Kia Sportage (2016-2021) Review
A practical package with distinctive looks: the Kia Sportage is a family-friendly crossover
Strengths & weaknesses
- Lots of standard equipment
- Good-sized boot
- Plenty of passenger space
- Bumpy ride
- Auto-braking not on cheaper cars
- Inefficient petrol engines
Kia Sportage prices from £8,999 Finance from £164.32 per month
The Sportage is an SUV designed to combine the comfort and efficiency of a standard hatchback with the higher driving position of an off-road car.
You could opt for more than a dozen similar cars, including the Peugeot 3008, Nissan Qashqai, Skoda Karoq or Renault Kadjar but the Kia has its distinctive styling, as well as another thing that none of the others can claim: an impressively long seven-year warranty.
It'll cost from £23,445 to buy brand new, which is roughly the same as the Renault and Nissan, and cheaper than the Peugeot or Skoda, while used prices here at BuyaCar start from or per month.
If you're looking for a family crossover and like the look of the Sportage, then the chances are that it won't disappoint. The seats are comfortable and the interior uses good quality plastics, making the car feel well-made and sturdy. Every Sportage includes alloy wheels, air conditioning, cruise control and a digital radio, as well as USB ports and Bluetooth for plugging your phone in or connecting it wirelessly.
As with most family crossovers, the car’s extra height doesn’t provide much extra passenger space compared with a more standard Volkswagen Golf or Vauxhall Astra hatchback. This means that three adults will be fairly comfortable in the back but won’t have a great deal of space to stretch their legs. They are fairly well looked after though, with cupholders in the rear armrest, a 12v power socket and modestly-sized storage areas in the doors.
You'll find room to spare in the boot, which provides 491 litres of luggage space - enough to stow a child's buggy and weekly shop. It's roughly the same size as in a Skoda Karoq or Mazda CX-5, and over 50 litres larger than the boot in a Ford Kuga or Nissan Qashqai. Fold the rear seats and the 1,480 litres of space is fairly average for this type of car, providing enough space to cope with a teenager's move to university or trip to Ikea.
The Sportage is available with petrol or diesel power and most drivers are best-off choosing one of the diesel options because they offer better fuel economy without costing a great deal more. Unless you're determined to be the first driver away from the traffic lights, then you'll find that the performance is fine for a family car. All current-generation Kia Sportage diesels comply with the latest Euro 6 emissions regulations, so won’t be affected by low emission zone charges under current plans.
Despite the Sportage’s height, it’s stable and resists leaning in corners. This stability does come at a price, which you discover on rough roads, where the car jolts gently over potholes and bumps, making for a jiggly - but not uncomfortable - ride. It’s not up to the smoother standard of the Nissan Qashqai, Peugeot 3008 or Skoda Karoq. If you're really after maximum comfort, then a conventional, lower hatchback is a better choice.
The Sportage has been updated since it first went on sale in 2015, but hasn't changed a great deal. The most noticeable difference has been to the dashboard touchscreen. Early entry-level versions (badged ‘1’) look cheaper because they don't have a screen at all. From the beginning of 2017, all Sportage models fitted with a screen gained Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility.
In 2018 the cheapest models gained a seven-inch touchscreen (along with a reversing camera), while higher-specification models had the responsiveness and resolution of their 8in screen improved. No matter which touchscreen is fitted, the graphics are clearer and more responsive than in the Nissan Qashqai or Renault Kadjar, and on a par with the Volkswagen Tiguan and Skoda Karoq.
The 2018 update also introduced some new styling (including a chrome strip that runs underneath the lower set of lights, either side of the number plate), as well as cleaner engine options. One of these is a 2-litre diesel engine with mild hybrid technology. It uses a large 48-volt battery to recover energy that’s usually lost during braking. This is then used to assist the engine while accelerating. The system reduces noise when accelerating but the fuel benefits are modest.
There is the option of four-wheel drive, which boosts grip when accelerating, which can be useful for towing or on slippery roads. The system is only engaged when it's needed, which should in theory help to improve fuel economy, but it won't be turning the Sportage into a go-anywhere off-roader.
|Seven years/100,000 miles
|Tax (min to max)
|£205 to £830 in first year, £140 thereafter
Best Kia Sportage for...
Best for Economy – Kia Sportage 1 1.6 CRDi 114bhp ISG
All versions of the 1.6-litre diesel have similar official fuel economy figures of around 58mpg, but the least-powerful 114bhp engine is most efficient - by a small margin - in real-world driving.
