The Car.co.uk verdict:4.0
Kia is on a roll when it comes to its design, tech, comfort and luxury, something that's reflected not just in the build quality of its vehicles, but also in its price. It's moved up-market in the last few years and we've seen the changes across the range from the Picanto and the Niro to the Sorento and its latest electric vehicle, the stunning new EV6.
It’s also very apparent in the new Kia Sportage, a vehicle which has come on a long way since the early days of it being cheap and cheerful, even to the point where it is Kia’s best-selling model and the one which ushers in a new design era for the brand. It features great looks, plenty of urban attitude and more practicality and tech than ever before. To get to know it better, we spent some time with the 1.6 GT Line S hybrid and while the range starts at £26,745, this one has a more premium price tag at £40,245.
Written by Mark Smyth
Dramatic and athletic looks
The new Sportage ushers in a brand new design strategy for Kia, so gone are the faux Porsche Cayenne looks of the previous generation and instead it’s all new, with lots of style and attitude. Boomerang-shaped daytime running lights and a large honeycomb grille dominate the facade and contribute to an overall appearance that is much more premium than we have seen in the past. It's a very good looking vehicle and while there are elements to the design that seem a little fussy, the fact that all the lines fit perfectly could well embarrass many a traditional premium car maker.
Kia is renowned for its affordability and practicality and there are lots of practical features in the new Sportage. There's a good amount of boot space and the boot features a split level floor with storage space underneath to hide things away. You’ll also find a tyre repair kit under there which will be disappointing to those who prefer a spare wheel but it does maximise on space.
As an SUV it features decent ground clearance for those back of nowhere adventures or parking for the school sports day and the one we are testing features all-wheel drive, which proved useful on some slippery roads. There are lots of storage spaces for all your stuff and if practicality means ease of use then you’ll find most of the controls are straightforward and well placed. The surfaces all feel of good quality, with plenty of luxurious soft-touch materials but you will want to keep a cloth in the car to wipe fingerprints off the piano black trim. Overall, it does a great job of ticking the practicality box.
Great layout with a premium feel
The overall length of the Sportage is 4,515mm, which translates into a wheelbase of 2,680mm and that provides a very spacious interior with loads of room in the back seats for the family. There’s a nice digital instrument panel with a number of different themes that you can go through to set up to your liking and a touchscreen infotainment system that is angled towards the driver. You will find yourself sometimes struggling a little bit to find the menus and the buttons that you want within all the things that are available though and the climate controls on a panel below can be a bit fiddly.
The GT Line S has heated and cooled form-hugging sports seats, a heated steering wheel, some very nice well laid out adjustable cupholders, a great storage binnacle between the seats, loads of storage pockets in the doors, and even what appear to be tablet holders on the back of the headrests, which will be useful for the kids. It’s all nicely laid out with a great feel to everything and a decidedly more upmarket ambience than owners of previous generations will be used to.
Equipment and options
Everything you need and more
Kia has always been great at for chucking everything in as standard, right from the days when it was one of the few companies to have an Apple iPod port. Granted this GT Line S comes in slightly over forty grand, but you’ll be hard pressed to find much on the options list. It has a wireless phone charging pad, electronic parking brake, hill start assist, intelligent speed limit assist, a decent lane keep assistance system and active cruise control, which worked well. There are 12-volt power sockets, coat hooks, climate control, auto lights, auto wipers, you name it, it’s got it, including suede leather upholstery and a 10-way adjustable front driver's seat. Really, you want for nothing in this one, even a Harman Kardon premium sound system and a 360-degree camera view.
It was let down a little by a DAB radio that frustratingly struggled to maintain a constant signal, but fortunately Apple CarPlay meant we could just switch to streaming from the phone, which strangely had no signal issues. What it also has are blind spot displays in the dash in the instrument panel, the same as we've seen debut on the new Genesis models from the same group as Hyundai and Kia and they are absolutely brilliant. Switch on your indicator and the display pops up so you can see everything in your blind spot without even having to look in the mirrors. It is a superb system and one would hope we're going to see similar from other manufacturers too.
Engine and power
Power to suit
The 1.6 GT Line S Hybrid pairs a 1.6-litre petrol engine with a 1.49kWh lithium-ion polymer battery. It’s a traditional hybrid set-up so don’t expect to be able to plug it in, although a PHEV version is available in the range. The battery produces around 59hp, enough to enable it to glide around in electric mode on those short local trips. Total power is 229hp at 5,500rpm and 350Nm of torque between 1,500-4,500. It’s not exhilarating in terms of acceleration, 0-60 is eight seconds and it has a top speed of 120, but it’s a family SUV not a sports car so and it has ample power to ferry the kids and their stuff around.
Happy at home or away
Most of the time, the Sportage provides a lovely drive thing to drive, especially if you do a lot of local short drives when you can spend some of the time driving electric without having to press any buttons. It's generally smooth and responsive, but doesn't provide the smoothest transition from electric to petrol power. Once it does though, it offers more than enough get up and go, even when fully loaded.
There are two driving modes; Eco, which we guess is everyone else’s ‘normal’ and Sport. Put it into Sport and the throttle response is quicker, but the engine also gets more shouty and not in a grin-inducing kind of way. So it's only if you suddenly see a twisty bit and decide you want to have a bit of fun that you're going to want to go there. As well as having a sport mode, you also have the option to use paddles on the steering wheel, but they don’t really do very much and it’s best just to leave the car to its own devices when it comes to gearchanges.
The suspension proved softer than we expected, especially for a model featuring a GT Line badge. Granted it’s not a proper GT model, that could well be coming, but it was definitely not as composed as we would have liked. Even so, we return to the fact that this is a well-equipped and spacious family SUV and in that regard, it proved to be comfortable most of the time.
Overall it’s not a match for rivals like the Mazda CX-5 in terms of the driving experience, but what it lacks there it more than makes up for in terms of equipment, space and comfort.
Top marks for safety
Safety is a big priority for Kia and the Sportage received a five-star EuroNCAP rating and has ABS, electronic stability control and forward collision avoidance, which turned out to be good at detecting pheasants. It has intelligent speed assist, lane following assist, lane keeping assist, all the assists. It also features active cruise control, those brilliant blind spot cameras and even a remote smart parking assistance system.
Should be trustworthy
It’s a Kia so while it might be a new generation, we would expect the Sportage to be reliable. It has a seven year/100,000 mile warranty with three years unlimited mileage, an anti perforation warranty for 12 years, paint warranty and Kia roadside assistance, so it’s all pretty well covered.
Don’t judge it purely by its price
The £40,245 price tag for the GT Line S will seem a little steep to many for a Sportage, but it really is packed with everything, although so too are group rivals like the Genesis GV70 and Hyundai Tucson. Then there’s the Toyota Rav4, Honda CR-V, Ford Kuga and Volkswagen Tiguan. Yes, it’s in a very competitive segment and one which Kia will be hoping the new Sportage continues to be a major player in.
In terms of fuel consumption, we averaged around 38 mpg over nearly 500 miles of driving. Kia is claiming a combined figure of 44.1 with a CO2 figure of 146g/km.
Family SUV that adds premium feel to its practical character
The Kia Sportage really has come a very long way since the days of its simple, clean value for money offering. Now it is a stylish, trendsetting SUV with all the features you would expect of a premium vehicle in a car costing substantially less than those with a proper premium badge. It's very well equipped with everything you could possibly need and should stand you in good stead and provide good family motoring for many years to come.