The problem is that the gap to fifth spot is bigger than the one behind them to seventh. There is something very special going on at Kia with its 11-car range that is moving the brand into the future faster than a lot of other more established brands.
In short, there are no duds in the Kia forecourts. Every one from the Rio right up to the stupendously impressive Sorento is remarkable in its own right.
And then there is the old reliable Sportage. You would have to go back to 2010 to find the very popular SUV anywhere lower than top spot on Kia’s annual ratings.
For 12 long years it has been the staple of the brand, selling tens of thousands of cars to lucky families all over Ireland. I know this because for four years (2017-2021) we were that family. And my colleague Robbie was also one of those families.
Both of us enjoyed many years behind the wheel of one of the best-selling cars anywhere in Europe, let alone Ireland. So when we heard there was a fifth version coming out, our ears were pricked.
But with that heightened interest came mild anxiety. Why change it? What if it isn’t as good? What if like a few other competitors they actually make an upgrade worse than the former iteration?
That’s where Kia excels, especially over the last decade as their entire fleet got a much-needed makeover. It’s not just their award-winning range of EVs that are worth shouting about these days.
Step forward Sportage Mk5. My 11-year-old daughter Chloe, who is more into cars than I am, shouted ‘that’s a Sorento’ as I pulled up beside last week’s test car. It wasn’t, but to the untrained eye the front view of the Sportage could just as well be the 7-seater monster.
It is almost unrecognisable compared to Mk4, which we had sitting in our driveway for four fun years.
At the front is where the biggest change lies, with a full-width grille and very large wrap-over ‘arrow-head’ LED running lights.
The side profile and rear view are not as dramatically different, but all of the new angles and lines and slick LED lights add up to a much bulkier looking car. Back to Chloe’s comment — this could be mistaken for the bigger Sorento.
As soon as you sit inside you are greeted by a screen that has been cleverly lifted from their recently-anointed Irish Car of the Year, the EV6.
Two seamlessly conjoined 12.3” digital screens are as classy, clear, crisp and slick as you would expect of a modern day Kia, and it is as user friendly as the rest of their fleet. They have also nicked the EV’s touch-sensitive panel that is positioned below the screens and controls either shortcuts for the navigation and infotainment or, at the press of a button, the heating and ventilation controls. Other manufacturers take note.
Space all over this cabin is excellent. We clocked up four years of journeys with kids in the rear of a Sportage so we know exactly what it can fit. And the latest version is pretty much the exact same. You can squeeze a third child in between two car seats but it’s tight. The transmission tunnel seems smaller though, so leg room has improved for passenger three in row two.
They have updated (my GT Line test car anyway) to include heated seats in the rear, which went down very well over the last week with the cold temperatures. Also, big shout out for the inclusion of coat hangers and USB ports in the back too. Nice touch.
There will be a plug-in hybrid version later in the year which eats into the boot space but if you buy now you will be afforded 587 litres.
It is as smooth to drive as ever, especially on our motorway journeys. I didn’t get an opportunity to test it on back country roads during my week but at the Irish launch earlier in the year I spent 30 minutes testing it on that terrain and if had no major problems.
Starting from €38k, my test car would actually cost €43k. In a very popular and claustrophobic segment (think Tucson, Rav4, Qashqai, CX-5) this most certainly holds its own. It is an improved version of a car I fell in love with.