Kia Sportage Review (2016-2021)
The hugely popular Kia Sportage is a great choice if you’re looking for a practical family car that emphasises value and comfort.
Published: 7 December 2022
The Kia Sportage is one of the UK’s most popular cars, regularly featuring in annual lists of the top 10 best-sellers. What is it that makes the Sportage so popular? Well, it’s stylish and it’s a great all-rounder, giving you generous interior space, a large boot, a smooth drive and lots of features as standard. It also comes with Kia’s seven-year warranty, which is longer than you get with any rival.
Here, we’re looking at the fourth-generation Sportage that was sold new in the UK from 2016 to 2021. An update in 2019 included refreshed styling and upgraded tech. There are many trim levels to choose from, plus petrol and diesel engines, manual and automatic gearboxes and front- and four-wheel drive.
- Good passenger space
- Long warranty
- Excellent value for money
- Fuel economy could be better
- Seats may feel too soft
- Not a fast car
Dashboard & tech
The interior design of this generation of Sportage was a big improvement over the previous generation, looking much like that of a premium-brand car. There are lots of buttons and dials on the dashboard and steering wheel, but they’re all clearly labelled so you soon learn what they all do.
Many models have a touchscreen display in the middle of the dashboard. You can access the sat nav, phone and stereo, plus vehicle information and settings through it and it’s reasonably responsive and intuitive to use. Some models have a more conventional stereo unit with buttons and knobs. Some models also support Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, so you can use your preferred apps in the car.
Other tech you can get on the Sportage includes adaptive cruise control, parking sensors, a 360-degree camera system and an opening glass sunroof.
Generally speaking, the Sportage is very comfortable. The seats are very soft, but possibly too soft for some people who might find they lack support around their thighs. In many models, the front seats are heated and have electric lumbar adjustment. Get a top-of-the-range model and the whole seat is electrically adjustable, the steering wheel and back seats are heated, and there’s leather upholstery. Most people won’t need to bend down or climb up to get in.
There are lots of different types of plastic used throughout the interior of the Sportage. The majority have the same high-quality appearance you get in a Volkswagen and everything you touch most often has a pleasantly tactile feel. That includes the steering wheel, gear selector, door handles and air con buttons. The whole interior feels solidly made, too, so you shouldn’t have any concerns about it standing up to the rigours of family life.
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Practicality & boot space
The Sportage is a very spacious car with lots of head, leg and shoulder room in the front and back seats. Four tall adults fit comfortably, five at a bit of a squeeze, so you and your family will almost certainly have all the space you need.
If you have small children, you’ll have no issues installing a child seat on the two sets of Isofix mounts. The back seat is more-or-less at hip-height on most people, which helps when lifting children in and out of the car. The back doors open quite wide, giving you a controllable, safe space to work in.
Interior storage space is pretty good. The door bins are usefully big, there’s a deep tray for your phone in front of the gear selector, a cubby hole under the front armrest, two cupholders in the centre console and a large glovebox. There’s another pair of cupholders in the rear armrest.
The 491-litre capacity of the Sportage’s boot isn’t exceptional for a mid-size SUV, but it should still be enough to cover the needs of most families. A double pushchair fits easily along with lots of shopping and school bags. There is a caveat here. Sportage models with a 1.6 CRDi diesel engine have a slightly smaller, 467-litre boot to make room for the tank that holds an exhaust-system fluid called AdBlue.
The Sportage’s back seats fold down, expanding the boot to a capacity of 1,480 litres. That’s plenty for trips to the DIY store or the tip. The folded seats create a bit of a slope to push things up, but the boot floor is level with the back bumper. The floor lifts up to reveal a storage space for the load cover.
If you have a trailer or caravan, the Sportage is a good option. Models with the 2.0 CRDi engine can tow up to 1,900kg. Less powerful models are rated at 1,400kg or 1,600kg.
A car like the Sportage needs to be easy and comfortable enough to not cause you any hassle while driving. On that score, it’s very good. The steering is quite light; the brakes are strong; changing gear with the manual gearbox takes little effort; the automatic is responsive; and you have a good view out.
