Now in its fifth generation, the Sportage, Kia’s best-selling SUV, is available in a variety of configurations. For the first time since 1993, it’s available as a plug-in hybrid. The PHEV model is the most powerful in the manufacturer’s line-up and delivers up to 43 miles of pure electric range on the WLTP test cycle.
The Sportage is, in many ways, identical to the Hyundai Tucson, which we previously tested. In this review, we’ll be looking to see how the Kia compares to its sibling and if the plug-in hybrid is worth its asking price.
If you’d prefer to watch a review of the Kia Sportage, head on over to our YouTube channel.
Kia Sportage price & competition
At the time of writing and in the UK, the Sportage PHEV is available in a few trims: ‘GT Line’ from £40,545, ‘3’ from £41,545, and the ‘GT-Line S’ from £45,745. There’s roughly a £5,000 premium over the regular hybrid model, £7,000 over the mild hybrid variant and £8,700 over the petrol-only alternative.
A breakdown of the differences can be found below (click to expand):
As for the competition, there are quite a few hybrid SUVs to consider: the Nissan Juke Hybrid from £27,250; Honda HR-V from £30,695; MG HS PHEV from £31,095; Nissan Qashqai e-Power from £34,020; Peugeot 3008 Hybrid from £34,180; Citroen C5 Aircross from £36,875; Nissan X-Trail e-Power from £36,965; Citroen C5 X Hybrid from £38,220; Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid from £39,895; Peugeot 408 Hybrid from £40,450; Kia Sportage PHEV from £40,545; Ford Kuga PHEV from £40,555; Hyundai Tucson PHEV from £41,930; Range Rover Evoque P300e PHEV £49,000; Suzuki Across Hybrid from £49,529; Audi Q5 TFSIe from £55,105; and the BMW X3 xDrive30e from £56,515.
You might also want to consider a few of the fully electric alternatives: the MG ZS EV from £30,495; Hyundai Kona Electric from £34,995; Kia Soul EV from £32,875; Citroen e-C4 from £30,569; Citroen e-C4 X from £31,610; Peugeot e-2008 from £36,500; Kia Niro EV ‘2 64’ from £37,325; Vauxhall Mokka-e from £37,610; Volkswagen ID.4 from £42,640; Skoda Enyaq iV from £40,585; Hyundai Ioniq 5 from £43,445; BMW iX1 from £44,560; Tesla Model Y from £44,990; Kia EV6 from £45,275; and the Audi Q4 40 e-tron from £50,745. You’ve also got the MG5 EV, an all-electric estate that starts from £30,995, and the Smart #1, a crossover that starts from £31,950.
Kia Sportage exterior review
In comparison to the fourth-generation model, Kia has spruced up the exterior look of the Sportage. It’s both aggressive-looking due to its frontal profile and sleek thanks to its accentuated lines and stylish silhouette. 19″ alloys come fitted as standard across the entire PHEV line-up, giving it a snazzy stance on the road.
It is a shame, however, that the wheel arches and side skirts are not body-coloured. Thankfully, they don’t protrude too much from its shell and therefore don’t detract from the vehicle’s otherwise faultless exterior design.
As for the vehicle’s colour, there are a few variations with a red colour finish that comes as standard and optional paints, which range from £650-£800. When it comes to towing, the Sportage has 1,350kg of capacity and 750kg for braked and unbraked trailers, respectively. As for its roof, it’s rated at 100kg.
Kia Sportage interior review
Inside, the Kia isn’t as premium-looking as some of its rivals, but it still looks the part namely when compared to cheaper alternatives. More importantly, however, it retains a practical design with physical buttons on the steering wheel and a dedicated area for your climate controls. The latter is found at the centre of the dashboard.
The thin rectangular-shaped display is identical to that of the Kia EV6 and Niro EV. At the touch of a button, one can flick between media and climate controls, with the two physical knobs that reside on each end also responding to change. It’s an intuitive take on eradicating physical buttons from the vehicle’s cabin; it’s far easier to use over capacitive buttons and provides a modern feel over alternatives that have stuck with physical controls. It’s easily the best integration we’ve seen from any automaker, including what is found in the Hyundai Tucson.
