BIG SURPRISE: The new Kia Sportage turned out to be a very capable and very good-lloking SUV. Image: MotorPress
Model: Sportage 2.0 Ignite
Price: From R369 995
Model: Sportage 1.6 T-GDi GT-Line AWD
Price: R599 995
Cape Town - It soon became clear why the Sportage has been the Korean manufacturer’s most successful export, with 1.6 million units of the hugely popular third generation selling worldwide.
It’s refined and stylish, packed with advanced driver tech, and when we were hit with an unexpected rain storm, it quickly displayed its impressive drive DNA with good body control, impressive road holding and intuitive, responsive steering.
Design-wise, Kia’s head design honcho, Peter Schreyer (formerly at Audi), has made magic, giving the new Sportage a strong, sporty stance. The latest generation is instantly recognisable with the most marked development in the lower, wider grille.
The Sportage’s boot has grown from 465 litres to an impressive 503 litres. The fuel capacity has also increased, with the tank expanding from 58 to 62 litres.
READ: Great looking SUV - Kia's next-gen Sportage boldly rolls into SA
Along the way we had plenty of time to play with the advanced tech by way of the seven-inch colour touch screen. The Bluetooth was quick and easy to connect, and the wireless charging is impressive. Overall, the new cabin has vastly improved by way of quality materials, including leather and stitching, to create a more luxurious feel.
The new Sportage hangs out in a highly competitive compact SUV segment with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson and Mazda CX-5. Although the CX-5 beats it in the outright-space stakes, the Sportage comes out shining with enough wow factor to make it one of the best all-rounders in its class.
Good food, good car...
We had worked up quite an appetite with all the Sportage ooh-aahing by the time we arrived in Swellendam to dine at the recently refurbished 18 Zero One. The restaurant gets its name from the year that Swellendam was established, over 200 years ago, in 1801. Welcomed at the door by new wonderboy chef Daniel de Jager, what followed was a world-class five-course fine dining feast.
Gallery: 2017 Kia Sportage
The meal began with a smidgen of liver pâté and it moved on to melt-in-your-mouth Springbok carpaccio with creamed horseradish, red onion and berry vinaigrette. The butternut and orange soup was sublime, and the mains of grilled salmon on a leek-and-mushroom risotto with asparagus and burnt sage cream sauce put me in serious foodie heaven.
Thankfully, the Sportage’s rear-view parking camera came in handy as we reversed out after a five-hour food fest, because after the dessert of a trio of chocolate mousse, blending white milk and dark chocolate with a shot of Amarula, I was totally zonked out from a tad too much of fine living.
• Avoid cruise control to respond to possible loss of traction.
• Slow down and keep extra distance from vehicle in front.
• Make sure wipers and rear lights are in good working order.
• If it feels like you’re skidding, don’t panic or slam on brakes.