Kia Sportage Review
The Sportage is Kia’s best-selling car in Europe and now that all-round appeal has really gained pace with a midlife refresh and, perhaps most importantly, the introduction of a mild hybrid powertrain.
- Beautifully styled and packed with technology
- Powerful mild-hybrid engine
- Practical and spacious interior
- Noisy at higher speeds
- Running costs are fairly high
- Some rivals are more dynamic to drive
The Kia Sportage is in its fourth generation and has just undergone a mid-life refresh with a range of new styling cues, improved onboard technology, cleaner powertrains, new 16, 17 and 19-inch alloys plus an extra five paint colours.
The car is 5mm longer than its predecessor but the wheelbase, height and width remain the same. From a design point of view, the Sportage gets a new bumper and LED ‘ice-cube’ front fog lights, a fresh take on the distinctive ‘tiger nose’ grille, more chrome or black trim and C-shaped LED rear light signatures.
Customers can now select from an exciting 21-model line-up based on five engines, three transmissions and six trim lines called ‘1’, ‘2’, ‘Edition 25’, ‘4’, ‘GT Line’ and ‘GT Line S’ - the Edition 25 model is a limited-run version to celebrate 25 years of the Sportage.
On the Road
The range of punchy petrol engines remains the same on the new Sportage although they have been modified to make them cleaner - it is available with a 1.6-litre unit delivering 130bhp or 174bhp. On the diesel front, the 1.7-litre engine has been replaced by a new 1.6-litre powertrain delivering 114bhp or 134bhp and Kia confidently claims it’s the cleanest engine the Korean company has ever produced.
But the real headline news comes in the form of a mild hybrid engine featuring a 2.0-litre diesel unit supplemented by a 48-volt battery and starter generator. This delivers 182bhp and the compact size of the mild-hybrid powertrain made it relatively simple to integrate into the Sportage’s existing architecture with the 48-volt battery positioned beneath the boot floor.
And it was the new Sportage with that mild hybrid set-up mated to an eight-speed automatic gearbox with AWD in range-topping GT-Line S that we tested on a variety of mountain roads with sharp hairpin bends, country lanes and dual carriageways in Slovakia.
Our car could reach from 0-60mph in 9.2 seconds, maxed out at 125mph and, according to official figures, delivered combined fuel economy of 48.7mpg with carbon emissions of 152g/km.
The mild hybrid system uses an electric generator to supplement performance whilst accelerating and can recharge on the go and it all works beautifully smoothly.
One of the greatest compliments you can say about a hybrid is that it feels ‘normal’ to drive. You do feel a slight braking sensation as it recuperates energy when you take your foot off the gas but that’s it and that battery gives the diesel engine a little extra power which is another benefit.
The 2.0-litre engine delivers all the gusto required to attack and climb twisting mountain roads and short bursts of acceleration are easily achieved to pass slower moving vehicles that are blocking your path.
The Sportage has always been a really comfortable car to drive or travel in and that stays the same with the latest model. In fact, the fully independent front and rear suspension system remains unchanged so delivers a comfortable ride and superior damping over poorer road surfaces. However, the chassis has been tuned to deliver engaging handling and the electric power steering delivers quick responses with plenty of driver feedback.
The test car was sitting on 19-inch alloy wheels which seemed the perfect match and although you do feel the occasional bump and dip along the way, it takes a severe pothole to send the car off track.
The latest car was tested extensively on European roads, with European drivers in mind so it oozes confidence as it powers along winding roads with lots of hairpin bends.
The eight-speed automatic transmission is beautifully timed with smooth gear changes and there are steering wheel-mounted paddles if you fancy taking charge. In addition, there are drive modes called Eco, Normal and Sport that alter the car’s handling accordingly.
The interior of the latest Sportage is clutter-free, upmarket and very generously equipped. Admittedly we were driving a range-topping model, but it featured black leather upholstery with neat red piping and stitching, powered, heated and ventilated front seats, heated outer rear seats, a D-shaped sports leather steering wheel with perforated inserts and GT-Line logo, a leather-trimmed gear shift lever, stainless steel pedals, a panoramic sunroof, privacy glass, along with a wealth of top quality infotainment systems to explore.
