The self-charging hybrid 1.6 GT-Line Kia Sportage HEV that we just borrowed for a week on test was, by a street, the most impressive car to come down this drive in 2022.
Car reviewed: Kia Sportage 1.6 ‘GT-Line S’ HEV AT FWD
Genesis – the recently launched premium brand from Hyundai/Kia – may have emerged as the motoring name of the year. If you buy a new Kia Sportage, however, you can get your hands on a Genesis in all but name, which also happens to be the Car of the Year.
Never would I have dreamt that I would end up saying such things about a Sportage at the time when the first one I ever borrowed for press review arrived at our house. That was in 2010, soon after the launch of the third-generation version of this compact crossover SUV (which actually dates back to 1993).
That 2010 model was a significant leap for Kia, with outstanding design by Peter Schreyer, classy interior and such bombproof build quality that it took the top spot in the J D Power survey for 2012 and was the only car they surveyed to score five gold stars in all categories.
Despite such deserved plaudits, that Sportage was essentially worthy but dull – hard to fault but equally unlikely to inspire love. Its driving dynamics were more prone to put your senses to sleep than to set them ablaze.
Gradually, however, as Kia/Hyundai have upped their game in the last decade, the Sportage has developed not just as an eminently sensible buy but as a class leader. Just as the new Sorento wipes the floor with the opposition in the large SUV class, the latest Sportage knocks spots off the competition in that most crowded automotive field – the compact family SUV. Its dramatic styling, with boomerang lights on the nose, looks less like your bog-standard pudding SUV than Kia’s EV6, the company’s sensational all-electric model.
The alliance of the 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 44.2kW battery pack produces a total of 226bhp, which will power this version from 0-60mph in fractionally over seven seconds – fast enough for anybody with any sense and faster than the equivalent Ford Kuga. The average fuel economy at 42.9mpg is not as great as the 48.7mpg Kia claims, but we’ll allow that slight difference for the pleasure on the road that the chassis lays on.
The comparison with the Kuga is apt because this Kia rivals that Focus-based Ford for the sophistication and suppleness of its chassis and the handling, steering and ride it engenders. On top of that, the new Sportage has an interior to rival Genesis.
Like its premium stablemate, the Sportage projects images of the road behind onto the instrument screen when a turn indicator is activated. Brilliant. No excuse now for failing to spot that cyclist ill-advisedly coming up on the nearside at the lights. In fact, the 12.3” infotainment screen and the 4.2” instrument cluster are straight lifts from Genesis.
There hasn’t been a car this year that I have liked more and wanted to keep for my own – except, possibly, the models from Genesis. With this Sportage, however, you get a Genesis for £38,655, which is about £10,000 less than the cheapest version, which actually bears that name.
Neil Lyndon has been a journalist, broadcaster and writer on the UK’s national stage for 40 years, writing for every “quality” newspaper on Fleet Street. He started writing about cars and motorbikes for The Sunday Times in the 1980s and was Motoring Correspondent of the Sunday Telegraph for 20 years, having previously written a column on motorbikes for Esquire. He is also recognised as a leading commentator on gender politics, having published No More Sex War in 1992 – the first ever critique of feminism from a radical, egalitarian point of view.
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