Celebrating 30 years of the Kia Sportage

Kia Sportage - five generations

We head off for a trip down memory lane, taking all five generations of the Kia Sportage for a spin…

Originally launched in 1993, the Kia Sportage has been the backbone of the South Korean brand’s remarkable success story.

The popular family-sized SUV’s evolution perfectly reflects the manufacturer’s rapid rise since its single-model debut in 1991.

Just to put that into context – in year one the little Kia Pride achieved 1,786 sales. In 2022, Kia passed the important milestone of 100,000 sales per year, and 2023 is on track to be even better.

Kia Sportage 1 and 5
Kia Sportage: First and fifth generations

Over that time, Kia has developed a solid reputation for quality, reliability, design flair and innovation.

What’s more, the brand has become a driving force in the switch to electrification with hybrid, plug-in hybrid and 100% electric models in its line-up.

To mark the Sportage’s 30th birthday, Kia gave us the opportunity to sample all five generations. A fascinating day driving the models back-to-back, and here’s what we thought…

Kia Sportage - first generation

First generation (1993-2003)

UK sales: 10,897

The Kia Sportage was first launched in the Asian car market in 1993, reaching the UK in 1995. The example from the Kia heritage fleet we drove is a special edition all-wheel drive 2.0-litre XSE from its final year of production. It may look boxy and dated, but it’s surprisingly spacious and refined. Yes, the handling is wallowy, the gear change is a tad notchy and the seating position is particularly high in the rear, but it’s powerful enough and compares well with a Toyota RAV4 of the same vintage.

Kia Sportage - second generation

Second generation (2005-10)

UK sales: 23,371

Following a two-year break, the Sportage returned in 2005. Bigger and more grown-up, it featured mod cons such as central locking, adjustable wing mirrors and a CD player. Gaining a reputation for reliability over its production run, there was also extra space in the rear, a noticeable uplift in quality and a more composed feel on the road. The Sportage was going places. The heritage model we sampled was an XE 2.0-litre diesel (CRDi) all-wheel drive from 2007 – the year production of the Sportage moved from South Korea to Zilina, Slovakia, where the Sportage is still built today.

Kia Sportage - third generation

Third generation (2010-16)

UK sales: 95,626

With another big leap in quality, the Sportage bulked up and became a major player in the SUV market. Little quirks were finally ironed out (the indicator moved from the right to the left-hand side of the steering wheel), there was yet more space in the back for passengers, and it picked up a prestigious 5-star Euro NCAP safety rating. More comfortable than ever, modern touches include a USB port and a remote key fob, no less. The KX-3 AWD we drove dated from 2011, and though the 2.0-litre petrol engine lacked some of the punch of the diesel from the previous generation, the car itself handles well and has stood the test of time well and is still a solid second-hand SUV choice.

Kia Sportage - fourth generation

Fourth generation (2016-22)

UK sales: 197,547

Kia hit the jackpot with the curvaceous fourth-generation Sportage, which is still a cracking car. Surprisingly dynamic to drive for an SUV, it was also comfortable and spacious. The first Sportage to be offered with an electrified option (a mild hybrid model joined the petrol and diesel options in 2018), the Mk4 is so good that it could still be on sale today. In fact, the only age giveaways are the manual handbrake, the modest infotainment screen and a liberal dose of buttons and dials.

Kia Sportage - fifth generation

Fifth generation (2022-)

The best just got better. The latest version of the Sportage was launched in 2022, delivering a winning blend of striking looks, hi-tech interior, practicality, top safety features, driving engagement and big bang for your bucks. Crowned What Car? ‘Best Family SUV’, it’s available as a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), Hybrid Electric (HEV) and Mild Hybrid (MHEV). In PHEV form it has a theoretical fuel economy of 252mpg, and an emissions-free EV driving range of up to 43 miles. And as ever, the Sportage offers peace of mind because it’s backed by Kia generous seven-year warranty.

So, Kia has now established itself as one of the top five car brands in the UK – a brilliant feat in just three decades. In fact, since its 1991 debut, it’s sold some 1.5 million cars in the UK alone.

And in July 2023, Kia UK reached the 50,000 EV sales milestone, an important step in its journey to having nine EVs by 2027.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel review

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

We get behind the wheel of an intriguing new version of Mazda’s big SUV…

I can’t remember the last time I tested a new diesel. There’s an avalanche of new hybrids and EVs, but diesels are a bit niche these days.

Diesel once accounted for more than half of UK car sales, but the market has now collapsed closer to 10%.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

However, diesels are still the car of choice for commercial drivers, towing, farmers and rescue services, plus many high-mileage motorists yet to make the switch to hybrids and electric vehicles.

