Kia Sportage (2016-2018) review
The Kia Sportage is a spacious and comfy SUV, but it’s a shame the diesel engine can be noisy and isn’t as economical as alternatives
What's not so good
Kia Sportage (2016-2018): what would you like to read next?
The Kia Sportage is a good-value SUV with a long warranty, big boot and roomy back seats. And so long as you like its bold – but slightly Marmite – looks it’s a thoroughly decent family SUV.
Sadly its eye-catching looks don’t extend to the slightly boring interior, but everything inside is well built and the stitching effect across the dashboard gives it a bit of added poshness compared with the Hyundai Tucson, although it’s still some way off the Volkswagen Tiguan in terms of premium feel.
In general though, it feels more expensive than you’d expect given the Sportage’s reasonable price, and things such as Bluetooth and air conditioning are standard on all versions. You’ll want to avoid entry-level models, however, because they don’t get the clear, easy-to-use 7.0-inch touchscreen satellite navigation system that adds a splash of colour to all other versions.
All Sportage models come with plenty of space for back-seat passengers, and the reclining rear seats add a bit of extra comfort on long trips. You won’t have a problem fitting everyone’s luggage in the big boot, which is significantly bigger than the Nissan Qashqai’s. The Kia gets an adjustable boot floor too, which removes the load lip to help you slide heavy objects in and out.
Need to carry longer objects? The Sportage can carry two rear-seat passengers and some narrow flat-pack furniture at the same time. Fold all the rear seats down and you’re left with a vast space that’ll easily hold a bicycle with both wheels attached – or last year’s Christmas tree.
The Sportage is one of the best SUVs you can buy for this price – it even has a seven-year warranty!
Although the Sportage is a relatively big, spacious car, it’s not hard to drive. The light steering helps you nip into gaps in traffic and the high seating position means your view out is really good – the only real blind spot is caused by the small rear window, and you get parking sensors on all but the entry-level model to help counteract this.Check out our Kia Sportage sizes and dimensions guide for more info.
It’s worth noting that the Sportage feels slightly sportier than the Hyundai Tucson and Nissan Qashqai, and the Kia’s firmer suspension helps stop it leaning in corners – so any kids in the back won’t feel so car sick on twisty roads. Thankfully this extra sportiness doesn’t come at the cost of comfort over bumps.
Choosing an engine for the Sportage is as simple as driving it – your best bet is the 1.7-litre diesel. It’s a bit noisy, but it’s just about quick enough and reasonably efficient for motorway driving, and it’s more economical than the smoother, less-efficient 1.6-litre petrol. Sadly none of the Kia’s engines is as economical as those you’ll get in the Nissan Qashqai or VW Tiguan.
Whichever you pick though, the Sportage is safe – it scored a full five-stars in Euro NCAP’s 2015 crash tests. Okay, there are alternatives with more efficient engines and less divisive looks, but the Sportage is very practical and no other SUV can match the Kia’s value and seven-year warranty.
The Kia Sportage has comfy front seats – although the adjustment knob’s a little awkward to use – and roomy back seats, but the boot isn’t the biggest you’ll get in this size of car
The Kia’s spacious interior swallows people and their luggage like a blue whale swallows plankton
The Sportage is a roomy and comfortable car. The driver’s seat is height-adjustable and all but entry-level 1 models get adjustable lumbar support to help avoid back ache. All models come with a front armrest that also helps comfort on long journeys, but low-end Sportages come with cloth upholstery – you’ll have to pay for a high-spec model to get leather seats as standard. A slight niggle is that the adjustment knob for reclining the front seats is tricky to get to, and electrically adjustable seats are only available on expensive versions of the Sportage.
Even if you’re very tall, you’ll be comfortable in either of the Sportage’s front seats and the story is largely the same in the back. Tall passengers will find there’s more than enough leg and headroom to cover long distances in relative comfort in the back seats, which also recline. Carrying three adults abreast is doable with plenty of headroom and knee-room for everyone, but it’s a bit of a squeeze in terms of shoulder room – it’s still roomier for three than a Nissan Qashqai, though. Children will be absolutely fine in the back of the Sportage and you won’t have any problem fitting a child seat because the rear doors open wide and the Isofix child-seat mounting points are clearly marked. For carrying even more passengers have a look at the 7 seater Kia Sorento.
The Sportage interior storage spaces are numerous and well thought out. The front door bins are each big enough for a one-litre bottle of water and there are two handy cupholders in the centre console. The central armrest cubby is a decent size and so is the glovebox.
