Kia Sportage review
Stylish looks, a seven-year warranty and a great-value price tag make the Kia Sportage a hugely desirable crossover
The Kia Sportage is a rival to the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti, and thanks to its off-the-wall looks, a long list of standard equipment and strong build quality, it's the most desirable model yet from the ambitious Korean car maker.
When it comes to head-turning glamour, the Kia Sportage certainly takes some beating. Kia design boss Peter Schreyer was the man behind the Audi TT, and it shows – the Sportage arguably garners more admiring glances than many premium alternatives, including the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan.
Yet there’s more to this crossover than its catwalk looks, as it boasts an upmarket interior, generous equipment list and family-friendly practicality. Better still, it’s backed by a seven-year warranty and, as with the Qashqai, its available in efficient two and go-anywhere four-wheel-drive guises.
Since its launch in 2010, the Sportage has taken the crossover market by storm – thanks in part to the Kia industry-leading seven-year warranty, but also due to how fun it is to drive and how little it costs to run.
If you opt for the front-wheel drive entry-level diesel model, you’ll benefit from low emissions and more the 54mpg fuel economy, which although isn’t as impressive as the faster Mazda CX-5, it’s worlds ahead of the Land Rover Freelander.
The icing on the cake is that even given the extensive kit list, the Kia Sportage is still affordable to buy – and literally thousands of pounds cheaper than the basic Ford Kuga. Head to Kia’s website and you should be able to find some decent finance and lease deals, too.
Our choice: Sportage 2 1.7 CRDi EcoDynamics 2WD
Even now, four years after making its debut, the Kia still attracts attention. With its high-riding stance, low roofline and aggressive nose, the Sportage looks like a concept for the road.
Stand it next to a Nissan Qashqai and that alone will make you wonder why the Kia hasn’t yet overtaken its Japanese rival in the UK sales charts. Visual highlights include the bold front grille, large swept-back headlamps and a swooping roofline.
The cabin’s equally stylish and is dominated by the neat and clear dashboard. Build quality is a match for the Nissan’s, plus there’s plenty of kit, including heated front and rear seats, intuitive sat-nav and dual-zone climate control.
All versions get distinctive LED daytime running lights at the front, dark tinted rear windows and alloy wheels as standard, while top-spec models add heated leather seats and xenon headlights. The interior is stylish and well equipped, with a dashboard that takes its cues from the Sportage’s exterior grille.
While overall quality is a step forward from the firm’s previous offerings towards the turn of the century, look closely and you’ll spot the odd piece of cheap plastic trim, but it’s not enough to detract from car’s surprisingly upmarket look and feel.
Given its high-riding stance, the Sportage drives incredibly well and far better than many Kias of old. While the steering and body control lacks the precision and agility of the Skoda Yeti, the Sportage has plenty of grip and a composed ride, while the diesel engines pack plenty of torque for overtaking.
Entry-level 1.6-litre petrol and 1.7-litre diesel engines are front-wheel drive only, while the 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines benefit from an electronically controlled four-wheel drive system.
The latter work really well, but even the entry-level diesel feels responsive enough in everyday driving, while decent forward visibility makes every model a doddle to drive around town. Overall, the petrols are refined, but the diesels’ blend of performance and efficiency make them the most desirable options – and the ones we’d recommend.
Although the Kia’s styling is bang up to date, the drive is showing its age. A combination of hefty weight and a notchy shift means it can't match the eager Suzuki SX4 S-Cross for handling.
It trails its rivals on the road, too. Not only does it feel more sluggish, but it suffers from more body roll and there’s less grip. And while the major controls are light, the small windows and thick A-pillars hamper visibility around town. As a result, the Kia is most at home on the motorway, where its firm low-speed ride softens and wind and road noise are kept well in check.
While the current Sportage finished a low 49th in Driver Power 2013, owners praised its in-car tech and reliability. Better still, Kia finished an excellent seventh in the manufacturer standings, plus all its models have a seven-year warranty.
The Skoda Yeti was the only crossover to finish higher – in fifth place. Of particular interest to consumers will be the car’s 13th position for in-car tech, meaning owners can have confidence in all the gadgetry and accessories that come as standard on the Sportage.
Every Sportage gets six airbags, stability control and anti-whiplash headrests, which helped it to a five-star Euro NCAP crash test score. Yet unlike the NIssan Qashqai, there’s no option to add lane departure warning, blind spot monitoring or autobraking.
The Sportage has been designed with family buyers in mind, so it’s no surprise to find it has a spacious and practical interior. The boxy dimensions ensure plenty of head and legroom in the rear seats, as well as loads of useful storage space, courtesy of deep door bins and a large glovebox. Kia Sportage boot space is also generous, open the large tailgate and you’ll discover a 564-litre load area, and if you fold the rear bench flat, that area increases to 1,353 litres. This is more than the Nissan Qashqai and Skoda Yeti with the seats up, but considerably less than both with the seats folded, which is a shame when you consider all of the car’s other plus points. If you’re planning on going off road, the powerful 2.0-litre petrol and diesel models are fitted with an intelligent four-wheel-drive system that comes with an easy-to-use 4x4 lock switch to help with traction when needed. All models have a maximum unbraked towing capacity of 750kg, while its braked figure ranges from 1,200 to 2,000 depending on which model you go for.
As you’d expect from Kia, the Sportage represents excellent value for money – even if it commands a slight premium over models of old.
Competitive prices, a long list of standard equipment and the manufacturer’s trademark seven-year/100,000-mile warranty all help to boost its considerable showroom appeal. Kia offers a pre-paid £329 servicing pack that covers all routine maintenance for three years, plus our experts predict that the Sportage will hold on to more than 50 per cent of its value after three years.
Better still, residual values are surprisingly strong and easily match those of premium rivals such as the Land Rover Freelander. The Sportage's mpg and CO2 emissions are also quite impressive – the most efficient model is the front-wheel-drive 1.7-litre CRDi EcoDynamics diesel with stop-start, which promises average fuel consumption of 54.3mpg and only 135g/km.
This version also falls into insurance group 10 (or 12 if you opt for a higher trim level or the larger alloys), which should help keep premiums to a minimum – boosting its appeal even further. If keeping running costs to a minimum is a priority, steer clear of 4x4 and automatic models, as they offer slightly worse economy and marginally higher CO2 emissions than the front-wheel drive and manual models.