The latest addition to the Mazda CX-60 range (there’s already a petrol plug-in hybrid version) is powered by a big, clean and efficient all-new e-Skyactiv D diesel engine.

Apparently, the 3.3-litre in-line six-cylinder features Distribution-Controlled Partially Premixed Compression Ignition (DCPCI) Technology. Mazda claims this advanced combustion technology makes it one of the cleanest diesel engines in the world, achieving a thermal efficiency of over 40%.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

The Mazda CX-60 turbo diesel is mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox and is offered with a choice of two power outputs. The more powerful version has 251bhp and 550Nm (406lb ft) delivered through all four wheels, while the lower spec engine has 197bhp and 450Nm (332lb ft) fed through the rear axle only.

With the help of a 48-volt mild-hybrid boost set-up, the 197bhp engine has an official fuel economy of 56.5mpg with CO2 emissions as low as 129g/km, while the all-wheel drive comes in at 54.3mpg with a CO2 output of 137g/km.

Performance from the two is similar with the smaller output engine managing a 0-62mph acceleration time of 8.4 seconds (top speed 132mph), while the 251bhp unit tops out at 136mph and sprints to 62mph in 7.4 seconds.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

Apart from the new engine, Mazda’s flagship SUV is much the same as its petrol and PHEV siblings, which is no bad thing, because its blend of equipment, tech, classy materials and build quality closes the gap on premium rivals from Europe, such as Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover and Volvo.

Externally, the CX-60 is very similar to the slightly smaller CX-5, but can be distinguished by its more athletic stance and bluff nose, which polarises opinion. Let’s just say that it’s not the most attractive Mazda head-on.

There’s nothing revolutionary inside the cabin. It’s still very much a Mazda, which means there’s a large centrally-located 12.3-inch infotainment screen on top of the dashboard and a rotary controller near the gear selector. So, rather than dabbing and swiping a touchscreen, much of the car’s functionality is accessed by a twist and click of the controller or via voice recognition.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

If you’re not used to a touchscreen, it works well from the off (though using a ‘daisy wheel’ to input a place name in the sat nav is tiresome).

Thankfully, Mazda has also kept some buttons and dials, so the climate control can be accessed separately and there’s still an audio volume knob. Additionally, there’s extra functionality, such as cruise control via the steering wheel, while the clear head-up display is one of the best.

The cabin itself is spacious, though little different to the CX-5 in the back, so while adults can sit comfortably in the rear, there’s not class-leading legroom.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec (

That said, the boot is a substantial 570 litres, expanding to 1,726 litres with the rear seats folded down.

The driving position is great, with plenty of adjustment available (unusually for an SUV, it is possible to sit lower if you prefer). Whichever you choose, there’s a commanding view of the road.

Mazda isn’t pretending it’s a hardcore 4×4, but the extra traction and raised ride height should help you out at festivals and on those rare extreme weather events.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec

I tested the all-wheel drive version of the Mazda CX-60 diesel in mid-range Homura trim.

It seemed incongruous to be driving a big new diesel like this, but once I got some serious miles under my belt, it was easy to appreciate the advantages of a diesel again.

There’s stacks of torque and I achieved more than 50mpg on a long journey, mostly consisting of A roads and motorways.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec

It may be cleaner and more efficient, but there’s no mistaking the fact that it’s a diesel. For the most part it’s smooth, but it clatters a bit until it’s up to temperature and under heavy acceleration.

The smooth and responsive automatic gearbox works nicely, and is only hesitant when you put your foot down after the mild-hybrid system has shut off the engine for brief periods when coasting.

For instance, when using adaptive cruise control set at 70mph on the motorway, it’s usually possible to indicate and move out to the fast lane to overtake, but the CX-60 diesel seemed reluctant to kick down.

Initially, the CX-60 feels big and heavy, but you soon settle in, and it feels surprisingly agile and controlled in more challenging corners.

Mazda CX-60 Diesel - Takumi spec

There’s plenty of grip and traction, while the steering is light and precise, and the brakes are reassuringly effective.

The ride is on the firm side though, and it’s at its most relaxed and refined best cruising along. My test car came with big 20-inch wheels, which probably didn’t help in the comfort stakes, so it might be worth trying an entry-level Exclusive-Line which sits on 18-inch rubber.

It’s also worth noting that the CX-60 has a decent towing capacity of 2,500kg.

The Mazda CX-60 e-Skyactiv D range is priced from £43,010 (the 251bhp costs £45,655) and its rivals (in terms of size) include the Volvo XC60, Lexus NX, Audi Q5, BMW X3 and Genesis GV70.

