Kia Sportage Review
The Kia Sportage is a very solid all-rounder when it comes to reasonably-priced, practical family SUVs. Its popularity among a wide range of customers is testament to that, with drivers seduced by its modern looks, generous features, a big warranty for those buying new or second-hand, and excellent running costs, which means it’s very affordable to lease. It might not be the outright best car in any one area, but it’s good at pretty much everything. In a market almost overflowing with cars of this type, the Sportage continues to be one of the best around.
Select's rating score* - 3.3 / 5
The Kia Sportage has slowly established itself as one of the go-to mid-size SUVs. From its debut in the early 1990s, as a relatively entry-level car from a relatively unknown brand, the Sportage has grown alongside its parent company in stature and reputation. As the demand for SUVs grew in the 2000s, the Sportage was there to tempt buyers with its mix of value for money and practicality.
We’re now on the fourth generation of Sportage, introduced in 2015 and freshened up with a facelift in 2018 to keep it competitive with more recent rivals, which include the Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq and Seat Ateca. Customers can choose between several petrol and diesel engines, including some with fuel-saving mild-hybrid technology, and several trim levels, all of which have a generous amount of features. You can also have front-wheel drive, which saves on fuel, or all-wheel drive to help with towing or inclement weather conditions. On the road, you’ll get a car with an impressive balance between comfort and nippy handling, and plenty of space in the back for both passengers and their stuff.
The main attraction of the Sportage is the fact that it does pretty much everything, and at a very reasonable cost. All versions are well kitted-out, with even the cheapest models boasting an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen, with satellite navigation and a DAB radio. You’ll also get a rear-view camera and rear parking sensors to help make parking a doddle, and every Sportage has Android Auto and Apple CarPlay so that you can use your smartphone apps through the car’s screen. Most models get super-bright LED headlights and all have an automatic high beam feature and automatic wipers.
Sportage customers can choose between petrol or diesel engines, and while the diesel features mild-hybrid tech to help reduce fuel consumption, there’s no option for a proper hybrid or a plug-in hybrid. Mild hybrid uses a relatively small battery that can be recharged when the car brakes, and can then be redeployed to give a bit more grunt under acceleration. But if you want to be able to drive on electric power only, you’ll have to look elsewhere.
That said, the engines that are available are generally pretty good. The Sportage has been through several diesel engines since 2015, and the latest is a 1.6-litre unit with 134bhp, available in either two-wheel drive or four-wheel drive. The latter will be of interest to those that need increased traction during bad weather, but the extra weight will mean increased fuel consumption. For most people, two-wheel drive will be fine, and should get you close to 50mpg in real-world driving.
The petrol line up starts with a 1.6-litre engine with 130bhp, which some will find a bit underpowered as it lacks the low-down grunt of the similarly-powered diesel. We’d recommend the 174bhp version instead, as that has more punch. The fuel consumption isn’t brilliant though; expect around 30mpg. It’s better suited to those that do shorter journeys.
You can choose between six-speed manual and seven-speed, dual clutch automatic gearboxes, although diesel all-wheel drive models are only available as automatics.
Should you need to tow with your Sportage, any model will do a reasonable job. The 130bhp petrol car can pull up to 1,400kg of load and the more powerful 174bhp model can tow up to 1,900kg, although that drops to 1,600kg if you have an automatic gearbox. Conversely, the automatic gearbox in the diesel ups the towing capacity to 1,600kg from 1,400kg in manual-equipped cars.
Whichever engine you opt for, you’ll find that the Sportage offers an impressive driving experience. This might not be top of the priority list for some customers, but others will appreciate the solid, composed feel of the handling. SUVs can sometimes feel like they roll a bit through the bends, due to a high centre of gravity, but the Sportage keeps this very well in check without resulting in an overly stiff ride quality. It’s certainly on the firm side, especially in the back, but it’s on the right side of comfortable. There are keener, sharper SUVs to drive than this, most notably Seat’s Ateca, but that has a ride that will be too firm for some.
