We review the 2019 Kia Sportage

We review the 2019 Kia Sportage
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The Car.co.uk verdict:

3.8

Since the SUV revolution of 2007, the Kia Sportage has been a firm favourite with UK buyers – in fact; it’s generally come second only to the Nissan Qashqai in terms of small SUV sales figures over the past decade. The looks of this new facelifted model might not be to everyone’s taste – but since the Sportage comes with space and equipment in abundance, you may find yourself growing to love it.

As well as some design tweaks inside and out, Kia have introduced a range of new engines – most of which perform admirably – and a ‘mild hybrid’; a diesel engine that gets a bit of electric support when needed. It might not be ready to claim the throne from the Qashqai, but the Sportage is growing in strength as a contender.

Pros

  • Fantastic spec through the range – even in the entry-level Sportage ‘1’
  • Plenty of space for backseat passengers
  • Excellent infotainment system that’s fast and simple to use

Cons

  • The snub-nose look of the Sportage isn’t for everyone
  • You’ll struggle to get excited about the way it accelerates or handles
  • The most eco petrol engine leaves a fair bit to be desired in terms of performance

At a glance

  • Looks
  • Practicality
  • Engine & power
  • Reliability
  • Equipment & options
  • Interior
  • The drive
  • Cost
  • Safety
  • Why buy

Looks

4 out of 5

One of the bolder, better-looking cars in the small SUV class

Although this new Sportage is a facelift model, you need to have an eye for detail to pick out the changes. For fans of the bulky-nosed Kia SUV, this is definitely a good thing – but since it’s a car that splits opinions in the looks department, it’s probably not going to win any new fans. 

This 2019 version sees slightly redesigned bumpers, new LED headlights, and new fog lights – along with a handful of new colour options. While the Kia badge might not be as synonymous with style as say Audi or VW, the Sportage is a nice-looking SUV – and could never be accused of looking cheap.

The bold exterior looks even better as you climb the specification ladder. From ‘2’ spec level you’ll get a Sportage with contrasting roof bars, and from ‘Edition 25’ and upwards, you get aggressive looking headlights, additional body-styling a selection of diamond-cut alloys. As a cost-effective SUV, you get a lot of style for your money with a nicely spec’d Sportage.

Practicality

4 out of 5

A fairly spacious little SUV with plenty of passenger leg room

The Kia Sportage’s dimensions aren’t quite as generous as the spacious Mazda CX-5 or the Hyundai Tucson – but with just under 500l of boot space, it’s not far off. If you want to squeeze a big cargo into the back, you’ll get about 1,470l with the seats flat – and, since they do actually drop flat, there are no awkward bumps to work around. The Sportage comes with an adjustable boot floor too, so you can drop things a few inches and even stow the luggage cover. It’s worth remembering that this feature isn’t available on the hybrid version of the car though – as the electrics take up a bit of extra space back there.

As well as plenty of boot space, the Sportage is especially roomy for backseat passengers. While 3 adults side-by-side is a bit of a squeeze, individually, there’s plenty of leg room – and, headroom isn’t too cramped either. Reclining back seats are a nice touch too – adding a bit of extra comfort.

As a driver, you’re surrounded with very useable storage – and you can even sit your phone on a wireless charging pad in front of the gear shift. When it comes to getting comfy, you’ve got a world of adjustment between your seat and steering wheel too. All in all, the Sportage is a practical little SUV.

Engine & power

3.5 out of 5

Overhauled engine choices with a mild hybrid option

Kia has refined the engine choices available for the new Sportage. At entry-level, there’s a 1.6-litre petrol engine that leaves quite a lot to be desired in terms of performance – but it’s very economical and has service intervals that are almost double the subsequent turbocharged versions. If your Sportage will do little more than local supermarket runs you might be okay with this, but it feels a bit lacking anywhere else.

The 1.6-litre turbo engine is much better if you’d like an SUV with a bit of stamina. 0-60mph comes in a sprightly 8.7-seconds from the 176bhp unit, and it feels happy enough both around town and on longer motorway journeys. That said, if you spend a lot of time on motorways, you might want to check out the diesel options; either 116bhp or 136bhp; depending on the state of tune you’d like from the 1.6-litre engine. Don’t be fooled by the apparent low power of the 116bhp diesel engine though; the added torque means it actually pulls just as well (if not a little better) than the 132bhp petrol car.