Verdict: The mild-hybrid diesel version of the classy, boldly-styled Mazda CX-60 is a powerful, frugal and surprisingly engaging big SUV. A car that proves there’s still mileage in diesels, but it is a shrinking market.

Mazda UK

Mercedes-Benz A-Class review

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

We road test the updated Mercedes-Benz A-Class – the entry-level model in the three-pointed star line-up…

Priced from £31,905 and available as a hatchback or saloon, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class has been a huge success, delivering a relatively affordable, yet stylish and upmarket family car.

The latest model was launched in 2018 and quickly become one of the best-selling cars in the UK (it was the fourth most popular car after the MINI in 2021).

Now in its fourth generation, the A-Class continues to shine in a sector not without strong competition – think BMW 1 Series, Audi A3, Peugeot 308, DS 4 and MINI Clubman.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

So, what’s new for 2023? Well, there’s tweaked styling, upgraded equipment, added mild hybrid petrol engine technology and a wider colour choice.

The exterior changes are subtle with revised lights front and rear, and LEDs as standard. There are now a couple of slim bonnet bulges and the front grille is bigger than ever.

The big change is inside where the latest MBUX infotainment system has been fitted.

As seen on Mercedes-Benz cars higher up the range, it’s a slick and stylish set-up featuring two 10.25-inch screens.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Meanwhile, it’s more comfortable than ever with four-way lumbar support on both seats up front, while the overall quality of materials in the cabin and finish is superb.

There’s a choice of three petrol engines, a diesel and a plug-in hybrid.

All new Mercedes-Benz A-Class petrol engines now have 48V mild hybrid tech.

A 1.3-litre four-cylinder turbo is at the core of the petrol and hybrid engine options, while the diesel gets a 148bhp 2.0-litre unit, delivering 57.6mpg economy.

We tested the entry-level A180 (petrol) and A250 e (plug-in hybrid) versions.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The former produces 134bhp, delivering a 0-62mph time of 9.3 seconds and a top speed of 134mph. Capable of up to 48.7mph, its CO2 emissions are a reasonable 134g/km.

The PHEV option, which sadly is only available on the saloon version of the A-Class, pairs the 1.3-litre petrol engine with an electric motor, giving a total output of 212bhp.

The small 15.6kWh battery gives a pure EV range of up to 51 miles with on-paper fuel economy of up to 353mpg, and CO2 emissions of just 23g/km.

With a 0-62mph time of 7.5 seconds, it has a top speed of 143mph. If you want even more pace, then look at the performance-orientated Mercedes-AMG A-Class line-up.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

First the A180. The mild hybrid system is designed to make the engine start process quieter and allows the car to ‘sail’ with the engine switched off when cruising or coasting to a halt.

On the road the A 180 feels swifter than the official figures suggest – more than enough for everyday driving.

The mild hybrid tech works well, with smooth starting from a standstill and extra oomph when you get going. Mercedes claims the battery gives the car a 14bhp power boost when pulling away or during acceleration, and I can well believe this. What’s more, 50mpg is very achievable on a sensibly-driven longer run.

You can also choose from four driving modes (Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual). As ever, Comfort is just fine, with Eco dulling the driving the experience. Sport increases throttle response and livens up things a little, but the A180 is at its best cruising along.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

The engine is refined, only becoming vocal under heavy acceleration, while the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox is smooth and responsive.

If you prefer a low driving position, then you’ll like the A-Class. The steering is quick and it can be hustled through corners with well-controlled body roll.

It’s not a Ford Focus or BMW 1-Series, but it feels planted and the ride is a good blend of comfort (on the firm side) and driving engagement.

The A250e PHEV is the more powerful and slicker of our test cars. Starting off in whisper-quiet EV mode, it’s a while before the petrol motor kicks in.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

Again, most at home in Comfort mode, it switches from petrol to electric and vice versa smoothly most of the time. It’s a little heavier than its mild hybrid sibling, but it still manages to deliver an enjoyable ride.

The eight-speed automatic gearbox isn’t best in class, but goes through the motions, while the accelerator pedal is a little on the sensitive side.

The A250e can be charged from 10-100% at an AC charging station in 1 hour and 15 minutes, or 1 hour 45 minutes using a home wallbox.

Given the tax benefits, the A250e makes absolute sense for business users. Private buyers should be put off though. If you can manage without the hatchback, you have a home charger and you don’t cover high mileages, your visits to the petrol station will be few and far between because you’ll be running your A-Class in EV mode most of the time.

Mercedes-Benz A-Class

When it comes to space, the A-Class has plenty up front, and unless you’re over six foot, it’s fine in the back too. Luggage capacity is a useful 355 litres in the hatchback, expanding to 1,195 with the rear seats folded. Battery storage means the PHEV takes a small hit (345/1125 litres).

