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Kia’s exciting Sportage SUV has kicked an early goal in the awards season with a win in the SUV under $40,000 category at the prestigious Drive awards.

The experienced panel of judges from the respected Drive and Drive.com media group put the all-new Sportage SLi diesel automatic at the top of one of the most crowded and competitive segments in the Australian motoring landscape.

Kia Motors Australia CEO, Mr MK Kim, said he was both delighted and humbled by the decision to give the award to the Sportage.

“We have always believed that the Sportage is an exceptional car, but to have this independent recognition from such a respected body is a wonderful verification of our belief,” Mr Kim said.

“The Sportage, like all of the cars coming from Kia, is the end product of a great deal of work and dedication by everybody within Kia Motors. This recognition is shared by all of us.”

Accepting the award in Melbourne today, Kia Motors Australia Chief Operating Officer, Mr Tony Barlow said: “You don’t build and launch new cars with awards in mind, but to receive an award such as this is a strong indication that what you are doing is ticking the right boxes.”

Launched in August, the Sportage is a shining example of the marriage of form and function with head-turning styling from Kia’s global design team, led by head designer Peter Schreyer and penned at the company’s Los Angeles Design Studio by Massimo Frascella, and outstanding engineering.

A key feature of the Sportage was the “localisation” of the ride and handling characteristics for the Australian market. The Sportage has specifically tuned spring and damper rates and now boasts tuned MDPS (motor driven power steering) which adds rake and reach adjustment.

Streaming Bluetooth is also standard across the Sportage range.

The 2.0-litre R series diesel is good for 135kW and 392Nm and coupled to the new 6-speed automatic, the performance is class leading.

New safety features include ESC with a new Rollover Sensor, Hillstart Assist Control (to prevent roll-back when starting on an incline and roll-forward when reversing up a slope in reverse with the manual transmission) and Downhill Brake Control (to limit speed during a steep descent).

VW’s World Car Of The Year, the all-new Polo, won the overall Drive Car Of The Year award with Sportage making the top four of the 14 category winners.