What Car? says...
It’s easy to get lost in the crowded world of family SUVs but the Kia Sportage looks equipped to stand out at the front of the pack.
Let's start with the engines. They're all petrols, and some come with hybrid assistance to improve efficiency and reduce emissions. The entry-level choice is available with a manual or automatic gearbox, and if you go for the auto, you get mild-hybrid (MHEV) technology.
There's also a 'self-charging' hybrid (HEV) version, and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV). The PHEV's official electric-only range of up to 43 miles beats the equivalent Ford Kuga (39 miles) and Hyundai Tucson (38 miles), making it cheaper to run as a company car.
If you're looking to maximise traction, you can opt for four-wheel drive on top-spec models. There are plenty of trim levels to choose from, with even the entry-level version (called the Sportage 2) coming with all the essential kit you’d need
Kia has also given the Sportage a competitive starting price. The cheapest model undercuts the Tucson as well as the Honda ZR-V, the Mazda CX-5, the Peugeot 3008 and the Renault Austral putting it in close competition with the Nissan Qashqai, the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Karoq – all of which are seriously compelling family SUVs.
In this review, we’ll tell you everything you need to know to help you decide whether the Kia Sportage deserves a place on your shortlist. We'll rate it for performance and handling, practicality, running costs and more.
Performance & drive
What it’s like to drive, and how quiet it is
Engine, 0-60mph and gearbox
Our favourite engine for the Kia Sportage is the entry-level one, the 148bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi. You can have a six-speed manual gearbox, but if you want MHEV technology, you need to opt for the seven-speed automatic gearbox, which is slightly hesitant but introduces the option of four-wheel drive (AWD). With the manual gearbox, we managed a 0-60mph time of 8.5 seconds, comfortably beating the 9.9sec official figure.
Further up the range is the HEV, with the 1.6-litre petrol engine tied to an electric motor for a combined 226bhp to the front wheels (four-wheel drive is available if you opt for top-spec GT-Line S). Aside from the hesitant auto gearbox, performance is pleasingly punchy – at our private test track, we recorded a 0-60mph time of just 7.2 seconds, which is quicker than the Ford Kuga hybrid and the Honda ZR-V.
The PHEV offers even more power – 261bhp – but its pace isn't that different to the HEV's in everyday driving. You’ll keep up with town and city traffic at an adequate rate in full electric mode, and even when you switch to Hybrid mode, the petrol motor only kicks in at the very last second if you pin the accelerator pedal to the floor. For maximum performance, you’ll need to twist the drive mode dial out of Eco and into Sport to combine the petrol engine and electric motor’s output. The PHEV has AWD as standard.
Suspension and ride comfort
The Sportage does a better job of rounding off potholes and ridges than the closely related Hyundai Tucson and exhibits fractionally better body control than the Skoda Karoq.
It's not quite as comfy as the Volvo XC40 though, and that's most noticeable on GT-Line models, which have big 19in alloy wheels fitted, and the heavier PHEV. The best-riding version is the cheapest model: entry-level 2 trim comes with smaller 17in wheels and big balloon-like tyres.
The Sportage is a great motorway companion, riding over undulations very well and feeling settled at speed, as is the well-controlled Honda ZR-V.
The Sportage has never been a contender for the best-driving family SUV but the current model’s cornering abilities are more than good enough. There's quite a bit of lean in the corners, but grip is plentiful and the precise steering helps you place the car exactly where you want it.
We reckon the Sportage’s balance of composure and comfort will be a well-judged compromise for most. If you want something a little more rewarding to drive, we’d recommend taking a look at the Kuga or the Seat Ateca.
Depending on which spec you go for, the Sportage has up to four driving settings: Eco, Normal, Sport and Terrain. Eco is the most relaxed choice for everyday driving, with the lightest steering weight and a softer accelerator response to maximise fuel economy. The heavier steering weight in Sport mode helps you place the Sportage more accurately on the road.
Noise and vibration
The quietest Sportage in the line-up is the PHEV. Its ability to run on electricity alone makes it hushed on shorter commutes. The HEV isn’t as impressive, but can still whisper along over short distances in town and in stop-start traffic. The MHEV isn't as capable because it can’t run on electricity alone, but its stop-start system is smooth and it can cut its engine when you’re coasting. The manual gearbox has a bit of a notchy shift action, but the throw is light and accurate.
In the PHEV, while Sport mode combines the petrol engine and electric motor’s output for maximum performance, it wouldn’t be our default option for every journey because the sudden power delivery can be a little too blunt.
There’s a fraction more wind noise on a motorway than you get in the Tucson and XC40, but it’s still relatively hushed and there’s a lot less road noise than you get in the ZR-V. You’re not punished with a harsh-sounding engine note when you’re pressing on, either. The brakes on hybrid Sportages can be a little grabby due to the regenerative braking system, which feeds energy back to the battery as you slow down but makes the brake pedal slightly less progressive. That said, we’ve driven hybrids with more abrupt brakes.
