Kia Sportage review

Our Rating: 
2010 model
By Auto Express Test TeamComments

Stylish looks, a seven-year warranty and great-value price tag make the Kia Sportage a desirable crossover

Attractive design, good equipment levels, seven-year warranty
Some cheap materials, steering lacks feel, running costs could be cheaper

Sponsored Links

Kia's Sportage is a stylish SUV that takes the fight to the Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai, and thanks to its modern looks, good equipment list and solid build quality, it's still one of the best cars in the Korean brand's range.

There's no doubt that, even four years since it was launched, the Sportage still cuts a dash in the large crossover class. It's one of the first complete cars to be designed by Kia styling chief Peter Schreyer, and the elegant lines mean it stands out. It's arguably more interesting to look at than even more premium rivals such as the BMW X1 and Volkswagen Tiguan, and still looks good compared to the new Qashqai.

In 2014, the Kia Sportage was given a bit of nip and tuck, adding a revised grille, new LED tail-lights and a 'shark fin' roof antenna, and it still keeps up there with the best. It also added even more equipment for no extra cost.

Yet there’s more to this crossover than style, as it boasts a good quality interior, generous equipment and a practical cabin. Better still it’s backed by a seven-year warranty and, as with many rivals, it comes with the option of two or four-wheel drive for go-anywhere capability.

The Sportage looks good and is well equipped, but the engine range is a bit of a letdown. It's available with a 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine, 1.7-litre CRDi diesel or a 2.0-litre CRDi diesel, but none of them can match the latest engines from rivals for emissions or economy. Whichever engine you choose, there are four trim levels numbered 1-4, while cars with four-wheel drive add a KX prefix.

Since its launch in 2010, the Sportage took the crossover market by storm – thanks in part to the industry-leading Kia seven-year warranty, but also due to decent running costs and its car-like driving dynamics. Rivals such as the Mazda CX-5 have since overtaken it in that area, however.

If you opt for the front-wheel drive entry-level diesel, you’ll benefit from low emissions and 54mpg fuel economy, although again the faster CX-5 is a better performer.

However, the big plus point for the Sportage is that despite its extensive standard kit, it's still affordable to buy – and thousands of pounds cheaper than the basic Ford Kuga. Head to the Kia website and you can often find some decent finance and lease deals, too.

Our choice: Sportage 2 1.7 CRDi EcoDynamics 2WD

Engines, performance and drive


Given its high-riding stance, the Sportage drives incredibly well, and far better than many Kia models of old. While the steering and body control lacks a certain amount of precision and agility, the Sportage has 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.

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi rear track

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 suffers from a lot of body roll and not huge amounts of grip. The small windows and thick A-pillars hamper visibility around town, too. Thanks to a soundproofed windscreen and new suspension bushings, the ride has improved a little and road noise levels have been reduced. 

MPG, CO2 and running costs


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 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 rivals such as the Nissan Qashqai. The Sportage's mpg and CO2 emissions are a bit of a letdown – 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 135g/km emissions, which isn't quite as good as equivalent rivals from Mazda and Nissan.

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 poor economy and higher CO2 emissions than the front-wheel drive and manual models.

Interior, design and technology


Kia design chief Peter Schreyer has built up a formidable reputation for creating good-looking cars, and the Sportage was one of his first full designs for the company. Even after four years on sale, it still looks distinctive, with a large grille and headlamps up front, and a low roof line and small window area.

The 2014 styling updates have left the Sportage largely unchanged, with the only revisions being larger xenon headlights, a new grille design and revised tail-lamps. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing, as the car manages to look chunky without being too imposing, and from some angles – especially the rear – it doesn’t appear as fussy as a Qashqai.

Trim levels 3 and above add 18-inch alloy wheels, which fill the arches nicely, while black plastic arch extensions, chrome trim and silver roof rails add to the rugged off-roader looks.

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi rear off-road

Inside, Kia has made revisions to help give the Sportage a lift. The original car had a lot of black plastic inside, but now features matt grey trim on the dash and around the gearlever  to break up the monotony. Plus, many of the plastics have been finished in what Kia calls soft nano paint, which feels rubbery to touch.

