KIA SPORTAGE: horses for courses

SO, the snow came – and so, thankfully, did Kia’s highly useful Sportage.

Not without a touch of déjà vu either. Because the last time Britain was well and truly blanketed in the white stuff that no one seems to be able to cope with, I also had a Kia Sportage on test at the time.

It was ‘only’ the two wheel drive version and ‘only’ had the 1.7 diesel engine under the bonnet, but it coped admirably with the conditions.

This time, with all wheel drive and a 2.0 diesel (134bhp, 320Nm of torque) installed, there would obviously be no cause for concern, whatever the conditions, would there? Well, no.

The key thing people seem to forget when conditions are tricky is that even if you’ve got 4WD, very few of us can emulate the late Colin McRae and hence a touch of discretion is, on reflection, the best route to follow.

And a set-up like the Kia has certainly gives you the reassuring knowledge that with drive to all four wheels it’s going to be a far safer proposition than those slipping about all around you.

As what’s dubbed a crossover – part way between an SUV and an estate – the spacious five door five seat Kia has a lot going for it. It’s neatly styled, it’ll more than meet the requirements of the modern family and their lifestyle, and it won’t bite you on the bum when it comes to running it on a day to day basis.

Its sleekish profile makes it stylish and sporty, and there’s no doubt it’s in one of the growing areas of the new car market.

It has a wide front track which gives it good stability, and while the ground clearance still helps to give you a good all round view of the mayhem around you, it’s not as high as some – Kia’s thinking is that the car is less likely to be used as an off-road vehicle, and I think they’re right.

Its signature tiger nose grille surround is something design chief Peter Schreyer is turning into a Kia trademark, an instant identifier. The reverse angle C pillars at the back help with that sleek look and with its roof rails, LED daytime running lights and decent sized door mirrors there’s a distinctive look to the Sportage. Much more so than its predecessor.

And so to the clever bit.

The Dymax all wheel drive system is a piece of kit that needs no extraneous buttons and switches to operate. It continuously monitors conditions and anticipates when all wheel drive is needed. Normally 100 per cent of the engine torque goes up front, but that can be redistributed to a maximum of 60:40 front to rear to boost cornering ability or if road conditions deteriorate.

If you need to go off road, you can manually select lock mode which gives a 50:50 split at speeds of up to 25mph.

In normal use the ride quality is good, and the power assisted steering has a light feel that makes what is a decent sized car easy to manoeuvre round town.

Even the entry level model is well equipped with 16 inch alloys, air con, all round electric windows, LED daytime running lights, remote locking, leather steering wheel and gearknob, front fogs, cornering lights, rain sensing wipers, Bluetooth with voice recognition and steering wheel mounted controls.

KX2 trim as sampled here adds part leather upholstery, roof rails, privacy glass, reversing sensors, panoramic roof, bigger alloys (17 inch), folding mirrors and a luggage net.

Add Electronic Stability Control, Downhill Brake Control, Hill-Start Assist Control and a Roll-Over sensor to the mix and they’ve pretty well covered all the bases.

As Kia themselves say, a car built for an active life.

FASTFACTS: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi  KX-2 AWD; £23,025; 1995cc 4 cylinder 16 valve diesel, 134bhp, 236lb/ft for torque; 6 speed manual gearbox; Top speed 112mph, 0-60mph 10.9 secs; Fuel – urban 41.5, extra urban 55.4, combined 49.6; CO2 149g/km; VED Band F (£135); Will it fit the garage? 4440/1855/1645 (length/width/height); 7 year/100,000 mile warranty.

© Wheelwrite 2013

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