Now entering its fourth-generation, Kia’s all-new compact SUV is undergoing the final stages of its development. Now engineers are testing the Sportage in California’s Death Valley – known as one of the hottest places on Earth, temperatures there can rise as high as 56ºC (132ºF) during summer.
The Sportage, which is expected to be in showrooms at the beginning of 2016, was taken to Death Valley and the Mojave Desert in California to put its heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems through their paces.
The first test saw the Sportage soaked in the midday sun bringing the cabin to more than 50 degrees C (122 degrees F) before researchers drove it from sea level to almost 5000 feet through the Furnace Creek area of death Valley for 17 miles at 62mph.
The aim was to ensure that the extra load put on the engine did not affect the car’s ability to cool itself and its passengers.
If that wasn’t tough enough this rugged SUV was then driven at 25 mph through Furnace Creek while engineers stopped and started it in order to simulate a busy city centre. In a final test it was taken for a slow drive through the Badwater Basin - the lowest point in North America 282 feet below sea level.
Following another one hour heat soak, it was then driven at 25 mph for 30 minutes at a time to allow engineers to review the performance of the ventilation systems when there was a significantly reduced level of air flow.
Further tests were designed to ensure quality and durability. The proving ground at Mojave - a total of 6.7 sq miles - has extensive on and off road surfaces. These include a 6.4 mile high speed oval, gravel off road tracks, high vibration surfaces, brake test facilities and varying gradients!
In addition there is a material weathering unit where cars can be exposed to the witheringly hot sun for hours at a time. In all, the fleet of test vehicles will have been driven almost 3.5 million miles - approximately 137 times around the earth - before any Sportage is driven by customers. Very impressive.
Not surprisingly these tests are considered to be the most severe global test programme ever carried out by Kia.
By Tracey McBain