However, there aren’t any clever features such as the fold-out rear-seat picnic tables that you can get in a VW Tiguan, but you’ll probably cope without those – and the money you’ll save buying the Kia over the VW means you can dine out in luxury at motorway service stations!
The Sportage’s 503-litre boot is big, usefully shaped, and can carry several large suitcases. It can hold more luggage than the Nissan Qashqai (430 litres) but the Hyundai Tucson slightly edges it with a 513-litre boot. Fold the Kia’s rear seats down and you open up a 1,492-litre space which is more than big enough to fit a bicycle with both wheels attached. It’s worth noting that all models get rear seats that fold down in a 60:40 ratio – meaning two people can sit in the back with a long object threaded through from the boot.
Thanks to the Sportage’s adjustable boot floor you can eliminate the boot lip and slide heavy boxes in and out easily. Under the boot floor there’s a space-saver spare wheel on most models which is more useful than the tyre repair foam you get on a Renault Kadjar. Another neat feature of the adjustable floor is that you can also store the parcel shelf under there, so you don’t have to leave it at home.
The Sportage is comfy for long journeys and it gives a great view out over other cars, but it’s not as fun as other SUVs and the diesels are a bit noisy
The Sportage is a generally comfortable, relaxing car to travel in but the 1.7-litre diesel is a bit noisy when you're accelerating hard
The Sportage is available with a range of petrol and diesel engines, and you can also have it with an automatic gearbox or four-wheel-drive, but only on the range-topping model.
If you do lots of long journeys, go for the 1.7-litre diesel engine – it’s not exactly quick but easily good enough for day-to-day motorway driving and returns a claimed 57mpg. It’s a bit noisy when you accelerate hard but quietens down at a cruise, and you don’t get much wind noise in the Sportage’s cabin. It’s available with a manual or smooth-shifting automatic gearbox, but not with four-wheel drive.
If you plan on towing things with your Sportage, you’ll want the 2.0-litre diesel. It’s a bit quieter than the 1.7 and a tad smoother too, but it’s the fact you can have it with four-wheel drive that makes it the top choice for pulling things. Otherwise, don’t spend the extra on a four-wheel-drive Sportage – the system is nowhere near as sophisticated as you get in a Land Rover Discovery Sport, which is far superior off road, and it’s not worth the extra outlay in terms of purchase price or extra fuel usage.
If you want a petrol engine you have two choices – a 1.6-litre engine without a turbocharger and a more powerful, more expensive one with a turbocharger. The basic 1.6-litre has 130hp but it feels sluggish, which means you have to change gear a lot to keep up with traffic. The 174hp turbocharged 1.6-litre is only available on top-spec GT-Line models, but it copes much better than the basic 1.6 when you’re carrying lots of passengers and their luggage. Its fuel economy won’t be a patch on the diesel models, however – it’s best suited to stop/start driving in town, where it’s smooth, quiet and easy to live with.
The high driving position makes the Sportage an easy car to drive around town. The view out is good but not perfect – there’s a bit of a blind spot ahead and to the right of the driver’s seat. The rear window is quite small too but, thankfully, rear parking sensors are standard on all but the entry-level model. There is also a range of Sportage accessories available from your chosen dealer to personalise its look. You do have to pay for a relatively expensive 4 model or above to get automatic emergency braking though, which will slow the car and perform an emergency stop if it detects an obstacle that you’ve not reacted to – it works at up to 50mph. The Sportage got a full five-star rating from Euro NCAP when it was crash tested in 2015, so it should keep you and your family safe.
The Sportage is a car that won’t annoy you if you use it every day– the steering and pedals are light and the lane-assist feature – standard on 2 models and upwards – gently nudges the steering wheel to keep you centred in your lane on the motorway. The suspension doesn’t iron out lumps on the road quite as well as the Nissan Qashqai, but it’s not going to annoy you on bumpy roads. The upside of this firmer suspension is that the Sportage doesn’t lean very much in corners, which helps if you have passengers who are prone to car sickness.
Despite this, the Sportage doesn’t excel at is putting a smile on your face on a country road. If you want a similar-size SUV that drives like a sporty car then you’re better off with the excellent but more expensive Mazda CX-5. Is a sporty drive really what you want from a family car, however? After all, the Sportage does a lot of other things – such as comfort and practicality – very well indeed.
The Kia’s dashboard looks like it’s straight out of a more expensive, German-made car. Avoid entry level models though because they don’t get an infotainment screen