Kia Sportage

Well-built SUV is excellent for families

7.7
wowscore
This is the average score given by leading car publications from 6 reviews
  • Premium interior
  • Rear legroom
  • Punchy diesels
  • Looks divide opinion
  • Costs more than old model
  • Kia badge will put some off
 

£18,250 - £30,965 Price range

 

5 Seats

 

37 - 61 MPG

Review

The new Kia Sportage is a crossover tasked with beating Nissan’s ever-popular Qashqai, taking rivals such as the Volkswagen Tiguan and Hyundai Tucson down with it.

Kia’s gone bold with the styling – particularly the front end that’s a bit ‘love it or hate it’. The rest of the looks occupy safer ground, taking the appearance of a smaller Porsche Cayenne – few, if any, will complain about that.

If the looks appeal, then it’s worth delving into the rest of the Sportage’s indomitable talents – practicality being one of them. Inside, the tall body means headroom and legroom for four are ample – there’s room to swing a cat (or two) and, if RSPCA doesn’t get you first, you’ll also find a boot that’s big and well shaped – if not quite as large as a VW Tiguan’s.

Hauling a fully loaded Sportage around requires a reasonable amount of grunt, which makes a diesel engine the perfect match. Kia offers three of them, starting with a 1.7-litre that’s the cheapest to run. The 2.0-litre is a better bet, however, because it’s both quieter and quicker, whether you go for the 132 or 179hp version. Two petrol engines are also available, but they’re costly to run.

Anyway, the Sportage’s driving experience lends itself better to diesel power – it’s a quiet and relaxed cruiser that’s ideal for long motorway runs. Firm suspension means it deals with corners admirably, but if you’re looking for a crossover that’s genuinely fun to drive, the Mazda CX5 remains king.

The Mazda costs a lot more, though, and the Sportage is hardly down on kit. Basic ‘1’ models come with air-con, alloy wheels, cruise control and a DAB digital radio, but take one step up to a Sportage ‘2’ and you get sat-nav, complete with a reversing camera.

While the interior design language hasn’t been dealt the seismic shift handed to the exterior, Kia’s obviously put a lot of work into making the Sportage feel like a quality product.

There’s a genuinely premium feel to the top half of the dashboard. It has a stitched-leather effect that appears way more expensive than it actually is. Even the controls have a Germanic damped action that makes them a pleasure to use.

Ah, but does it feel as well put together as the pricy VW Tiguan?

No would be the short answer, but then the VW costs £4,500 more. There’s no doubt the Sportage has made great strides when it comes to interior quality, but the VW is even better. It doesn’t just feel expensive and robust in all the normal places, it also feels properly put together in the areas you won’t necessarily look every day.

It’s not a design that drips with personality, though – the Tiguan’s dash could have been plucked from any other VW, in contrast, the Sportage’s interior is mimicked only by the one found in the more expensive Sorento.

With no option to specify Mirrorlink or Apple CarPlay in the Kia, the VW has the measure of its rival when it comes to connectability. And mid-range models can be specified with the company’s £585, 12.3-inch Active Info display – VW’s version of Audi’s excellent Virtual Cockpit.

How about passenger and luggage space?

Well, there’s plenty of both. Crossovers’ tall bodies lend themselves well to the requirements of families and the Sportage does nothing to contradict this consensus. Head and legroom are generous for all, the rear seats are roomier than a Qashqai’s and also recline, so image-conscious passengers in both rows can adopt a gangsta lean if they so desire. Rear doors that open wider than the Nissan’s also make fitting a child seat that bit easier.

A boot a shade over 500 litres in capacity may as well have been purpose built for the requirements of the family – it’ll carry everything you need for a couple of weeks away and the adjustable boot floor means heavy suitcases just slide in. Folding the rear seats flat into the floor ups the boot capacity considerably to 1,492 litres, so there’s no need for that second run to the tip on a sunny bank holiday.

There’s a real sense of polish to the way Kia Sportage drives. Maybe that shouldn’t come as a surprise because much of the car’s development was completed at the Nurburgring circuit in Germany – a track that’s known to emulate the UK’s poor roads very well.

So it handles with sports car poise?

Well, maybe we wouldn’t go that far – this is no Porsche Macan, but it costs less than half the price so you wouldn’t expect it to be. It is, however, mighty impressive for a car that’s yours for under 20 grand and one that’s leaps and bounds ahead of the roly-poly model it replaces. The new Sportage will lean for sure, but never to unmanageable levels and the grip provided by the big tyres (wheels go up to 19 inches in size) means country roads are a thing to enjoy.

People fond of an argument (you know the ones) might even say the Sportage is too poised for a car of this type because its stiff suspension translates into a firmish ride that’s shown up by the Nissan Qashqai’s comfier setup. That could well push the Nissan into favour if you rack up lots of motorway miles, or have a sensitive back, but really it’s a difference that’ll be hard to spot unless you test drive the two back to back.

If it’s good on-road then it can’t be much cop off it?

