With 2,986 vehicles sold according to SMMT (The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders), the fourth-generation 2020 Kia Sportage was the 2nd best-selling car in January 2021.
While it’s true that the 1st and 2nd generation models could not be described as showstoppers, a redesign changed things in 2010 with SUV buyers suddenly taking note. Then, in 2020 Kia released the most recent 4th generation version with the aim of improving the driving experience. And it certainly paid off, with the Sportage regularly dipping in and out of the top 10 best-sellers list last year.
So how did the Sportage quietly become a front-runner?
The first thing to note is its reliability. The Sportage comes out well during testing and Kia is known for their unrivalled 7-year warranty.
There is a choice of two petrol engines and one diesel, which features mild-hybrid technology to improve efficiency. Both manual and auto versions are available, with a four-wheel-drive option too. You won’t be alone in finding the entry-level engine disappointing, we’d recommend the 1.6 T-GDi 174 for a turbocharged alternative. There is no large 2litre diesel version, so if you are hoping to tow a caravan, or lug around lots of baggage at speed on the motorway, then you may wish to consider punchier rivals such as the Seat Ateca or the Skoda Karoq. Having said that, the Kia Sportage has firm suspension much like the Ateca, so it feels sporty and is just a smooth on the motorway as it is zipping around town thanks to its strong steering grip.
Kia decided to do away with trim level 1 and 4 for this 4th generation model. That leaves trim level 2, 3 and new additions in the sportier GT-Line and GT-Line S. All trims have electrically adjustable lumbar support and manual seat height adjustment as standard which lends itself nicely to a good driving position which is nice and comfortable on long journeys.
Acknowledging the slightly hindered rearview, Kia has helpfully included a rear-view camera and parking sensors on all trim levels. Visibility out the front is good thanks to the high driving position and all but two trims get front parking sensors. If you opt for the loftier GT-Line or GT-Line S trim, you’ll also benefit from a surround-view camera.
In terms of tech, even the most basic trim level comes with an 8.0in infotainment touchscreen, a DAB radio, USB connector and Bluetooth, Sat Nav and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto smartphone mirroring which allows you to use your phone’s sat-nav through the screen of the car. This is especially handy now that a law has been changed which means it is illegal to hold a phone or Sat Nav while driving (this was previously only illegal if you were caught using the device.) While the graphics on the touchscreen of the Skoda Karoq are sharper, the Sportage system responds well and gets the job done.
The interior is smart, with no ugly hard plastics to note and the metallic-effect finishes are a nice feature. The buttons and controls are well placed and clearly marked. All trims get a leather-trimmed steering wheel and gear-lever and a central armrest upfront. For leather seats, you would need to opt for the upper trim levels.
With regards to size and storage, headroom is decent, although the panoramic sunroof option on the 3 and GT-Line S trim lowers the head height slightly. There are good-sized door pockets and glovebox, with a tray for small items such as phones and keys, and two fixed cup holders by the gear-lever. Rear space is average for the class, although the Kia Sportage also offers reclining rear seats which have a typical 60/40 split. There are 491 litres of boot capacity (or 439 litres in the mild-hybrid version.) The boot floor is flat to the opening which is useful when heaving bulky items in and out, and the rear seats drop flush to the floor too for extra room.
While starting prices beat the SEAT Ateca and Skoda Karoq, you’ll find that these rivals fair better as you head up the Sportage trim levels. We’d say it makes sense to remain at trim level 2 or 3 to ensure you keep costs low. Anything else would result in paying more for a car with fewer features than its rivals. Resale value is currently strong and there remains some good PCP offers to be found if you are in the market for a finance deal.
Ultimately, if you purchase this car with all its good looks, equipment levels and long warranty, you’ll be wondering why other buyers have opted for a rival model which is £5000 more expensive. Kia’s strong but quiet UK following have been thinking the same for years. Welcome to possibly the best kept medium-size SUV secret there is.