In the next phase of its rapidly-shifting design evolution, Kia has pulled off the wraps of the new Sportage. Based on first impressions, you won’t be confusing this for your run of the mill grocery-getter.
Kia’s new styling language is a far departure from the general direction of masculine and aggressive. It’s cute and friendly-like, playful and youthful. It bears the signature Kia Tiger snout-grille, but there are few similarities beyond that.
It’s almost like a Fiat, Smart Car, and even a Porsche Macan got busy, with the new Sportage being the result. But as awkward as that sounds, it works — it carries on the playful spirit that made its initial debut in the Soul, and helps solidify its position as Hyundai’s weirder, quirkier little sibling. Though the brand’s crossover and utility strategy follows this school of thought, its sedans and minivans are more sedate and serious about their jobs.
The sheetmetal lines are clean and crisp, and aside from the peculiar face, the rest of the Sportage’s design is conservative and taught. Some BMW-ish scalloped tail lights add some flair to the rear, and the dual exhaust ports at least try to make you think that it’s sportier than it probably is.
Initially — since we haven’t had the chance to sit in one yet — it looks like rearward visibility my be compromised due to the high belt-line of the rear tailgate and beefy C-pillars. Otherwise, the Sportage seems to offer a pretty decent greenhouse out the sides and the front.
The quirkiness and character outside seem to be lost in the interior, where it’s all very sensible, simple and entirely unoffensive. But that’s important for a car like the Sportage, which will undoubtably be seen more as a suburban appliance than any kind of statement. Though it’s stuffed-animal like attitude will likely draw in many for its cute factor, there’s really no reason for Kia to try to make the same statement on the inside.
Chances are we won’t get the manual transmission that’s equipped on the model being shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show, and everything under the hood will probably stay familiar to U.S. buyers — a 2.4-liter four-cylinder as standard for base models, with the higher-end SX serving up the 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder that’s available on the current Sportage.
Overall, the new Kia Sportage is what you’d expect in a new Kia Sportage. Long gone are the cheap materials and tin-can construction the Kia was once infamous for. With each passing generation, its cars just get that much better. From a build quality and fit-and-finish perspective, Kia’s up there along the rest now, it’s no longer the cheap outlier it was.
However, it’s coming into a market rife with hardy competition. Volkswagen finally got around to addressing its Tiguan crossover, which is new from the ground up. Honda’s CR-V, Toyota’s RAV4, and the Ford Escape are all selling in volume as well, and Kia will also have to contend with Hyundai’s new Tucson — essentially the same car underneath, but at the same time fighting for consumer dollars. Fortunately, the Sportage now has the character to set it apart.