Kia Sportage – altering perceptions

In line with our new policy of publishing more “real world” car reviews, over the coming few months MTI is going to be road testing a variety of cars from the “crossover” segment. We have lined up an impressive array of vehicles to test starting with the subject of this review, the Kia Sportage and including the following;
Toyota RAV4
Ssangyong Korando
Peugeot 3008
Suzuki SX4
Mazda CX-7
So as you can see it’s a reasonably comprehensive list and we’re looking forward to getting to grips with all the cars over the next few months. As we’ve already mentioned the Kia Sportage was first on the list and we recently had the pleasure of a week in its company. This is our review. Any questions please drop us a line via the contact page or if you’d like to make a comment please do so at the bottom of this article.

Kia Sportage review


What is it?

The Kia Sportage is officially what’s known as a “compact crossover SUV” and has been present in Kia’s stable in one form or another since 1993. The new third generation Sportage first arrived here in July 2010 when the 'First Edition' (essentially a launch special) went on sale with a limited run of 850 diesel and 300 petrol units. The full range line-up arrived on 1st November 2010 and the Sportage has gone on to sell 4500 units since its launch. To put that in to perspective it should be remembered that the previous generation did circa 4000 units in the whole of 2009. The range comes with four engines in total including brand new 1.6 petrol and 1.7 turbodiesel engines and a 2.0 litre petrol and 2.0 litre diesel. It’s lower and wider than its predecessor but actually weighs 90kg less.

First impressions

First things first the Sportage, designed by ex-Audi man Peter Schreyer, is a very striking looking vehicle and with its distinctive “tigers nose” grille, compared with its predecessor this third generation Sportage looks streets ahead. Apparently it was designed completely from scratch so there is little comparison to make with the second generation to be fair. The look and feel is far in advance of what we were expecting and you can see straight away that this is a very well thought out and put together car. The interior feels very spacious and the sweeping dash is apparently designed to emphasise the width of the car whilst giving the occupants a feeling of “protection and safety”. Kia’s European Design Chief, Gregory Guillaume described the dash as “anything but the typical dashboard/console layout you will find in most vehicles” and that the passenger or driver is “not facing a vast cliff of plastic” upon entering the car.

What’s it like, then?

Behind the wheel the Sportage feels like a big car which - let’s face it - it is (length 4,440mm, width 1,855mm) but with that size comes, of course, roominess and there is nothing cramped about the interior, with generous legroom all around. The boot is also spacious but the rear seats do not fold completely flat which puts the Sportage at a disadvantage over other cars in the same class. Out on the road the ride felt a little bumpier than you might expect at higher speeds and there was some obtrusive road noise in the cabin but on balance the Sportage offered a refined and enjoyable driving experience. In the 2wd version we had the handling was impressive and the 133bhp 1.6 petrol engine in the GDi felt powerful and versatile. Although the Sportage is badged with ECODynamics giving it stop/start technology and a handy readout on the dash telling you what gear you should be in, fuel economy was a little disappointing. In the 600 or so miles we did in the Sportage we only averaged 39.5 mpg some way short of the 48.7 mpg advertised. The Sportage did turn out to be a little bit of a head turner with at least two perfect strangers stopping me in the car park to ask me what it was like (once at the gym and again at the supermarket) so it is clear that Kia are on to a winner in the looks department. A couple of small issues with the Sportage: Firstly closing the doors. It might sound odd but they just wouldn’t shut properly with the usual amount of force you would think would be required for the job. Two sometimes three attempts would be needed and even then with a fair degree of power. On a big car like this you would just expect to let go of the handle and let gravity do the rest so the doors just don’t give that feeling of robust refinement that is in keeping with the rest of the car. Then there were the child locks; just a little red plastic screw that you turned in the side of the door to enable or disable them. It looked to me that the screw probably had 10 or so turns in it before it fell apart and gave an unnecessary cheap feel. Obviously it’s not something you are going to be doing every day (who knows you may just do it once) but it just showed a slight lack of attention to detail in an otherwise impressive offering.

Should I buy one?

I drove the Sportage for a week and have used it as a family car, with trips to the seaside and doing the school run and grocery shopping, in other words the “real world” and I have to say it certainly ticks all the boxes and has been far better than I hoped or expected and what’s more the wife and kids loved it too. It’s undoubtedly a great looking car, it drives well and you get a lot of specification for the money. It does feel very well put together, sturdy with good quality materials. In terms of the price the model we tested had the “1” entry level trim but this still came with alloys, air-con, all round electric windows, rain sensor wipers, Bluetooth, cruise control and USB and iPod docking so you do get a lot of bang for your buck. Thanks to that great specification and Kia’s market leading 7 year warranty the residuals for the new Sportage look strong. Kia’s stated aim with the Sportage is to target for car buyers who might otherwise have gone for the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008, Ford Kuga or VW Tiguan so they are punching it out with the big boys and in terms of price and spec they win hands down. Kia have really turned a corner with the new Sportage and have certainly come a long way but it still remains to be seen whether badge snobbery will hold them back. That would be a real shame because in our opinion the Sportage is an excellent car for the price.

Test car data:

Model tested: Kia Sportage “1” 1.6 GDi (133bhp) 5 Door Compact Crossover SUV Price: £17,015 OTR Engine: 1.6-litre, four-cylinder 16 valve petrol, 133bhp Transmission: Six speed manual gearbox with front wheel drive CO2: 149 g/km Performance: 111mph, 0-62mph 10.7 seconds, 48.7mpg (extra-urban) (39.5mpg actual), VED Band F £125 Insurance group: 10 For: 7 year warranty, very roomy interior, striking looks, fantastic specification at a very competitive price, drives well. Against: Doors, child locks, not as economical as we’d hoped.
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