Just above this area, you’ll find the 12.3” infotainment system, which is extremely responsive, intuitively laid out and provides plenty of customisation options. Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are also supported over a wired connection. It’s a shame, however, that in this day and age, there is no support for wireless transmission.
Speaking of which, navigation data from these third-party mobile operating systems is not fed through to the fully digitalised 12.3” instrument cluster (4.2″ cluster in the GT Line); some of its rivals offer said functionality and it makes for a bettered experience while driving, as one doesn’t have to glance towards the centre of the dashboard to check for directions. Nonetheless, the built-in navigation system does work with the driver’s display.
It is slightly surprising not to see a Head-Up Display (HUD) fitted as standard in the more expensive trim levels or at the very least, available as an option to consumers who would want to see it included.
As for the vehicle’s audio system, there’s a six-speaker 200-Watt configuration in the GT Line and 3 trims, while in the GT Line S you’ll find an eight-speaker (incl subwoofer) 340-Watt Harman Kardon system instead. If you’d like to hear how the latter system performs, watch our detailed review on YouTube.
Kia Sportage storage review
When it comes to storage, the Sportage offers plenty of space within the cabin. At the front, you’ll find a pretty sizeable glove box that has been optimised for right-hand drive (RHD) vehicles. As for the centre console, there’s a non-slip area at the top, which doubles up as a wireless charging bay in the GT Line S trim, while next to it you’ll also find a USB Type-A and Type-C ports and a 12V socket. Further down, there are two cupholders with a smart retractable design and a small area underneath the centre armrest.
In terms of the door bins, the front two are quite narrow and therefore taking a reusable 500ml bottle is not quite plausible. At the rear, they’re unsurprisingly a bit more limited. However, one can expand storage at the back via the pulldown armrest, which reveals two cupholders. There’s also a small storage area at the rear of the centre console and cutouts behind the front headrests, which serve to store a smartphone.
Elsewhere, you’ll find a USB Type-C port for charging within the inner side of the front seats. A clever integration by the manufacturer, allowing for rear occupants to charge their devices.
As for the boot, there’s 540 litres in the PHEV model, which is down from 587 litres from the regular hybrid. With the seats dropped, this figure extends up to 1,715 and 1,776 litres, respectively. Granted the PHEV model has less storage than its hybrid counterpart, but it’s still plentiful. The Kia is also near-identical to the Hyundai Tucson PHEV, which sits at 558 and 1,737 litres, respectively.
Here’s how the it stacks up to other electrified SUVs: Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e (1,179/1,794 litres); Tesla Model Y (854/2,100 litres); Skoda Enyaq iV (585/1,710 litres); VW Passat Estate GTE (483/1,613 litres); VW ID.4 (543/1,575 litres); Hyundai Ioniq 5 (520/1,587 litres); Skoda Octavia iV Estate (490/1,555 litres); Citroen C5 X Hybrid (485/1,580 litres); Peugeot 408 Hybrid (485/1,545 litres); Citroen C5 Aircross (460/1,510 litres); Nissan X-Trail (485-575/1,298-1,386); Kia EV6 (490/1,300 litres); MG ZS EV (448/1,375 litres); Peugeot e-2008 (434/1,467 litres); Range Rover Evoque P300e (591/1,383 litres); Nissan Qashqai e-Power (455/1,379 litres); Kia Soul EV (315/1,339 litres); Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid (345/1,475 litres); Suzuki Across Hybrid (490/1,168 litres); Citroen e-C4 (380/1,250 litres); BMW X2 xDrive 25e (410/1,290 litres); Nissan Juke Hybrid (354/1,237 litres); Honda HR-V (320/1,290 litres); Hyundai Kona Electric (332/1,114 litres); Vauxhall Mokka-e (310/1,060 litres). As for the MG5 EV estate, it offers 479 and 1,367 litres, respectively.
In terms of practicality, the Sportage has 40:20:40 rear-split folding seats with an integrated ski latch fitted as standard. Better still, the seats can be conveniently dropped down via the release latch found in the boot, making it easy to load luggage.
