Kia’s designers didn’t hold back when they penned the new Sportage. It’s dramatic styling is in stark contrast to the majority of SUVs currently on the market.
Looks aren’t, of course, everything, so what else does the mid-size Sportage have to offer?
You can choose between one petrol and two diesels paired with either automatic or manual gearboxes, with the automatic versions equipped with mild-hybrid technology (MHEV) to reduce emissions and improve economy.
If you’re looking for a hybrid Kia has got you covered there too with both self-charging and plug-in versions. They’re both capable of delivering in excess of 40 miles of range on battery power alone. Top-spec models are available with four wheel-drive.
Interior space is generous and the starting price competitive but the Sportage faces compelling competition from the Nissan Qashqai, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq so let’s delve a little deeper to find out if it really can hold its own in a crowded and competitive market.
Climb inside and you’re greeted with a spacious, airy and inviting passenger space. It all looks and feels solidly put together with nicely-damped switches, an interesting mix of materials and soft-touch plastics and metallic-effect flourishes to add a little garnish.
It’s no surprise to find some cheaper-feeling plastics lower down but they are, by and large, out of sight and out of mind. All models are fitted with a leather-trimmed steering wheel with a flat-bottomed version included with sportier GT-Line versions.
The controls are thoughtfully laid out and the sweeping dashboard looks smart and contemporary. You don’t get full digital dials on entry-level 2 or GT-Line models but mid-spec 3 trim and above are fitted with a larger 12.3in digital instrument binnacle which allows you to customise the layout. It blends into the central infotainment display to create the impression of a single ultrawide screen.
In entry-level 2 models the Sportage has an eight-inch touchscreen with DAB radio, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay and Bluetooth connectivity. All other models come with a 12.3in screen.
The larger screen, fitted to my review car, is crisp, clear and responds quickly to touch inputs. Sone of the on-screen icons are, though, a little on the small side which can make them hard to read or use while the car is moving.
Below the infotainment screen is a touch-sensitive panel with shortcuts for frequently-used functions. It looks slick but, in fact, is tricky to use. Higher-spec models are fitted with a wireless charging tray in front of the gear selector, a premium Harman Kardon stereo and ambient lighting. There are a pair of USB ports in front – one A-tyoe and one C - and two USB-C ports for passengers in the rear.
It’s easy to get comfortable behind wheel with plenty of adjustment in seat and steering wheel. Adjustable lumbar support is offered as standard on all but the entry-level model with 3 models and above getting electrical assistance. The seats are quite firm, which makes them perfect for longer journeys, while GT-Line models’ seats have a suede covering that is possibly second only to Velcro in its ability to hold things in place.
The view out of the front is decent and the door mirrors are a good size but the rear screen is on the narrow side and that, in combination with the thick C-pillars can make it difficult to place the rear corners of the car accurately.
All models, however, are fitted with a rear-view camera as well as parking sensors at the front and back too. Top-spec 4 and GT-Line versions are also equipped with a 360-degree birds-eye view camera while hybrids also include a self-parking system. Automatic LED headlights and automatic wipers are standard-fit across the range.
Generally the passenger space is well-insulated from the outside world but there’s a noticeable amount of wind noise at cruising speeds.
There’s a single petrol engine on offer – the 148bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi – which is available with either a six-speed manual or seven-speed automatic. Mild-hybrid models are only available with the auto box which also introduces the option of all-wheel-drive.
With the manual gearbox the Sportage will hit 62mph in 9.9 seconds. The automatic with mild hybrid assistance knocks a couple of tenths of that time but it does take a fraction of a second to compose itself before engaging.
There’s also a self-charging hybrid which pairs the 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor for a combined 226bhp which is delivered to the front wheels. Four-wheel-drive is available on the top-spec GT-Line S.
There’s a plug-in hybrid with 261bhp on offer and an electric-only range of (officially) 43 miles and, finally, there’s a 1.6-litre CRDi diesel, which is available with 113 and 134bhp. The latter is only available with an automatic gearbox and mild-hybrid tech.
The Sportage makes a decent fist of smoothing out some of the harshest imperfections and sharp edges and body control is good for, what it, a reasonably tall car. It’s particularly at home on motorways where it rides over long-wave undulations very well and feels settled and stable.
The Sportage has never laid claim to class-leading dynamics and that is also true of the latest model but, and this is a sizeable but, it manages to straddle a line between decent handling and comfort that will appeal to most.
There is noticeable lean in corners but grip is plentiful and the precise steering gives you the confidence to place the car where you want it. The brakes in the MHEV, as is the case in most regenerative systems, can feel a little grabby and makes the pedal feel less progressive but it doesn’t take long to acclimatise.
Depending on which spec you opt for the Sportage has four driving modes: Eco, Normal, Sport and Terrain. In practice that means light steering and a softer response to throttle inputs in Eco and, and the other end, heavier steering and sharper throttle response in Sport, with Comfort somewhere between the two.
There are few reasons not to consider buying the Sportage. It’s one of those cars that does very little badly, but doesn’t do much brilliantly either. It is, instead, simply good at almost everything – comfort, practicality, quality, design, value for money, generous equipment – and that makes greater than the sum of its parts.
Kia Sportage GT-Line S' 1.6 T-GDI 226bhp
Price from: £40,475
Engine: 1.6 T-GDi ISG HEV
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Max power: 226bhp @ 5,500rpm
Max torque: 350Nm @ 1,500 – 4,500rpm
Max speed: 120mph
0-62mph: 7.7 secs
Fuel consumption WLTP (mpg):
Emissions (CO2) g/km: 129
For more information visit www.kia.co.uk