The other big change is a new instrument pod ahead of the driver. The speedo and rev counter are now positioned either side of a larger colour TFT trip computer display.

However, the angle and curve of the glass can reflect the sun from some angles, which obscures the dials. The rest of the Sportage’s cabin is largely unchanged, which means it’s well built and features an excellent touchscreen sat-nav, but it’s a little uninspiring due to its dark colours.

Practicality, comfort and boot space


The Kia Sportage has a 564-litre boot, and it also has a low loading lip and decent space under the load cover. What's more, leather straps attached to the seatbacks mean they’re easy to fold down. Do this and you have 1,353 litres of storage at your disposal.

The Kia Sportage also features a 12V power socket and storage bin on one side of the boot, while the other side holds the subwoofer for the stereo – although this doesn’t hurt boot space at all.

Kia Sportage 1.7 CRDi interior

You step up into the Sportage, and while rear-seat space is good, taller passengers will notice that headroom is a bit tight, especially if you go for a model fitted with a panoramic glass roof. The high floor does mean that there’s no transmission tunnel for middle-seat passengers to deal with, though, and foot space is reasonable

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 the braked figure ranges from 1,200kg to 2,000kg depending on which engine you go for.

Reliability and Safety


Kia is confident in the reliability of the Sportage: the whole range is covered by a seven-year or 100,000-mile warranty. However, the Sportage was recalled due to a potential fault with the seatbelt pretensioner.

On the plus side, the only cars affected were built from October 2011 to November 2012, and it’s believed no injuries have occurred as a result of the problem.

In all other respects, the Kia has good safety credentials: six airbags, active head restraints, stability control and tyre-pressure monitoring are standard. Yet kit like lane-departure warning, lane-keeping assist and low-speed collision avoidance aren’t even available as options.

In our 2014 Driver Power survey, the pre-facelift Kia Sportage ranked 72nd out of 150 cars. 

Disqus - noscript

Not a bad car. Kia has come a long way from being a second-choice brand. I have noticed that Kia keeps pushing up the price with each new or upgraded model. Now they are very close to class leaders. They need to understand that price is part of a car's appeal.

Sadly, the talented Herr Schreyer has lost it completely here! It is as gross in appearance as any other SUV. Please, anyone who wants to buy a vehicle of this sort, buy a Yeti and spare the rest of us.

I've had a Sportage KX-3 since May 2012 having previously had a Volvo. Whilst the Sportage does indeed have lots of extras as standard it lacks refinement and is crude when compared to other offerings such as the Honda CRV, Volvo XC60 and the Land Rover Freelander. If you're not a regular motorway driver you may experience a really rough tickover when the diesel particulate filter needs to re-generate.Although this is usually fixed by driving on the motorway for 20 minutes or so at 70mph. Nevertheless this is really annoying and a feature of the 2.0 diesel engine.Apparently this may be fixed in the future via a software update. All in all the 2012 Sportage KX-3 is a bit like driving a tractor!!

Erm, if the Kia Sportage did so well in it's NCAP safety tests, comes with a 7 YEAR WARRANTY and voted better than the likes of Audi and BMW in a build quality survey - dare I ask why it didn't get a straight 5 stars in this review for reliability? Just wondering.....

Are you tripping? The Kia Sportage is hands down better looking than than the Yeti - which, quite frankly, looks like an oversized mobility vehicle in comparison! LOL

The worst car I have ever bought.

It's nothing like the car I test drove, awful auto gearbox, drinks fuel like crazy, Want a car that does just about 22 or less around town?

You've found it.

Handling is bland & inert and lacks any sort of feedback, boot is small & not as described.

Don't touch the KX-4 Auto, it's overpriced, super thirsty and generally awful, I wish Kia would take it away and give me some money back because I'd be off to a VAG dealer like a shot!

Great looks but why haven't you reported its ofroad performance?

The leather at the side of my 2011 Kia Sportage drivers seat has been replaced twice in the past two years because it tears due to a fault in the seat. Kia appear to be happy with just keep replacing the leather covering ,what a joke. Just noticed a tear now in the passengers seat. Is there a real fix for this. Everything else in this car is 100%

There's no right or wrong when it comes to taste. But I wouldn't buy this if it was the last car in the showroom!

