(Victoria, British Columbia) Balanced style, well-thought-out equipment… For the fifth reinterpretation of its Sportage, Kia is playing it safe rather than daring.

Designed under the direction of Montreal stylist Karim Habib, this Sportage affirms even more clearly the choices intended to make Kia a brand that is both stronger and more consensual.

In concessions for a few weeks already, the Sportage, fifth of the name, does not claim to reinvent anything. The front end, which is impressive with its boomerang headlights and its wide horizontal grille which widens it visually, gives the Sportage a certain stature.

Without being a clone of another model in the range, it takes on board certain proportions and characteristics of the new range. The contained glass surface, the “muscles” sculpted on the sides or even the sills to lengthen the silhouette. Distinctive signs defined very early in the specifications, so as not to leave the blueprint and to forge a tangible identity without being paralyzing. What is important, however, is not only the consistency of the style, but also its effectiveness. And the result is not bad to look at. The question is rather whether it will age well.

The second best-selling vehicle at Kia after the Seltos, the Sportage picks up where it left off. Clearly, it does not start from a completely blank sheet. Developed on the same platform as the Tucson appeared a year ago, it shares most of the components. This cousinhood, which only a few apparent details betray, also allowed it to accelerate its development with Hyundai, allied or enemy brand, it depends.

With a larger trunk (1021 L, bench seat backs up), the Sportage hangs more comfortably due mainly to its longer wheelbase. For now, it has a more limited range of engines (see “Specifications” tab).

The 2.5L doesn’t make a big impression, but it’s the only proposition with a variety of models in its catalog. Too fair in performance and greedy as soon as it is requested a little bit, this engine lacks sophistication.

On paper, the hybrid version seems like the one the buyer should make an appointment with, but Kia, curiously, didn’t see fit to let us test it. Too bad, because the 2.5L does not do justice to the work of its designers. This engine lacks punch on the attack (acceleration) and its consumption remains high. For the category, of course.

The understeer appears very early (on the towed version in particular), the braking lacks resistance if it is requested too strongly while the body reacts rather sluggishly to rapid changes in trajectory. But the potential buyer will however be delighted with the comfort provided by its suspensions, which are flexible without being soft.

Rightly criticized for the very average presentation quality of the Sportage, Kia is making a commendable effort. The interior is neat and features a spectacular luminescent panel that is reminiscent of the EV6 presented in our pages a few months ago.

With the exception of the digital climate controls, the Sportage is easy to handle, pleasant to live with. The interior space is much more generous than it was, especially for the legs of the occupants in the back. But the most important element of this redesign touches the trunk. This one is much larger, with a total capacity (seat folded down) of 2098 L. The previous version displayed 1703 L.

Thoughtful, looking pretty good and properly equipped, the Sportage should hold its own against competitors called Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Ford Escape. We can regret that it lacks roughness on the dynamic level (visually, it does not lack any), but that would be to forget that pleasure is not really the cup of tea for this category of SUV.

Five generations already. Please forget the first Kia served us when it debuted on Canadian soil. A dated model, uncompetitive, but financially accessible. The second generation (our photo) was much stockier and sat on wider tracks. The Sportage also slipped a six-cylinder (2.7L) engine under its hood at that time. The most economical liveries, however, always used a four-cylinder engine (2 L) paired with a manual gearbox…

The naturally aspirated version of the Sportage isn’t the brightest. The hybrid versions, launched a few days ago, deserve consideration. These are offered in two trim levels: EX and SX. The first is announced at $35,995, the second at $42,695. These are more powerful (227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque) and should reduce the fuel consumption of this utility by some 3 L every 100 km. The best is yet to come, however. From the fall, Kia will market a plug-in hybrid version (261 hp) whose electric range should be around 50 km on a full charge.

La Presse will soon publish the test of the following vehicles: Acura Integra, BMW 2 Series, Genesis GV60, Honda HR-V, Mercedes C-Class, Nissan Z, Subaru WRX, Volkswagen Jetta (GLi) and Volvo C40 Recharge. If you own one of these vehicles or are awaiting delivery, we’d love to hear from you.



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