This is true, but then the Kia Sportage wasn’t really designed with weekend mud-pluggers in mind. The kind of ‘off-road’ talents normal people require – the ability to tackle snow-covered roads or bumpy country tracks say – fall well within the Sportage’s remit. Particularly if you spec a 2.0-litre diesel model – all of which have grippy four-wheel drive as standard, which means they’re also ideal for towing.

Anyone familiar with the family crossover class will be able to second guess the engines available in the Kia Sportage. It’s predominantly composed of diesels, but the proverbial “curve ball” comes in the form of a sporty turbocharged petrol that’s the only model available with a quick-shifting twin-clutch gearbox.

Diesels make the best choice, right?

Right. With the best fuel economy of the range and healthy amounts of torque (pulling power to you and me), the diesels are well suited to the job of propelling a heavy SUV and the 112hp 1.7-litre model is likely to seduce buyers with its range-leading 61.4mpg fuel economy.

The 132hp 2.0-litre diesel can return fuel economy of nearly 55mpg, costs £130 annually to tax, and isn’t as painfully slow as the basic model. It’s also a nicer engine to use every day – feeling less stressed and sounding a lot smoother to boot – and can be fitted with a six-speed automatic gearbox .

The 179hp version of the same engine is only available in top-of-the-range KX4 trim, which pushes into the price range of premium models such as the BMW X3 and Land Rover Discovery Sport. For this reason, it’s best left alone.

But what about the petrols?

Well, the basic 128hp 1.6-litre petrol is the cheapest model in the range, but its gutless power delivery means it will need to be worked hard in everyday use, wherein you can expect fuel economy to tumble well below the claimed 42.2mpg figure.

That’s only 5mpg better than the turbocharged petrol and its 175hp means it doesn’t have to be ragged to obtain decent performance. Its 0-62mph time of 9.5 seconds (9.1 if you fit the optional seven-speed twin-clutch gearbox) makes it the fastest model in the range – a USP that will appeal to some.

The Sportage is a very safe car and it was awarded full marks when it was crash tested by Euro NCAP. Its five-star rating was also achieved in 2015, so it should be safer than models evaluated in earlier tests.

All Sportages come with multiple airbags, traction control, stability control and ABS brakes. Safety can be boosted by opting for the top-of-the-range Sportage 4, which comes with automatic emergency braking that operates at speeds of up to 50mph and can detect pedestrians as well as other vehicles. The high-end trim also gets you a blind spot warning system as standard – useful on tight city streets and bustling motorways.

Unrivalled in this class (and any other for that matter) is Kia’s brilliant seven-year/100,000-mile warranty. It gives you ultimate peace of mind, and can combine with the Plus maintenance package – which gets you five services from as little as £599 – to ensure that you only have to pay for consumables for the first half decade of ownership.

Which model represents the best value?

An excellent question. Well, it would be churlish to complain about the standard equipment on basic ‘1’ models – they come with 16-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning and a DAB digital with a Bluetooth phone connection. By comparison, an entry-level Nissan Qashqai gets ugly steel wheels with plastic covers and the lack of a digital radio means it’s not future proofed.

The Sportage ‘2’ looks to be the best value because it has sat-nav, a reversing camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, tinted rear windows, dual-zone climate control and roof rails as standard – additions that make the car easier to live with, and more appealing when you come to trade it in.

If it’s kerbside appeal you’re after then GT-Line models have plenty. Designed to the mould of BMW M Sport and Audi S line trim levels, GT-Line helps your Sportage live up to the first syllable of its name, without the need to fit a powerful (read expensive-to-run) engine. On the outside, there’s 19-inch alloy wheels, ice-cube-style LED fog lights, aluminium-look skid plates, twin exhaust pipes and a rear bumper that’s styled like (but has none of the aerodynamic benefits of) a race car’s diffuser. Inside there are black leather seats that are heated front and back, plus the same sat-nav and reversing-camera combo you get in the ‘2’ model.

So high end ‘3’ and ‘4’ models should be avoided?

Avoided might be a little strong, but they are quite expensive. Penultimate ‘3’ models come with 19-inch alloy wheels, black leather upholstery with heated seats front and rear, plus a powerful JBL stereo with eight speakers that’s operated via a larger eight-inch infotainment display.

However, a fully kitted out Kia ‘4’, which has luxury additions such as cooled front seats and a panoramic sunroof, costs about the same as a Land Rover Discovery Sport that, sadly, has badge appeal beyond Kia’s grasp.

Conclusion

Parachuted into a class populated by some of the best crossovers currently on sale, the Kia Sportage gives an excellent account of itself. It’s not as comfortable as a Nissan Qashqai, but it’s more fun, better equipped and has eye-catching looks. The VW Tiguan, meanwhile, wins the war when it comes to interior space and build quality but, given the price gap, it absolutely should.

What Kia has built is an excellent all rounder at a knockdown price and complete with an excellent seven-year warranty. It deserves to be a class leader, and that’s exactly what it is.

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