What is it?
It’s been said that the Kia Sportage has taken the SUV world by storm since its introduction back in 2010, and it isn’t difficult to see why as the Sportage still looks good with its sleek body, elegant lines and of course Kia’s 7 year, 100,000-mile warranty.
In 2014 it was subject to a no extra cost upgrade when it was given more equipment, a revised grille and new LED tail-lights.
On the road
It’s worth remembering that this is the 2ltr AWD model with 181bhp on tap, and on all surfaces, from motorways, around town and country lanes the Sportage was fun to drive, and contrary to other reviews, I didn’t find it that wallowy at all.
I did find the auto-box a little hesitant on take off which was slightly annoying, especially when you want to go for ‘that gap’ in traffic, but once you’re aware of it it’s fine. However, I'm going to forgive it for a few of reasons. First is that the car had less than 2k on the clock, secondly that I was informed that it was an ‘adaptive gearbox’ that would learn my driving style and smooth out over time. Third, and we have to fast forward 12 months or so for this, is that I've driven a few more Sportage's since and in all of them the auto was faultless.
Oh, and if I'm being picky, like others I found the steering a little lifeless, but not enough to be a deal breaker if I was going to buy one though. Kia have given the Sportage a multi-mode Flex Steer system, at least I think thats what 't's called, It offers a choice of three different steering weight settings for more feel.
It didn't matter what road surface I was on, the Sportage handled the bumps well and kept the outside noise to a minimum thanks to added insulation. Overall, if I had a long and interminable journey ahead of me, I wouldn't mind in the slightest if I had to do it in the Sportage
Off the road
The AWD version has the Dymax intelligent drive system from Magna Powertrain that uses witchcraft to continuously monitor the driving conditions and anticipates when it's required. Dymax normally delivers 100% of the engine torque to the front wheels but can be redistributed to 60:40 (front to rear), when needed.
When you want total control for playing around off road or dealing with snow, you can manually press the ‘Lock’ button which gives 50:50 drive at speeds of up to 25mph. Obviously the Sportage isn’t a serious mud plugger, but it took me where I pointed it, though to be honest, the week in which I had the Sportage it hardly rained at all, so I couldn’t really give a full workout.
Overall the Dymax system worked well, and when on 3 wheels it didn’t hesitate at all, even when I jumped out to take photos and set off again, unlike the Honda CR-V which struggled.
One morning I got up especially early to visit a friends farm specifically to test it on wet, slippery grass, and I have to admit that the Traction Control alone managed pretty much everything. On the occasion I did press the ‘Lock’ button the Sportage managed without a fuss, and both the Hill Start Assist and Downhill Brake Control worked a treat when required.
As someone who likes playing in mud and getting his vehicles mucky, I appreciated the interior, it may have felt a tad plastic in places, but I suspect it would be hard wearing and easy to clean. The dash layout is uncluttered and easy to read and all the buttons and switches worked as they should. Well, if I have to be picky, it took me all week to notice the heated steering wheel button which is hidden out of view of the driver on the steering column, and… well, that’s it really.
Once you get you get yourself comfortable, which is easy by the way as the seats are comfortable and supportive, you notice that all the windows are quite narrow, though not restrictive, but it’s noticeable. This was intentional as its designer, ex-Audi ace Peter Schreyer wanted to give the Sportage an almost rally-car feel to it.
On the subject of narrow windows, if you’re a tall driver like me you’ll notice that your forward vision is limited slightly due to the low and narrow windscreen, I found myself looking out through the top part of the windscreen. Yes, I could have lowered the seat, but I prefer sit high.
Passengers who aren't important enough to sit up front and therefore relegated to the back have plenty of legroom, though due to the sloping roof may find headroom a tad limited, especially if you're quite tall.
Engines ‘n’ transmissions
The Sportage comes with a choice of 3 engines, there’s an entry-level 1.6ltr petrol (133 bhp), the 1.7ltr diesel (114bhp), and 2 versions of the 2.0ltr diesel offering either 134 or 181 bhp.
However, if you want the 4×4 model or the 6-speed automatic, then it’s the 2ltr diesel or the highway unfortunately, otherwise you get the 6-speed manual, which if I’m being honest, I’d prefer.
Safety Stuff ‘n’ Equipment
Being honest, the Sportage isn’t brimming with goodies as some of its rivals are, but standard throughout the range are: six airbags, active head restraints, stability control, hill start assist, trailer stability assist, tyre-pressure monitoring and cornering brake control.
The 4×4 version has the Dymax intelligent drive system from Magna Powertrain as well asDownhill Brake Control and a roll-over sensor that detects when the car might be in danger of rolling over and deploys the curtain airbags and front seatbelt pre-tensioners.
To some it may seem unimportant, but when I opened the hatchback and lifted the floor I was happy to see a full sized spare, these seem to be a rarity these days, but in my opinion, one of these is far more important than saving a bit of overall weight, so well done Kia.
Buying / Owning
It is difficult to ignore Kia’s 7 year, 100,000-mile warranty as it’s among the very best in the industry, not to mention that it’s fully transferable to new owners.
Overall the Sportage represents excellent value for money, but if you want a frugal vehicle then obviously go for the smaller engined manual 2wd versions as the 181bhp 2ltr 6-speed automatic returns an average of 39.2mpg compared to the 6-speed manuals 46.3mpg. The most efficient model is the 2wd 1.7ltr diesel, which promises an average fuel consumption of 54.3mpg and 135g/km emissions.
With its good looks and industry-leading warranty it isn’t much of a surprise that the Sportage is in strong demand, which equates to surprisingly high prices in second hand market.
After putting just over 500 miles on it during the week I found myself asking the question, is the Sportage a family car or a farmers friend? The conclusion I came to is both, as you get the impression that the interior will stand up to quite a lot of abuse. Ok, there’s a fair bit of plastic, but it doesn’t feel flimsy.
It has a few annoying niggly bits, like the front passenger electric window isn’t a ‘one touch’ affair, and when braking at night the high level rear brake reflects on the inside of the tailgate, but other than that I enjoyed driving it.
What I’ve noticed recently is that the Sportage is a very popular car, well it is around my neck of the woods, I can’t go anywhere without seeing a handful of them on the road, which speaks volumes I suppose.
At the Frankfurt Motor show last month, Kia announced that the next generation Sportage is due to go on sale in Europe early 2016, so you never know, ask nicely at you local dealership and you may get a decent bargain on one of the ‘old ones’ !
*Recently I was tasked with the job of searching for a new 4x4 for Muddy Madam Senior (aka Viv, my Mum-in-law), and after careful consideration, can you guess what she bought? Well, you can read all about it here.