Video Road Test
On the Road
All Sportages at launch in August 2010 were equipped with four-wheel drive, giving plenty of grip and the ability to perform well in Winter and on muddy tracks. The system works by normally giving 100 per cent of pulling power to the front wheels, but it can be distributed to a maximum of 60:40 depending on road conditions. Lock it into off-road mode and there's a 50:50 split at speeds of up to 25mph.
On the road, it handles tidily, with well contained bodyroll and quick-witted steering. Electronic Stability Control (ESC) is standard, helping to prevent skids, while Hill Start Assist (HSA), Downhill Brake Control (DBC) and a rollover sensor also feature. The ride can be a bit of a let-down. Although acceptable at lower speeds, it's all too easily caught out on rougher surfaces and at high speeds.
The only engine at launch was a 2.0-litre, 134bhp diesel that's matched to a six-speed manual or automatic gearbox. It's a decent engine, with plenty of torque (320Nm at 1800 rpm) and decent performance, though it's not quite as flexible as cars with a similar power unit, which means you'll find yourself changing gear more often. It can be a bit boomy, too, at speed. It's not a great concern on its own, but when combined with wind noise and road rumble - both of which are higher than you'd expect of a car of this sort - it's enough to take the shine off what is otherwise a peaceful and comfortable cabin.
The engine is a massive improvement on what was previously available in the old Sportage. It's quicker, has a higher top speed and is yet is more economical and has lower emissions. The 2.0-litre diesel is now capable of an average 47.1mpg (7.3mpg better than the old car) and comes in at 156g/km CO2 (31g/km less than the old car).
New 1.6-litre direct-injection petrol and 1.7-litre turbodiesel chain-cam engines featuring stop-and-go technology (as found in the Hyundai ix35) were made available from November 2010.
The 1.7-litre diesel particularly stands out for its low CO2: 135 g/km CO2 in a car of this size is impressive and means you'll only be liable for a £110 Road Tax bill in 2010/2011. The official fuel consumption figure of 54.3mpg sounds economical enough, though owners have complained that achieving the government figures in the 2.0-litre model is impossible in everyday conditions. The 1.7-litre (designated ‘U2' by Kia) has been designed and engineered by Kia in Germany specifically for European buyers and is similar in construction and performance figures to the 1.6-litre petrol engine. Both feature a stop-start system for saving fuel at traffic lights. It cuts the engine when stationary and then re-starts it when the driver presses the clutch.
Some people may be torn between the 2.0-litre and 1.7-litre diesels. The decision will depend on the kind of driving that you do. If it's mainly motorways and A-and-B roads, you won't notice the 20bhp difference between the two engines. There's not a massive difference in the 0-60mph time, either, with the 1.7-litre coming in at 11.9 seconds and the 2.0-litre 10.9 seconds. Where you will notice the difference is on hillier roads, where the engine really needs to be worked hard to make progress.
One other clincher is that you can't get the 1.7-litre with all-wheel-drive - they're all two-wheel drive. This rules out the engine for any buyer who needs to use the car as more of a serious off-roader. It lacks the pulling power of the 2.0-litre diesel (320Nm of torque compared to 260Nm) and as a result isn't as good for towing. The 2.0-litre will tow a braked weight of 2000kg, which means it'll tow most small horseboxes and caravans, while the 1.7-litre comes in at 1200kg.
The addition of a 1.6-litre petrol model means that there's now a more cost-effective petrol model in the range. Although the Sportage is a large car, the 1.6-litre does a good job of hauling it around. It's no hot hatch, but is smooth around town, quiet enough to forget that it's there and able to hold its own on the motorway. It even provides a decent turn of speed of backroads. It's the entry level engine and priced from £16,645, which combined with the seven-year warranty, a comprehensive standard equipment list and relatively low road tax (£125 per year), makes it perfect for private buyers who don't do mega mileages.
The official fuel consumption figure is 44.1mpg and it has CO2 of 149 g/km. As with the 1.7-litre diesel, the 1.6-litre is two-wheel only, which rules it out for those who need more serious off-road capability. But in everyday conditions, most drivers won't notice that it's only two-wheel drive. It's grippy and holds traction well and is a more sensible choice if the closest you get to off-roading is parking on the kerb.