The Kia Sportage is the SUV that thinks it's a hatchback. That means you get rugged good looks and a high driving position in a package that's no bigger or more costly to run than a regular family hatchback.
The Sportage excels in so many pragmatic areas: fixed-price service plans keep the cost of maintenance down and Kia's seven-year/100,000-mile warranty provides the ultimate peace of mind. But that's not to say that it doesn't offer wider appeal. The Sportage is handsome to look at and comes loaded with standard equipment. There's an easy logic to the trim levels, too – they're simply named 1, 2, 3 and 4, with the KX prefix designating four-wheel-drive models.
The entry-level model is offered with a 1.6-litre petrol engine, and two diesel engines are also available: a 1.7-litre powers the front-wheel-drive models and a 2.0-litre powers the four-wheel-drive cars. Running costs for both diesels are reasonably good, yet it's worth remembering that newer models such as the Nissan Qashqai and Mazda CX-5 are even cheaper to run, if not necessarily cheaper to buy. But if you fancy a Sportage, we'd recommend the smaller 1.7-litre diesel engine.
Not only is the Kia crammed with equipment such as alloy wheels, air-conditioning and LED daytime running lights, but every car also gets rain-sensing wipers as well as USB and a Bluetooth connection for MP3 players and mobile phones. Step up from the basic 1 specification to the 2 and you'll benefit from rear parking sensors and half-leather seats. Top-spec 4 models arguably rival cars costing twice as much – they get bright xenon headlights, sat nav, heated seats and a panoramic sunroof all as standard.
Yet it's not just gadgets and technology that the boost the Sportage's appeal – safety is top-notch, too. A five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating is just the start – all cars come with a full set of airbags, electronic stability control (ESP), anti-lock brakes (ABS), ISOFIX child-seat mounts and anti-whiplash headrests. All this means that the Kia Sportage is not just safe in principle, but in practice, too.
Although the Qashqai is our favourite car of this type, it's also worth considering models like the Ford Focus, Volkswagen Golf or Honda Civic if you are happy to do without the Sportage's high seating position and mild off-road ability.
Not sure what you're looking for? Find out what we think is the best SUV by watching our video below.