We’d recommend going for the 1.7-litre diesel engine. It's front-wheel drive only and can’t be had with an automatic gearbox, but for most people this diesel engine is the best choice – it's punchier at low revs than the equivalent engines offered by its rivals.
The 2.0 CRDi engine – available in 134bhp and 182bhp power outputs – is your only option if you want both diesel and four-wheel drive. Even the lower-powered version is satisfyingly strong and will tow a braked trailer of 2.2 tonnes, provided you stick with the manual gearbox. A six-speed auto is optional on both power outputs.
The entry-level 1.6 petrol doesn't benefit from turbocharging so needs revving hard if you want to get anywhere in a hurry. The more powerful turbocharged 1.6 T-GDi petrol is gutsier, especially at low revs, but still needs revving harder than the diesels. You can have this engine with the standard six-speed manual or an optional seven-speed automatic gearbox.
Kia Sportage ride comfort
The Kia Sportage feels as though it’s been set up to be sportier than most of its rivals. Where a Nissan Qashqai is reasonably easy-going and sponges up most bumps and ruts effectively, the Kia feels altogether firmer and choppier – no matter what speed you're doing.
The ride never becomes too jarring, but the Kia is certainly more unsettled than you'd ideally want a family SUV to be – even on relatively small 17in alloys. We'd definitely recommend avoiding the 19in wheels fitted to higher trims.
Kia Sportage handling
Small SUVs don’t need to be especially sharp to drive, but it’s no bad thing that the Sportage keeps its body lean neatly controlled through bends. It certainly stays more upright than a Qashqai or a Kadjar and it grips well, too – even on wet roads – although a Seat Ateca is even more agile.
Sadly, though, the Sportage isn't much fun to drive quickly. The blame lies squarely with the steering, which feels decidedly artifical in the way it weights up and doesn't tell you enough about what the front wheels are doing. It's also quite heavy at low speeds, which makes parking more of a chore than it might be.
Kia Sportage refinement
None of the diesels is particularly hushed, but the 1.7 diesel sounds decidedly guttural – even under quite moderate acceleration. You also feel too many vibrations through the steering wheel and pedals at tickover, while the gearshift in all manual models could also be slicker. The clutch is fairly heavy, but devoid of feel, and the brakes are grabby, which can make it tricky to slow your progress smoothly.
The petrols are undoubtedly smoother than the diesels, but sound quite strained when you rev them – something you'll invariably need to do quite often because even the turbocharged 1.6 T-GDi feels a bit flat at low revs. At least you're relatively well isolated from road and wind noise, even if a Seat Ateca is an even quieter cruiser.
This is our pick of the engine range. It’s fairly cheap to buy, the most economical in the range, and is more than gutsy enough to satisfy most drivers – although it’s quite a guttural sounding engine. It's only available with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive, though, so if you want diesel with an automatic and four-wheel drive you’ll have to go for the pricier 2.0-litre.
2.0 CRDi 134
This engine comes with four-wheel drive as standard, and with either a standard six-speed manual or six-speed automatic. It’s a strong engine and more refined than the entry-level 1.7 diesel, and with a manual 'box it’ll pull up to 2.2 tonnes.
2.0 CRDi 182
This range-topping diesel engine gets four-wheel drive as standard, and you can choose between a six-speed manual 'box and a six-speed auto. It's easily the srongest engine in the range, but is too pricey to recommend – especially since it's available only in range-topping 4 trim.
1.6 GDi 136
This is the cheapest way into a Sportage – and it's worth a look if you're a private buyer and your mileage is low. Be aware, though, that you need to rev the engine quite hard to get the best from it and it gets noisy when you do so. Fuel economy isn't great, either.
This turbocharged 1.6 petrol is good value going by list price, given that it undercuts the 1.7 diesel by a useful four-figure amount, and it’s more refined, too. However, running costs will be quite high, and you have to work the engine hard to get the best from it; even then it doesn’t feel that fast. The 1.6 T-GDi is only available with four-wheel drive, although you can add a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox if you wish.