Kia's Sportage has always stacked up well in entry-level 2WD diesel guise. Jonathan Crouch wonders whether the fourth generation verson still does.
Ten Second Review
Kia has done well with its attempt to break into the lucrative SUV crossover market with this good looking Sportage model. This fourth generation version, like its predecessor, makes most sense in its most affordable 2WD guises, most notably with a 1.7-litre CRDi diesel engine. Let's put that variant to the test.
Kia's Sportage was once a bit player in the SUV Crossover market. The first generation car was the sort of thing you might have bought if you lived on a remote smallholding where nobody would see what you drove. The second generation model was a rebadged Hyundai Tucson that moved things on significantly but wasn't in any way polished. Then though, we got the MK3 Sportage, a car which had the glitz to mix it with the best crossover SUVs out there while selling at prices they found hard to match. This fourth generation model picks up where that car left off and one of the few things that hasn't been changed about it is the engine most buyers choose, the 1.7-litre CRDi diesel unit on test here.
It's only offered with front wheel drive, but that's what most customers want anyway. In this form, the idea of a stylish Cossover that is capable of regularly delivering over 60mpg, while returning a tax-friendly CO2 reading of under 120g/km might well be tempting to plenty of people in this segment. Let's put this car to the test.
Mindful of market requirements, let's ignore how this Sportage fares in the mud because it's just not relevant. Just how not relevant is supported by the fact that Kia offers the Sportage with this engine in two-wheel drive guise only. These cars are usually used as suburban school run specials that have enough about them to take in the odd family holiday to Disneyland Paris or similar.
This Sportage is a little different to the class norm. Whereas cars like the Ford Kuga or the Nissan Qashqai have been engineered to offer a very taut, car-like driving experience, this is an altogether softer-sprung thing. OK, so it's not as 'flingable', but for the sort of urban driving and motorway cruises its target customers will use it for, the Sportage feels a more relaxed comfortable thing.
The 1.7 CRDi variant we look at here is powered by a 114bhp 1.7-litre turbodiesel that will get it to 62mph in a reasonable enough 11.1 seconds, but the engine does its best work between 1250 and 2750rpm, where it feels lazily elastic and more muscular than the peak power figure would suggest thanks to the meaty 280Nm of torque. It's deceptively brisk if you can keep the engine in the heart of the torque range, the languid throttle response belying how much shove there really is. As well as this 1.7-litre diesel, Kia also offers a 2.0-litre diesel, plus 1.6 normally aspirated and turbocharged petrol engines.
Design and Build
The front end of this MK4 model Sportage is the biggest change over the outgoing model, thanks to smarter headlamps that sit just above a bolder, lower, wider version of Kia's hallmark 'tiger-nose' grille. These lights are now positioned higher, sweeping back along the outer edges of the sharply-detailed bonnet. The result is a more imposing appearance and a more stable-looking stance, despite this model retaining the same 1,855mm width as its predecessor. It's 40mm longer though - and more aerodynamic. At the rear, this fourth generation Sportage features more horizontal forms and clearly defined feature lines, with smooth bodywork on the tailgate, emphasising the car's width and giving this compact SUV a more stable appearance.
Inside, there's a completely new interior, with higher quality materials and a central console that cascades downwards and is tilted 10 degrees towards the driver. The 30mm increase in this model's wheelbase means that the cabin is more spacious too, with greater headroom front and rear. At the back, the seats recline further than before for greater long distance comfort. Out back, bootspace is up from the previous model's 465-litre total to 503-litres here.
Market and Model
Though Sportage prices start at around £18,000, you have to stretch to nearly £20,000 to get a diesel variant, this 1.7-litre CRDi model being the least expensive back pump-fuelled version you can have. This fourth generation Sportage is looking to nick sales from the likes of Skoda's Yeti and Suzuki's SX4 S-Cross - and if early data is anything to go by, it can also attract buyers looking at slightly pricier cars like Ford's Kuga, Mazda's CX-5 and even Toyota's RAV4.
Equipment levels have been subtly boosted across the range. All versions now have 16-inch alloy wheels and all-round disc brakes, a black diamond-mesh grille with chromed surround, front foglights, LED daytime running lamps, cornering lights and chrome-coated belt-line mouldings. Inside, there's smart black cloth upholstery with a grey headlining, electrically adjustable door mirrors, a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gearshifter, all-round electric windows, air conditioning, a DAB radio, Bluetooth with music streaming, USB and AUX ports and 12-volt power outlets in the front and rear. Driving stuff runs to Trailer Stability Assist, Hill-start Assist, Downhill Brake Control and cruise control with speed limiter.
Cost of Ownership
If you're looking to save a bob or two - as most Kia owners traditionally have been - front-wheel-drive Sportage models like this 1.7-litre CRDi variant are the ones most likely to appeal. For an up-front spend of around £1,750 over the entry-level 1.6-litre petrol model, this 1.7-litre diesel improves your combined cycle fuel consumption figure from 42.2mpg to over 61mpg and your CO2 figure from 156g/km to 119g/km. The previous generation Sportage 1.7 CRDi managed 54m,pg and 135g/km, so that's a decent improvement.
One useful change is that this MK4 version offers greater fuel capacity than the third-generation model, with the fuel tank increasing in size from 58-litres to 62-litres, cutting the number of fuel pump visits that owners of the new car will have to make. Like the rest of the Kia range, the Sportage is sold with the excellent seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty. It is fully transferable should the car be sold before the time or mileage limits have been reached. Fixed cost servicing also brings additional peace of mind via the Kia Care-3 and Care-3 Plus servicing package, offering retail customers inflation-proof servicing for the first three or five years.
As long as you're not expecting an off-roader in the traditional sense of the word, it's hard to see how the Kia Sportage would disappoint. It's well built, rides smoothly, now offers a much nicer interior and - the clincher for many - it still looks good.
Ultimately, this fouth generation version merely builds on the strong foundation its predecessor established - but then that's no bad thing. That car was just right for its intended market - as this one is, especially in this frugal 1.7-litre CRDi diesel 2WD guise. With Kias of the past you used to need a spreadsheet to explain the rationale behind your buying decision. Now all you need is a photo.