Kia has the sights of its all-new Sportage firmly set on toppling the market-leading Nissan Qashqai – and after a first drive in Korea, Autoblog wouldn't bet against it!
Kia's best-selling model has been given a complete makeover for this challenge and it's set to arrive on our roads in June.
But you don't have to wait until then to find out what it's like because Autoblog is currently in the Far East and has been given an early first drive.
The Kia is the compact SUV sister car to the Hyundai ix35 we tested earlier this year (http://cars.aol.co.uk/2010/04/06/on-video-hyundai-ix35/) and comes with funky looks, a decent range of engines and the option of two and four wheel drive.
First to arrive in the UK will be a launch special 2.0-litre diesel 4WD model, in which we bagged a drive at Kia's Namyang R&D Centre today. The 2.0-litre diesel unit offers 146bhp and sprightly performance – expect this to be on a par with the 9.4 second 0-60mph time of the Hyundai.
On the test track you can certainly feel it's a tall car, but that's not to say it was ungainly. Steering is direct with decent feedback and body roll is kept in check. It's a comfortable drive too, although at times diesel clatter can creep into the cabin, especially under acceleration. We're told sound deadening will be improved by the time it reaches our shores though.
Come October the full model range will be with us which includes a 2.0-litre diesel and petrol in 2wd and 4wd, alongside a 1.7-litre diesel and 1.6-litre petrol both only available in 2wd.
Kia won't reveal pricing just yet, but said it would be 'competitive' compared to the Hyundai – not to mention the added bonus of Kia's pan-range seven-year warranty.
Although our drive was a short one, initial impressions of the Sportage were very good – it's likely to sell on its superb looks alone, but coupled with those great engines and impressive driving characteristics, Kia could well have a model to beat that Qashqai with.