By Declan Glynn

A raft of useful changes to the 2019 Kia Sportage have helped to keep it near the top of the SUV class – a fiercely competitive class for any car manufacturer to compete in.

Upon initial glance, it may not seem as though the facelift of the Kia Sportage has been that comprehensive, but under the skin is where you will find a completely new diesel engine that meets the latest Euro-6d Temp emissions regulations.

The new 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine in the Kia Sportage is kinder to the environment than ever before, and comes with a standard six-speed manual gearbox across the range, with a seven-speed DCT (Dual Clutch Transmission) automatic reserved exclusively as an option on the K3 model.

There are four well-equipped models available in the 2019 Kia Sportage – K2, K3, K4, and range-topping GT-Line.

All models are driven by the front wheels (2WD), with the exception of the K3 model, which can be specified with the option of a 4WD drivetrain.

Diesel is currently the only engine option in the new Sportage, as no petrol engine is offered in the Irish market.

External changes to the 2019 Sportage mainly consist of a redesigned front bumper with new fog light housings, a reworking of Kia’s distinctive ‘tiger nose’ front grille, new headlights, new rear light clusters, a revised rear bumper, and a range of new designs for the alloy wheels.

Changes to the inside of the Sportage include a revised multi-function steering wheel, an updated instrument cluster incorporating a re-profiled climate control panel, and high-grade upholstery.

The car I had on review was a KIA Sportage K4 model, finished in striking Blue Flame metallic paint.

Standard equipment across the Sportage range is impressive, with the K4 model coming complete with 19” alloy wheels, Lane Keep Assist, LED rear lights, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, leather interior with heated seats front and rear.

Other features include dual-zone air-conditioning, reverse camera, front and rear parking sensors, 7” touchscreen with satellite navigation, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, rear privacy glass, Bluetooth, and silver skid plates front and rear.

The 1.6-litre, 115bhp engine provides excellent fuel economy, with as little as 4.9-litres of diesel consumed for every 100km driven on an extra-urban driving cycle.

Annual road tax is just €270 in 2WD guise, and €280 for the 4WD model.

The fourth-generation Sportage also has a new platform – shared with its close relative, the Hyundai Tucson.

The Sportage is great to drive, with lots of grip through corners and a suspension set-up which smooths out the worst bumps very well.

The car never feels bulky, and is a big improvement on its predecessor overall.

The Sportage is a very relaxing long-distance companion, and is equally impressive on a twisty country road too.

Overall visibility is terrific, thanks in no small part to the high-set driving position, with the large glass area making the car bright and airy inside.

Excellent head and leg room prevails within the cabin of the Sportage, and will allow for up to five occupants to travel in comfort.

Boot space is equally impressive, with 491-litres of space available with the rear seats in place.

However, with the rear seats folded down, this capacity increases to a generous 1,480-litres, and by lowering the boot floor, an additional 37 litres of storage can be availed of.

The 2019 Kia Sportage is priced from €29,815 (ex-delivery) and comes with Kia’s outstanding 7-Year/150,000km warranty as standard.