It’s the most popular Kia sold in the UK. We took it for a long test to see what the fuss is all about
What do we have here?
Many companies will admit that having most of your eggs, or income stream, in one basket is bad for business. What if that a client moves on, they downsize or go bust?
Ok, it’s slightly different in the automotive world but not by much. Buyers are a fickle bunch and taste and trends can change often and without much warning, a bit like David Beckham’s hair.
Kia has a ten-vehicle strong range (Stinger to come), of which there are 13 variants once you include three and five-door hatch and estate versions. However, one vehicle dominates the Kia sales charts like no other, at least in the UK. It’s the mid-sized five-door Sportage SUV.
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In 2016, the Sportage made up nearly 45% of all Kia’s UK sales. That’s a huge reliance on one vehicle. We decided it was time to see what all the fuss was about and took one for a week’s testing, driving from the UK to Switzerland.
This is the fourth-generation Sportage and was launched last year (2016). There is a huge range of engines and specifications to pick from. There’s a choice of six engines, two of which are petrol and four diesel, and seven trim levels called: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, GT-line and GT-Line S.
The new car’s headlights are moved higher up onto the front of the bonnet (frog-esq) rather than the wrap-around version of the third-generation car. It features Kia’s ‘Tiger-grille’ that’s being rolled out across the range while the rear gets an Americanised full-width colour band. The new version is longer and stiffer than before while there’s an entirely new interior design.
The diesel engines consist of a 1.7-litre and 2.0-litre, each of which is offered with two separate power outputs. The petrol options both come from a 1.6-litre, one version is naturally aspirated while the second and higher-powered variant is turbocharged.
All variants get a six-manual gearbox and depending on which engine you go with you can opt for either a six-speed or seven-speed DCT automatic. The 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre turbo are both available with intelligent AWD rather than the standard front-wheel drive setup.
Standard equipment across the Sportage range includes: alloy wheels; LED daytime running lights; Bluetooth; DAB radio; air-conditioning; trailer stability assist; hill-start assist; and cruise control.
We’re testing the 1.6-litre T-GDi with all-wheel-drive, a six-speed manual gearbox in GT-Line trim. It’s easy to tell the GT-Line apart from the range with its striking 19in alloys wheel, LED ‘Ice-Cube’ fog lights, silver front and rear skid plates, black gloss grill and obligatory GT-Line badging. Inside, there’s a GT-Line flat-bottomed leather-wrapped steering wheel, leather upholstery, stainless steel pedals, a 7.0in infotainment system with sat-nav and front and rear heated seats.
This four-cylinder 1.6-litre petrol engine generates 174bhp and 195lb ft of torque which will get the Sportage from standstill to 60mph in 9.2 seconds.
Prices for the Sportage range from £18,250 to £31,995 while our test car costs £24,605.
How does it drive?
The name Sportage name derives from ‘Sport’ and ‘Portage’ to represent its sporting intention and luggage flexibility. Therefore, this mid-sized SUV should handle pretty well then. And it does, thanks to two key ingredients.
Firstly, body lean is well contained as you enter a corner. There’s an initial pitch of weight to the outside wheels but once there it remains flat and true.
The second is down to tenacious grip and limited understeer. The intelligent all-wheel drive system predominant sends all torque to the front wheels, however, should the onboard computers note wheel slippage, up to 40% can be sent to the rear wheels or to the wheels with the most grip. We tested it out on some tricky snowy conditions and on drenched roads during torrential rain with plenty opportunities for aquaplaning and the Sportage was simply impenetrable.
The ride doesn’t suffer too badly for all this well-behaved body movement, even on the 19in alloys on this GT-Line trim version. You’ll feel the worst of imperfections and notice when a road is scared with smaller bumps but overall the Sportage is pretty comfortable. It’s a great long distance cruiser.
You get a feeling of reassurance through the steering wheel. It’s neither weighted on the light or heavy side and remains consistent throughout. It’ll turn and send the car where you want with no fuss. While it may not justify its sporty shaped steering wheel, as there’s little in the way of feedback, it performs well as you carve along a twisty mountain road.
