Kia Sportage long-term test: report 3

The Sportage is one of our favourite family SUVs, and the mild hybrid version promises low running costs, but what's it like to actually live with? We're finding out...

Kia Sportage LT wintry static

The car Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi 48V ISG 3 Run by Allan Muir, managing editor

Why we’re running it To find out whether a petrol family SUV still makes sense in the face of growing electric competition, and whether the Sportage is among the best of them

Needs to Be comfortable, good to drive and practical in daily use, and be frugal enough to keep running costs down

Mileage 1285 List price £33,700 Target Price £32,473 Price as tested £34,350 Test economy 34.6mpg Official economy 44.1mpg

21 December 2022 – Chilling out

Aluminium gearknobs – as fitted to the likes of the original Ford Puma coupé and the Honda Civic Type R hot hatch – are lovely, tactile things that convey a certain sportiness and engineering purity. The only problem is that they can feel uncomfortably hot during the summer and freezing cold in the winter. 

Kia Sportage LT icy static

My Kia Sportage, being a non-sporty family SUV with an automatic gearbox rather than a manual, doesn’t have one of these, but I’ve experienced something like the same jolt of surprise on a few occasions recently when I’ve rested my thumbs on the metallic trim on the steering wheel spokes or touched the gearshift paddles behind the wheel with my fingers. In frigid conditions outside, both were much colder than expected, making me wonder why I hadn’t brought a pair of gloves with me and giving me flashbacks to the sweet Puma coupé I ran for a year in the late 1990s.

Fortunately, my Sportage comes with a heated steering wheel (plus heated seats front and rear), and this is one of the first buttons I press when I get into the car on chilly winter mornings, so I only have to move my hands slightly away from the natural ‘quarter to three’ position to ensure complete warmth. Come to think of it, some people might enjoy the curious mixture of hot and cold that you get at times – like a freshly made profiterole or a Scandinavian-style dip in an icy lake straight after sweating in a sauna. 

Kia Sportage LT cold metal

As for the shift paddles, I have to admit that I rarely use them. I quite like downshifting manually to help slow the car down for corners, but this doesn’t really have much of an affect in the Sportage; the engine revs rise, but the car doesn’t shed speed all that quickly. 

That’s because, being a mild hybrid, it’s set up to coast with the engine off when you decelerate, in an effort to burn less fuel. This happens quite often when the engine is only lightly loaded, and it’s a smooth process that you’re barely aware of. 

As it turns out, I used the similar paddles in my previous Kia EV6 electric SUV much more frequently. When you flicked them to adjust the level of regenerative braking (and therefore the amount of energy sent back into the battery under deceleration to help eke out range), the car shed speed so vigorously in the strongest mode that it felt for all the world like the strong engine braking effect I remember fondly from some old-school V8 muscle cars.

Now, I’d just like to emphasise that I’m nit-picking here; it’s not as though I’m in danger of getting frostbite on my hands from contact with bits of the interior, or struggling to control the car’s speed.

Kia Sportage LT touch panel

Fundamentally, the Sportage’s interior is properly impressive, in that it’s exceptionally spacious front and rear, very comfortable to sit in, easy to see out of, smart-looking and straightforward to use. Apart from the fact that some of the touch-sensitive controls for the air-con and media functions are a little too small to hit accurately when driving, the interior is difficult to fault from an ergonomic point of view, as far as I’m concerned. These things are far more important than whether I’ve got cold hands or not.

For all the latest reviews, advice and new car deals, sign up to the What Car? newsletter here

Read more on our long-term Kia Sportage >>

Read about more long-term test cars >>

Also consider