Kia Sportage review

The plug-in Kia Sportage mixes refinement and economy with power and futuristic design – all in a family SUV-sized package.

Pros: decent electric range, modern styling, great on-board technology

Cons: so-so driving experience, hybrid tech won’t suit everyone, not as comfortable as the old Sportage

Kia’s new-generation Sportage certainly looks modern, and that fresh styling covers plenty of equally modern technology. Customers get a choice of engines with mild-hybrid and self-charging hybrid tech, while this plug-in hybrid version is also on the way. And inside, there’s a high-end new touchscreen infotainment system. But does this mixture of modern features make for a class leading family SUV?

Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid Design

Whether you like the design or not, the Kia Sportage is certainly striking. Inspired by the EV6 electric hatchback, the Sportage has futuristic lines and sharp angles, which gives it a very distinctive image. Compared with its rounded, slightly awkward predecessor, it’s a definite step forward.

Kia has applied its new-look badge to the bonnet and the vast expanse of metal that serves as a tailgate, while there’s an instantly recognisable light signature from the LED headlights at the front. Telling the plug-in hybrid from the conventional hybrid- or diesel-powered Sportage is not an easy trick, because it looks almost identical. There’s no extra blue trim, and the only badge is a small PHEV (which stands for plug-in hybrid electric vehicle) logo on the tailgate. Otherwise, the only sure-fire way to tell the difference is by looking around the car and finding the extra fuel filler flap on the rear wing. On one side, there’s a petrol filler, while the other side has a plug socket.

Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid Interior

Like the Sportage’s exterior, the interior is thoroughly modern. Key to this are the screens across the right-hand two-thirds of the dashboard, which provide both driver and infotainment displays. Behind the steering wheel is a clear digital instrument cluster that can show a selection of details about the car, from the on-board safety systems to fuel economy. And in hybrid versions, it also shows information about the battery charge level.

Left of that is the touchscreen infotainment system, which has to go down as one of the best touchscreens of any mainstream brand. Yes, the BMW iDrive system is better, but Kia’s latest displays are sharp, modern and logically laid out, making them really easy to use but still stylish.

Those screens dominate a solidly built dashboard, but some of the materials feel a bit hard and cheap compared with the old Sportage. It’s not that they won’t stand the test of time – we’ve no doubt they will – but they just feel a bit low-rent in such a modern cabin.

There are a few problems with the switchgear, too. Like the EV6, the Sportage has a selection of touch-sensitive switches on the dashboard that can either be used to control the air conditioning or the navigation system. Picking which ‘buttons’ are displayed is done using a button on the side that brings up a new set of icons. At the same time, Kia has fitted a rotary gear selector a little like those found in some Fords, but it’s made from quite cheap plastic and doesn’t feel as solid as you might hope.

But there the complaints dry up. The Sportage’s cabin is roomy enough for family life, with decent rear leg- and headroom, as well as a sensibly-sized boot. The diesel Sportage can carry 591 litres of luggage and although opting for a hybrid or plug-in hybrid Sportage shrinks that slightly, they still have more room than most of their rivals.

Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid Performance & Drive

Like the Sportage Hybrid, the plug-in hybrid version of Kia’s family SUV combines a 1.6-litre petrol engine with an electric motor. However, the plug-in hybrid has a rechargeable 13.8kWh battery that can power the 91hp electric motor for up to 69km before the petrol engine has to take over. As is so often the way with plug-in hybrids, that figure is a little fanciful in the real world, but our test drive revealed a very usable range of more than 50km on a mixture of roads.

If you’re happy to charge regularly and most of your journeys are short, then you’ll only ever need the petrol engine when you do the occasional longer trip. Assuming that’s your lifestyle, the plug-in Sportage will suit you nicely, and you might get somewhere near the official fuel consumption figure of 1.12 litres per 100km travelled. If you mostly do longer drives, however, the diesel is going to be the more economical choice.

But for those who want the fastest Sportage, the plug-in hybrid will be the car to choose. Combining the might of the 1.6-litre petrol engine with the electric motor gives the car a total power output of 265hp, which goes to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox. That gives it a 0-100km/h time of 7.9 seconds, which is respectable without being especially exciting.

The car’s handling could be described in much the same way, with solid levels of grip and acceptable agility, but light steering prevents you from having too much fun. The plug-in hybrid version does seem to lean fractionally less than the conventional hybrid in corners, though, with the weight of those batteries down in the floor.

However, the trade-off for that improved balance is a slight difference to the ride when the car hits a pothole. Where another Sportage might skip over the bump, the plug-in hybrid version sinks into it as the weight drags it down. Otherwise, there’s little difference between the two, with a slightly brittle quality to the ride across the range. It isn’t overly harsh, but some of the Kia’s rivals are smoother.

Kia Sportage Plug-In Hybrid Pricing

Kia has not yet confirmed prices for the Sportage Plug-In Hybrid in Ireland, but the Sportage line-up starts at €34,500 for the basic diesel version in entry-level K2 trim. The price increases as you climb the range, with K3 and K4 trims joined by the sporty-looking GT-Line version. The regular hybrid powertrain – as opposed to the plug-in hybrid – comes in at €43,150 and it’s currently only offered in K3 trim.

Carzone Verdict: 3.5/5

The plug-in hybrid Sportage might just be the most appealing version of Kia’s solid all-round family SUV. It might not be as exciting as the power output and the futuristic design might suggest, but for those with the lifestyle that suits the technology, the Sportage Plug-In Hybrid will be a refined and efficient family car.

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