Early in the new year you'll be seeing plenty of Hyundai Tucsons scooting around the highways and biways of North America. However, if you look closely, you'll notice that some them aren't Hyundais at all. In fact, they're Kias.
The reason for this is quite simple. Hyundai, which owns the Kia brand, has decided to share its latest toy. Now each has two models: Hyundai has the Santa Fe and Tucson; and Kia has its charming Sorento and the all-new Tucson-derived Sportage. If Detroit can practise the ancient art of badge engineering, hey, then so can these two Korean makes.
The Sportage label has actually been recycled from 2002 when the first Kia to use the name was dropped from the lineup. Although similar in size to that almost forgotten mini-ute, this newest version is a very different animal.
Whereas the first Sportage proudly wore its sand-in-your-snout Paris-Dakar rally experience on its fenders, the encore version is just itching for a bit of mud on its doors or a few snowflakes to test its mettle. That's because the Sportage, Part 2, is based on the unitized (frameless) architecture of Hyundai's Elantra sedan. That's not to say the new Sportage is some kind of pretender, but instead it offers a fresh design, a comfortable cabin and a boatload of value, all rolled into one cutting-edge compact carrier.