Best for Families – Kia Sportage 1 1.6 CRDi 114bhp ISG
If you're buying the very latest Sportage, then an entry-level 1 version has everything that you really need, including reversing camera, touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and air conditioning. Cars built before autumn 2018 are less well-equipped, so a '2' version is best.
Best for Performance – KIA Sportage GT Line 1.6 T-GDi DCT
The Kia's petrol engine line-up isn't very efficient but, when paired with four-wheel drive and an automatic gearbox, it can get the car from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds. That's nippy but far from mind-blowing.
One to Avoid – Kia Sportage GT-Line 2.0 CRDi Auto AWD
Four-wheel drive is expensive and rarely useful in a car like the Sportage: a standard model with winter tyres would have almost as much grip. The mild hybrid diesel engine is expensive - and not that efficient.
- February 2016 Fourth-generation Kia Sportage goes on sale in Britain. Limited edition 'First Edition' comes with a fully automatic parking system, powered bootlid and special Fusion White or Phantom Black paint colours, as well as grey and black two-tone leather seat trim.
- December 2016 GT-line S and KX-5 trims introduced, plus 1.7 CRDi now available with DCT seven-speed automatic transmission.
- January 2017 Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added to cars with touchscreens.
- August 2018 Updated Sportage goes on sale with new diesel engines a slight redesign. Entry-level 1 cars now come with touchscreen and reversing camera as standard. Four-wheel drive cars now badged "AWD" instead of "KX"
Understanding Kia Sportage names
Engine 1.6 T-GDi 174bhp ISG
Petrol engines are badged GDi, or T-GDi in the case of more powerful turbocharged versions. Diesels have CRDi badges. All engines have ISG: Intelligent Stop and Go, which can switch the engine off automatically when waiting at traffic lights. The size of the engine is shown in litres (here it's 1.6) and Kia publishes an engine's power as brake horsepower (bhp) - a similar measure to horsepower.
The trim levels indicate the amount of equipment that comes as standard. The range starts with 1, which is cheapest and most basic, rising to 2, Edition 25, 4, GT-Line and GT-Line S
Gearbox DCT Auto
DCT is Kia's label for its automatic gearbox.
The Sportage comes with either front or four-wheel drive – the latter also known as all-wheel drive, or AWD.
Kia Sportage Engines
Petrol: 1.6 GDi, 1.6 T-GDi Diesel: 1.6 CRDi, 2.0 CRDi 48v
There's one engine that stands out from the rest in the Kia Sportage range, and that's the 1.6-litre diesel, which was introduced in September 2018. A lower-powered 114bhp version is only available in entry-level "1" models, costing around £21,600 when new and before discounts. The rest of the range gets a more powerful 134bhp version, starting at £24,000. Both engines combine reasonable fuel economy with as much performance as most families will need.
They have plenty of pulling power, so will feel nippy from a standstill. Fuel economy is similar to other family crossover cars. In real world driving, you can expect around 47mpg - 10mpg short of the official figure.
The engines promise to be an improvement over the 1.7-litre diesel that they replace, and which was fitted to earlier Sportages. Although fuel economy is similar (45mpg in real-world conditions), it's a noisy motor.
If you're towing, the the range-topping 2-litre diesel engine can pull more (a 1900kg braked trailer, compared with 1600kg for the more powerful 1.6 diesel). It uses mild hybrid technology, involving a 48-volt battery that's larger than the one used in standard cars. This can recover energy that's usually lost during braking and then use it to boost power during acceleration.
Because the engine doesn't need to rev as much, it helps to make the Sportage quieter but the extra power doesn't make it particularly fast and fuel economy is dismal: the Equa Index estimates that you'll get around 36.5mpg in normal driving, which is little better than a petrol Sportage and a long way off a proper hybrid like a Toyota Prius. It's only available with more expensive trim levels, and new prices start at more than £30,000.
Unless you want the very cheapest Sportage (for just over £20,000 from new and before discounts), the entry-level non-turbo petrol engine is best avoided, as it feels underpowered at high speeds and is inefficient. The turbocharged T-GDI is better but around £4,000 more expensive in new models. Acceleration is smooth, without large peaks and dips in power and it's quiet. Performance isn't much better than the mid-range diesel engine, though, and fuel economy is poor, with a real-world estimate of 33mpg - 5mpg worse than an equivalent Nissan Qashqai
The least-powerful petrol and diesel engines only come with two-wheel drive and a manual gearbox. All other engines can be paired with four-wheel drive or an automatic.
