The latest version of the Kia Sportage proved a significant step forward in many areas, although its 1.7-litre diesel engine wasn’t one of them. It may offer more power than an equivalent Nissan Qashqai, but it’s noisier and transmits far more vibration through to the cabin.
With that in mind, could the new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol offer a better prospect? At £24,350, it undercuts the 1.7 diesel in mid-spec 3 trim by £400, despite coming with four-wheel drive and significantly more power. Opt for this engine, though, and you'll have to go for GT-Line specification.
Aimed at being the ‘sporty’ choice, GT-Line gets satin chrome instead of normal chrome trim, a gloss black grille up front, twin exhausts, 19in wheels, silver skid plates, plus Kia’s ice cube-style LED front foglights. Individually, the changes may seem small, but the overall effect is quite striking.
Of course, there is a penalty for selecting the turbocharged petrol. Emissions are a particularly high 177g/km, which puts the T-GDI in the 30% tax bracket for BIK company car tax. It should come as no surprise to find economy isn’t that great either: Kia claims 37.2mpg on the combined cycle.
What is the 2016 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDI like to drive?
The first thing you realise on starting the Sportage's engine is just how much smoother this petrol powerplant is. There’s none of the clatter and vibration that blights the 1.7-litre diesel, and the stop-start system is much smoother in operation too. Even at high revs, it doesn't sound coarse.
On the road, performance is respectable but not brisk. You have to be prepared to rev the engine hard to make it feel as fast as the numbers suggest, but even then, a 0-62mph time of 9.2sec is not overly sporty. This can be improved by 0.4secs if you opt for the seven-speed dual clutch gearbox.
Not overly sporty sums up the handling quite well, too. Bodyroll may not be quite as pronounced as a Qashqai, but it still leans noticeably, although there is plenty of grip thanks to the wide tyres that are standard with the GT-Line trim.
There is, however, little reason to push the Sportage hard. The steering doesn’t tell you much about what the front tyres are doing and it never feels partiuclarly agile. Overall it’s safe, secure and grippy; exactly what you want from a family car, although it isn't exciting.
What is the 2016 Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDI like inside?
Like the rest of the range, the dimensions of the exterior have grown slightly to allow more room inside for passengers and luggage. In both the front and rear of the cabin, head room and legroom have been increased, while the boot has grown to 491 litres.
The boot is officially larger than that of the Qashqai, although there is some intrusion from the wheelarches, which makes the load bay noticeably narrower. The Sportage fights back by offering reclining rear seats as standard, something that isn’t even an option on the Nissan. It also boasts an almost flat load area with the rear seats down and virtually no load-lip.
First impressions of the dashboard are positive. There are plenty of soft-touch plastics on the upper reaches of the dash and doors, while the buttons and stalks have a nice action. There are harder materials further down the dash, but they are excusable given the Kia’s keen pricing.
It’s well equipped too; all bar entry-level 1 models come with a 7.0in touchscreen infotainment system and the GT-Line feels almost premium. It has black and grey leather, heated seats, stainless steel pedals and a leather-trimmed sports steering wheel. You also get climate control, keyless entry and start, plus a gloss black centre console.
Should I buy one?
The 1.6-litre turbocharged engine undoubtedly sorts out the refinement issues we experienced with the 1.7-litre diesel. It’s much smoother, quieter and also significantly quicker if you’re prepared to work it hard.
Unfortunately, the emissions are just too high to be able to recommend it for business users, and fuel economy is poor too: our True MPG testers got just 33.6mpg from it in thier tests. As a result, unless you’re a private buyer who dislikes diesel and does few miles a year, we find it hard to reccomend it. If you must opt for a GT-Line Sportage, try the 2.0-litre diesel option instead.
What Car? says...
Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDI Engine size 1.6-litre petrol, turbo Price from £24,350 Power 174bhp Torque 195lb ft 0-62mph 9.2 seconds Top speed 126mph Fuel economy 37.2mpg CO2 177g/km