This is the all-new fifth generation Kia Sportage, a hugely important car for Kia, which has seen its market share grow consistently in pretty much all markets. The Sportage is its biggest seller in the UK, Europe and indeed globally, with nearly 330,000 sold here since 1995.
It’s built on an all-new platform it actually shares with the larger Kia Sorento. As such, this new Sportage is a little bigger, it’s 30mm longer, and the wheelbase, width and height have also all grown by 10mm, which Kia claims provides more room inside, including 591 litres of luggage space and up to 1780 litres with the seats down. Despite in the increase in size, it’s said to be a Kia that’s specifically designed, developed and engineered for the European market, and that includes its dimensions.
It also means plenty of choice in the range – 18 variations in total. There’s a couple of petrol and diesel engine available (yes diesels are still available) along with hybrid and mild 48v hybrid drivetrains (one of these is a diesel), and a plug-in hybrid to join the range later. Power outputs range from 113bhp for a diesel up to 226bhp for the hybrid. You can have it with a manual or automatic transmission and front or all-wheel drive. There’s five trim levels including 2, GT-Line, 3, 4, and GT-Line S. Prices start from £27k rising to just over £40k.
Not necessarily so European, is the styling, with a distinct and striking new interpretation of the Kia’s signature Tiger Nose motif at the front, but now with the headlights stretched apart to extremes, though they work better in person than in pictures. It’s a stand-out design though, setting it apart from rivals. The rest of the styling is relatively neat and conventional.
Inside you’re greeted with a stylish cabin that boasts not only excellent quality, blowing away any preconceptions those approaching current Korean cars for the first time might entertain, but also a futuristic feel with a huge curved panoramic instrument screen, that houses both the digital instrumentation for the driver, and the central infotainment monitor in two combined 12.3-inch screens. There’s smart connectivity, plenty of other smart tech and even the cupholders are smart, spinning out at a touch of a button when you need them.
Rear space is generous too, even for my 6ft 2in frame and long legs, travelling for some distance in the back, would not be an issue. And you can plug into two USB-C plugs embedded into the sides of the front seats, with vents in the rear to keep the ambiance at the right temperature.
Jumping into the top sped 1.6 GT-Line S hybrid petrol automatic with all-wheel drive confirmed that’s it’s an impressively refined cruiser. Despite the 226bhp and 350Nm of torque and a 0-60mph acceleration time of 8.0 seconds with a 120mph top speed, this car is unhurried, happy to cruise at motorway speeds – employing adaptive cruise control of course – and keen on city and back roads. It does feel a little bigger than you might be used to from behind the wheel if you’re moving on from the previous Sportage, but not unmanageable.
The AWD gives reassuring poise and grip and there’s a settled and comfortable gate to proceedings. This is a car you’d happily chew up miles in with passengers, and feel unstressed at the end of it. Fuel economy is quoted at just over 44mpg and CO2 Emissions are 146g/Km.
Swapping to the 1.6 T-GDi pure petrol, with a manual gearbox and front wheel drive, saw little loss of space, comfort or major features. The screen was still there, the clever cup holders weren’t, but you really wouldn’t miss them much.
What you gained however, particularly with the gearbox and despite being down on power, was a livelier, keener and more engaging experience. It’s slower with a top speed of 113mph and takes nearly two seconds longer from rest to 60mph at 9.9 seconds. Fuel economy is not much better at 41.5mpg, and even CO2 emissions are slightly higher at 154g/km. But you save around £10k with a price just under £31,000.
Nonetheless, for enthusiastic drivers, this is somehow the better choice, the engine feels not sluggish but punchy, eager to get going and sounding sportier. The manual change isn’t at all bad, and the car feels a little lighter on its feet, with reasonable dynamics managing to compensate for some scrabbling and hint of running wide at the front.
So, you’re left with a dilemma by the end of this review – should you go for all the kit and comfort and get the auto hybrid four £40k, which really on paper is the best car in the range, or save ten grand and go for slightly lower spec version with a manual? That all depends on the driver within you, but ultimate it only confirms that the new Sportage is another winner for Kia, with something for everyone offered within its range.