Strengths Good ride comfort; composed handling; pretty hushed, even at speed
Weaknesses Slightly hesitant auto gearbox; grabby brakes on hybrids
The interior layout, fit and finish
Driving position and dashboard
The Kia Sportage's interior looks smart and uncluttered, with controls that are grouped together and easy to find. You don't get full digital dials on entry-level 2 or GT-Line models, but the 4.2-inch cluster is perfectly adequate, clearly displaying info such as range, economy and driving assistance features.
Models in mid-spec 3 trim and above come with a larger 12.3in digital instrument cluster with a variety of layouts to choose from. The animated graphics are smooth and clear with a high level of contrast. The screen itself sits in line with the central infotainment display, resulting in a long, curved housing that stretches halfway across the dashboard.
It’s very easy to find a comfortable driving position in the Sportage, and there's enough adjustment to cater for most people. There’s also plenty of steering-wheel adjustment, and lumbar support for the driver is offered on all but the entry-level model, with electric adjustment as standard on 3 models and above. The firm bolstering is supportive for longer journeys, and GT-Line models have suede that helps grip you in place when cornering.
Visibility, parking sensors and cameras
You get decent levels of forward visibility from the Sportage driving seat. The large side mirrors help with rear vision, but the slightly narrow rear screen with thick rear pillars can make it harder to judge the car's rear corners in a tight spot.
Thankfully, all versions come with a rear-view camera plus front and rear parking sensors as standard. Top-spec GT-Line S models add a 360-degree camera, while hybrids also include a self-parking system. All models get automatic LED headlamps and auto wipers to help improve visibility in poor conditions.
Sat nav and infotainment
The graphics on the entry-level unit could be sharper but it's perfectly adequate, while the 12.3in screen is richer and responds to prods more snappily. That said, some of the text and icons are still on the small side, making them a little tricky to read at a glance or aim for when you're driving. The systems in the BMW X1 and the Mazda CX-5 have rotary dial controllers, which make them less distracting to use.
The entry-level Sportage has buttons below the infotainment screen, allowing you easily change the stereo and climate settings. All other trims get a touch-sensitive panel with shortcuts for commonly used functions. It looks slick but the base car's buttons are easier to use. Higher-spec models have a wireless phone-charging tray ahead of the gear selector, an upgraded Harman Kardon stereo and ambient lighting. There are two types of USB port up front, and each front seat has a USB-C port for rear passengers to use.
The Sportage interior feels solidly put together, with nicely damped switches, a good range of materials used, plenty of squishy plastics and metallic-effect finishes at eye level.
Some of the plastics lower down are less pleasing, but they’re generally out of sight and have a higher chance of being scuffed anyway. It's a step above the equivalent Tucson, but doesn't quite reach the premium heights of the X1 and the XC40. All models feature a leather-trimmed steering wheel, with a flat-bottomed one on sportier GT-Line versions.
Strengths Well laid out controls; good driving position; parking sensors and rear-view camera are standard
Weaknesses Graphics on infotainment screen could be sharper; some prestige-badge rivals feel classier
Passenger & boot space
How it copes with people and clutter
The Kia Sportage feels quite airy for front-seat occupants, with a wide interior providing plenty of elbow room. Leg and head room are impressive too, and while the panoramic sunroof that comes as standard on GT-Line S trim lowers the ceiling height a little, there's still enough clearance for anyone over 6ft tall.
Storage is generous, with door pockets that are large enough to take a bottle of water, a decent lidded centre cubby box, plus trays for a phone and keys, and two cupholders behind the gearlever. There's a good-sized glovebox.
The Sportage has a generous amount of space in the back compared with most family SUV rivals, with enough leg, head and elbow room to make two tall adults comfortable. There’s also plenty of space to tuck your feet under the front seats, and the outer rear seats are heated on 3 and GT-Line S models.
The panoramic roof, if fitted, compromises headroom in the back, and anyone taller than 6ft will brush their head against the roof lining unless they lean towards the centre. Thankfully, it doesn’t come as standard on our preferred 3 trim.
All models get pockets on the backs of the front seats, as well as two coat hooks and a fold-down centre rear armrest that houses two cupholders. The rear doors can hold a drinks bottle, but they open wide enough to create a large, almost square access area that is useful for loading children into their child seats.
Seat folding and flexibility
The rear seats in the Sportage split in a 40/20/40 arrangement (rather than the usual 60/40 arrangement) for added flexibility. All models have handy levers in the wall of the boot that you pull to make the seat backs drop down.
The rear seats can recline to allow passengers to lean back, but you can't slide them back and forth, as you can in the Audi Q3, the Ford Kuga and the Renault Austral, or remove them, like in the Skoda Karoq with the VarioFlex option.
Entry-level 1.6-litre petrol models with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox get a headline boot space figure of 591 litres, which is more space than in the ZR-V, the Qashqai, the Austral and the Karoq, and just fractionally behind the equivalent Hyundai Tucson. With an automatic gearbox and MHEV tech fitted, that drops to 562 litres.