I like the look of the Kia but the car is awful. I took a 30 min test drive and at the end of it myself and my wife felt quite sick, the ride is absolutely awful, it is forever jiggling about. The steering is completely lifeless, no feel at all and the engine 1.7 diesel lacked grunt. The interior looked ok but was made of cheap feeling materials. Overall looks good but poorly designed and engineered. You can get these on drive the deal for under 16k which makes them good value but you will have to buy a lot of sick bags!

The Sportage is out & out rubbish, the handing is poor & inert absolutely NO feedback it lacks any involvement whatsoever,

When you compare the quality, reliability & reputation of the cars, isn't it strange that the Yeti is 1st in the 2012 Driver Power survey.

Where is the Krappy Kia? 49th, which sort of speaks volumes about how bad the Sportage is!

The build quality of the Yeti is far superior to that of the Krappy Kia, as is everything else.

The Yeti doesn't have the 1.7's winter fuelling problem, where the 1.7 cuts out without warning in low temperatures, really safe that isn't it!

An issue Kia UK knows all too well about, yet it REFUSES to acknowledge the problem exists.

Then there's the pulling to the left issue, again Kia UK REFUSES to acknowledge the problem exists,

The auto gearbox is atrocious and rarely gets the selection right, especially if you you put your foot hard to the floor...


Don't order an automatic, the auto is exceptionally thirsty and it's an old slush "Torque Converter" type, the one in my junk heap is terrible, it never gets it right.

Still won't have it much longer, as I PX'd for a Skoda Octavia vRS! :-)

Are you for real? Out of the hundreds and hundreds of different cars out there, 49th is hardly bad. I think you need to look at all the other cars below this car before trying to say this is bad.

Enjoy your Yeti with it's broken jerky DSG gearbox. Just be careful VW actually cover it when it inevitably stuffs up, instead of trying to deny any responsibility like they did in Australia.

I've not got a Yeti and I won't have one either for the foreseeable future.

The difference between AU & UK is primarily the operating climate so you can't really compare the two.

Anyways you're welcome to the Sportage, the worst handling SUV car around and the worst auto box I've ever used it's out of date and obsolete it's useless it's more confused than someone who has alzheimers and dementia.

49th is dire and it's dropping down rapidly. If the Yeti is so bad why does it keep coming top of the driver power survey?

You're just jealous that the VW group have a superior SUV.

I would suggest that you go back to the kia owners club forum/website where you belong


I've had a 1.7d '1' for a couple of months now after buying it as an ex demonstrator from a freat garage in cambridge. It's comfortable, easy to get in and out. Feels very well built, 50mpg and more on longer runs. And, contrary to paulhitch, I really do like the looks that I feel set it aside from the rest. Downside is lack of seat height adjustment on front passenger seat and disappointing full beam illumination. Having a proper, full size alloy spare wheel is a great bonus, too. Stopping in the middle of nowhere in the country or motorway is at best inconvenient, as worst very dangerous. I don't want to continue any journey with 50mph limit and reduced safety with space saver tyre. Yes, I'll carry inflation kit, too to avoid actually changing the wheel. All in all, I really like the sportage

I was really interested in the dsg gearbox with yeti, but read of recalls and massive problems, such that russia and china have around 7 year warranties on the dsg. so much for vag reliability

I have worked on a lot of Sportage, and we fit loads of GPS Upgrades for Kia Dealers. The products that we fit will allow for a HD Camera to be fitted reducing the visibility issues, that some customers have complained about.
I personally think Kia have come a long, long way from there early cars to now offer a well designed well built class of cars for the money.
DriveAudio offer a complete system to heighten the cars Audio.

I got a full sized spare too. So.

If I see you stuck beside the road or in the middle of the road because your Kia has a fuel problem which is prevalent, then I'll give you a toot as I pass & laugh.

Because it handles like a barge & wallows more than a hippopotamus and drinks fuel like it's cheap gin/vodka.

Let's be blunt a warranty is only any good if something fails during it and more than likely that Kia, just like any other manufacturer will try and find some way of wiggling out of paying for the repair.

Otherwise the warranty isn't worth the paper it's written on.

Last updated: 20 Mar, 2015