Sportage is the complete compact SUV

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ONE of the most impressive success stories in the UK motor market over the last two decades has been the rise of South Korean manufacturer Kia following them establishing a new British sales record last year with retail sales up 10 per cent to nearly 78,000 cars and a 3.512 per cent market share with their smart Sportage being the best seller writes Bryan Longworth.

European built Sportage, which I have just been driving again, is not surprisingly way out in front of the company sales charts followed by Picanto and Cee’d because it is such an accomplished SUV in every way especially since it had a recent makeover.

It has a very attractive body thanks to their top designer Peter Schreyer who used to design Audi cars plus quality powertrains, interiors and striking handling and performance qualities.

When Kia first came to the UK over 20 years ago they were at the budget end of the market but they have improved their image so much they are now highly regarded with quality products and the Sportage is a perfect example of t‏heir product range.

It is built at Kia’s ultra modern factory in Slovakia which I have visited and is one of the most impressive new car plants I have seen so it is not really surprising that Sportage should be such a star.

Sportage prices start at £17,500 and on test was the top model the Sportage 2.0 CRDI KX4 Auto AWD with selectable 4x4 that has a top speed of 121mph and acceleration time of zero to 62mph of 9.4 seconds with a combined fuel consumption of 39.2mpg and CO2 emissions of 189g/km.

There was a nice feel about the test car as soon as I started driving on a cold and snowy day when I really appreciated the very warm heater, heated front leather seats and the Land Rover style heated steering wheel which was really appreciated plus the benefits at this time of year of four wheel drive.

I was also impressed by the very smooth and quiet turbodiesel engine which was just as impressive as those excellent diesels from the German manufacturers that are accepted as being among the best in the business and the standard specification also included Parallel Park Assist System, full size spare wheel and an electric driver’s seat although I would have liked the seat to have gone back a bit further to provide more room behind the steering wheel.

Sportage is available with diesel and petrol engines plus six speed automatic and manual transmissions and two or four wheel drive however auto gears are not available with the two wheel drive petrol engine which is a pity because I know of one potential owner who would have bought one had this been so but then bought a competitor which had these features on board.

I drove along some very muddy, steep and slippery off-road tracks that would have beaten two wheel drive cars but with four wheel drive engaged the test car had no problem maintaining traction and was also quite stable which is another good feature when tackling such severe conditions.

But I enjoyed driving Sportage most on road and found it to be an excellent motorway cruiser where the handling, performance and comfort levels made it such a satisfying car to travel in for both driver and passengers.

Finally there is that tempting seven year/100,000 mile warranty that makes the Sportage even more of a good deal for motorists wanting this sort of vehicle as their personal transport so overall it is not really surprising that Kia has achieved record sales with cars like Sportage.

Fact File

Model: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDI KX4 Auto AWD.

Engine: 2.0-litre four cylinder diesel.

Output: 181bhp @ 4000rpm.

Transmission: Six speed automatic.

Top speed: 121mph.

Acceleration: 0 to 60mph: 9.4 seconds.

Fuel consumption: combined 39.2mpg.

CO2 emissions: 189g/km.

Price: £29,505 on the road.