Things get interesting in the Sportage when you opt for the top spec diesel engine; the 2.0-litre CRDI that’s twinned with a 48V electrical system that generates energy when you’re slowing or braking. This ‘mild hybrid’ set up offers an additional 16bhp that does a surprising amount of work – either giving the Kia a bit of extra acceleration when you put your foot down – or taking over completely when you’re sub-10mph. The extra electrical assistance means really great drive refinement – as the engine’s less frequently pushed.

Reliability

4.5 out of 5

Outstanding 7-year warranty and solid reliability

If there’s one thing we know about Kia, it’s that their 7-year, 100,000-mile warranty represents the best aftercare you’ll find in the mainstream UK motor industry.

Of course, it’s not just dealer back-up that Kia excels at – you’ll be hard pushed to find any reliability study that pegs the Korean manufacturer outside the top 5 brands – and the Sportage specifically is up there with the best too. Only time will tell if the mild hybrid technology that comes on the top-end Sportage will be as good as the rest of the engine options – but things are looking promising.

Equipment & options

4 out of 5

Nicely spec’d cars from entry-level upwards

Call us cynical, but when you’ve reviewed a lot of SUVs, you get used to the idea that manufacturers are going to have an ‘entry-level’ car that comes with a head-turning price tag – but lacks all virtually all but the most essential kit. With this in mind, it’s a genuine pleasure to look around the Sportage ‘1’ – Kia’s most modestly trimmed SUV.

The 1 is a nice-looking car. It doesn’t have the fancy body kit additions that some of the higher spec cars do, but it does have 16-inch alloys, LED running lights, air con, voice-controlled 7-inch infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, cruise control, and a reversing camera. That’s not a shabby equipment list considering the cost.

Of course, step up to the ‘2’ and you get some extras; 17-inch wheels, sat nav, dual climate control, heated front and rear seats, and privacy rear glass – as well as plenty of safety features; lane keeping assist, high-beam assist, and an intelligent speed limit warning system. The ‘Edition 25’ car gets an uprated 8-inch touchscreen, half leather, a JBL speaker pack, LED lights all round, and what seems to be an infinitely adjustable pair of electric front seats.

The Sportage 2 and Edition 25 are the popular models in the range – owing significantly to the great balance of cost and kit. That’s not to say you can’t go higher though; the Sportage ‘4’ bumps you up to 19-inch rims, full leather, and an opening panoramic roof; while the ‘GT-Line’ gets the standard ‘sporty’ addition of red stitching in the full black leather interior, a nice-looking body kit, and some posh-looking front fog lights.

If you want a totally top-spec Sportage, the ‘GT-Line S’ is the car for you though; you’ll get all the additions from the 4 and GT-Line cars – but with a power tailgate, 360 around view monitoring, wireless phone charging. Whether or not many GT-Line S’s will sell at £30,000+ remains to be seen – especially as mid-level Sportages are so generously loaded.

Interior

3 out of 5

The Sportage interior falls a little short of the quality Kia is aiming for

This facelifted Sportage has had a handful of tweaks on the inside. The dash is largely the same – but the instrument cluster is new, and the steering wheel has definitely been upgraded from the slightly cheap feeling wheel on the last version of the car. It’s worth noting that the infotainment system is genuinely excellent – in fact, it’s better than most we’ve used, even in more costly cars. With intuitive sat nav and a quick, responsive screen, it’s a definite highlight.

On the face of it, the quality of the Sportage’s interior is quite nice. Sure, the design isn’t for everyone, but it’s hard to argue that the integrated screen doesn’t look neat, and there’s plenty of soft-touch materials around you. The problem is, Kia has made it no secret that they’re trying to up the quality of affordable vehicles – and this Sportage just doesn’t quite deliver that. There are a few places where plastics feel cheap or button surrounds look unfinished – and it’s almost as if the soft-touch materials ran out before they got into deciding what rear-seat passenger will see. 