Equally in the GT Line S trim, you’ll find an electronically-operated tailgate; it is a shame that there is a loud audible sound when it’s being operated. Nonetheless, Kia’s SUV has a wide-opening hatchback design, a flat loading bay, a small underfloor compartment for your charging cables, and a retractable and removable boot load cover. The latter doesn’t quite fit in the underfloor area, as the polystyrene tray doesn’t accommodate the elongated object; it would seem that in the non-PHEV model, it should be plausible as there’s a cut-out for the boot load cover.
Kia Sportage comfort review
While the boot of the PHEV model is a little smaller than the regular hybrid model, seating comfort hasn’t been compromised in the slightest. Both headroom and legroom at the front and rear of the cabin are excellent with even 6-foot 2-inches (188cm) individuals able to be sat without any issues.
To expand, the transmission tunnel has been kept down to a minimum, meaning the rear middle occupant can place their feet down comfortably on longer journeys. Speaking of which, the rear seats can also recline – bettering the overall experience.
At the front of the cabin, there are manually adjustable front seats with the driver’s seat also featuring lumbar support. Both front seats and steering wheel are heated as standard in all the PHEV variants. In the level 3 trim and above, you’ll find electronically adjustable front seats and heated rear outer seats. Should you want 10-way driver’s and 8-way front passenger’s electric seats with ventilation, and a panoramic sunroof you’ll need to opt for the top-spec GT Line S trim.
As for cabin noise, the Sportage is surprisingly well-insulated. The vehicle soaks up a considerable amount of noise at lower speeds and does a valiant job while traversing on the motorway. Detailed sound measurements that we recorded within the cabin can be found in our dedicated audio review.
Kia Sportage performance review
Unfortunately, such praise can’t be said about the vehicle’s suspension system, which feels a little unsettled on longer drives; from our tests, we found that the Sportage, suffered from vibrations, which could be felt through the steering wheel and the front seats. In ways, it felt as if it had wheel-balancing problems. While this could be the case, it was also noted at lower speeds, which leads us to believe it wasn’t an isolated issue, especially as the same sensations were felt in its near-identical sibling, the Hyundai Tucson.
Nonetheless, it’s still comfortable to drive due to its softened setup; potholes and speed bumps are soaked up to a certain degree, which makes for a more pleasurable drive over sportier alternatives. However, when compared to the Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid and BMW X2 xDrive 25e, the Hyundai does suffer from a bit of body roll when driven at speed on winding country roads and lacks that one-to-one driver’s feel.
We should point out that the Kia, unlike the Hyundai, does not have the option to be fitted with an Electronic Control Suspension (ECS) system. Even so, it’s hard to imagine Hyundai’s ECS system or indeed the stock setup of the Kia competing with the ‘Progressive Hydraulic Cushion’ system that is found on the Citroen C5 X Hybrid and Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid, which both provide a floaty-like experience.
One thing that does stand out over some of its rivals and the regular hybrid model, is that the Sportage PHEV and the more powerful mild-hybrid models operate on an all-wheel drive (AWD) system as opposed to a front-wheel drive (FWD) configuration. A small detail to consider if it’s an important feature that you’re looking for.
While that’s appreciated, it is disappointing that its six-speed automatic transmission is sloppy. Gear shifts initiated via the flappy paddles found behind the steering wheel take more time than they should; even in its Sport mode preset, the Sportage lacks that responsiveness.
With that said, it is by no means a slouch when power is required. Using Racelogic’s Performance Box Touch, we had it tested from 0-20mph in 1.78s, 0-30mph in 2.61s, 0-60mph in 6.61s and from 50-70mph in 3.46s. Top speed is capped at 119mph. Indeed, its front-mounted 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine combines with the 66.9 kW electric motor to output 195 kW (261 hp) of power and 350 Nm of torque; in fact, when driven in EV mode, one still has 304 Nm of torque.
On the subject of electrification, its 13.8 kWh battery provides around 35 miles of range, which is a little below the manufacturer’s 43-mile claim. Now, unless you drive in EV mode, it might be hard to understand how much range you have available, as the battery rarely runs out of juice when driven in Hybrid mode as it recoups energy via regenerative braking and is also recharged by the petrol engine – quite a rare sight for a plug-in hybrid. Should you completely run out of charge, the vehicle’s 7.2 kW onboard charger allows you to plug it into a single-phase 7 kW wallbox to go from 10-100% charge in 1hr 45mins. A 3-pin plug will take you 5hrs 27mins, instead.
