A new Sportage hit showrooms in early 2016, but the outgoing car was hardly short of talent. When the Mk3 version of Kia’s compact SUV arrived in 2010, it represented a major advance over its predecessor.
The Sportage was a hugely enticing package in an overcrowded sector; it offered striking looks, generous levels of kit, plus strong practicality and affordability.
There’s also Kia’s excellent seven-year warranty, so incredibly, if you buy one of the earliest models, it’ll still have at least two years’ cover remaining – nearly as much as most new cars. No wonder Kia couldn’t make the Sportage fast enough at launch.
The Kia Sportage was first produced in 1993 and is now in its fourth generation. It’s the Mk2 that was sold between 2004 and 2010 and the Mk3 that was on the market from 2010 to 2016 that we’re focusing on in this review.
Prices from £10,000
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The Sportage Mk3 arrived at the end of 2010. From the outset there were 1.6 or 2.0-litre GDi petrol engines, plus 1.7 or 2.0 CRDi diesels. The smaller engines featured front-wheel drive; the 2.0-litre models got standard four-wheel drive. Manual boxes were standard on most versions, with an auto optional on more powerful models.
At first there were three trim levels: 1, 2 and 3, with 4WD models getting a KX prefix. An even more luxurious KX-4 was added to the range in July 2012.
A facelifted Sportage hit dealers in July 2012, with extra kit, more options and minor styling changes. The special-edition Axis of July 2015 was limited to 1,200 cars. It was offered with the 1.6 GDi or 1.7 CRDi engines, and sat between the 2 and 3 trims.
There’s no seven-seat option; if you need space for more than five, you’ll have to trade up to Kia’s Sorento. All diesel Sportages have a diesel particulate filter, which can become clogged without regular high-speed driving, so low-mileage drivers should go for a petrol car; if you’re towing, specify the 2.0 CRDi.
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Every Sportage features alloy wheels, cruise control, air-con, powered windows, Bluetooth and a multifunction steering wheel. 2 trim adds reversing sensors, a glass roof and part-leather upholstery, while 3 brings full leather, heated seats front and rear, xenon headlights plus dual-zone climate control and 18-inch alloys.
Buy a KX-4 and you’ll also get self parking, plus a 181bhp 2.0 CRDi engine instead of the standard 134bhp diesel.
You’re spoiled for choice in this class, with the likes of the Nissan Qashqai, Ford Kuga and Toyota RAV4 worth a closer look. All are capable family cars – as are the Honda CR-V and Volkswagen Tiguan – and come with a choice of good petrol and diesel engines. However, only the Qashqai has a seven-seat option (badged Qashqai +2).
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Other desirable choices include the Skoda Yeti, Mazda CX-5 and Hyundai ix35, plus the significantly more expensive Land Rover Freelander, Audi Q3/Q5 and Range Rover Evoque. Many of these alternatives are better to drive, but few can match the Kia’s value, reliability and sharp looks.
The front seats can suffer from tears along the sides of the base, near the front, due to the frame chafing the material.
A lot of owners have found that their cars pull to one side – usually the left. Resetting the electric power-steering software helps.
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The standard headlights are fairly poor, which is why many owners uprate the bulbs. Even the xenon set-ups aren’t particularly great.
It’s not unusual for the alloys to corrode; the car we ran on our fleet suffered in this way. They should be replaced under warranty, though.
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Comfortable seating, plenty of head and legroom for five and decent-quality materials add up to an appealing cabin. The dashboard is clearly laid out and the boot is usefully sized, too, with a capacity of 564 litres when the rear seats are in place, or 1,353 litres when they’re folded.
Maintenance is required every 20,000 miles or 12 months, although for low-mileage drivers there’s an 11,000-mile/12-month option. Services alternate between minor and major, priced at £200 and £285 respectively (£50 and £210 for low-mileage drivers). All engines have a timing chain, so there are no cambelts to be replaced, but the brake fluid should be renewed every two years, with fresh coolant at 100,000 miles/five years for high-mileage drivers. On low-mileage examples this is 120,000/10 years. Three and five-year service packs cost £329 and £609, and are transferable with the car; see if a prospective purchase has one.
Two recalls in five years isn’t bad going. The first came in June 2013, as the brake light switches on Sportages made before September 2011 could suffer from faulty contacts, leading to further problems with the ESP, cruise control and gear selection where autos were concerned. A new switch was the solution. The second recall came in May 2014, and covered cars built from August 2011-March 2012. The belt pre-tensioners could fail in a crash, so dealers fitted a new one if necessary.
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The Kia Sportage Mk3 rose from 122nd in 2015 to 73rd in 2016 Driver Power satisfaction survey. Its highest scores were for reliability (46th), ride quality (55th) and build quality (62nd), but 94th for running costs was again a surprise. More predictable were rankings of 104th for handling and 102nd for performance.
The Sportage is Kia’s biggest seller, accounting for around a quarter of the brand’s UK sales. It’s not hard to see why; this SUV has won countless awards. It was our sister website Carbuyer’s Car of the Year in 2011, thanks to its breadth of abilities. As a used purchase the Sportage is just as alluring; it’s rare that you can buy a second-hand car with the same peace of mind as a new one, but that’s exactly what you get with a Sportage via Kia’s approved scheme. Not only does the brand subject the car to an 88-point check, it tops up the warranty to the same seven years as its new models.
Click through to page two for our full buyer's guide on the Kia Sportage Mk2 sold from 2004 to 2010...