Diesel engines are popular in cars like these, and the Kia Sportage has two to choose from. The 114bhp 1.7 is flat at low revs, and although the 134bhp 2.0 is much quicker (even when paired with an automatic gearbox), it’s still not as flexible as some rivals. The 1.6-litre petrol is interesting, though – it’s not exactly fast, but it feels perkier than the smaller diesel and is cheap to buy. We haven’t yet driven the 161bhp 2.0 petrol.
While there’s plenty of give in the suspension, the vertical travel isn’t well controlled, causing the body of the car to bounce up and down on uneven roads. The steering is lifeless, too, making the Sportage unnerving to drive on motorways and winding roads. Both two- and four-wheel drive versions are available.
The diesel engines are boomy when you work them hard, and a fair amount of buzz can be felt through the steering wheel and pedals. The 1.6 petrol is much smoother. It’s a shame, then, that the amount of wind- and road noise that filters through to the cabin at speed is enough to warrant turning up the stereo. The manual gearshift is notchy.
The Kia Sportage is cheap to buy considering the huge amount of standard equipment you get. Running costs shouldn’t be too high, either, because all the engines are competitive on fuel economy and CO2 emissions. That said, specifying the optional auto 'box does affect both quite badly. Resale values are pretty strong, thanks partly to the seven-year warranty.
The Sportage isn’t as classy as a Nissan Qashqai or VW Tiguan because some of the cabin plastics are comparatively lightweight, and the switches don’t move with the same precision. Despite this, build quality is solid. It’s also a good sign that the previous Sportage was the overall winner of the 2012 JD Power survey.
Every Sportage comes with a full array of safety kit. There are front, side and curtain airbags, as well as active front head restraints, along with Isofix child-seat mountings for the outer rear seats. Stability control and a hill-start system come as standard, too, as does a maximum five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating. Deadlocks, an alarm, locking wheelnuts and a visible VIN help to deter thieves.
The Sportage’s dashboard is straightforward, with a sensible layout and switches that are easy to use. The driver’s seat offers decent support, too, and there’s a good range of adjustment for both that and the steering wheel. The thick front pillars can obscure your view at times, however, and the rear window is small.
The Sportage has plenty of space for four, but a large central tunnel carves the rear footwell in two, making life uncomfortable for a central rear passenger. The boot capacity figures suggest that the boot is huge, but in reality it’s no bigger than a small family hatchback’s. Fold the rear seats to extend it, and they lie at a steep angle.
Even the entry-level Sportages are specced up to the nines, so there’s no need to climb too far up the range. 1 models come with alloys, air-con, four powered windows, a rain sensor, Bluetooth and cruise control. 2-trimmed models add parking sensors, a sunroof and part-leather seats, while 3 trim brings full leather, climate control and xenon headlamps.
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We reckon the Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 1 is the one to go for. It’s the cheapest to buy, offers more flexible performance than the 1.7 diesel, and it still has the sharp looks, family-friendly cabin and extensive kit list that make the Sportage so appealing.