Official fuel economy
1.6 CRDi 114bhp
1.6 CRDi 134bhp
2.0 CRDi 48V
Kia Sportage Trims
1, 2, 4, GT-Line, GT-Line S
Kia's trim levels start off in a logical way, going from '1' at entry-level and then on to '2'. The '3' model was dropped when the car was updated in September 2018, but the 4 version remained. GT-Line cars have a sportier specification.
Kia doesn't offer optional extras to buy individually, which makes it important to get the right trim level in a new car and makes it easier to know what's included in a used car. The trim levels below are for the latest, updated Sportage. The key difference is that earlier '1' specification cars didn't have a touchscreen and reversing camera.
All '1' models now include a seven-inch dashboard touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can pair your phone and control apps on the screen, or with voice commands. New messages can be read out to you and replies can be dictated. Several mapping apps are compatible too, so there's no need for sat-nav.
A reversing camera, air conditioning, cruise control and 16-inch alloy wheels come as standard too, along with hill-start assist, which prevents the car from rolling backwards when you're pulling away on an incline.
For around £2,000 more when new, the Sportage '2' adds larger 17-inch alloy wheels, sat-nav (if you don't want to use your phone's system), climate control, heated front seats and tinted rear windows. There are rear parking sensors in addition to the reversing camera and extra safety features, including lane-keep assist, which will automatically nudge your car back into line if it's drifting out of its lane, a speed limiter and high-beam assist, which automatically dips your main beam if a car appears ahead. There's also a much larger selection of engines than for '1' models.
Jumping to '4' costs a further £3,000 on a new car, and the result is noticeable. The dashboard touchscreen grows to eight inches in size with sharper graphics, and sits flush with the rest of the dashboard. The interior also gains black leather seats, a full-length sunroof, motorised adjustment of front seats, a heated steering wheel, 360-degree camera and eight-speaker sound system. Outside, there are brighter LED headlights, front parking sensors, keyless entry and start, and 19in alloy wheels. Useful safety equipment added at this level includes automatic emergency braking, which can prevent frontal crashes, and a blind spot warning to stop you pulling out into the path of other cars. The 2-litre diesel is also available with this trim level.
GT-Line sits in the range between grades '2' and '4' and has 19-inches alloy wheels, black leather seats with red piping and stitching, front parking sensors and keyless entry and start. Automatic cars include paddle shifters behind the steering wheel so you can change gear yourself. The exterior looks sportier thanks to unique wheels, a mesh grille with dark chrome surround and dual exhausts.
Top-of-the-range GT Line S models come fully loaded, with even more equipment than '4' models. They cost £2,000 more than GT Line cars when new. The front seats are heated and ventilated to cool your back on warm days; the eight-inch touchscreen is fitted and there's a motorised bootlid, wireless phone charger and adaptive cruise control that adjusts the car's speed to maintain a safe distance from any vehicle in front.
Kia Sportage Reliability and warranty
The Sportage was highly rated by owners in the most recent Auto Express Driver Power survey, where it placed 20th out of 75 for reliability. Fewer than one in ten owners reported an issue.
The Sportage also benefits from Kia’s seven-year warranty, which covers 100,000 miles. This can be transferred to subsequent owners, so a three-year-old Sportage that’s been serviced on time will benefit from a further four years of cover.
Used Kia Sportage
The Sportage is Kia’s best-selling model, so there are plenty of used examples available, starting at around £13,000 for cars with around 20,000 miles on the clock.
Most common are cars fitted with a 1.7-litre diesel engine. This was replaced by a slightly smaller and more efficient 1.6-litre diesel in September 2018, but the difference in real-world fuel economy is only around 3mpg, so you won't save a great deal by choosing the newer engine.
There are plenty of entry-level ‘1’ cars available but models built before September 2018 lack a dashboard touchscreen and parking sensors, which are both nice to have. These came as standard on the next level up: ‘2’ specification
Apple CarPlay and Android Auto were added to cars with a touchscreen in early 2017, and these systems make it easy to control phone apps using the screen or voice commands.
With Kia’s warranty (which is transferrable) and reputation for reliability, plus high level of standard-fit equipment across the range, the Sportage represents a good used buy.
|1 year old
|2 years old
|3 years old
|Best for economy
Kia Sportage 1 1.6 CRDi 114bhp ISG
|Best for families
Kia Sportage 1 1.6 CRDi 114bhp ISG
|Best for performance
Kia Sportage GT Line 1.6 T-GDI DCT
*Older cars were fitted with a 1.7-litre diesel engine