There’s a lane assist function that works automatically to keep you in your lane on say a well-lined motorway. It’s not brilliant though and works better as an assist or failsafe should you start to drift. It can react a little late (i.e. close to crossing the lane line) and can send you down the motorway like a bowling ball heading down the alley in slow motion, zigzagging from side to side as you bounce off the proverbial guard rails.
While it’s not the quickest of SUVs, the 1.6-litre turbo petrol does get this thing going, rarely leaving you worried about a lack of oomph. The most impressive performance is from its mid-range torque meaning you’ll easily pull away from towns and cities or manage well-planned overtaking maneuverers with little need to shift gears. This is due to a wide peak torque band from 1,500-4,500rpm, while power peaks at 5,500rpm.
Acceleration is also smooth and consistent, meaning there’s little in the way of a surge when the turbo kicks in, making the Sportage’s performance reliable and comfortable.
The six-speed gearbox is a real treat. It has a short throw, so much so that you can flick through gears without needing to lift your elbow off its central armrest throne. Gears clunk into place with a reassuring mechanical robustness.
On the whole, the Sportage offers good levels of refinement. You’ll hear the suspension working over the largest of motorway expansion joints and there’s some wind noise at French motorway speeds (around 80mph) but overall the interior remains quiet and calm.
What's it like inside?
The dashboard hardly mesmerises your senses with an array of styling lines, mood lighting and luxury materials, however, it is neat, tidy and extremely simple to use.
We struggled to find a button that wasn’t well-placed, well-sized and clear. There’s a feeling of robustness and an air of “I won’t fall apart on you.” The top of the dash gets soft-touch plastics while, in this spec at least, the doors get leather inserts and contrasting stitching with black gloss inserts.
Most should find it easy to get comfortable. The seats are supportive and not too firm, while a pump lever offers plenty of height adjustment. With acres of headroom, even Peter Crouch should be happy here, while the electrically operated lumbar support and seat heating adds further comfort.
The steering wheel offers excellent reach and tilt adjustment and is a pleasure to hold. There’s a good view out to the front and sides is good, however, the rear roof pillar is slightly larger and can restrict your rearward over the shoulder view, although rear parking sensors and a reversing camera should help when parking.
Storage options are good. The door will take a bottle plus a few more items, there’s a non-slip tray ahead of the gear lever where the USB ports are located, between the seats you’ll find two cupholders while the storage bin under the central armrest is deep and usable. There’s also a drop-down sunglasses holder by the rear view mirror.
If you happen to end up in the back of the Sportage, you’ll be delighted. The seats are comfortable and tilt, the outer seats are heated, there’s loads of leg room and head room, a fold-down armrest with two cupholders while the doors are simply ginormous making it easy to climb in and out. There’s also enough width and head room to get three adults in, something that is further aided by the low and narrow transmission tunnel.
The boot has a wide and square opening with a similarly shaped floor. The floor is adjustable so can either offer under floor storage or be lowered for more storage space. It has 490-litres of capacity which is similar to a SEAT Ateca which has 510-litres.
For more space, the rear seats split and fold flat on a 60/40 ratio. They also lock into place when folded down.
On an official combined cycle, the Sportage 1.6 T-GDI in AWD and a six-speed manual gearbox is claimed to return 37.2mpg and emit 177g/km of CO2. After our mammoth journey to Switzerland and back we achieved around 28mpg over 1,350 miles.
For the 2017/18 tax year, this Sportage falls into the 34% benefit in kind tax banding. The first year road tax will cost £800.
The South Korean SUV falls into insurance group 19.
The Sportage is available with a three-year service plan called Care-3 for £329 while a five-year plan (Care-3 plus) costs £609.
Kia offers one of the longest warranties. The Sportage gets seven years cover and up to 100,000 miles.
It’s a credit to the Sportage how quickly and seamlessly it becomes part of your life, dealing with everything you can throw at it.
There’s plenty of room inside, it handles with composure, has a decent ride and is well-priced.
Some newer rivals might add more polish but at a price, while only a SEAT Ateca can front up to the Sportage with a petrol engine under the hood.