Kia ended 2021 on a high with a record UK market share of 5.5% before getting off to a cracking start in 2022.
The South Korean brand finished January as the best-selling brand (9.1% share) – a first in its 30-year history.
This success was led by the Kia Sportage, which was January’s most popular car overall, having ended 2021 as the ninth best-selling popular new car.
It’s remarkable that this family favourite was still flying out of the showrooms in 2021 and early 2022 because these were the last of the fourth generation Sportage (originally launched in 2016) models.
Which brings us to the all-new Mk 5 Sportage – one of the most striking new crossovers on the road.
Rocking a bold, confident new design, hi-tech interior and a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid (mild, self-charging) engines (with a plug-in to follow), the range is priced from £26,745 to £38,445.
There are five trim levels (2, GT-Line, 3, 4 and GT-Line S) and it will do battle the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai and Suzuki S-Cross.
There’s no doubt that the new Sportage has serious road presence, echoing some of the futuristic styling cues of its pure electric big brother, the EV6.
Inside, the change is just as radical with a smart two-screen infotainment set-up. As standard, there’s a an 8.0-inch main touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and additional digital driver’s display on the right. From GT-Line spec up there’s a larger 12.3-inch screen in the centre.
The curved console is clear, bright, responsive and intuitive to use, partly down to the short-cut buttons below the screen.
We tested three variants (all using a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine) – the entry-level with no electrical assistance, followed by the mild hybrid and the self-charging (or full) hybrid.
Four-wheel drive is available with any of the hybridised models, which are only fitted with automatic gearboxes, while the regular 1.6-litre car only comes with a manual box.
Apart from the obvious kerb appeal, the first thing you notice about the new Sportage is that it’s a little longer, wider and taller than the outgoing car and there’s more room inside.
Overall, it has a more mature, sharper look, it’s well put together, has a quality feel and is generously equipped.
In fact, there’s plenty of space for adults front and back, while the luggage capacity is an impressive 587 litres, expanding to a huge 1,780 litres when the 40:20:40 split rear seats are flipped.
On the road, the Sportage is easy to drive with light steering and good all-round visibility. It would be wrong to say it has the most sophisticated ride thanks to its firm suspension settings, but it does the job and remains reasonably flat when pushed in more challenging corners.
The only slight disappointment is the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine which isn’t the most engaging of units and can be vocal when pushed- a shame because the Sportage is a refined cruiser.
For the record, the conventional engine’s 148bhp is good enough for a 0-60mph sprint time of 9.9 seconds, while the mild hybrid (same engine power, but with 48V battery assistance) is slightly faster (9.4 seconds).
What’s more, on paper the claimed fuel consumption of the basic petrol turbo is 41.5mpg, compared to 40.4mpg for the mild hybrid (though in real world driving you won’t get near 40mpg), so I’m not sure that the latter is worth the extra expense.
Puzzlingly, the CO2 emissions for the all-wheel-drive mild hybrid I drove were higher (158g/km) than the regular petrol (154g/km), so where’s the benefit?
The six-speed manual has an easy shift action, while the automatic options (seven-speed dual-clutch and traditional six-speed torque-converter) are suitably smooth for the mild and full hybrids.
Obviously, if money is not the main concern, then the full hybrid is the most tempting model in the range (until the plug-in hybrid version comes along) – especially if your journeys tend to be longer. There’s extra poke, it’s a more relaxed drive generally and EV mode kicks in at low speeds or when manoeuvring.
The front-wheel drive version I tested delivers a combined 226bhp, a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds, fuel economy of up to 48.7mpg and emissions as low as 132g/km.
The Sportage is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance kit including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.
Verdict: The all-new Kia Sportage goes straight to the top of the family SUV class with its blend of striking looks, hi-tech interior, practicality, top safety features and big bang for your bucks.