Car buyers seem to like the styling of the Kia Sportage, along with its SUV practicality, and it’s also reasonable value for the space that it offers.
The main demand from car buyers is currently for SUVs, which helps to explain why the Sportage is Kia’s best-selling model in the UK. It’s also the fourth best-selling car in its class in Europe. This latest model has styling that buyers seem to like, but we’ve not rushed to review it, because, on paper, the Sportage isn’t class-leading in terms of efficiency – or the expected driving experience. So are we correct in our assumptions?
When the front-end styling of this latest Kia Sportage was first revealed it seemed like the Porsche Cayenne had been a strong influence on the designer. This appears to have done the Sportage’s sales figures no harm. On the inside, things are more conventional Kia – common sense and with everything clearly labelled.
Our test car featured a 4-cylinder, two-litre turbodiesel engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission. This powertrain also comes with all-wheel drive as standard, although in reality the Sportage will be 100% front-wheel drive for the vast majority of driving, with up to 40% of torque being sent to the rear wheels only when needed.
For off-road driving you can manually select 4WD lock mode, which provides a 50:50 front:rear torque split up to 25mph. There’s also a hill descent control feature.
The Kia Sportage will typically be bought for family duties such as the school run, and it will be fit for purpose for such tasks. Our test car also had the added benefit of featuring all-wheel drive, which virtually eliminates the tendency of many front-wheel drive SUVs to spin the front wheels and deliver torque steer when accelerating out of wet junctions. As well as having a practical body style, the Sportage is also well equipped.
So overall, the Sportage is likely to tick many people’s boxes, however, if you examine things more closely, there are a few areas where, in our humble opinion, it could do better…
Firstly, if you’re trying to accelerate from standstill out into a busy main road, there’s a lack of initial response. After what seems like an age, especially in the face on oncoming traffic, the powertrain picks up, but then there’s the risk of everything getting too revvy.
And performance feels very sluggish overall. In fact, the engine feels – and sounds – strained under acceleration. The turbodiesel feels as though it has little flexibility, and in fact the entire car – powertrain and chassis – lacks agility. On decent road surfaces (if you can find any) the ride is okay, helped by reasonably sensible tyre profiles, but the secondary ride shares the lack of agility when negotiating pot holes – and there are more pot holes than stretches of smooth tarmac on local test routes.
There are two drive modes, Normal and Sport. Normal keeps the revs low, together with responses, and Sport makes everything too revvy.
At motorway speeds there is always a distant mechanical rumble in the background. And while we’re on the subject of motorways, if you’re driving in a straight line at motorway speeds then the steering feels like it’s constantly changing between being tight and then loose. Kia says that the rack-mounted motor driven power steering delivers a 3% fuel economy saving, but we assume that it’s also responsible for the very strange feeling around the straight ahead position. This sensation isn’t as pronounced when Sport mode is selected.
In terms of interior controls, Kia offers sensible and clear buttons. The touchscreen has shortcut buttons, but these are positioned quite a way below the screen – having them around the screen would be much better. If you don’t use the shortcut buttons, there’s a lot of button-pressing required on the screen.
The satnav mapping isn’t great quality – in terms of graphics and resolution – and like the shortcut buttons, the dial to zoom in and out of the map is positioned a long way from the screen. And the system continually tried to re-route the car off the M6 toll road.
The official combined fuel economy for the Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD KX-3 Auto is 47.9mpg, with CO2 emissions of 154 g/km. This attracts a significant first year VED rate of £830 (2018/19), and a Benefit in Kind rate of 32%.
With careful motorway driving over 300 miles we averaged 45.8mpg – and in the many 50mph zones that we found ourselves driving in, we achieved 58mpg. However when urban driving was factored in, our average real-world economy over a week with the Kia Sportage ended up as 37.7mpg.
This once again shows that although everyone wants an SUV, due to their weight (around 1.7 tonnes in the case of this Sportage) and poor aerodynamics, they’re not the most efficient cars.
It’s worth noting that the official figures for our diesel test car (47.9mpg and 154g/km CO2 emissions) are better than the 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol model, which has an average combined economy figure of 37mpg and 177g/km CO2 for the manual version.
The price of our Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD KX-3 Auto test car was £29,345. Prices for the Sportage range start at £18,795 for the ‘1’ 1.6 GDi 130bhp 6-speed manual model.
There are 18 Sportage variants based on four engines (1.6-litre GDi and T-GDi petrols, and 1.7 and 2.0-litre turbodiesels), three gearboxes (a 6-speed manual gearbox for all models, 2.0-litre turbodiesels are available with a 6-speed auto, and there’s a 7DCT), and trim levels are comprised of 1, 2, 3, 4 and GT-Line.
The 1.6-litre GDi petrol and 1.7-litre turbodiesels are front-wheel drive, the 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol and 2.0-litre turbodiesels are all-wheel drive.
We rate many Kia models very highly, for instance, the smaller and agile Kia Stonic SUV (whether it’s really an SUV is another matter). And car buyers evidently rate the Sportage highly, because it sells in large numbers. This is probably mainly due to the Sportage offering a decent-sized SUV from around £20,000. However we’re looking for cars that are primarily efficient and great to drive. Unfortunately the Sportage doesn’t tick these boxes for us. In many cases it’s also likely to be used for urban duties such as the school run (although we have seen many with caravans attached), but of course diesel emissions aren’t ideal in terms of local air quality. And it’s now subject to a first year VED rate of £830 (2018/19) and a Benefit in Kind rate of 32%. The Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi AWD KX-3 Auto therefore ends up with a Green Car Guide rating of 6 out of 10. There’s a large choice of SUVs for car buyers, and there are some very good ones out there. If you don’t need the size of the Sportage, consider the excellent Kia Stonic.