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Used Kia Sportage review: 2016 to 2021 (Mk4) - Engines, performance and drive

The Kia Sportage is neither the most comfortable nor the most fun SUV around, but it strikes a good balance in between

Carbuyer Rating

3.6 out of 5

Owners Rating
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Engines, drive and performance Rating

3.0 out of 5

As a reasonably tall crossover SUV, the Sportage is never going to be the most entertaining car in the world to drive, but compared with its rivals, it’s perfectly competent. It could be more comfortable, too, but the driving experience is exactly as good as it needs to be.

What is the Kia Sportage like to drive?

Most versions of the Sportage ride nicely and the steering is positive and direct, while there’s plenty of grip, too. The manual gearbox is precise and easy to use, while body lean is well controlled in the corners. Most of the time, the car with the four-wheel drive behaves like it's front-wheel drive, but it can send up to 40% of its power to the rear wheels if it detects the front is losing grip.

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However, it’s still very much a comfort-orientated driving experience and not quite as sharp as rivals such as the Ford Kuga, Mazda CX-5 and SEAT Ateca. It beats all three for ride smoothness; motorway surface imperfections and urban potholes are absorbed effectively and few shocks are transmitted to passengers. The large wheels and extra weight of the mild-hybrid technology in the range-topper detracts from this, however, making the ride somewhat bouncier.

Which engine should I choose?

The 1.6-litre turbo diesel engine in post-2018 models is a good place to start. It uses a 48-volt starter motor that can also give acceleration a small boost. This set-up is known as 'mild hybrid' and aims to improve fuel economy and lower emissions slightly.

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The front-wheel-drive version is the best one to go for because it’s faster and more efficient than other versions. You can pick auto or manual gearboxes – both are easy to drive and pleasant to use. The pulling power of the diesel engine means it offers flexible performance, giving you the ability to overtake while at most points in the rev range. At motorway speeds, the engine is quiet and feels relaxed, making the Sportage an easygoing cruiser.

Even though the petrol models are unlikely to be as popular as the diesel versions, they’re worth considering if you don’t drive a huge number of miles each year. The 174bhp turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine is impressively smooth and quiet, but unfortunately, despite what the figures suggest, it doesn’t actually feel all that quick.

When fitted with the seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox and front-wheel drive, it's the quickest model in the range on paper. It’ll get from 0-60mph in 8.6 seconds and go on to a top speed of 127mph. When equipped with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, it takes 8.9 seconds to cover the 0-60mph dash.

There’s one other 1.6-litre petrol engine but with no turbocharger. It produces 130bhp, gets the Sportage from 0-60mph in 11.1 seconds and on to a top speed of 113mph. Also, in older models there was a 1.7-litre diesel engine. This model is really efficient but the engine feels a bit old-fashioned now as it’s noisier than the newer diesel. It’s a good option for value for money and low running costs, however.

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