The previous-generation Sportage was a landmark model for Kia in the UK; the new model shows great promise – although not with petrol power

What is it?

Kia has undergone a significant transformation over the past six years. Once the manufacturer of worthy but dull cars, the input of German designer - and current president - Peter Schreyer has helped the Korean brand become much more desirable.

The Sportage SUV played a very large part in this change of fortunes. When it was unveiled back in 2010, it was a big departure from the awkward-looking 4x4 that preceded it.

Kia has therefore worked hard to improve performance and reduce emissions with this fourth-generation car. More interestingly for fans of zesty petrol power, there’s also a new 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine available in more aggressively styled GT-Line trim.

What's it like?

The 1.6 T-GDi petrol engine comes as standard with a six-speed manual gearbox. The combination gives respectably brisk performance, with 0-60mph taking a claimed 9.2sec and a top speed of 126mph achievable with a long enough stretch of road.

You can opt for a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox for a £1300 premium but one thing you can’t have is front-wheel drive, because this engine only comes with all of its wheels driven. Up to 40% of the engine’s torque can be shuffled to the back axle, although there’s a 4WD lock mode that splits torque 50/50.

Performance may seem decent enough on paper but in the real world the 1.6 T-GDi feels more pedestrian. Those figures are believable but require you to explore the upper reaches of the rev range.

The manual gearbox is precise but long of throw and the Sportage's handling doesn’t really encourage enthusiastic cornering. There’s plenty of grip from the sizable tyres fitted to standard 19in wheels but there’s also a fair bit of body roll, while the steering is accurate but doesn’t exactly bristle with feedback.

Overall then, it’s safe, secure and grippy. Exactly what you’d want from a family-friendly SUV, then, but certainly not a cut-price Porsche Macan in the handling department.

Step inside and you’re treated to an interior that is both easy on the eye and built with plenty of pleasing plastics. The top of the dash and doors are both hewn from squishy materials and all controls work in a precise manner.

Look below the level of the steering wheel and there are harder plastics that are less well finished. However, considering the Sportage is considerably cheaper than rivals from Toyota and Honda, it's a cost-cutting exercise that's easy to forgive.

All bar entry-level ‘1’-spec models get sat-nav, while our GT-Line model receives 7.0in display as part of the touchscreen infotainment system. It may not be the most visually stunning screen on the market, but it’s clear, easy to navigate and free from lag.

Rear seat passengers are also unlikely to have any complaints. Even with a six-foot-tall driver, there’s a generous amount of leg room and head room. Furthermore, the boot is a multiple-suitcase swallowing 491 litres with the rear seats in place.

Should I buy one?

It’s unlikely the engine we sampled will be a big seller here in the UK. With CO2 emissions of 177g/km and claimed combined economy of 37.2mpg, families will be better served opting for the greater fuel economy and lower emissions of diesel power. 

Not only will a diesel prove much cheaper to run but its more flexible performance also suits the Sportage better. Ultimately we’d suggest sampling the Sportage's oil-burning variants first should you be in the market for a small SUV.

Kia Sportage 1.6 T-GDi

Location France; On sale Now; Price £24,350; Engine 4 cyls in line, 1591cc, turbocharged, petrol; Power 174bhp at 5500rpm; Torque 195Ib ft at 1500-4500rpm; Kerb weight 1733kg; Gearbox 6-spd manual; 0-60mph 9.2s; Top speed 126mph; Economy 37.2mpg (combined); CO2/tax band 177g/km, 30%

Join the debate


2 February 2016
Last model looked great - one of the best looking SUVs when it came out and its looks have stood the test of time.

This looks awful - the front end especially is particularly poor - and I think this will put a lot of people off.


2 February 2016
agreed ewan, the rear and sides look fine, but the front...oh dear, it just looks - well...Korean!

2 February 2016
In fact nearer to old ix35 but to be honest had an ix 35 some time a go a lousy car 32mpg in awd 2lt engine and loads of trouble needed a 5 yr warrantybeen to garage about 10 times in 3 yrs and still not corrected the passenger door opening by itself and crap economy and rough engine .and head restraints that are designed for the Sportage and not ix35 to save money had to lean seat back to drive the car.

2 February 2016
I have seen the new Sportage and have sat in one too.The front looks much better when you see it in the metal. It has been on sale here in Ireland since early January. I agree the last one had good looks and they should have just tried to give it a big update maybe do a Golf on it but instead they totally changed it.The interior of the old one was quiet good but the inside of this has improved on it. The design of the steering wheel is much better than the old one especially the controls on it for the phone. The are located much better. They were quiet oqward where they were on the old model.


2 February 2016
....I too have seen and sat in the new Sportage....sorry but IMO it looks every bit as bad in the flesh from the front.
Side, rear and interior an improvement, but oh that Pug face front is woeful.
Sorrento, on the other hand looks quietly classy.

2 February 2016
Our Irish reader - like me - has seen it in the metal and it doesnt look quite so bad - bit like me - not very photogenic (thats my excuse and I am sticking to it)
It will continue to make friends here in Russia because it has proved the bullet proof reliability and better than Toyota and costs less to buy, run and resale values are just as strong

what's life without imagination

2 February 2016
Manufacturers seem to do this when they have a good looking, striking design, replace it with something that has bits of the original but toned down so it just doesn't work as well. Ford did exactly the same with the Mark 1 to Mark 2 Focus. The Front end in particular lets this down and makes the whole car more generic. Disappointing.

2 February 2016
Hyundai did the same with the Genesis coupe in regard to messing up the front end. Otherwise it's a fine machine and it hits the nail directly on the head.

3 February 2016
Those emissions would do Honda proud. 177g/km CO2 for a 175bhp engine? Or maybe Kia are just honest?

3 February 2016
I love the front. Then again I love cars with a short bonnet, like the Rav4 Mk2. I like the way it looks and I also think it´s more efficient in terms of packaging. While I can see why people may like a long, low bonnet, like a Mazda6 or a 928 or a Brera, I can't help thinking that it's a waste of space.


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