First Drive Review: Kia Sportage

Silver Kia Sportage Exterior Front

First Drive: Kia Sportage

Explore the key features of the Kia Sportage in our expert first drive review

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Sporting an all-new look, the Kia Sportage is sure to appeal to the crowds, and it impresses across the board when behind the wheel.


  • Eye-catching design
  • Packed with clever gadgets
  • Comfortable driving experience
  • Good degree of practicality
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The latest Kia Sportage range will have the widest possible appeal as it moves upmarket to challenge the best German brands.

The newest models in Kia’s new fifth generation Sportage are based on five trim levels, which are significant improvements on the outgoing series.

I tested the 1.6-litre petrol models in the standard 148bhp, front-wheel drive with 6-speed manual box setup, as well as a 48V mild hybrid with all-wheel drive and a 7-speed sequential dual clutch automatic.


The new model range offers a choice of petrol, diesel, mild hybrid, full hybrid, and plug-in hybrid versions making eight powertrains with front or all-wheel drive, towing up to 1,650kg.

The new range kicks off with 148bhp 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol and 113bhp 1.6-litre CRDi diesel engines. The 1.6-litre T-GDi petrol engine is also offered with 48-volt mild hybrid technology for the first time, and it comes with a 7-speed DCT automatic gearbox for both petrol and diesel drivetrains as standard.

Talking of diesel engines, when rivals are limiting diesel options, Kia offers two choices, with a 113bhp 1.6-litre manual CRDi unit or a 134bhp mild hybrid powertrain with a 7-speed DCT automatic transmission.

The 1.6 T-GDi petrol electric full hybrid models pack 226bhp of punch and are offered with both front-wheel and all-wheel drive (AWD). The battery pack for these HEV models is placed underneath the back seats, resulting in similar rear legroom to petrol and diesel versions.

The AWD option is available with petrol and diesel 48-volt mild hybrid units in ‘4’ and ‘GT-Line S’ specifications, and full hybrid AWD is available on ‘GT-Line S’ models.

Driving Experience

The '3' Grade car was fitted with 17-inch wheels and tyres, was smooth, and handled well with good gear changes and long-legged ratios using overdrive on 4, 5, and 6. This returned up to 44.4mpg on our first drive.

The GT-Line S 48V DCT AWD was shod with larger 18-inch tyres and the ride was noticeably stiffer, though still comfortable. It handled more tautly and pick up was sharper, while the changes were really velvet smooth and quick going up or down the box using the paddles.

Over a slightly shorter route than before, we managed to return 37mpg, possibly because the eagerness of the engine and transmission encouraged a more enthusiastic driving style.

Design and Practicality

The fifth generation Sportage is roomier and far better equipped with standard features such as the very large twin screens for the driver and passenger, enhanced safety systems, and sharper driving dynamics.
Robin Roberts

There's a more up-market appearance to the interior, particularly across the fascia and flowing around the door casings, while the centre console designs subtly change depending on chosen trim and drivetrain.

The seats are very good with a lot of adjustment in front, and boot access is easy and simple to expand.


Of the cars I tested, there was a significant price difference, so it shows you have to carefully evaluate what you want when speccing your new Kia Sportage. While more expensive than previous generations, the new Sportage has raised its game by a big margin, and can now be seen as a strong rival to the best from the leading brands.

With plenty of powertrains to choose from, a practical interior, and striking new looks, it's highly compatible for a wide variety of lifestyles.