With a negligible difference in leasing costs between petrol and diesel cars, which fuel best suits you will depend on what you’ll use your car for. Fuel economy will be better in the diesel cars, with official mile-per-gallon measurements of between 46 and 52mpg, depending on trim level and whether you have all-wheel drive or not. But the cost of fuel will be higher, so you’ll need to crunch some numbers, based on the miles you do, to see if the savings in fuel economy will offset the higher cost at the pumps. Generally speaking, higher-mileage drivers will do better with diesel.
Petrol will be cheaper to buy, but with official fuel economies of around 35mpg for both petrol engines, you’ll be visiting the pumps more often. The all-wheel drive petrol model is worse still, at 32.1mpg. Remember, the official figures are arrived at during lab tests, and will generally be lower in the real world.
If you’re keeping an eye on your CO2 emissions then we’d recommend you opt for one of the diesels, which pump out far less carbon dioxide than the petrols. The cleanest is the entry-level 2 grade diesel, with an official figure of 141g/km. That rises up to 155g/km on the GT-Line S model, due to the extra kit it carries, and 161g/km if you opt for all-wheel drive. For company car drivers, this means a diesel Sportage fits somewhere between the 31% and 35% Benefit in Kind tax brackets for 2020-21, but these will rise by one bracket every year.
The petrol models start at 177g/km on the 2 grade 130bhp car, rising to 184g/km on the 3 model. If you want the more powerful 174bhp petrol engine, emissions will be between 183 and 201g/km, depending on the model. This means all petrol Sportages fall into the highest 37% tax bracket.
The interior design of the Sportage is unlikely to drop any jaws, but it’s all solidly put together and is simple to use. Don’t expect a particularly premium feel to the materials – it’s no Audi or Volvo, after all – but there’s minimal brittle or scratchy plastics and plenty of soft-touch surfaces. Higher-spec models get leather upholstery to match the leather-covered steering wheel you’ll find on all versions. There are rivals that have nicer quality interiors, such as the Skoda Karoq or Volkswagen Tiguan, and more eye-catching designs, like the Peugeot 3008, but you’d have to be pretty fussy to find any major issues with the cabin of the Sportage.
The infotainment system on the Sportage won’t win any hearts with its unremarkable looks, but it’s quick and very easy to use, which isn’t always the case with some of its more fancy-looking rivals. All models get an eight-inch touchscreen and satellite navigation, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which will allow you to use various smartphone apps through the screen. As well as a USB socket at the front for your phone, there’s another in the back so passengers can charge their devices.
Everything is big and bold on the touchscreen, which helps offset some of the difficulties such systems can cause when it comes to selecting functions on the move. Several functions, such as cruise control, volume and track selection, can be controlled from the steering wheel too. The top-of-the-range GT-Line S model gets an upgraded JBL sound system with eight speakers, while other models make do with a six-speaker system.
There are also various connected services, which let you use a smartphone app to interact with the car remotely. Need to check whether you locked the car? This will let you do it from the comfort of your sofa.
There’s a solid level of practicality in the Sportage. Three adults should be able to get in the back without too much trouble, and two will have plenty of space to stretch out. The rear seats recline if your passengers fancy relaxing a bit, but they don’t slide back and forwards, which is something offered by some rivals.
That means that boot space is fixed, but at 491 litres in the petrol models, it’s far from small; bigger than the boot of the Nissan Qashqai but tighter than Skoda’s Karoq. With the rear seats folded flat, that space expands to 1,480 litres. If you’re likely to be filling that space, be aware that the boot in the diesel models is slightly smaller at 439 litres (1,428 with the seats down), due to the mild-hybrid technology taking up extra space.
There are several pockets and cubby holes dotted around the cabin for storing odds and ends, including a couple of cupholders, a big space under the centre armrest and reasonably-sized door pockets.
