Kia Sportage SUV - Engines, drive & performance
The Kia Sportage is refined at speed, although can be noisy when you’re accelerating
Family SUVs aren’t really designed to cater for keen drivers, but the Kia Sportage is as agile and precise as most will need. It’s not quite as good to drive as a Ford Kuga or Mazda CX-5, but it’s not far behind.
There’s very little body roll, for a start, although this is achieved by a slightly firm ride. That means the Sportage will occasionally crash into bumps and potholes but for the most part comfort is acceptable. Direct steering gives you confidence despite a lack of road feel, while Sportage grips harder than you’d expect in corners.
The Sportage doesn’t reward hard acceleration. The hybrid model we tested was noisy getting up to speed, with quite a harsh tone from the petrol engine. It’s much better if you stick to a relaxed pace and is impressively refined once you’re at cruising speed. Refinement is good at lower speeds, as then the car can run on electric power for short periods of time.
Kia Sportage hybrid engines
Topping the Sportage range for the first time is a plug-in hybrid model, capable of over 40 miles of electric range. It also gets 261bhp, but isn’t the fastest in the line-up - largely because its larger battery makes it heavier. Below this is the 227bhp “self-charging’ hybrid. Both use Kia's familiar turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol engine. The 227bhp version hits 0-62mph in 7.7 seconds, so it’s a little quicker than the equivalent Hyundai Tucson, while the PHEV sneaks in at around eight seconds. Both hybrid models come with a six-speed automatic gearbox as standard, while the PHEV gets four-wheel drive (it’s an option on the hybrid GT-Line S).
The standard 1.6-litre petrol engine produces 148bhp and is available on all trim levels. It’s paired to a six-speed ‘intelligent’ manual gearbox (the clutch is controlled electronically, rather than mechanically, although you still need to manually press and release the pedal) but a seven-speed automatic gearbox is also available. Pick the auto and you’ll get 48-volt mild-hybrid technology for slightly improved fuel economy. All petrols get from 0-62mph in under 10 seconds, so will feel perfectly suited to British roads, even if they’re not as brisk as the hybrids.
It was a little surprising that Kia offered the Sportage with a diesel engine, and it appears it has already disappeared from the online configurator. The Hyundai Tucson was going to be offered with the same 1.6-litre diesel as fitted in the Sportage but it was very quickly withdrawn. The engine was carried over from the old Sportage and, like the petrol, it comes with mild-hybrid technology on automatic versions. Manual versions get 113bhp, while the auto boasts 134bhp. The on paper figures of over 11 seconds don’t get the heart racing, but the diesels will be effortless and relaxing in everyday use thanks to their muscular torque in the middle of the rev range – if you can find one in a dealership.