Kia hoping for a happy New Year with Sportage
New version of SUV arrives here over the Christmas period
Kia has good reason to look forward to the January sales rush with two important new models and improved engine options to tempt buyers as forecasters predict that this year's 125,000 new car sales will jump to 140,000 next year.
As Geraldine Herbert wrote here last week, the refreshed Cee'd with a very useful new one-litre engine is already getting good reviews and there is an all-new Optima now loaded with technology and a vastly improved diesel engine to take on the kingpins of the family/fleet sector, VW Passat, Toyota Avensis and Ford Mondeo.
But the icing on the cake for Kia boss, James Brooks, is the arrival here over the Christmas period of the new version of their best seller, the Sportage, a model that has been a long-standing big hit in the SUV segment alongside Nissan Qashqai and Hyundai iX35.
The Sportage represents 45pc of Kia sales and the plan is to sell up to 3,000 units which will help to grow total sales for 2016 to 6,500 units, up from 5,500 this year.
This week the new Optima was launched in Europe and with a new body, state-of-the-art technology and a re-worked diesel engine that produces low C02 emissions and a big improvement in fuel economy. The hope is that the new style and performance will push sales up to the 350-400 mark in a segment of the market which has been sluggish for Kia.
The 1.7 litre 141bhp diesel engine is the highlight of the new model with claimed fuel consumption in mixed driving of 4.2L/100km and C02 emissions down 13pc to 111g/km which means that in the six-speed manual version the annual road tax drops from €280 to €190 and in the seven-speed double-clutch automatic transmission it drops to an annual €200 from €570 in the outgoing model.
Automatic transmission models are gaining in popularity at this level of motoring but on the down side it is costly. In the Optima in the mid-range Platinum specification model it pushes the manual price tag of €31,450 up to €34,450.
The steering feels light at low speeds but in motorway driving the stiffer suspensions give good control. The interior gets improved materials but the exterior lines are on the bland side and leave the car lacking in a big visual impact.
The entry level EX price is €27,950 and this includes a seven-inch screen for navigation and reversing camera, dual-zone climate control, cruise control, auto lights and wipers, Lane Assist and 17-inch alloy wheels. The top of thee range GSE is priced at €34,450 which includes panoramic sunroof, two tone leather, smart key entry and auto boot opening.
A plug-in petrol hybrid is expected in the second half of next year and a wagon version and GT and GT Line versions are also on the way.