Kia Sportage long-term test

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...

LT Kia Sportage hello

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 2035 List price £33,700 Target Price £32,309 Price as tested £34,350 Test economy 32.6mpg Official economy 44.1mpg Dealer price now £30,840 Private price now £27,420 Running costs (excluding depreciation) Fuel £420

3 March 2023 – One final word

A good old thesaurus is going to come in handy for the task before me today. The challenge is to summarise my Kia Sportage without repeating myself by using the word ‘excellent’ over and over again.

Kia Sportage trophy winner

During the time I had my car, the Sportage went from being one of our favourite family SUVs to the outright champion of the class. In naming it our 2023 Family SUV of the Year, we praised it for the breadth of its talents, saying that, for the money, nothing else was as well rounded or polished. Champagne corks were duly popped and Kia probably had to build a bigger mantelpiece to accommodate the latest addition to its ever-expanding collection of trophies, not just for the Sportage but also for other great models such as the electric Kia EV6.

For the most part, I can only agree with the official What Car? verdict: the Sportage is a cracking example of the family SUV breed. 

Kia Sportage over shoulder

For me, the interior is a real highlight – one of the best in this class, regardless of price. It looks terrific, feels well made and is remarkably user-friendly, although I did occasionally find myself wishing that the switchable controls for the audio and air-con were just a little bit larger, to make them easier to operate while driving. I preferred the driving position and seat comfort to those of my previous EV6, too; you feel like you’re sitting quite high, with fantastic visibility out, and the seat is at the ideal height for sliding in or out easily. Even the infotainment system is hard to fault, despite being touch-only; it’s snappy and easy to use.

Although the Sportage lacks the sliding rear seats of rivals such as the Skoda Karoq, I can’t say I missed that level of flexibility. It proved more than practical enough for my needs, thanks to its large, easily accessed boot and generous interior space for occupants, especially for long-legged passengers sitting in the back. 

Kia Sportage cornering

I wasn’t all that impressed with the low-speed ride (which tended to jostle me around more than I’d have liked), but I never found the Sportage uncomfortable; in fact, it proved to be a pleasingly smooth, quiet cruiser. It handled well by class standards, too – perhaps not as sharply as the rival Seat Ateca, but it felt quite agile and composed most of the time. 

Although looks are subjective and not something I’d normally consider worthy of note in the context of a family SUV, to my eyes the Sportage is a handsome beast, too. My car was used for Car of the Year photography, and as I was watching our snapper take pretty pictures of it on a wind-swept shore on the south coast, I couldn’t help but appreciate its striking design – particularly the distinctive boomerang-shaped daytime running lights. 

Kia Sportage COTY shoot

My car’s mild hybrid petrol engine delivered strong performance, but an overall fuel economy figure of 32.6mpg was well short of what I’d have expected. In its defence, it probably would have been shown in a better light if I’d managed more long journeys in it. My car spent enough time in an urban environment over the winter that I got a warning message telling me that I had to take it on a good high-speed run so that the emissions-reducing exhaust particulate filter could unclog itself. 

Kia Sportage refuelling

In hindsight, much as I liked my car, a full hybrid or plug-in hybrid Sportage might have been a better choice for me. Although I'd have to cover a lot of miles in either to recoup the higher purchase price through lower running costs, they'd better suit the sort of driving I mostly do. 

But whichever version you choose, you can be assured that the Sportage is a remarkably complete family SUV and a thoroughly pleasing car to live with. There’s only one word to describe it and that's (as they say in the movie Wayne’s World) ‘excellent’.

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