GENERAL Motors has announced it will discontinue its Chevrolet Volt, Cruze, and Impala early next year and shut three assembly plants as it reduces its workforce and feeds demand for crossover SUVs and pickups rather than sedans.

Watch other manufacturers follow suit.

Yes folks, the bite of the SUV is killing off the sedan market and at a faster rate than GM, for one, expected.

They’ve become so popular that brands you’d never expect – Rolls-Royce, Jaguar, even  Lamborghini – now have them, because they’d probably not survive if they didn’t.

The result is a thriving SUV scene, in small, medium, large and luxury classes, plus a variety of power units: petrol, diesel, hybrid, electric and vehicles designed for every purpose.

But only one of them comes with a seven-year warranty, and that’s the one we’re having a look at here.

It’s Kia’s medium-size contender, the Sportage, which is available in four levels of trim and three engines: 2.0 litre petrol, 2.4 petrol and 2.0 litre turbo-diesel and two or all-wheel drive.

Related:  2017 Kia Sportage

Prices start at $29,990 and top out at $47,690, and global sales have already exceeded five million. Our SLi 2.0 litre diesel was $42,190.

Described as a ‘product-enhanced fourth-generation model,’ it now has an 8-speed auto transmission, its suspension has been modified for a more refined and compliant ride and safety has been boosted with AEB and Lane Keep Assist.

It’s hard to make one SUV stand out from all the others on the market – the Sportage has about 20 rivals in its class alone – but it scores with its ‘tiger nose’ grille, which has gained a more angular frame and the tail end has had a bit of a styling update with new taillights, redesigned rear bumpers and a smart skid plate that you really don’t want to get dirty.

There are also new designs for the alloy wheels, which extend to a full-sized spare and the overall shape of the vehicle is smooth and pleasing to most eyes.

The interior is a welcoming place with a mix of metallic accents and soft-touch materials, an easy-to-use infotainment screen and a good twin-zone dashboard.

Various bits of info can be called up in the driver’s instrument binnacle and the infotainment system in the centre of the dashboard, but I was unable to select a digital speedo.

It must be there, since there’s a picture of it in the 1.4 kg owner’s manual, I kid you not, 1.4 kg, comprising several million pages. But I still couldn’t find it. War and Peace has nothing on the Kia owner’s manual.

I mentioned it to Dr Bobla, who had a look – and selected the digital option in about 30 seconds.

Simples, as a meerkat might say.

The SLi has a load of standard gear such as a reversing camera,  front and rear parking sensors, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, auto-on wipers and headlights, keyless entry with push-button start, 7.0-inch LCD screen with satnav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and dual-zone climate control.

The Sportage can accommodate five adults in its leather-appointed, supportive seats and there’s ample cargo space: 466 litres seat up, 1455 seats down.

Its wide-opening doors and tallish seats are great for folk with back problems and you also get a great view from anywhere inside.

The turbo-diesel produces 136 kW/ 400 Nm, the latter available from 1750 rpm, and it’s commendably quiet, thanks to improved clatter-isolating materials.

The 8-speed auto is a top unit and it includes three drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport, not that you’d use the latter for track days, but it does make for a more responsive drive.

However, we left it in its default mode for much of the time and it ran just fine and used little fuel.

 We frequently saw readings of 7.1 on the dash, which could be further improved on a long, easy drive. Average was 7.9.

The Sportage’s revised suspension was impressive too, wafting over road irregularities but still keeping passengers, and the driver, happy with an almost even keel through the bends. Brakes and the electric steering were also good.

 Verdict: A quality number in its over-populated market segment, and one of the best.

LIKE:

  • Quality build

  • Space

  • Comfort

  • Good handling

  • Good looks

  • Best warranty

DISLIKE:

  • Owner manual overkill

Scores:

  • Looks
  • Performance
  • Safety
  • Thirst
  • Practicality
  • Comfort
  • Tech
  • Value