Model/Engine size : 2.0 CRDI KX2 AWD
Fuel economy combined: 49.6 mpg
Green-Car-Guide rating: 8/10
is one of the more economical and lower emission 4x4s, returning 49.6 mpg with emissions of 149 g/km CO
; but is it sufficiently capable off-road to justify buying the 4×4 version?
The Kia Sportage certainly looks the part. It has modern, chunky styling, with large wheels and decent ground-clearance, just as you would expect from a 4×4. It certainly gives the impression of being more of a capable 4×4 than the Hyundai ix35 , which is based on the same platform, but which doesn’t look or feel as robust as the Sportage.
Inside, the Sportage has an attractive yet practical interior with some large, clear controls. Although it has reasonable levels of equipment, it feels a fair way short of the Kia Optima in terms of levels of equipment and upmarket ambience. The large, boxy body is spacious in both the passenger compartment and the boot, although the rear seats don’t fold totally flat.
On the road, the Sportage is certainly better to drive than many previous-generation 4x4s, somehow managing to combine the chunky off-roader feel with car-like dynamics. Its steering is easy to operate, although not particularly precise, its handling is relatively roll-free, and it has a comfortable ride. On motorways the Sportage is reasonably quiet, and its 2-litre diesel engine is smooth and refined enough at a constant speed, but it can sound harsh under acceleration. Although it has sufficient power, it doesn’t have much in reserve. As part of its no-nonsense interior environment it comes with a smooth-shifting six-speed manual gearbox, together with a traditional handbrake.
Our test included a journey from Manchester to Cardiff then back up through the Brecon Beacons and on to Harrogate. The twisty A483 through Wales showed up one of the Sportage’s weak areas – its tyres. When pressing on through the A483’s many corners, the Sportage’s Hancook tyres really struggled for grip. We found the same thing with the Kia Optima fitted with the same brand of tyres.
So if the Sportage overall has acceptable road manners, can it combine these with decent ability off-road? With its good ground clearance, relatively short overhangs, chunky wheels and tyres, seemingly capable chassis and suspension, the Sportage provided much confidence that it could handle most off-road situations thrown at it. It even has a diff lock and hill descent control in case things get particularly tricky.
So overall the Sportage proved to be a faithful companion off-road , but once again, it was the tyres that ultimately proved to be the limiting factor. Although they actually provided more grip on surfaces such as mud and wet grass than expected, its tyres don’t have any from of aggressive off-road tread, so it’s the four patches of rubber that proved to be the weakest link, losing traction before the four-wheel drive system reaches its limit of ability. Fitted with a decent set of on/off-road tyres, we’re sure that the Sportage could be a very effective off-roader.
In terms of real-life economy, although at one stage we managed 60 mpg during very careful driving, our overall fuel economy was 37.3 mpg rather than the official 49.6 mpg. This is actually a common experience with a 4×4 or crossover of this size; no matter how efficient the engine may be, you just can’t get away from the fact that the Sportage is a large car, with a large frontal area, so impacting upon aerodynamics and fuel economy. It also weighs 1754 Kg, which is a lot of mass to propel. Unlike many other models in the Kia range, the Sportage didn’t have stop/start, which would be an effective way to further improve its economy and emissions .
Apart from this 134 bhp two-litre diesel engine there’s also a 114 bhp 1.7-litre diesel. There are also a 1.6 and a 2.0-litre petrol units. The 2.0-litre diesel is also available with automatic transmission.
There are three trim levels; our mid-range ‘2’ trim level included alloys, air-conditioning, four electric windows, rain sensor, Bluetooth, cruise control, parking sensors, a sunroof and part-leather seats.
At £23,025, the Sportage is good value for a capable 4×4. Two-wheel drive versions are even cheaper; the entry-level petrol 1.6-litre GDI 2WD costs just £17,295.
The Sportage comes with Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-mileage warranty, as well as a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating.
If you want a practical 4×4 that looks good, feels comfortable yet robust, is potentially efficient, and is capable on and off-road, then the Sportage is certainly worthy of consideration ; but we would definitely fit better tyres, especially if the intention is to use it off-road.
If you want a car that looks like a 4×4 but without the 4×4 ability, then the two-wheel drive version probably makes more sense for most people as a family car. Remember that in real life driving involving air resistance, as opposed to the NEDC test, thanks to its large frontal area we’d suggest that you’ll struggle to come close to the official fuel economy figures.
For its good looks, acceptable on-road driving experience, potentially impressive off-road ability if fitted with the right tyres, reasonable efficiency and good value for money, the Kia Sportage gets a Green-Car-Guide rating of 8 out of 10 .
Fuel economy extra urban: 55.4 mpg
Fuel economy urban: 41.5 mpg
CO2 emissions: 149 g/km
Green rating: VED band F – first year £130
Weight: 1754 Kg
Company car tax liability (2011/12): 22%
Insurance group: 14
Power: 134 bhp
Max speed: 112 mph
0-62mph: 10.9 seconds
• Read our Hyundai ix35 review
• Read our Kia Optima review
• Read our Kia Picanto review
• Kia Rio 1.1 CDRi 1 EcoDynamics Road Test car review