Ultimately, the A-Class isn’t quite as sporty as it looks, but there’s still fun to be had, it drives well, and it’s practical.

Verdict: Mercedes-Benz has done just enough to keep the A-Class relevant in the premium family hatchback sector. Stylish, easy to drive, comfortable and well equipped, the Mercedes-Benz A-Class oozes quality.

Mercedes-Benz UK

2022 Ford Focus review

Ford Focus review

We road test the new, improved version of the popular Ford Focus – now with mild hybrid assistance available…

The current fourth generation of the Ford Focus five-door family hatchback and estate was launched in 2018 and has just been treated to a mid-life makeover.

Gaining bolder looks, an updated infotainment system and more advanced driver assistance technology, a mild hybrid system is also on offer for the first time.

The update couldn’t have come sooner because the Focus has been slipping down the sales charts as buyers switch to crossovers and fully electric/hybrid cars.

Ford Focus review

It’s also facing serious competition from newer rivals such as the Vauxhall Astra, Peugeot 308, Seat Leon, Mazda 3, Skoda Octavia and Volkswagen Golf.

As before, the freshly facelifted Focus is also available as a sporty ST variant or a rufty-tufty Active version which bridges the gap between conventional family cars and SUVs. 

Priced from £22,965, there’s now a choice of three engines – two petrol and one diesel. The three-cylinder 1.0-litre EcoBoost petrol unit, so familiar to Fiesta and Puma owners, is available with outputs of 123bhp or 153bhp. 

Ford Focus review

Mild-hybrid tech is offered as an option on the less powerful version, and included as standard on the higher-output version, helping to boost both performance and efficiency. A choice of six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic are available on both too. 

Accelerating to 60mph takes 10.2 seconds in the 123bhp car, or just 8.2 seconds on the more powerful mild hybrid model. The latter is the most efficient, returning a decent 54.3mpg, with CO2 emissions of 116g/km. 

If performance is more important to you, then go for the Focus ST hot hatch, which benefits from a 2.3-litre petrol engine delivering 276bhp and a 0-60mph time of just 5.7 seconds.

Ford Focus review

High-mileage drivers still have the option of a diesel – a 118bhp 1.5-litre unit that comes with either a six-speed manual or eight-speed automatic transmission. 

A 9.6-second 0-60mph sprint time is possible, while Ford claims an impressive 61.4mpg fuel economy figure (CO2 emissions as low as 120g/km).

My test car came in high spec ST-Line Vignale trim and was fitted with the 153bhp version of Ford’s punchy 1.0-litre turbo petrol engine, paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Ford Focus review

The refreshed front end adds kerb appeal to the Focus, while overall it has a more athletic stance. The sporty ST-Line models look especially good with a body kit that includes a rear diffuser and spoiler. 

The interior has been smartened up too with all trim levels getting the much improved SYNC 4 13.2-inch landscape-oriented touchscreen infotainment system.

Even though it now incorporates the car’s heating and ventilation controls, it’s slick, colourful and easy to use. Every Focus also now comes with digital dials.

Advanced driver assistance technologies include Blind Spot Assist which can help prevent a driver switching lanes if a potential collision is detected.

Ford Focus review

Before I proceed, let’s just be clear that the 48-volt mild hybrid system used in the Focus is pretty basic. Unlike plug-in and full hybrids, it cannot drive the car alone. 

Instead, it boosts engine acceleration and aids fuel economy (though that’s marginal), and it drives just like an ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) car, so no plugging in to charge the small battery.

However, when rivals such as the all-new Vauxhall Astra and Peugeot 308 are available as plug-in hybrids (with all-electric versions to follow in 2023), the Focus is barely keeping up and will lose out in the all-important business sector where lower CO2 levels means big tax benefits.

Ford Focus review

That said, there are plenty of drivers who are not ready (or can’t) make the switch to plug-in and electric vehicles, or simply prefer conventional cars for now, so there is still a place for the Focus.

And here’s the thing – I’ve driven dozens of full hybrid, plug-in hybrid, 100% electric vehicles (EVs) and SUVs with indifferent dynamics, so the Focus’s blend of driver engagement and practicality is a real treat.

Not only does it look the part, but there’s plenty of space inside for five adults, plus the boot is a competitively sized 375 litres (rising to 1,354 litres with the rear seats folded). There’s also a lovely low driving position should you want it – an impossibility in most EVs and SUVs.

Ford Focus review

Then there’s the famed handling characteristics of the Ford Focus. It’s fun to drive, feeling agile and planted with sharp steering and loads of grip.

