KIA SPORTAGE 1,7 CRDI IGNITE PLUS
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.