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The UK may be in a credit crunch at the present time but the popularity of off-roader’s is still riding high.

The 2008 Kia Sportage compact 4×4 is a budget vehicle from the Korean maker as it starts from a price of under £20,000. The Kia Sportage 2.0-litre CRDi XS ME starts at £17,695 in the UK and according to the guide-books it should retain about 50% of its price after three years and 60,000miles of driving.

Looks

The Kia Sportage has soft roader written all over it but it can do more than the school run as the car has 4-wheel drive and good traction when on the rough stuff.

Interior

On the inside the cabin is well equipped. It may not be up to some of its European rivals when it comes to badge recognition but the maker has upgraded the interior since it was first launched in 2004.

The driving position is good as the seats are very comfortable, however there is a downside as the front seats lack side support when you are cornering.

The car was also fitted with leather trim, climate control aircon and cruise control as standard as we had the XS trim level model on test.

Practicality

Space is aplenty in the Kia Sportage while loading and unloading is simplicity itself, as the car has no load lip to get in the way.

To make life even easier the compact 4X4 has a separate opening tailgate glass, which is really handy when parked in town to load up the car. The boot aperture can be opened as one door if there are larger parcels to place in the load bay.

To make more space the seats can be folded and this can be done in a simple process –all the driver has to do is pull the handle and the seats will fold. The rear have a 60:40 split and the rear bench and the base lowers as the backrest is pulled forward opening up a large load space to fit in the most awkward of kit.

On the road

Under the bonnet the Kia Sportage was powered by a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel unit, which has an output of about 138bhp. With 305Nm of torque the car had plenty of shove when you needed to get past slower traffic. All the way through the gearbox the car had plenty of pick-up which meant constant gear changes weren’t needed as mush however first gear felt cumbersome as the ratio was too short and becomes an irritant in congested traffic.

Kia claims that the compact 4×4 will get from zero to 62mph in 12 seconds and that it has a top speed of 110mph.

The traction both on and off-road is good as the Sportage torque transfer system automatically shifts from front- to four-wheel-drive when necessary, and there’s also a lock button for permanent 4WD when on the rough stuff.

The Kia Sportage is a practical off-roader when on a budget, on the looks front it is rather bland but to offset that the maker does provide a seven-year/100,000 mile warranty in the UK.