The third-generation Kia Sportage was a very handsome beast. With its squat proportions, aggressive “tiger nose” grille and shallow glass house, it would not have looked out-of-place if it had been badged an Audi, BMW or even Porsche. This made the reveal of its successor all the more of a disappointment – the previously sharp lines had been smoothed out, the standout proportions brought more into the mainstream, but most importantly the aggressive nose had been replaced with something much weaker. I think it’s clear that Kia’s designers were trying to make the Sportage look a bit like the Porsche Cayenne, but I fear they accidentally made it look like quite another car…
To my eyes, the front of the new Sportage bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the pre-facelift Subaru Tribeca. There is the same weird horizontal stacking going on, with the grille occupying a separate space below the headlamps, with the two horizontal planes not overlapping horizontally. What’s more, even though the two designs are separated by 10 years, its surprising how close in shape the headlamps are on the Sportage and the Tribeca. Personally, I thought the Tribeca was an OK-looking car that suffered only because of its needlessly large and complicated grille, a pitfall the Kia avoids. Nonetheless, given that the third-generation Sportage sold great mainly on the basis of its looks, while looks is exactly what killed the Tribeca, I have to wonder whether Kia’s designers did not take too much of a risk with the Sportage’s front end. This is one instance where “evolution, not revolution”, so maligned by many when done by Audi, BMW, Porsche or VW, would have been the way to go.
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