Kia’s new Sportage small SUV will be the safest car in its class, the company confidently predicts.

It is aiming for five-star safety ratings in all major markets, including Europe and the US. It hopes to gain its Euro NCAP stars in November, product manager Kenneth Hong said.

The new Sportage is the final link in a refreshed Kia SUV range which in the past 18 months has seen the launch of the Soul and the new generation Sorento.

It is aimed at the SUV C segment which accounts for around 3.8m sales annually around the world. It will be available in both two- and four-wheel-drive and goes into production at Kia’s European plant in Slovakia in June.

The new generation Sportage was styled by the company’s design studio in California which has gone for a much more sporty look.

The new model is 90mm longer, 25mm wider and 60mm lower than its predecessor giving a much more youthful appearance and which certainly does make the car look more athletic.

It will be available in the UK from August, initially only with a two-litre diesel engine, though a 1.6 petrol and 1.7 diesel will follow around October. A new 2-litre GDI engine mated to a six speed transmission is currently under development and expected in 2013.

On the basis of a short test drive at the Namyang Technical centre in South Korea which Kia shares with sister company Hyundai, the Sportage feels light on its feet although there will be engine and suspension tweaks for European markets.

Also on show at Namyang was the replacement for the Magentis which was unveiled at the New York motor show in April.

This D segment car is expected to do well at home in Korea and the US. It will not reach Europe until next year – arriving in the UK around summer – and has yet to be named.

Known as the Optima in Korea, no decision has yet been made on the car’s name in Europe where Kia says the model will be a “game-changer”.

The Magentis has not sold in any great numbers in Europe historically but the new model has sleek, coupe-like styling with low bonnet and high boot – again a more sporty appearance.

Kia promises more powerful engines and more options along with a more upmarket feel to the interior enhanced by mood lighting and illuminated vehicle names on the door scuffs.