, launched at the same time cost £1,200 in kit (tax efficient) form.  In 2008 the original prototype (in fact the second prototype – the first ‘mule’ was destroyed) was sold for US$5.0m. www.jaguar.com

MAZDA: The iconic Mazda MX 5 sports car is set to make history by posting over 900,000 sales, since launch 21 years and 10 months ago.  10% of world wide sales are taken up by UK buyers.  Mazda will be claiming an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. www.mazda.co.uk

NISSAN: Customers waiting more than three months for a new Juke, Qashqai or Qashqai +2 will be offered a free loan car – either a Micra or a Note according to order. www.nissan.co.uk

PEUGEOT: A new eco-friendly development of the top-selling Peugeot 308 will hit UK showrooms this May.  With revised bodywork and mechanicals, the new model line-up will be the cleanest of its class with C02 emissions of only 98 g/km. www.peugeot.co.uk

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