From £24,815
One of the most compelling SUVs of the moment offers one of the longest electric-only ranges in the class

What is it?

Plus ça change in the car industry. We're going through huge upheaval, with widespread electrification, yet some things aren't so different after all. Whereas a new-car buyer in 1985 might have had to make the agonising choice between a 2.0-litre, a 2.3-litre or a 2.8-litre V6, today's buyer somehow needs to navigate whether they need a mild, full or plug-in hybrid and why more might not always be better.

Perhaps battery sizes aren't as tangible as cylinder displacements, but they arguably make an even bigger difference to the driving experience and how you use the car. We've previously driven the pure petrol and full hybrid versions of the new Kia Sportage; now it’s the turn of the plug-in hybrid.

The drivetrain shared by Hyundai and Kia is a fairly familiar recipe by now: it also features in the Kia SorentoHyundai Tucson and Hyundai Santa Fe. A 1.6-litre petrol engine and an electric motor drive all four wheels through a six-speed torque-converter automatic gearbox. Power for the electric motor is provided by a 13.8kWh battery pack – fairly sizeable and good for a very strong electric-only range of 43 miles, rendered even more impressive as the already rangey Tucson with the same drivetrain manages only 38 miles.

And there lies the Sportage PHEV's big selling point. Its £38,395 starting price might sound hefty (it’s £5000 more than the Sportage Hybrid), but its EV range means it breaks into the 8% BIK tax band, compared with the Tucson’s 12% and the Sportage Hybrid’s 32%.

In real terms, for someone on 40% income tax, a PHEV Sportage will cost a whopping £3000 per year less in company car tax than a hybrid one (and £300 less than a Tucson). Over three years, that’s a particularly healthy saving.

Add in the potentially better fuel economy and, for company car drivers at least, the plug-in is a no-brainer.

What's it like?

You needn’t choose it purely for the tax benefit, either, as the powertrain works well. A combined 261bhp sounds more potent than it really is in this near-two-tonne car. The plug-in is only marginally quicker than the full hybrid, but 90bhp of electric power makes it nicely drivable in EV mode and adds welcome mid-range shove in hybrid mode.

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When you demand full power, the engine can sound slightly thrashy, although we’ve experienced much worse. The Sportage generally juggles its different power sources very smoothly, with the exception of the very occasional hard shift from the automatic gearbox.

We started the day of the test drive with a full battery and covered around 90 miles on a variety of roads, and at the end, the trip computer was showing 54mpg. That's fairly tidy for this kind of car, although we will need to get it back in the UK for a more exhaustive test.

Once the battery is empty, that figure naturally goes down. As with most plug-in hybrids, you can feel that it’s down a little on power, but again, that's to be expected.

Our drive was of a pre-production car in Norway in cold, slushy conditions and on adaptive dampers that won’t be offered in the UK, so we will reserve judgment about the handling, although it’s safe to assume that it won’t be radically different to the full hybrid's. 

The interior, too, is as in any other Sportage, with the exception of the boot, where the PHEV loses some space under the floor to the battery. Even so, there's still just enough to store the charging cables.

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Should I buy one?

The spec of our test car and the conditions we drove it in weren’t entirely representative for the UK, but as the interior is the same as on the cars we’ve tried in the UK and the chassis is unlikely to be all that different to the regular hybrid either, the Sportage PHEV promises to be one of the better choices in the segment, thanks to its very competitive EV range, strong value and generally pleasant demeanour.

Join the debate

Add a comment…
abkq 18 February 2022

And yet, compared with property prices, or even food prices, cars are relatively cheap, especially when very decent cars can be had for less money.

This Kia, not a luxury car by any stretch of the imagaination, is, like most current cars, so overspecced that no wonder the price it charges seems steep. Why do we need electric and automatic everything in a car whereas we do not demand these things in the house? We use a physical key to open the front door to the house/flat, manually open and close the windows, we freeze our arse on the loo seat whereas all we have to do in a car is to switch on the heated seat.

Take away all these features and see how much a basic car costs. 

gavsmit 17 February 2022

£38,395. I don't find that very compelling.

And before anyone says it, I don't compare the price of a new car against other over-priced new cars, I compare it to what our current car cost us that more-or-less does the same job. And when our car was new just 2 years ago, it cost less than half what this does!

Travelling on electric for 43.5 miles (this model's main party trick) is never going to recoup the financial outlay of 'upgrading'. No wonder people are holding on to their current cars for a lot longer than they used to.

Rich boy spanners 17 February 2022

They only work for me as company cars. Example, a 1.5TSi Octavia will cost a 40% tax payer about 230 GBP for BIK  a month. A PHEV Octavia with a much higher list price (and assumng your company will pay the lease cost) will cost about a third of that. Full electric (aka Leaf etc) is about 25 GBP BIK a month. 

As a private buyet I don't see financial sense on a PHEV or electric. Some of the odder Walter Mitty's that post on this site are convinced they make perfect sense and are affordab;e for families. Perhape they mean the Royal family or the inhabitants of Mayfair.

harf 17 February 2022

Indeed, there is a big BIK-incentivised market for these brand new. Then, 3 years later, who'd want one? Where's the incentive to get. a 3yo old? Am I missing something?

lukeski 17 February 2022

There may be some people who are misguided about savings from hybrids, but i am a financial analyst by training and did the maths and it is clear to me that it is perfectly possible for lots of users to cover the extra cost of a hybrid.

I did write up the maths, but it got rejected as spam unfortunately.

jason_recliner 18 February 2022

And yet there's a lengthy waiting list to get any Sportage - amazing! What 2yo 19k car are you driving that can do everything this Kia does?