The Kia Sportage -or Sportage-, however you want to pronounce it has always been somewhat ofan interesting trendsetter in the compact crossover class.

Now we've gotthe new model It's got a new look , new mechanicals and new featuresand some feature deletions as well.

Let's take a look at see what theychanged with the 2019 Sportage and see how it drives on the road.

Kia didn'tchange too much with the design not that they actually had to because the carthey launched in 2015 was still pretty good-looking but what they did do for2019 is update a few of the elements a little bit adding a bar here, changingsome of the lights changing the wheels over hereon the side and the taillights it's all a matter of adjustment when itcomes to the look of the 2019 Sportage The big change actually especially forthis GT line version is that they changed a lot of the lamps into LEDs.

Actually pretty much all the lamps outside are LEDs.

But what they didremove was the sunroof which we actually kind ofmiss because if you like driving around with a bit of Sun in your hair I guess you will actually like the older version with a sunroof.

Thisone, well it's the classic metal roof.

Now it may look like Kia didn't changetoo much with the interior of the Sportage and you're absolutely rightthey didn't alter too much with the design with the feel, with the look.

Butwhat they did change was in the functionality.

In that department theyworked a lot in terms of making the Sportage feel a lot better and functiona lot better.

For example this steering wheel: it's anice sporty steering wheel with the GT Line emblem, paddle shifters it's gotnew panels here on both sides so it allows you to control a lot of the newfunctions as well.

Now what I really like is that it has a D-cut steering wheel andguys you know bigger guys would appreciate that touch and it's alsosporty as well.

Now one thing that I do like as well is this center panel it'sbeen completely revised.

Its piano black of course it looks better, but thefunctionality is also improved and the quality of the switches all feel a lotbetter.

But my favorite feature and one thing we pointed out with with the oldermodel the 2017 GT line that we tested was a lack of Bluetooth.

Now for an entrygrade vehicle that's fine but for a top-of-the-line GT line version it'sgonna be a problem especially in the Philippines where we passed a new lawthat penalizes you for making or taking calls or texting without any kind ofhands-free system.

Now they have it finally it's an 8 inch touchscreen audiounit and it also has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Now I still haven't beenable to get it to work on my Huawei so I think I may have to do a bit ofupdating on Google Play.

if I can.

One of the reasons that peoplebuy the Kia Sportage for is for space.

In the back seat you've actually gotplenty of legroom plenty of knee room and plenty of headroom even if you're attaller, not that I would know.

But in the very back you've also got quite a bit of space I mean this thing right herethe opening is 40 and a half inches wide that means you can put quitea lot of stuff in there and the left the dimensions here even with the rear seatsup you've got enough space for maybe actually probably two balikbayan boxeswhich measuring at about 24x18x24.

If you fold down the rear seats thenyou've got massive room and you can fit something as long as 65 inches into theback of this vehicle.

That covers of your typical mountain bikes if you want them to ride inside.

Otherwise we'd recommend you geta carrier for the back.

The engine of the 2019 Sportage isactually a carryover from the one they launched in 2015meaning the pre-facelift model.

It's a 2-liter turbo dieselcommon rail direct injection basically all of the technology that Kia hasavailable to them at this time.

But what they changed is the gearbox:it's no longer as 6-speed automatic it's an 8-speed automatic and it's got185 metric horsepower to play with along with 400 Newton meters of torque andit's something you can put to use on an uphill like this in on a road like thisespecially with a full complement of cargo and passengers you'll like the factthat there's plenty of torque very low in the rev range.

So you canreally pull up in a weed easily climb any kind of incline available inwhatever is in your path and it actually feels fairly smooth for a diesel.

Because of the new 8-speed automatic Isuspect the shifting is a lot better than before there's a big improvementthere should be a big improvement in fuel economy which will try out a bitlater and overall it's just a much more pleasant experience.

It's kind ofdifficult to put how the Kia Sportage rides because the wordI would use is that there's a certain European-ness about it.

