Kia-Sportage

Kia’s new Sportage crossover offers a blend of reliability and latest generation safety technology but will it be enough to get European drivers to ditch their VW Golfs and Ford Fiestas?

Korea’s major automotive force is well and truly established in the US. Thanks to its combination of reliability and crossovers and with its latest model, the Sportage, due to go on sale this week, Kia is hoping to really make a similar impression on European car buyers.

The latest data from Jato Dynamics shows that while EU nations still favor the compact and sub-compact hatchback above all other car types, the crossover is certainly coming up in the ranks. The Nissan Qashqai is the continent’s eighth most popular car, and 10 of the 20 biggest climbers — i.e., the vehicles that jumped the most in popularity over 2015 — were of the crossover variety.

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And with the Sportage there’s a chance that Kia could be on that list in 12 months’ time.

The 2016 KIA Sportage GT Line

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As well as boasting a much more European external aesthetic, the company has continued this European approach in its focus on increasing cabin space without significantly increasing the wheelbase — it’s just 30mm wider and 40mm longer — and in the levels of creature comforts and current generation active safety systems on offer.

The Sportage comes either as standard or as an option (depending on trim level) with emergency autonomous braking, lane keeping assistance, blind spot monitoring, road sign recognition, parking assist and rear traffic detection. A navigation system with seven years’ mapping support is also standard, and the top model supports wireless smartphone charging.

The new crossover, available with two- or four-wheel drive, is also one of the first KIA cars to offer a dual-clutch paddle-change seven-speed transmission and when mated to the turbocharged 1.6-liter 177hp motor in the GT line should promise a bit of fun — 0-100km/h in 9.9 seconds — as well as practicality.

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