Giving this SUV a good name
THE only controversy that arose at the European launch of Kia's new Sportage in the beautiful city of Budapest last week was how to pronounce its name: in clipped, no - nonsense US-style - 'Sport-age' - or with a little sophisticated French inflection - 'Sport-aaage.'
Kia executives came down on the side of the former -- no frills in the pronunciation but plenty to consider when it comes to the merits of the third generation of this 5-seat Compact SUV -- not least its up-to-the minute looks.
Kia believes demand for C-segment SUVs will grow. It will be built in Slovakia, unveiled here in October and will come with two diesels: a new 115bhp 1.7-litre (Band B, €156 road tax) and a 136bhp 2-litre (Band C, €302). The former comes later, but in time for January and will have just 4 x 2 drive. The 2-litre will have 4x2 and 4x4 options. There are two trims -- LX and EX -- but full spec and prices will be divulged nearer launch.
However, it is not expected to be significantly more expensive than the current model. Kia expects to sell 500 next year. There's a good level of standard equipment and entertainment gadgetry including Sat Nav, iPod, USB and Bluetooth connectivity. We took a test spin in the 2.0d 4x2 version, in and around the hinterland of the scenic Hungarian capital.
There's a fine driving position, decent room in the cabin and the dashboard is a highlight. The Sportage is now longer and the boot bigger, with a new easy-to-use fold-down seating system to cater for bulkier equipment. There's an array of cubby holes for bric-a- brac throughout, while legroom, even in the rear, is impressive.
Depending on spec, you can have a rear-view mirror with built-in camera for safer reversing, as well as heated rear seats as options. Air con is standard. While the six-speed gear shift was seamless, handling was less impressive. There's a new electric steering system coupled with rejigged multi-link suspension, and while steering was responsive, it was also edgy and needed slight, though repeated, correction to maintain line, especially on high-speed motorway stretches.
It is clearly an eye-catching compact SUV, likely to pose a stern challenge to rivals - no matter how you pronounce it.