Car (South Africa) - - TEST -

PUB­LISHED in May 1998, the road test of the first-gen­er­a­tion Sportage gave both CAR mag­a­zine and the South African pub­lic its first taste of what Kia Mo­tors might be ca­pa­ble of. Suitably rugged, with a cheap and cheer­ful in­te­rior, that oth­er­wise com­pli­men­tary road test con­cluded with a word of cau­tion about the fu­ture of the three avail­able Korean brands of the time: Hyundai, Dae­woo and Kia.

Twenty years later – and through three sub­se­quent gen­er­a­tions of pro­gres­sively more Euro­pean-look­ing Sportage of­fer­ings – the lat­est (QL) ver­sion not only con­fi­dently com­petes with this seg­ment’s best in terms of re­fine­ment and build qual­ity, but also neatly rep­re­sents just how much Kia (and, of course, Hyundai) has grown in such a rel­a­tively short pe­riod. As both these man­u­fac­tur­ers con­tinue to gar­ner global praise for both qual­ity and cus­tomer sat­is­fac- tion, from a con­sumer pub­li­ca­tion’s point of view, it’s been in­trigu­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence first-hand the huge strides these brands have made to es­tab­lish them­selves as gen­uine con­tenders.

With both the cur­rent-gen­er­a­tion Sportage and its Tuc­son cousin sched­uled for mid-cy­cle up­dates, I’m in­ter­ested to see whether Kia will use this op­por­tu­nity to add fur­ther ap­peal to a Sportage range which hasn’t quite had the same im­pact on Tuc­son sales as it did when the lat­ter was branded ix35 be­tween 2010 and 2016.

The model re­fresh will cor­re­spond with the end of my time as cus­to­dian of CAR’S long-term 1,7 CRDI Ig­nite Plus, a ve­hi­cle that, de­spite its mod­est lev­els of stan­dard spec­i­fi­ca­tion and un­fash­ion­able man­ual trans­mis­sion, has proved to be one of the most hon­est, ver­sa­tile, fru­gal and, in­deed, en­joy­able longter­m­ers I’ve had.

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