Kia has built the Sportage’s reputation over many years as a credible, family-focused SUV with reliability, practicality, and tech to match. Now the new one is here, with numerous hybrid options and trim levels to suit all tastes and budgets.
The first thing you’ll notice, though, is the somewhat garish new looks. Although the rear has a strip of LEDs protruding out of the back like a Kia EV6, the front looks downright bizarre. In addition, there are boomerang-styled headlights and a substantial open-mouthed grille. Some will love the incomparable looks, but others will dislike the car for this very reason.
Trim-wise, it’s a chaotic affair, with '2' being entry-level, ‘3’ being a bit better, ‘4’ being higher up still, and GT Line S topping the range, while standard GT Line sits between ‘2’ and ‘3’.
All Sportages come with 17 to 19-inch wheels, a 12.3-inch infotainment screen with sat nav (eight-inch with no sat nav on ‘2’ and GT Line trims), and a 12.3-inch digital instrument display (4.2-inch screen and analogue dials on '2' and GT Line grades). The Kia also boasts LED headlights, automatic dual temperature control, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and automatic wipers.
More kit is gradually added as standard as you go up the range. Equipment includes adaptive cruise control, a heated steering wheel, lumbar support, a wireless phone charger, a premium sound system, electronic front seats, a panoramic sunroof and a powered tailgate.
There are three engines – all 1.6 litres – with a turbocharged petrol producing 150PS (40.4-44.1mpg, 146-154g/km CO2) and two non-turbocharged diesels outputting 115PS (53.3mpg, 138g/km CO2) and 135PS (50.4-54.3mpg, 135-148g/km CO2).
The turbo-petrol is also combined with an electric motor to offer a self-charging hybrid (48.7-49.6mpg, 129-132g/km CO2). And very soon, there will be a plug-in hybrid too, although specs for the latter are yet to be announced.
Both hybrids are automatics, but if you opt for just diesel or petrol, you get a choice of manual or automatic, dependent on trim. The automatic variants all have some mild-hybrid technology, though. What’s more, some have four-wheel drive.
As you can see, choosing which one you want is anything but straightforward. I tested the Sportage ‘3’ self-charging hybrid, which comes with automatic transmission and is only available with front-wheel drive.
The automatic cog-swapper certainly makes things easier. Mind you, when you depress the accelerator, there is a bit of a delay before the engine gets going. When it does though, it springs into life, getting up to 60mph in 7.7 seconds.
What’s more, the transition from all-electric to engine-powered driving is seamless. Accelerating hard does make the engine shout a bit, but the soundproofing is good and keeps the noise bearable. There is a civilised amount of power across the rev range, so overtaking is simple, too. Moreover, it's barely less economical than the standard diesel in this guise.
The steering is light and straightforward, but it does firm up if you use the car's Sport mode, making twisty B-roads more entertaining. The model’s body roll is reasonably good, too, considering its high centre of gravity. The level-headed handling comes at the cost of ride comfort though. It’s not bad by any means, but the added weight of the car’s batteries, coupled with 18-inch alloys, means rivals are more comfortable. That said, the Sportage is good at absorbing lumps and bumps in the tarmac.
The hybrid’s regenerative braking helps recharge the batteries. However, as in many cars with this feature, there’s little in-between light braking and a full-on emergency stop.
Inside, the seats are comfortable, while the cabin feels spacious with plenty of room for your legs, arms and head. The Sportage is similar in the back, too, with lots of space to tuck your feet underneath the front seats.
The new Kia’s visibility is generally good, although, admittedly, the thick rear pillars don’t help when looking back. Fortunately, the Sportage does come with parking sensors and a rear-view camera to help. You will also find lots of storage space inside the cabin, with a generously sized glovebox, door bins, and a centre cubby.
The 12.3-inch instrument display looks excellent next to the same-sized infotainment screen, housed in one unit behind the steering wheel. The former has several layouts to choose from, so you can prioritise information. At the same time, the latter’s touchscreen is crisp and user-friendly.
The Sportage certainly has a well-built interior, with lots of soft-touch materials, glossy black trim, and sprinklings of silver to break up the darkened colour scheme.
It is easy to move things in and out of the boot as there’s no load lip on the floor, while the cargo space in the self-charging hybrid is 587-litres. This increases to 1,776-litres if you pull the levers to fold the seats down in a 40/20/40 split. The boot capacity varies slightly depending on which model you choose.
With low CO2 emissions of 129g/km, it’s attractive to company car owners, although some may want to wait for the plug-in hybrid, which, inevitably, will be lower still.
You will also get Kia’s admirable seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty as standard. However, it’s unlikely you’ll need to rely on it, as Kia has a superb reputation for reliability.
Safety-wise, there should be few concerns. The new Sportage hasn’t been crash-tested by Euro NCAP yet, but Kias generally perform well. The outgoing Sportage got a top five-star rating, and the safety tech has improved significantly since then. The fresh model includes automatic emergency braking, lane-keep assist, and forward collision avoidance as stock safety kit. Adaptive cruise control and lane-follow assist are available with GT Line and higher, while my test car's '3' trim means it has all the above plus highway drive assist. The '4' trim places cameras on the door mirrors and relays the image onto a screen to act as a blind-spot monitoring system.
Overall, Kia has done a top job, and the Sportage is well-positioned for the ‘best of the rest’ crown. It is unlikely to lure would-be premium brand owners away from the German manufacturers, but it offers excellent value for money, especially lower down the trim levels.
Somewhat-firm ride quality aside, the hybrid tested here is excellent, and I suspect the plug-in version will be too when it arrives. But both are an unnecessary extra expense if you predominantly make shorter journeys.
So, the all-new Sportage is practical, roomy, and well-equipped as standard, with a lovely interior. I just hope the front exterior looks don’t scare young children.
|Kia Sportage '3' 1.6 T-GDi self-charging hybrid (7-speed automatic as tested):|
|Max speed||120 mph|
|Acceleration||0-60 mph in 7.7 seconds|
|Combined mpg||49.6 mpg (WLTP)|
|Engine layout||1,598cc 4-cylinder turbo petrol|
|Max power||229 PS|
|CO2 emissions||129 g/km|