Kia Sportage (2004-2010) review
Outclassed by newer rivals, the Kia nevertheless has value on its side.
Kia offers two petrol engines with the Sportage, but it’s the 2.0-litre turbodiesel that makes most sense. The common-rail unit is quiet and produces very few vibrations. With only 248Nm it doesn’t offer that much torque, but it picks up well from low revs and power delivery remains strong through the range. However, it can’t overcome the weighty car’s off-road nature, while the 4WD system saps power too, limiting economy and performance. Kia has tried to improve things by fitting a six-speed gearbox - but first is so short, it’s a pain in towns. There is an auto alternative, but oddly, this only comes with 2WD. As for suspension, in 2008 the steering was retuned and dampers firmed up to lessen body roll. Both changes were necessary, as the handling in the previous version was soft and detatched enough to really concern us. At least traction wasn’t a problem. The torque transfer system automatically shifts from front- to four-wheel-drive when necessary, and there’s also a lock button for permanent 4WD when off-roading.
Have you ever considered an off-roader as a potential alternative to a family hatch? It’s doubtful. So why not go the whole hog and buy a genuine one, such as the Sportage, rather than models like the Dodge Caliber and Nissan Qashqai? It’s not as if the Kia is particularly big or intimidating, and the styling is far from aggressive either, looking neat and tidy. The model was refreshed in early 2008, with a new front bumper, grille, door mirrors and headlights, while the shift in production to Kia’s new European plant meant a seven-year warranty became standard. There's a straightforward model range; XE and XS models are well-equipped, while the Titan range-topper is relatively lavish. However, if you're considering the Sportage, you must also look at sister company Hyundai's Tucson.
The driver doesn’t come off particularly well in the Kia. The layout isn’t all that creative, although new seats for 2008 meant better support and comfort for European-shaped occupants. Ergonomics and quality aren’t bad, but it’s no match for a VW – though Kia has relocated the indicator stalk to the ‘correct’ side. Nevertheless, there’s reasonable stowage and the cabin is practical and hard-wearing. It has an easily accessible boot too, with no load lip and a separate opening tailgate glass. The boot is really long once the seats are folded, and that process is simplicity itself. One handle operates each side of the 60:40 split rear bench and the base lowers as you pull the backrest forward. What’s more, the Sportage also offers commanding rear legroom. There are surprises when you crunch the numbers as well; retained values of over 50 per cent are excellent, while we only just failed to top 40mpg when we tested it for economy; however, services are a bit dear and CO2 emissions are on the high side.