Over the years, Kia has led the way in the industry when it comes to packing its cars with kit whilst keeping optional extras to an absolute minimum and the Sportage maintains that strategy. In theory, you find the trim level that suits your needs and that’s the one you choose – that way there will be no hidden costs to catch you out later down the line.
Another impressive fact about the latest Sportage is how refined it feels to drive. Despite its SUV-styling with fairly high sides, there is very little body sway into bends and the road holding is ultra-grippy. There is a little wind noise at higher speeds, but other than that, the cabin is nicely insulated and protected from the outside world.
In the car
The new Sportage is a car that’s easy to get to grips with. There is ample seat and steering wheel adjustment to find the perfect position and the elevated seating results in excellent all-round driver visibility – which is a ‘must’ on a family car that will feature regularly on the school run. In fact, our car boasted 10-way power-adjustable driver and eight-way power adjustable front passenger seats that could be heated or cooled.
The dashboard is split into two horizontal sections with the upper half housing the floating eight-inch touchscreen infotainment system and the lower level is where all the audio, heating and ventilation controls are located.
Creature comforts are plentiful and include the likes of an excellent navigation system with European mapping and traffic alerts, an eight speaker JBL premium sound system, wireless mobile phone charger, full smartphone connectivity via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, a heated steering wheel, dual automatic air conditioning, a DAB radio with MP3 compatibility, Bluetooth with music streaming and a 360-degree around view monitor which is excellent when reversing into tight spaces.
The Sportage is billed as a five-door family SUV so needs to be very practical and offer the versatility to meet the demands of an active family. It does just that. There is bundles of space up front and even when the front seats are pushed quite a way back, there is still a good amount of legroom in the rear. Two adults could travel in comfort in the back (three at a bit of a squeeze) but there is plenty of space for three youngsters. The addition of heated outer rear seats is a nice touch to beat off the winter chill.
The powered tailgate is really handy if approaching the car laden down with shopping and the boot has a capacity of 439 litres, which can be increased to 1,428 litres with the 60:40 split folding rear seats dropped flat.
Despite the addition of the 48-volt battery beneath the boot floor, the boot's capacity has not been compromised, but instead, the full-size spare is replaced by a tyre repair kit.
Elsewhere there are numerous convenient storage options scattered throughout the car, including an illuminated glovebox, a central console storage box, a sunglasses holder, door bins, trays and luggage net hooks.
Thanks to its SUV styling getting in or out of the Sportage is problem-free so it makes the ideal choice for anyone with child seats or people with mobility issues.
The Kia Sportage range is vast and prices are set to suit all budgets ranging from £20,305 to £34,545. Our car with all the bells and whistles was the most expensive on offer. According to official figures it could achieve 48.7mpg on a combined run with carbon emissions of 152g/km. This would mean a first year Vehicle Excise Duty charge of £500 reducing to £140 the following year.
Insurance group ratings for the new Sportage range from 13 to 25. The test car was rated as Group 25.
Kia has built a strong reputation for delivering reliable, hard wearing cars that are outstanding value for money and the success of the Sportage is testament to that hard work.
The interior of our test car featured plenty of soft-touch surfaces, beautifully styled upholstery and ample practical wipe-clean surfaces.
The switchgear, materials and touchscreen all feel like they will survive the test of time and Kia demonstrates its confidence by offering the best warranty package in the industry of seven years or 100,000-mile which is fully transferable if the car is sold on.
There are also a number of Kia Care plans on offer which have been developed to offer a wide range of service plan options for any Kia model within the first seven years of its life – so matching the warranty. These plans can be purchased at any point of ownership during the first five years.
The fourth generation Sportage achieved the maximum five stars when it was tested for its Euro NCAP safety rating and that score will be carried over for the latest facelift model.
The car features numerous driver assistance systems designed to minimise the possibility of an accident and these work to complement the comprehensive list of active and passive safety features fitted to every version.
Features include lane keep assist, high beam assist, a speed limit information function, reversing camera, anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, brake assist, electronic stability control, blind spot warning, six airbags, ISOFIX fittings and hill-start assist.
The car also features trailer stability assist which uses the anti-lock brakes, electronic brakeforce distribution and vehicle stability management to counteract the possibility of a trailer or caravan snaking in high winds or if the vehicle is being driven too fast.
The Sportage is fitted with an advanced anti-theft system including an immobiliser and alarm to keep unwanted attention at bay.