Push it in faster corners and where some rivals will become unsettled, the Focus takes it in its stride.

That’s not all, the lively little engine punches way above its weight, providing ample power, the slick six-speed manual gearbox is an absolute joy to use and the brakes are reassuringly reactive.

Ford Focus review

The ride is on the firm side, but not uncomfortably so, while the build quality is hard to fault and cabin refinement is excellent.

Three selectable drive modes – normal, sport and eco – add to the overall driving experience.

Verdict: The Ford Focus is a fantastically well sorted car. Fun to drive, stylish, practical, comfortable, economical, and now featuring a  bang up to date infotainment system, it’s still one of the best family hatchbacks on the market.

Ford UK

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

The striking all-new fourth-generation Tucson is one of the new car revelations of 2021. Hyundai dares to be different and few SUVs can match the Tucson’s kerb appeal.

Featuring unique “hidden lights” and “jewel-like” running lights, plus an athletic profile and pert rear, it’s equally impressive inside.

Available with a conventional petrol engine, or as a self-charging hybrid, plug-in hybrid or mild hybrid, the Tucson is priced from £28,100 to £41,975.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

We tested the self-charging hybrid (listed as the Hyundai Tucson 1.6 T-GDi 230ps Hybrid) in top spec Ultimate trim. Priced at £37,135, it came with a six-speed automatic gearbox and a Tech Pack, including Electronic Control Suspension, Around View Monitor, Blind Spot View Monitor and Remote Smart Park Assist.

The beauty of the hybrid power unit is that it gives increased performance and reduced emissions without the need to plug in.

Combining the instant torque of a 44.2kW electric motor with the output of a four-cylinder 1.6-litre turbo, the 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can be charged on the move via regenerative braking during downhill stretches of road and braking.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Most impressively of all, the hybrid powertrain switches seamlessly between the petrol engine and electric motor – sometimes utilising both at the same time.

Take a glance at the dashboard and the little ‘EV’ light flashes up for significant amounts of time, especially when cruising, which is particularly satisfying.

Like all self-charging hybrids, the battery is big enough for short bursts of fully electric driving in stop-start traffic, along with silent parking manoeuvres.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

You can also select drive modes. The default Eco is fine for everyday driving, while Sport adds an extra level of response and control for more challenging country roads.

The total petrol/electric power output of 227bhp, with 195lb ft of torque, is ample, resulting in a 0-62mph time of 8.0 seconds and a top speed of 120mph.

CO2 emissions are as low as 131g/km, while fuel economy is officially up to 49.6mpg. You can get close to that figure when cruising, but 40-45mpg is a more realistic figure in everyday driving.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

The self-charging hybrid is front-wheel drive (you’ll have to opt for the plug-in hybrid if you want 4×4) and doesn’t feel any the less for it.

There’s a surprising amount of grip up front, decent traction and it feels agile when pushed, even if the engine is slightly more vocal. Add light, accurate steering and decent body control, and it’s a great all-rounder.

So, the Tucson is the business on the road, and the good news is that it’s no less impressive inside the cabin.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Generously equipped, just about all physical knobs and buttons have been eliminated in the cool interior which is dominated by a 10.25-inch infotainment screen in the sleek centre console and a driver’s digital instrument cluster the same size.

There’s plenty of space in the rear for tall adults to travel comfortably, while the boot capacity is a healthy 616 litres, expanding to 1,795 litres with the rear seats folded.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid review

Build quality is superb and goodies such as electrically operated, heated and ventilated front seats, plus a KRELL premium audio give it an upmarket feel.

The Tucson scored a maximum five stars in Euro NCAP testing and is packed with safety kit, including a Blind Spot View Monitor. Simply activate the indicator and you can see a live camera view of the left or right-hand side of the car on a screen in the digital cluster.

There’s also Highway Drive Assist – a semi-autonomous system which combines lane-keep assist, adaptive cruise control, map data and sensors to deliver speed and steering adjustments when driving on the motorway.

Hyundai Tucson Hybrid Sounds of Nature app

For novelty value, go to Media on the infotainment screen, activate the ‘Sounds of Nature’ and choose a relaxing ambient background soundtrack. Options include Calm Sea Waves, Lively Forest, Warm Fireplace, Rainy Day and Open-Air Cafe.

Verdict: Hyundai is knocking on the door of some premium rivals with the dramatic all-new Tucson Hybrid. Safe, spacious, well equipped, refined and engaging to drive, it’s a superb SUV package and a real step-up from its predecessor. Add Hyundai’s generous five-year warranty and it’s a tempting proposition.

Hyundai UK