The Sportage interior isn’t bad – but it’s got a bit of a way to go until it’s up to the VW-type standard that the marque aspires to.

The drive

3.5 out of 5

Decent ride quality that’s a definite improvement on previous versions

As is increasingly the case on small SUVs, ride quality gives way to style when 18-inch and 19-inch wheels take their place under the arches. It’s a shame Kia has followed this trend, as driving a larger-wheeled Sportage around town gets a bit bumpy – especially over poorly surfaced roads.

Get the Sportage out of town and you’re in for a pleasant enough experience though. While it’s not a thrilling car to take on country roads, it’s got plenty of grip and doesn’t roll as much as you might expect from such an upright little vehicle. While corners are handled reasonably well, feedback through the wheel is limited, so you don’t really feel part of the car in the way you do a Ceed. Still, this is the best Sportage we’ve driven – so Kia is taking the car in the right direction.

The Sportage does well on the motorway; a good driving position means you’ve got tons of visibility – even when the chunky pillars get in the way a little. Road noise is minimal, and the suspension seems to deal with bumps better at speed – making for very comfortable long distances.

Curiously, Kia has decided every Sportage model should come with an assisted hill descent control, and while it’s not going to be something most drivers use frequently, it’s could come in handy if you find yourself trying to teeter your way down a hill when there’s snow or ice on the road.

Cost

4 out of 5

Average prices – but above average equipment levels

The Kia Sportage price begins at £20,670 for a 1 trimmed car with the non-turbo 1.6 GDi ISG petrol engine. The entry-level car is also available with the diesel 1.6 CRDi ISG engine if you’re a high-mileage user on a budget. While these aren’t necessarily the best balance of cost/spec, they’re definitely competitive – a Qashqai at the same price point is lacking alloys, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, front fogs, and a variety of other luxuries that come with the 1.

It’s personal choice of course, but for most people, the 2 spec car is going to be perfectly up to any challenge that comes its way. The alloys are nice-looking but not big enough to hinder low-speed ride quality, the roof bars give the car some presence, and the additional driver assistance aids make it a thoroughly well-spec’d little SUV – which is quite something for a car that’s sub-£25,000.

If you’ve got an athletic-looking Sportage in mind, GT-Line cars will weigh-in at around £28,000 with an engine that keeps up with the looks. It’s only luxury GT-Line S vehicles that’ll break through £30,000 – with the 48V mild hybrid making the biggest dent in your wallet – at £35,000. On the face of things, the Sportage is roughly the same cost as the equally popular Qashqai, but in reality, it’s a better spec’d vehicle – keeping up with the Skoda Karoq in the equipment stakes.

Safety

4 out of 5

Plenty of safety equipment to keep you out of harm’s way

Although the design’s been tweaked, the Sportage is still essentially the same car that was awarded 5 stars in Euro NCAP testing. Despite the Sportage being a slightly narrower body compared to the Honda CR-V – the car was still commended for its performance in side-impact testing.

While impact performance is vitally important, it’s also nice to know Kia has made sure there’s plenty onboard to help you avoid accidents in the first place; ABS, stability control, and tyre-pressure monitoring come on all cars – and stepping up to 2 trim level sees the addition of lane keeping assist, speed limit warnings, and driver attention warnings. Making your way into top spec cars gets adaptive cruise control, blind spot collision warnings, and auto emergency braking too.

Why buy

3.5 out of 5

A good little SUV that deserves its place as one of the UK’s favourites

Sportages and Qashqais have become go-to options when it’s time to shop for a small SUV – and for good reason, Kia’s offering drives admirably, comes well-spec’d, and does the job in the practicality stakes perfectly well.

Interestingly, it’s the cars at the lower end of the specification range that really stand out. Sure, fancy trim levels and leather seats are nice – but they’re the icing on an already good cake, and the Sportage cake is just as appealing if you’ve got a limited budget. You can sit in a 1 spec vehicle and not feel like you’ve had to make compromises – which is more than can be said for lots of other marques.

The Sportage doesn’t excel in any area specifically, but it’s a good all-rounder, and you’ll need to look to the Skoda Karoq for a car that performs equally well across the board. If you’re in the market for an SUV, the Sportage is well-worth taking the time to test-drive.