What does thatmean, well if you've driven a BMW or an Audi or even a Mercedes -the smaller ones, you know the crossovers or even the small hatchbacks or sedans-you'll know what we mean in that there is a satisfying thud a very differentquality in the way it goes over bumps and imperfections on the road.

Againit's not perfect but you just feel a little better, you feel a littlemore confident when you go over these kinds of you know surfaces.

That'swhat sets those cars apart and I think they try to emulate a bit of that with theSportage which I kind of like especially when it comes to handling I mean it'squite it's quite satisfying to drive I mean you turn a corner it feels itfeels fairly flat you know it doesn't feel like it's gonna get away from you if you're driving faster if you like spirited handling or windingroads that kind of thing.

You'll actually enjoy the Sportagequite a bit on a winding road which is a good thing but there is a drawbackthough in having that kind of a suspension and of course 19-inch wheelsand tires and that's the fact that it's not gonna be as comfortable as some ofthe other offerings out there.

The way I would characterize the ride over thissurface is more of its firm but it's fair.

It's not going to you be overly uncomfortable or anything like that but it's managing it fairly well whichis good.

Ideally I would prefer a bit more handling from a vehicleespecially with the way my route is laid out every day.

Ihave to go through a winding road on a daily basis just to get home.

So theSportage fits that bill because I like to have a bit of fun when I'mgoing home or coming down, this vehicle actually works for the way theway I drive.

Now some of you may prefer something else and that'sperfectly fine but it's a unique and different driving experiencealtogether compared to the rest out there.

Some would have better handlingbut I like the combination of the 8-speed auto and theturbo diesel which isn't offered in all too many vehicles in this category:the a small five seater crossover class.

What I really do miss isthe all-wheel drive.

Now a lot will argue that all-wheel drive is not that usefulin the Philippines or on our kind of conditions but I would disagree.

While in the city all-wheel drive is not practical or unnecessary but if you're driving far distances outof town and you encounter a slippery road or youknow a blind corner catches you out these things are better taken withyou know the assurance that all-wheel-drive gives and unfortunatelythey deleted that for all models of the Sportage.

It's kind of weird because the GT line used to have that but now no more like we said they deleted theall-wheel-drive system but you don't really need that if you're you knowdoing everyday things with a Sportage in an urban area.

What you really need isyou know maneuverability which the Sportage has quite a bit of because thevisibility.

You've got sensors front and back.

You've got a rear-view camera soyou won't have any problems parking rear first into a slot in themall even though it could be very tight.

Again as an everydayvehicle this thing just works.

It's quiet, its smooth, youcan hear a little bit of the engine coming through from the engine bay; youknow the actual sound of a diesel.

It's still not as quiet as a gasolineengine but where it does excel is in the fuel economy.

Don't be surprised thatgiven the high torque of this model along with the new gearbox ifyou're getting around 11 to 13 km/l without even trying.

And mind you that's under conditions that are fairly moderate to almostheavy traffic around 20 km/h.

It can go down if traffic's a bit heavier but if you're more frugal with the way youapply the throttle you can get quite a bit of good mileage from everyliter of diesel fuel in the Sportage that's something the gasoline engineversions simply cannot do So where do we stand with the 2019 KiaSportage? We like the look, that much is clear.

We like how it feels, that'salso pretty clear.

And we do like the added functionality especially with theaudio system and the overall feel of quality that the vehicle actuallybrings.

But it does come at a price literally because this vehicle costsPhp 1.

82 million.

Now I don't know about you but that's quite steep for a front-wheeldrive even though it's a turbo diesel.

I suspect it's not so much becauseof the actual pricing from abroad but it's actually because of our tax lawsbecause this vehicle falls under that kind of critical category where it'sreally affected by the new TRAIN law.

There are other variants of the Sportage where you can actually lose some of the features, and Ithink that would make a better value proposition.

For this one, I still likethe look I still like everything about it, but it's just a price that's gonna behard to get over.

This is Vince Pornelos of AutoIndustriya.