So far there are many similarities with the Hyundai Tucson, but fuel efficiency is where these two have a notable difference. In our mixed driving tests of the Kia, we netted an impressive 65-70 MPG, which puts it up there with some of the most fuel-efficient PHEVs we’ve tested to date. By contrast, the Tucson only managed 42.7 MPG in the very same tests. We’re not quite sure why there are such discrepancies between the two vehicles, as they’re mechanically identical, but we can only report the figures we attained in both our tests.
For some context, here is how the two vehicles from the Hyundai Motor Group compare to rival alternatives: the Citroen C5 X Hybrid and Peugeot 408 Hybrid attained 70-75 MPG, Cupra Formentor e-Hybrid attained 64 MPG, the VW Passat Estate GTE 60-65 MPG, the Citroen C5 Aircross Hybrid 58 MPG, the Suzuki Across Hybrid 55-61 MPG, the Skoda Octavia iV Estate and Honda HR-V 55 MPG, the Nissan Qashqai e-Power 50-53 MPG, the Nissan X-Trail 42.6 MPG, the Range Rover Evoque P300e 40 MPG, the BMW X2 xDrive 25e 39 MPG, the Nissan Juke Hybrid 35-40 MPG, the Jeep Renegade 4xe attained 36 MPG and the Land Rover Discovery Sport P300e a measly 35 MPG.
As for total driving range, on a full tank of petrol, you should be able to attain around 350 miles from its 42-litre tank; down from 54 litres from the mild hybrid and 52 litres from the regular hybrid. Of course, this is dependent on how and where you drive, so expect a bit of variation.
Read next: Citroen C5 X review: Hybrid perfection?
Kia Sportage safety review
When it comes to crash safety, the Tucson received a full 5/5 stars by Euro NCAP. It scored 87% in Adult Occupancy, 86% in Child Occupancy and 72% in the Safety Assist tests.
As for the driver assistance systems, you get the following as standard: Smart Cruise Control (SCC) with Stop & Go Functionality, Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist (FCA) – City/Pedestrian/Cyclist/Junction Turning, Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Multi-Collision Brake, Intelligent Speed Limit Assist (ISLA), Lane Following Assist (LFA), and Lane Keep Assist (LKA). It’s great to see that the latter system can be disabled on-the-fly by long-pressing a button on the steering wheel; LKA gets re-enabled each time you power on the vehicle.
Further, the Kia’s smart cruise control and HDA systems come fitted as standard. These provide excellent support on the motorway by safely regulating the distance between you and the leading vehicle while also providing steering assistance.
Should you want to take things one step further, you’ll want to get the GT Line S trim, as it adds Blind-Spot Collision-Avoidance Assist (BCA) and Blind-spot View Monitor (BVM). The latter system integrates the side view cameras straight into the instrument cluster, allowing you to check your surroundings with ease.
Elsewhere, the top-spec trim adds Remote Smart Parking Assist (RSPA), Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) and 360-degree cameras providing you with peace of mind in tight spaces.
Speaking of which, front and rear sensors and a camera come fitted as standard across the entire trim range. As for manoeuvrability, it’s excellent with a 10.92-metre turning circle and excellent visibility at the front and side. It’s not too bad at the rear either, however, the top-mounted rear wiper only manages to clean a small portion of the window.
Read next: New Honda HR-V review: Best hybrid SUV?
TotallyEV’s verdict on the Kia Sportage
Overall, the Kia Sportage is an excellent and arguably better alternative to the Hyundai Tucson. It has a stylish exterior look, a practical interior design, a plethora of tech and driver assistance systems fitted as standard, a good amount of boot space, excellent rear occupancy space, a punchy powertrain and impressive fuel economy. However, it’s not as fun to drive nor as comfortable as some of the alternatives and is slightly pricey; meaning we can’t outright recommend it over its rivals but we’d still pick it over the Hyundai alternative.