The Sportage gives a nice smooth ride, too, and you can hear hardly any noise from the tyres or wind. It’s quite a compact car, not much longer than a Ford Focus hatchback, so parking and manoeuvring aren’t taxing, especially if you get one of the many models with parking sensors.
Out of town, the Sportage feels solid and reassuring. You’ll notice the body leaning over a bit when going around corners at higher speeds, but it feels controlled as it does so. It’s very comfortable and quiet cruising along the motorway. Four-wheel-drive versions feel the same to drive and give you a bit of extra reassurance in poor driving conditions, and could be useful if you regularly need to tackle rough and muddy farm tracks.
Sportage models with lower-power engines can feel a bit sluggish when pulling away from traffic lights but, once you’re moving, they accelerate quickly enough to safely overtake on a country road.
The more powerful engines feel a bit sprightlier, particularly when accelerating from 40mph to 60mph, for instance. They’re also better able to haul a car-load of passengers and luggage, or a trailer. No Sportage is particularly fast, though.
Fuel economy & CO2 emissions
The Sportage is available with petrol and diesel engines that are reasonably efficient for a mid-size SUV, but there are rivals that give you better mpg and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.
Get a Sportage with a petrol engine and you can expect an average of around 37mpg to 42mpg, according to official figures. CO2 emissions are between 156g/km and 168g/km.
The 2.0-litre diesel engine can give an average of 44mpg to 48mpg, with CO2 emissions of 154g/km to 160g/km. There’s then quite a large jump up in efficiency if you go for one of the smaller diesels, which can give 57mpg to 68mpg and emit 114g/km to 128g/km of CO2.
Value for money
Kia cars generally offer great value for money, giving you a longer warranty and more features as standard than most rivals. That was certainly true of this version of the Sportage when it was sold new, and it remains true of the Sportage when buying it as a used car.
Reliability & Warranty
Kia has established a reputation for making cars that are dependable and satisfying to own. The Sportage is a case in point: it consistently scored high marks in owner-satisfaction surveys throughout the time it was sold new.
Kia provides a warranty that lasts seven years or 100,000 miles and that means the majority of this generation of Sportage will have manufacturer back-up for some years yet if anything does go wrong.
Safety organisation Euro NCAP tested the Sportage in 2015 and awarded it a full five-star safety rating, giving it high marks for protecting passengers in the event of a crash. Which driver safety features are fitted depends on which trim level you get. They all have cruise control with a speed limiter and six airbags. Top-of-the-range models have more advanced driver assistance features such as automatic emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and blindspot monitoring.
Trims & Engines
When this generation of Sportage was on sale new, Kia added and subtracted trim levels many times and changed their names. From 2016 to 2017, the trim level names started with ‘KX’, followed by a number from one to five (KX-1, KX-2, etc.)
From 2017 to 2021, the ‘KX’ bit was dropped, leaving just a number from one to four. (the higher the number, the more features included as standard).
The sporty-looking GT-Line and GT-Line S trims were also introduced in 2017. There are several special edition trims, including the JBL Black Edition, named for its premium audio system.
The entry-point Sportage KX-1 and Sportage 1 come with air con, cruise control, a stereo and Bluetooth. Beyond those, all Sportage trim levels have sat nav and parking sensors. Top-of-the-range models are very well kitted-out with features such as electrically adjustable heated leather seats and a sunroof.
You can choose from two petrol engines and three diesels in the Sportage. There are models with manual or automatic gearboxes and front- or four-wheel drive, so there’s something for everyone. The more powerful ones are a better bet if you regularly fill the car with a full load of passengers and luggage.
The petrol engines are the 130bhp 1.6 GDi and the 174bhp 1.6 T-GDi. The T-GDi is available with a choice of manual or automatic gearbox and front- or four-wheel drive. The GDi comes with a manual gearbox and front-wheel drive.
Diesel choices are the 1.7 CRDi, 1.6 CRDi and 2.0 CRDi. They range in power from 114bhp to 182bhp and some of them have a mild-hybrid system (which Kia calls 48v) which helps to improve fuel economy and reduce CO2 emissions. Many combinations exist, but you can have a diesel with a manual or automatic gearbox and front- or four-wheel drive.
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