The Kia Sportage covers all the important SUV bases – it’s fairly comfortable, easy to drive and won’t cost the earth to run. You couldn’t really call it fun, however
You can get the Kia Sportage with a range of two petrol engines, two diesel units and as a mild-hybrid which pairs a diesel engine with a compact electric motor to improve performance and fuel economy.
If you do lots of driving in town, the most affordable 1.6-litre petrol model with 130hp is worth a look. It’s far from the fastest SUV on sale, but it’s perky enough to pull out of junctions without feeling too laboured. Kia claims it’ll return 39.8mpg, but you’ll probably see a figure closer to 35mpg in normal driving conditions.
If you do a broader mix of city and motorway driving the more powerful 174hp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol will be a better choice. It accelerates from 0-62mph almost two seconds faster than the 130hp model and feels much less strained when you put your foot down to overtake slow-moving traffic. It won’t cost significantly more to run, either – Kia claims it’ll return 36.2mpg compared with the 130hp version’s 39.8mpg.
If you do lots of long trips, one of the diesels will be a better bet. The entry-level 114hp 1.6-litre model is pretty sluggish – it takes a rather sedate 11.4 seconds to reach 62mph from rest – but manages decent fuel economy. You can expect it to return close to 55mpg compared with Kia’s claimed 57.8mpg figure.
There’s also a more powerful 134hp 1.6-litre diesel that feels faster and returns identical claimed fuel economy. It costs a little more to buy but feels far faster than the rather weedy 114hp unit. Both 1.6-litre diesel engines are impressively quiet when you’re cruising long – especially when compared with the outgoing Sportage’s slightly clattery 1.7-litre diesel engines.
There’s also a mild hybrid model that couples a 2.0-litre diesel engine with a small electric motor. This 182hp Sportage is your best bet if you plan to regularly tow heavy trailers but it can’t run on purely electric mode at slow speeds like other conventional hybrids. Despite this, it’ll still return around 45mpg in normal driving conditions – not too shabby for a high-riding family SUV.
The mild-hybrid model’s electric motor in so unobtrusive that you can’t tell whether it’s actually working – until you glance down at your mpg, that is
The standard six-speed manual gearbox you get in all but the top-spec hybrid model is pretty easy to use – even in stop-start traffic – but the optional seven-speed automatic makes even lighter work of long rush-hour commutes.
You can get the more powerful 1.6-litre petrol and diesel models with four-wheel drive, but, unless you’re absolutely certain you’ll take your Kia Sportage off-road, it isn’t worth paying for. Even if you do, you’ll find the likes of the Land Rover Discovery Sport significantly better at dealing with muddy fields and rutted farm tracks than the resolutely urbanite Kia.
The Kia Sportage is reasonably easy to drive in town – despite its fairly large size. You get a decent view out and the light steering and pedals mean you won’t feel tired having just squeezed into a tight parking space.
Speaking of parking, you get a reversing camera as standard across the range while ‘2’ versions come with parking sensors and ‘4’ models and above feature a neat 360-degree surround view camera system. It’s not all good news, however – you can’t get the Kia Sportage with a self-parking system to steer you into parallel and bay spaces like the VW Tiguan.
Once you’ve extricated the Kia Sportage from a car park, you’ll find it irons out bumps reasonably well around town. It’s not quite as comfortable as a Nissan Qashqai, but stick to versions with the smaller 16- or 17-inch alloy wheels and it softens the jarring thud of large potholes fairly well.
There isn’t much to complain about when you leave the city and head out onto a twisty back road, either. Sure, the Sportage doesn’t quite live up to its sporty name – a Mazda CX-5 is much more fun to drive – but it doesn’t lean too much in tight corners so your passengers won’t be reaching for the sick-bags on long country drives.
On the motorway, the Kia Sportage does a decent job of muffling annoying wind and tyre noise and all models get cruise control as standard so it’s pretty relaxing to drive for long periods. It’s especially stress-free if you go for a GT-Line S model – these get adaptive cruise control which brakes and accelerates for you to help maintain a safe distance to other cars.
The previous Kia Sportage – with which this new model shares many components – earned a five-star safety rating from Euro NCAP when it was crash tested in 2015. This doesn’t tell the whole story, however – the tests are stricter now than ever and many other SUVs come with more safety kit as standard. For example, you don’t get lane-keeping assist on entry-level ‘1’ models and automatic emergency braking to help prevent avoidable collisions is reserved for Edition 25, ‘4’ and GT-Line S cars.