Not for the sport, but for the win
The arrival of the Kia EV6 is significant even for the Sportage. This is because the EV6 is a "crossover" (mix of off-road vehicle and passenger car). The Sportage can therefore profile itself as a pure SUV (Sports Utiity Vehicle, or luxury off-road vehicle) even more than before. This is why the Sportage is emphatically built in height, with the proportions of a real offroader. The design style is that of Kia's latest generation, which gives the Sportage such a modern look that most of its competitors seem instantly outdated!
Inside, the Sportage is also innovative. Most eye-catching is the slightly curved display that extends from the far left to the middle of the dashboard. Information for the driver (speed, rev counter, etc) appears on the part behind the steering wheel. The right part of the screen controls the audio, communication and sat nav.
The equipment of the "GT Line" driven here is complete, but not as innovative as its design suggests. For connecting a mobile phone, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are available. For charging a phone, Kia provides USB-A, USB-C and an induction charger.
The various driver-assistants do their job properly and are only dormant in the background. That way, they are not perceived as distracting and therefore not switched off by the driver. Besides a blind spot indicator (warning light in the exterior mirror), Kia offers another additional feature. As soon as the indicator is on, images from a side camera appear on the screen for extra safety. In a busy city full of cyclists and pedestrians, this is felt to be a valuable extra.
Compared to the previous Sportage, the new generation has grown only marginally. Partly for this reason, interior space is average for a car in this segment. Legroom in the rear is adequate, but the back of the front seats is unnecessarily hard. Moreover, a well-intentioned clothes hook on the back of the front seat functions as a knee-pinch.
Also, taller drivers will note that the front seat cannot be adjusted sufficiently in height and sits too high. The steering wheel is therefore almost on the knees and the driver sits behind the wheel with his arms stretched out. Of course, this strongly depends on the driver's stature, but other SUVs do not have this problem.
The new Sportage is available with three engines. All have a displacement of 1.6 litres, count four cylinders and run on petrol. The difference is in the degree of assistance provided by an electric motor. The base version is a so-called "mild hybrid". It converts kinetic energy during braking and coasting into electricity. Later, this free energy is used to power the on-board electronics and give a modest boost to the petrol engine.
The second option is a "parallel hybrid". This basically works the same as the mild hybrid, but has a larger battery and a more powerful electric motor. Therefore, this version can travel short distances fully electric. The top version is a "plug-in hybrid" (PHEV). This has an even larger battery that can also be charged from a wall socket. The PHEV can therefore drive several dozen kilometres entirely electric.
The test car is the parallel hybrid combined with all-wheel drive. In practice, it is noticeable that the electric motor's contribution is modest. On the motorway, the petrol engine regularly shuts down under minimal load, but the benefit of hybrid driving is nonetheless small here. In town, the hybrid powertrain ensures that consumption hardly increases. Test consumption came to an unimpressive 7 litres per 100 km despite an extremely calm driving style and an easy course.
The powertrain comes from the much larger Sorento and therefore the power output is relatively high for the mid-sized Sportage. This is especially noticeable when the sport mode is chosen. Then the gauges turn red and white and the Sportage shoots off willingly at every opportunity. In standard mode, the Sportage is more reserved and the emphasis is on comfort. The sounds of the engine, tyres and driving wind are modest.
Compared to the previous Sportage, the new generation has made a big leap in handling. On bad road surfaces, the Sportage is comfortable thanks to relatively long suspension travel (necessary for off-road use).
At the same time, the steering is light but precise. Because of its tall build, the body tilts slightly, but the Sportage always remains balanced and handles as smoothly as the average passenger car.
Will Kia take the win with the new Sportage? Yes, without a doubt. Kia knows the strengths of the previous Sportages and has built on them. As before, the Sportage is practical, modern and, above all, flawless. That's why the Sportage has been a sensible but unremarkable car until now.
Thanks to hybrid engines, the powertrain moves with the times, without the driver having to do anything. When driving calmly, the Sportage is still safe and comfortable. Thanks to generous engine power and an advanced suspension, the Sportage now also lends itself to a more dynamic driving style. At the same time, the Sportage ventures into light terrain just as easily. The biggest gain is in the almost revolutionary design, which will win over even more buyers.
- Modern design
- Excellent handling
- Available as mild, parallel and plug-in hybrid
- Firm back front seats
- Seat too high / steering wheel too low
- Despite hybrid, relatively high consumption