Kia Sportage

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THERE are a couple of things that come in very handy when the temperature plummets to -10.5 and below.

Four wheel drive is one, and so is a can of spray de-icer that actually works. I had neither the other week, so thanks a lot, Car Plan.

And yes, I know the car in the picture here looks a lot like a hunky, chunky all wheel drive SUV that’ll plough through everything the heavens can throw at it.

The truth of the matter is that it is actually only two wheel drive, yet still managed to cope admirably with the snow, ice, slush and the idiots who WERE in four wheel drive cars and hence assumed a misguided air of invincibility in conditions where discretion was certainly the better part of valour.

Thankfully weather forecasting has moved on a bit from the days of licking your finger and holding it up in the air – unless you’re relying on the BBC, that is. We pretty well knew what was coming and so the heated seats were a definite boon on those cold mornings. And while you might rub your chin and think a 1.7 litre diesel engine might lack something in the performance department in such a big body as the Sportage, I can tell you it doesn’t.

In conditions where keeping the revs down was crucial, the Kia pulled happily away from standing starts in second gear without complaint and with hardly ever a hint of losing grip - it got a big thumbs up in the process.

The full 16 model range is now on sale – the first edition model was a sell out – and it’s not hard to see why.

It’s got great looks, a sleek profile and boasts a level of quality in its fit and finish that should stand the test of time, even the length of its very generous seven year warranty and beyond. It’s certainly a radical departure from the model it replaces.

The range is based on Kia’s now familiar 1,2 and 3 trim designations – AWD versions get the KK preface. There’s a range topping Sat nav grade that comes with a seven inch touch screen, built-in reversing camera (that it’s a good idea to keep clean or you won’t see much) and an upgraded audio system.

There are four engines to pick from, including brand new and highly efficient 1.6 litre direct injection petrol and 1.7 litre turbodiesel units. They claim fuel efficiency topping 50mpg is possible, and the car we sampled certainly moved a lot quicker than the fuel gauge needle.

Many versions come equipped with Intelligent Stop and Go (ISG) which shuts the engine down when stationary in traffic to save fuel and cut emissions, starting up again as soon as you’re ready to move off.

Prices for the Sportage start at £16,645. Our sat nav equipped test car hits the road at £22,570 with £125 road tax and the range is topped by a 2.0 CRDi AWD auto at £26,170.

Its rivals for your cash will include the Nisan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Hyundai ix35 and the Peugeot 3008.

It’s right on the button to fit the needs of future families - a compact SUV with a green conscience.

AT A GLANCE

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi 3 Sat Nav EcoDynamics

£22,570

114bhp, 260Nm torque.

Top speed 107mph, 0-60mph 11.9 secs

Fuel – 44.8 urban, 56.5 extra urban, 52.3 combined (18 inch wheels)

143g/km (VED Band F - £125 a year)