The Sportage was awarded five stars out of five in 2015 crash tests by safety organisation Euro NCAP, with particularly impressive results for both adult and child protection. That’s good news, although automatic emergency braking, which is generally standard on newer cars, is only included on the top-of-the-range GT-Line S model, and isn’t available on other versions.
Still, you do get plenty of other assistance systems on all models including a trailer stability system and lane keep assist, which helps avoid you inadvertently straying from your lane. A blind spot warning system, which keeps an electronic eye over your shoulder, is included on 3 and GT-Line S models.
All models also get front, side and curtain airbags and Isofix child seat mounting points on the outer rear seats.
There are four trims available in the Sportage range, at least at the time of writing – Kia has added and subtracted various models since this version of the car was introduced in 2015. But right now, the range starts with the 2 model, which rides on 17-inch alloy wheels that make up in ride comfort what they lack in bling. While it might be the entry-level car, the 2 still features chrome bits on the outside, roof rails and a rear spoiler as well as tinted glass, but it has to make do with halogen headlights that aren’t as dark-piercing as the LED units used on the rest of the range. Inside, the 2 has cloth upholstery and manually adjusting driver’s seat. Crucially for cold days, the front and rear outer seats can be heated at the touch of a button. For hotter days, you get dual-zone air-conditioning.
Upgrade to the 3 model and you’ll get 19-inch alloy wheels and those brighter LED lights, as well as a panoramic sunroof. Inside the upholstery is leather, the driver’s seat adjusts electrically and you get a heated steering wheel to match the seats. You can also start and stop the engine with a button rather than having to insert and twist the key.
Next up is the GT-Line model, which features a different design of 19-inch wheel and a dark chrome grille surround for a more sophisticated look. There are dual exhausts at the back and some fancier-looking front lights, but no sunroof and you have to go back to the manual driver’s seat too. However, you will get a fancier steering wheel and black headlining.
Heading up the range is the GT-Line S, which brings back the sunroof and electric front seat, and also comes with an electric boot lid, red and black leather upholstery and ventilated front seats that blow chilled air through the upholstery on a cold day. Not only that, you’ll also get automatic cruise control, which automatically keeps a safe distance from cars in front on the motorway.
When it comes to options, there actually aren’t very many. In fact, you can choose a premium paint colour rather than standard, and that’s about it. This is a deliberate decision from Kia to slim down the range and simplify the process of choosing a model.
The mid-size SUV market is a packed one, as this type of car has been growing in popularity for years. If you’re looking at direct rivals, you’d have to consider the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga, Renault Kadjar and the Tucson from Hyundai, which is Kia’s sister company.
For an even sportier driving experience then you should really check out the Seat Ateca and the Mazda CX-5, while if you want something a bit more stylish then Peugeot’s 3008 might float your boat.
If your priority is a nice interior then the Volkswagen Tiguan and the Skoda Karoq are working looking at, while if you want a more premium product overall, then take a peek at the Audi Q3 or Volvo XC40.
It should be noted that this is far from an exhaustive list – almost every major manufacturer makes a car of this type, which means more homework for you, but also means you have a much better chance of finding exactly what you need.
In a market chock full with SUV options, the Kia Sportage is a safe bet, a car that’s good at everything and poor at nothing. It’s easy to drive, comfortable, practical and packed with features, all for very reasonable prices. If you’re veering particularly towards one facet of ownership, be that running costs, stylish design, a sporty drive, or a particularly spacious interior, then there are cars that will have the Sportage beat. But not many can match it in every area, which makes the Kia a benchmark SUV that you should at least check out before making your decision.
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*Score based on Select’s unique meta score analysis, taking into account the UK’s top six leading independent car website reviews of the Kia Sportage
**Correct as of 21/10/2020. Based on 9 months initial payment, 5,000 miles over a 48 month lease. Initial payment equivalent to 9 monthly payments or £1,943.89 Ts and Cs apply. Credit is subject to status.