Fuelled by petroleum wealth and governed by astute state planning, the once backwater desert-edge Bedouin settlement of Dubai has turned into the perfect model of a progressive Arabian city.
With the skyline of this United Arab Emirates city constantly evolving with new skyscrapers added on every year, Dubai is also the home of the 830m-tall Burj Khalifa, the planet’s highest building.
This ultramodern architectural marvel is so tall that it can even be seen miles away from the sandy outskirts.
Featuring a tapering styling, this gleaming steel and glass tower is picturesque from all angles and is the backdrop for our recent test drive with the all-new Kia Sportage compact sports utility vehicle.
READ MORE: Kia Sportage and Sorento launched in Malaysia
Like Burj Khalifa, Kia designers have refined the appearance of the new Sportage to look desirable from all sides.
The most distinctive re-boot is the front of the Sportage which now features the Kia signature “tiger-nose grille” with softer edges.
Headlamps and grille are positioned apart from each other unlike the previous generation Sportage which had its headlamps and grille formed as a single continuous unit.
The new HID bi-xenon headlamps along with a sharply-ridged bonnet give the new Sportage a bolder face to suit its new sporty persona.
The side profile, though appears similar to the previous generation Sportage, now comes with slimmer C-pillars and a slightly longer body.
Slim rear tail lights with a long satin chrome strip and larger roof spoiler adds viewing pleasure to the eyes.
(You have to manually turn up the volume slider in this video if you can't hear the audio)
Aerodynamics is improved to 0.33Cd from 0.35Cd previously.
Inside, the vehicle feels more refined now with a large 8-inch centre colour display, leather upholstery, dashboard stitching, metallic trimming and other higher quality materials.
The dashboard has also been slightly angled towards the driver and this evokes a sports car-like styling.
Although the new Sportage’s width and height remains unchanged compared with the previous model, its wheelbase is now 30mm longer which gives rear passengers more legroom.
The backrests of the rear seats also come with a 39 degree recline with eight-step setting, up from the out-going model’s 28 degree recline and two-step setting.
In addition, the new Sportage also gets smart features such as blindspot detection with lane change assist, lane departure warning, rear cross traffic assist, rear view camera, Bluetooth connectivity, sat-nav, smart key with push start/stop button and wireless charging for smartphones.
Cargo space has also been increased to 465 litres to 503 litres and the boot lip is now lower by 47mm to 732mm from the ground to make loading of heavy items much easier.
Its four petrol engine options are the 1.6-litre GDI (132PS/160Nm), 1.6-litre Turbo GDI (177PS/265Nm), 2.0-litre MPi (157PS/196Nm) and 2.4-litre GDi (184PS/237Nm), while its two diesel powerplants are the 1.7-litre CRDi (115PS/280Nm) and 2.0-litre CRDi (185PS/400Nm).
Transmission are either the six-speed manual, six-speed automatic or seven-speed dual clutch with front-wheel or all-wheel drive.
Our near two-hour drive from Meydan Hotel in Dubai towards Hilton Fujairah Resort, some 120km away which faces the Gulf of Oman, took us along desert and mountainous settings on highways which allowed us to test the Sportage’s high-speed cruising and hill climbs.
The 2.0-litre MPi variant with a six-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive system assigned to us had more than adequate performance for a speedy take-off with three persons onboard.
The engine does not feel strained when we were going on uphill stretches and it emits a sporty note when the accelerator pedal is “kicked down” for quick overtaking.
While the 2.0-litre MPi engine is a carryover from the previous model, Kia engineers have improved its efficiency with advanced continuously variable valve timing, new variable induction and oil pump systems, low-friction oil seals and better engine cooling.
Aside from good feedback, the electric motor-driven power steering also feels responsive and sharp as the front MacPherson struts and rear multi-link suspension have been tuned for sporty handling.
Kia says that the improved handling was a result of higher torsional rigidity brought upon by the extensive use of advanced high-strength steel in body construction.
However, comfort has not been compromised as the suspension was able to soak up jolts and knocks when we drove on rough roads and desert trails.
For more pizazz, there is the GT Line upgrade package which offers a flat-bottom steering wheel, paddle shifters, “ice cube” LED foglamps, 19-inch alloy wheels, black high gloss centre fascia, sports pedals, and more satin chrome trimmings among others.
The third generation Sportage was the best-selling model to-date with some 1.6 million units sold globally during its six-year production starting 2010.
With a host of enhancements, the new model is expected to sell more than three million units in its life-cycle.
Local Kia distributor Naza Kia Malaysia is targeting to launch the new Sportage on May 25 with prices and specifications to be revealed then.