From £16,670
The Kia Sportage is as honest as the day is long, without ever feeling sparkling

What is it?

It’s Kia’s latest generation of Sportage, now available as a full 16-model range after being introduced by the ‘First Edition’, a 2.0 diesel-based variant that showed the new car’s strengths but came fully loaded and well north of £20k.

Four engines are on offer; as well as the 2.0 and 1.7-litre oil-burners there are two petrols, a 2.0 and the base 1.6 litre that we’re testing here. It’s only available with front-wheel drive and a six-speed manual gearbox, and comes with stop-start as standard.

There are two trim levels for this powerplant, confusingly named GDI. The base spec tested here, called 1, comes on 16in wheels but still offers air-con, Bluetooth, electric windows all round and LED daytime running lights that make the most of Peter Schreyer’s sharp styling.

Move up to 2 and you get 17in alloys, part-leather upholstery, reversing sensors and a panoramic glass roof. But if you want to go any further up the Sportage’s scale of plushness you’ll need to switch to one of the larger engines.

See the test pics of the Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI 1

What’s it like?

As honest as the day is long, without ever feeling sparkling. The 1.6 lump is keen enough to rev - and that’s just as well, because it needs to be worked to shift the Sportage at anything more than a meagre pace. It has 133bhp and a modest 122lb ft of torque that doesn’t arrive until a fairly heady 4850rpm.

This wouldn’t matter, of course, if it was smooth as silk right round to the peak power revs of 6300rpm - but there’s a metallic twang that jars into the soundtrack from around 3500rpm.

Once you’re up to, say, a 60mph cruise, the engine does fade into the background, becoming a distant thrum. But if you want to push on a motorway you’ll soon realise that 70mph in sixth means 3000rpm, where the motor’s efforts are more audible.

Still, the stop-start works well, and the slick, precise six-speed gearbox means that the frequent ratio swapping (and it will be thus) is pretty easy to achieve.

Throwing the Sportage at corners is an exercise that brings few nasty surprises and little real pleasure. The steering is precise enough and not badly weighted but it’s not particularly communicative, and while body roll is reasonably well contained, it is present. The overall package is extremely competent, without ever becoming involving. At least the ride is comfy; the 1 spec’s 16in rubber definitely helps here, because this car felt considerably more compliant than a 1.7-litre diesel on 18in wheels.

The cabin, meanwhile, is pretty roomy and airy (particularly so with the panoramic roof that’s standard on all but the base spec), and the spec doesn’t feel stingy at this price.

There are a few hard plastics, particularly along the top of the doors, but it’s at least as respectable as a Qashqai or a Kuga. Indeed, the flashes of piano black trim in the Sportage’s functional dashboard look a bit more coherent than some of the ‘brushed aluminium’ plastics you’ll find in Fords these days.

Should I buy one?

It’s worth considering. Bear in mind, though, that while this car seems cheap at £16,645, Nissan will sell you a 1.6 Qashqai (with, admittedly, fewer toys and a five-speed gearbox) for about a grand less.

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Still, we can see why the base-level Sportage will find customers. It has striking styling that stands apart from the crossover norm, a spacious, comfortable cabin, a warranty that still attracts the right sort of headlines and a powertrain that will (just about) suffice.

We’d still say that the base 1.7 diesel is a more rounded, more accomplished package - but if the £1500 price gap to that model looks too much, this will serve the purpose.

John McIlroy

Kia Sportage 1.6 GDI 1

Price: £16,645; Top speed: 111mph; 0-60mph: 10.7sec; Economy: 44.1mpg; CO2: 149g/km; Kerb weight: 1380kg; Engine: 4 cyls, 1591cc, petrol; Power: 133bhp at 6000rpm; Torque: 122lb ft at 4850rpm; Gearbox: 6-spd manual

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The Special One 26 October 2010

Re: Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 1

Kia and Hyundai keep churning out winners, watch out Toyota and VW: your days at the top are numbered!

si73 25 October 2010

Re: Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 1

That paragraph about the piano black is straight from the test on the 1.7d and i couldn't see any piano black in the pics, as said previously the engines outputs are very respectable as is the co2 output for such a big car, however with something weighing as much as this car does 1.6 na was always going to struggle. The test comments about gdi being confusing, is it diect injection? mitsibushi had gdi badged cars, gasoline direct injection. As a whole i think its a smartly styled well priced car that wont be too expensive to run, shame i cant afford one.

theonlydt 25 October 2010

Re: Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi 1

133bhp and 120lb feet of torque really isn't bad from a naturally aspirited 1.6! In a 1500kg car, high riding and a reasonably blunt front it's going to struggle.