New Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48v mild hybrid review
Kia's 48v mild hybrid technology arrives in the Sportage SUV but do the benefits outweigh the costs?
We could argue about the benefits of electrification until the cows came home. Yet, it’ll take a dedicated hybrid convert to justify the price premium this 48-volt system commands on the latest Kia Sportage. It’s expensive to buy, and the less powerful diesel models are even more efficient. The facelifted SUV remains a talented all-rounder; we’d just save some money and opt for one of the cheaper models instead.
Many car makers are betting heavily on an electrified future, just as others plough ahead with diesel. Some, like Kia, are combining the two.
The range-topping Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48v isn’t quite as complex as the forthcoming Mercedes C 300 de plug-in, but it should mix the efficiency of a hybrid with the long-distance range of a diesel. You’ll pay for the privilege, however, as this mid-size SUV is almost as pricey as a middling seven-seat Kia Sorento.
Here, a 48-volt electrical system feeds power to a 0.44kWh lithium-ion battery. The cells are topped up when braking or coasting to offer the driver a boost under acceleration. This, Kia says, aids efficiency.
The set-up feels punchy enough. But there's a strange surge higher up the rev range – as if the turbo wakes up late to give you a hit of extra shove. Whether this is to do with the mild-hybrid tech or the eight-speed dual-clutch gearbox, we're not so sure.
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It's difficult to pick up the presence of the former, apart from when the motor switches off as you approach a junction. The box makes itself known, however, with sluggish responses and lethargic changes. It's not the best combination, and hampers what's otherwise an acceptable engine with decent refinement.
The chassis isn't the sweetest either. The Sportage has an unusual trait of bouncing around at around 40mph and lacks control. It's better the faster you go, but even on the motorway there are better-riding cars in this class.
The set-up controls body roll relatively well, though, and the steering is responsive. But there's very little feel or change in weight as you apply lock, so while it's fit for purpose, it’s not really anything more.
This mild-hybrid model arrives as part of the Sportage’s mid-life facelift, which itself includes tweaked styling and an updated infotainment system. The eight-inch display on our GT-Line S model uses the same menu layout as before, but with sharper graphics and faster load times. We’ve always been fans of Kia’s intuitive infotainment system, and it’s as good here as it’s ever been.
Elsewhere, interior quality is good – if a little shy of the German premium brands. While that may seem like an unfair comparison, at this price, those are the cars the top-spec Kia has to contend with. The new Audi Q3 raises the game in this area, and the Sportage’s functional but slightly dull layout can’t come close.
Space in the back seats is largely unaffected by the mild-hybrid system, but the boot is ever so slightly smaller. You’re unlikely to notice this in everyday use, though some buyers might lament the inclusion of a tyre repair kit rather than the usual space saver spare wheel.
The 48-volt system is only available on the 2.0-litre diesel engine and in conjunction with the range-topping ‘4’ or GT-Line S specs. Prices for the diesel hybrid start from £32,545 but all versions get LED lights, 19-inch wheels and that excellent eight-inch touchscreen. In addition, every model features electrically adjustable leather seats, an eight-speaker JBL sound system and a panoramic roof. Step up the GT-Line S tested here and you’ll add features like wireless phone charging, a 360-degree camera and an automatic tailgate.
The price penalty is even worse when you look at the monthly PCP finance deals. The 4-spec 2.0-litre 48v model is around £90 per month more than the standard 1.6 CRDi diesel on a two-year deal with a 10 per cent deposit.
And while the hybrid is faster, it loses out on fuel economy and emissions. Kia says the car tested here will return 48.7mpg, while the cheaper 1.6 should do 54.3mpg. The higher CO2 means it’ll be pricier for company car drivers, too.