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Kia Sportage – on sale January 2005

Kia

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Review

Kia has been on a product offensive in the UK during the past 12 months, with its dealerships having to make space for the Picanto small car and Cerato hatchback and saloon. From January, they will also have an all-new Sportage SUV.

Total UK sales of the original Sportage amounted to 11,540 units between 1995 and 2003.

However the new model is expected to achieve 5,000 sales a year, as Kia’s bosses have the target of taking a 5.3% share of 2005’s SUV sector with its combined volumes of the Sportage and Sorento. For 2006, the importer plans to increase that share to 7.5%.

According to Kia Motors UK managing director Paul Williams, it will achieve this by stealing custom from all other brands. Key to the current sales offensive is its range-spanning £1 deposit, seven days free insurance and finance package, and this will continue for the foreseeable future.

The second weapon in its armoury is what Williams describes as “giving more for less” – to undercut lesser-equipped rivals. “For our dealer network, the Sportage offers a very good profit opportunity,” he adds.

The Sportage will be targeted predominantly at the 25-45-year-old male consumer group, although Kia hopes 40% of buyers will be female.

Jean-Charles Lievens, vice-president of Kia Motors Europe, says: “It will offer consumers three modern vehicles in one – with passenger car refinement, SUV access and traction, plus estate-like versatility and cargo space. The Sportage name also has all the right vibes for Kia’s young, friendly and sporty brand aspirations.”

Three engine variants will be offered: 2.0-litre and 2.7-litre petrol units and a 2.0-litre common rail turbodiesel, with the two smaller engined models also available as two- wheel drive. Four-speed automatic transmission, standard on the 2.7, is an option on the turbodiesel but will not be offered on the 2.0 petrol model.

Trim levels are LX and EX, the former equipped with 16in alloy wheels, tinted windows, ABS and EBD as standard. The EX adds a number of items, such as ESP, front fog lamps, heated windscreen, colour-coded door handles and mirrors and remote central locking. Leather interior, climate control and a power sunroof are among the extra cost options.

In terms of safety, Kia expects the Sportage to achieve four stars for occupancy in its EuroNCAP crash tests when the results are announced next year.

Strengths:

Well-mannered on road, good specification.

Weaknesses:

Firm suspension, cheap plastics inside, Tucson rival has a five-year warranty

Opportunity:

In reach of small estate car buyers

Threat:

£1 deposit deal may overstretch budget buyers

The USP:

SUV style, high street price

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