In order to provide their four-wheeled products with a snappy image and suitable starting points for sales-promoting associations, automobile companies like to use the animal kingdom for naming. The Pontiac Firebird is already history, unlike the Ford Mustang that continues to gallop, now even electrified. Also worth mentioning are the Fiat models Panda, Spider or the “little mouse” Topolino, the Iltis from Volkswagen and the US Golf variant Rabbit.
The customers continue this game by means of nicknames, the beetle and the duck are legendary, and even animal body parts had to serve for this fun. Classic car fans know immediately that the “frog eye” does not mean an amphibious vertebrate, but the first generation of the Austin-Healey Sprite.
Seen in this way, the Korean manufacturer Kia is part of a long tradition when it describes the shape of the radiator grille, which was introduced in 2007 and has graced every vehicle of the brand since then, as a “tiger nose”. While the Asian big cat had long been familiar as an Esso advertising character, the Seoul-based company is now also focusing on its image as an energetic, not exactly cuddly predator.
The Kia Sportage, which has been rolling on German roads since 1994, is also given such a “Tiger Nose”, although looking at the front end of the compact SUV requires some imagination if you want to recognize the role model that gave it its name. Undoubtedly, however, the Sportage has left the rather portly looks of its tiger-nosed beginnings far behind. The current fifth generation of the 2022/23 model year, which was specially designed for the European market for the first time, is more angular and aggressive in design.
Boomerang-shaped daytime running lights
Just take the jagged LED daytime running lights, shaped like a boomerang, or the rear lights, the design of which Kia’s advertising poets rightly describe as “razor-sharp” and which strikingly accentuate the sporty hatchback. Such details give the car something perhaps not yet tiger-like, but still extremely agile, dynamic, which is easier to achieve with the more compact European version than with the more expansive global one.
Nonetheless, the fifth generation is a little larger than the previous one, and its external dimensions have increased by a few centimeters (L 4.52 m, W 1.87 m, H 1.65 m). Inside, on the other hand, the car has grown a lot thanks to all sorts of tricks, from which the rear passengers in particular benefit – and travelers when loading the luggage compartment: it fits more in than before. There it was, depending on the engine, a maximum of 503 liters, now it’s 591 liters, with the rear seat back folded down even instead of 1492 now 1780 liters.
Good to know, although this storage space remains unused on the test trip for three from Berlin to Quedlinburg. From the back seat, words of praise about the legroom, as well as about the seat heating, which was very welcome on this cool day, and the interior has a high feel-good factor anyway.
“Premium materials, first-class workmanship” as promised in the promotional material? Yes, that’s true, and the 31.2 cm touchscreen of the navigation system with the integrated online services Kia Connect – which is not available in all versions of the Sportage – is also impressive. However, one should thoroughly familiarize oneself with it before driving in order to reduce the inherent potential for distraction of such XXL screens. The knobs and sensor buttons underneath are used for infotainment and climate control, and a tap of the finger is all it takes to switch.
Turn knob to select gear
Automatic drivers, who started with bulky shifters decades ago and have now got used to small rocker arms for P, R, N and D, are surprised that Kia has found a well-rounded solution here: the rotary gear selector switch, which you get used to just as quickly such as the optional “active blind spot assistant”, one of the many electronic little helpers built into the Sportage. If necessary, it intervenes to steer and brake, but is also very pleasant even without such an emergency situation.
Of course, the expansive display behind the steering wheel is digital, despite the pseudo-analogue design, with the tachometer on the left and the rev counter on the right as the dominant instruments. If you now turn the indicator here or there, the respective round display automatically becomes a monitor that shows the no longer blind spot via cameras.
This also takes a bit of getting used to, as it requires threefold attention: Can you really rely on the monitor or should you quickly keep an eye on the flashing light in the exterior mirror, which warns of an accident risk approaching from behind? And what about the “shoulder look”, once inculcated in driving school as indispensable?
Be that as it may, the monitors that light up sometimes on the left and sometimes on the right reinforce the impression of a car that can be steered comfortably and safely on the freeway, country roads and even through thick city traffic, regardless of the engine. This ranges from the non-electrified entry-level petrol engine to three combustion engines with mild hybrid support and full hybrid variants to the top version, the 265 hp plug-in hybrid with an electric range of up to 70 kilometers.
Now even available in two colors
The test car, on the other hand, was a classic 1.6-liter turbo diesel with all-wheel drive and a seven-speed double-clutch transmission, with 136 hp and a maximum torque of 320 Nm, sufficiently fast in the sprint, in 11.6 seconds from 0 to 100, a maximum of 180 km/h , equipped with fuel-saving mild hybrid technology. Only 4.7 liters of fuel per 100 kilometers (combined) are specified.
Lavishly equipped in the highest variant, the GT-Line, the car even shines in two colors, blueflame metallic with a black roof, plus there are sports pedals and all sorts of other ornaments, the electronic damper control, which is more important for the driving experience, and much more. A total of 47,590 euros have to be paid for it, while the cheapest version of the car, a 150 hp petrol engine with a manual gearbox, is available for 28,950 euros.
The Spar-Sportage is by no means spartan, it even has the practical occupant alarm. Locked the doors and left your child or cat on the back seat? It’s supposed to happen, but it doesn’t matter: the car protests!
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I am a journalist who writes about economics and business. I have worked in the news industry for over 5 years, most recently as an author at Global Happenings. My work has focused on covering the economy news, and I have written extensively on topics such as unemployment rates, housing prices, and the financial crisis. I am also an avid reader and have been known to write about books that interest me.