Kia Sportage GT: A Grand Affair

Observer writer

Friday, May 25, 2018

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NEED a practical, family vehicle that can handle light off-road excursions, but isn't dull to drive? Then the 2018 Kia Sportage GT should be high on that purchase list.

If the sport in Sportage didn't give a big enough hint of how fun this Kia is to drive, then the GT badging quells any questions about its main aim. GT is short for Gran Turismo, which when translated from its original Italian means grand tourer. In automotive terms a GT is a performance and luxury vehicle capable of high-speed and long-distance driving.

On the outside, the chunky styling is a blend of the practicality needed from a compact SUV. The rounded, upright shape is attractive enough with just the right amount of bulging muscular lines. Up front, very aggressive visage surrounds the trademarked Kia grille. The multi-lighting arrangement screams sports car from the impressively intricate headlights to the 'ice-cube' lower fog lamps.

Step inside and be greeted by swaths of leather, soft-touch materials, and sporty trim pieces. Of course, there are the necessary pieces of durable hard plastic in the main areas an SUV like this is expected to have to handle real- world use. Otherwise, the cabin, front and back, is spacious and comfortable for four adults and the average familyof five. Driver and passengers enjoy plenty of convenience features like dual-zone climate control, rear vents, USB and 12v ports. Those in front have full control with power seats, while rear passengers can stretch out as the rear seats offer recline functions as well. All can enjoy the full-length panoramic sunroof. Packed with passengers there's little impact on storage as there's enough space for gear in the rear and all the expected cubby spaces littered around.

Grab the leather-wrapped, flat-bottomed, steering wheel, an item that wouldn't look out of place in the best European sports cars, and effortless driving can be had. Automatic lights, wipers, brake hold and cruise control are standard, while steering wheel mounted buttons offer control of the infotainment system that delivers great sound and plenty of connectivity. Fire up the Sportage and it eagerly pulls away. It's best to slip it into ECO mode to avoid the temptation of blasting it down the road, something it will do happily once the accelerator is prodded, and unlike some other vehicles it's the best way to keep fuel consumption down. Things move a step up when SPORT mode is engaged. The engine revs with the fun of an old-school naturally aspirated hot hatchback, while the transmission holds gears to red line and fires off shifts rapidly in automatic or manual mode via the paddle shifters.

This would be a problem if the rest of the Kia wasn't up to the task. Fortunately, it took the GT name seriously. The chassis tuning would put many so-called real sports sedans to shame as the Sportage handles the road with a grace and fluidity that beg it to be driven hard. It flies over road imperfections with only an audible acknowledgement, and corners flat as all is kept in check by its all-wheel-drive system combining to allow triple-digit pace where other vehicles would crumble. Slow down and the Sportage returns to comfortable family cruising.

The Kia Sportage GT is available at ATL Tiger Motors, the ATL Automotive division responsible for the Kia brand, starting at $5.75 million.

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