The HEV has 587 litres and the PHEV has 540. Those are still big numbers by class standards, and we managed to fit eight carry-on suitcases beneath the parcel shelf of a front-wheel-drive Sportage HEV, putting it well ahead of the ZR-V and Austral that could only swallow six bags and on a par with the Tucson.
All that means the Sportage should have no trouble handling your family's holiday luggage. The HEV’s flat floor lies flush with the boot opening, so it's easy to slide bulkier items in and out without a load lip to contend with. If you need to access the shallow storage area underneath, the floor can be flipped up and latched on to the base of the parcel shelf to keep it in place.
Strengths Loads of passenger space; most versions have a big boot; rear seats split and fold flat in a versatile 40/20/40 arrangement
Weaknesses Plug-in hybrids lose some luggage space to their batteries; the rear seats don't slide
Buying & owning
Everyday costs, plus how reliable and safe it is
Costs, insurance groups, MPG and CO2
The starting price for the Kia Sportage undercuts the Honda ZR-V, the Hyundai Tucson, the Mazda CX-5, the Peugeot 3008 and Renault Austral, but the Nissan Qashqai, the Seat Ateca and the Skoda Karoq have more affordable entry-level models. The MHEV and HEV versions cost more, but remain competitive, priced just above the Tucson, but below an equivalent 3008. Better still, the Sportage is predicted to have stronger residuals than the Tucson. The PHEV places itself between the slightly cheaper Ford Kuga PHEV and alongside the Tucson PHEV.
If you're looking for the lowest possible company car tax rate, the PHEV version will be best. With its CO2 output of 25g/km and 43 mile electric-only range, it sits in the 8% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax band, lower than the 12% rating of the Kuga and Tucson PHEVs. Even when driven in hybrid mode, you can expect to see around 50mpg (if you keep the battery charged).
The 1.6 T-GDi 230 HEV is pretty frugal, clocking up 48.7mpg in official testing, and 43.8mpg in our real-world test. That’s not as good as some diesels in the family SUV category, but compares well with a lot of the petrols. The MHEV is a bit thirstier, but mid to high thirties MPG is easily achievable if the trip computer is to be believed.
Equipment, options and extras
The Sportage is not the cheapest family SUV of its size, but at least all models are well equipped, with the entry-level 2 model coming with 17in alloy wheels, cruise control, climate control and an electronic parking brake.
From there, the range moves up to the sportier GT-Line before working up to 3 and GT-Line S. Our favourite 3 trim is tempting because of its twin digital screens as well as heated front and rear seats (they’re electrically adjustable up front, too), keyless ignition and, if you have the automatic gearbox, adaptive cruise control.
The GT-Line S combines sporty looks with all the kit, but pushes the price up to the point where it’s far too high to recommend. What’s more, because it comes with a panoramic roof, it’s worth sitting in one just to check rear headroom is adequate before you buy.
Kia as a brand came an impressive seventh out of 30 manufacturers in our 2022 What Car? Reliability Survey. That’s above Seat and Volvo but below Hyundai, which took fifth place.
The Sportage itself also performed well when compared to its family SUV rivals, sitting well within the top third of the league table and drawing with the Karoq and XC40. The Tucson Hybrid came top of the table.
Combined, those details mean that you shouldn’t have any worries throughout your ownership, but added peace of mind comes from Kia’s seven-year warranty. You won’t get that with the rivals – the closest is Hyundai’s five-year warranty.
Safety and security
When it was tested for safety by Euro NCAP, the Sportage was awarded the full five stars and scored well in all areas. The Tucson scored near identical scores in all safety categories but it’s hard to directly compare the two car’s scores because they were tested in different years and the tests become progressively more stringent.
Every Sportage comes with lots of safety equipment, including six airbags, automatic emergency braking (AEB), lane-keeping assistance and trailer stability assist.
If that’s not enough, going for top-spec GT-Line S trim adds blind-spot monitoring, which displays a live feed from cameras mounted on the door mirrors as you indicate, and parking collision avoidance to the standard equipment list.
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Strengths Competitively priced; holds its value well; market-leading seven-year warranty
Weaknesses Not as cheap as a Skoda Karoq; some safety kit is reserved for top-spec model
No – at the time of the writing, the Sportage is not available new with a diesel engine.
We recommend the 1.6 GDi HEV engine with the Sportage 3 trim level. It’s reasonably priced, efficient and comes with lots of equipment.
GT-Line gives the Sportage a sportier look than our favourite 3 trim. It has larger 19in alloy wheels, privacy glass and other styling features. The GT-Line misses out on the 12.3in digital driver display that’s included with 3 trim.
|RRP price range||£29,345 - £45,745|
|Number of trims (see all)||4|
|Number of engines (see all)||3|
|Available fuel types (which is best for you?)||hybrid, petrol|
|MPG range across all versions||252 - 51.4|
|Available doors options||5|
|Warranty||7 years / 100000 miles|
|Company car tax at 20% (min/max)||£567 / £2,768|
|Company car tax at 40% (min/max)||£1,134 / £5,537|