Review: Kia Sportage 2016
Whatever you think of the new front, the Sportage is certainly well equipped, comfy, roomy and well priced. The Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai had better watch out.
When it came to replacing the outgoing Kia Sportage, the Korean manufacturer could have been forgiven for simply giving its Qashqai rival a nip here and a tuck there and leaving it at that.
After all, as we remarked when we drove the outgoing car, it was “evolution, rather than revolution, required to keep pace with the big boys”.
With this 2016 model, however, Kia has been bold and made wholesale changes. That’s laudable courageousness, but has it resulted in a laudable car?
Let’s get it out of the way right now; the new Sportage has a new face. Incorporating the brand’s tiger-nose grille, it is certainly a departure from the restrained, handsome features of old. Some like it, some don’t.
We, meanwhile, are taking the ultimate cop-out by remaining firmly perched on the fence. Numerous office, err, ‘discussions’ have proven inconclusive, and we simply can’t make our minds up.
At first, we were sceptical, but now we’re wavering. It seems that some angles flatter the new nose, while others reinforce the doubts we had when it was first launched.
We’re far more confident about the rest of it. Everything aft of the front wheels features a modern, clean design with just the right amount of styling. We’re particularly fond of the tailgate, which is neatly dissected by the tail lights.
The same’s true inside, where the dashboard is neatly laid out and the excellent touchscreen infotainment system dominates. Build quality is good for a mainstream car, with only a few small areas of cheap plastic poking through an otherwise unbroken expanse of soft-touch materials and solid switchgear.
It’s spacious, too, with bags of elbow room in the front, plenty of legroom in the back, and a sizeable boot. At 491 litres with the rear seats upright, it’s 61 litres larger than that of the class-leading Nissan Qashqai.
Standard equipment is also impressive. Our test car may only have come in the fairly lowly ‘2’ specification, but it had all the mod cons. Despite an asking price of just £20,500, it boasted a 7in touchscreen with satellite navigation and a reversing camera, 17in alloy wheels and two-zone climate control.
You can have all this, teamed with the fleet-friendly 1.7-litre diesel engine, for a very reasonable average business lease rate of £177 per month, while private customers would have to fork out an average of £217*. You could spend a touch more on a higher spec, but unless you’re desperate for leather seats or an automatic gearbox, there really is very little point.
It’s that 1.7-litre diesel engine that will make up a large chunk of Sportage sales, and it’s also the engine we’re testing here. Producing 114bhp, it manages 0-62mph in 11.1 seconds and it provides a top speed of 109mph.
More importantly, however, it’ll return 61.4mpg and 119g/km CO2 emissions, which put it in the 23% company car tax bracket.
On the road, it’s a solid performer, if ultimately a little less powerful than would be ideal. That’s only a problem higher up the rev range, though – there’s no issue with low-down grunt and it only feels sluggish if you’re really trying to push it.
If that powertrain doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, however, you can rest easy in the knowledge that you’ve got plenty of other engines to choose from. If you want a more powerful diesel, you can upgrade to the 2.0-litre engine with 182bhp, while those wanting petrol power can opt for the entry level 1.6 with 130bhp, or a turbocharged version with 174bhp.
Unsurprisingly, that potent petrol engine is far from efficient, but 37.5mpg and 177g/km CO2 emissions aren’t so bad, all things considered.
The road manners
You might expect, then, that such a diverse engine range would dominate the Sportage range, but you’d be wrong. Bulk is the defining factor of this crossover.
The new Sportage may only be 4cm longer than its predecessor, yet it feels far larger on the road. It doesn’t lumber about like a pick-up truck might, but it certainly lets you know that you’re driving an SUV. It feels wide, heavy and very solid.
Of course, whether those traits are good or bad will come down to taste, but we like it. It feels more planted than its forebear, and the extra weight to the controls also allows a precision that’s missing from, say, a Hyundai Tucson. It’s as fun to drive as most customers would want, without ever giving the Mazda MX-5 (or the CX-5, for that matter) any sleepless nights.
Whether you like the styling or not, there’s no getting around the fact that the Sportage is a very capable crossover. It’s laden with kit, roomy, well-priced and comfortable. The Mazda CX-5 and Nissan Qashqai had better watch out.
Kia Sportage ‘2’ 1.7 CRDi at a glance
Boot space: 491 / 1,480 litres
Engine: 1.7-litre 4-cylinder turbodiesel (114bhp)
Transmission: 6-speed manual
Top speed: 109mph
Fuel economy: 61.4mpg
CO2 emissions: 119g/km
Average business lease rate: £177/month*
Average personal lease rate: £217/month*
*Average lease rates calculated using ContractHireAndLeasing.com data and based on typical 6+35 10k deals. Correct at time of writing.