Catching the eye of buyers in the medium-sized SUV market these days is far from easy. The model choice alone bamboozles and that is before you consider spec, extras and – most importantly of all – engines. Kia however feels its bold new Sportage Mk5 will help it to stand out from the crowd.

THE LOOK OF A WINNER?

The most obvious place to start this review is the way the Sportage looks. There is a lot resting on this dramatic styling which, incidentally, brings the family mover into line with the company’s EV6 flagship vehicle. Not only is the Sportage currently Kia’s biggest-selling vehicle in the UK, the same applies to Europe and the world markets as well. There is no shortage of models to choose from as there are five in all, starting at ‘2’, then ‘GT-Line’ before moving on to ‘3’ and ‘4’ and the range-topping ‘GT-Line S’. Every example has the same boomerang-shaped headlights, split wraparound tail-lights and interesting blend of taut lines, smooth surfaces and intricate detailing. Our test car wore 19-inch alloys that can hinder the driving experience on tatty roads; a full-length panoramic glass sunroof; black contrast roof; and brilliant adaptive front LED lighting technology.

HAS KIA BEEN AS ADVENTEROUS INSIDE?

Based on current offerings, the Sportage’s cabin is arguably one of the nicest – and plushest – of SUVs to spend your time, be that as a driver or as a passenger. It won’t come as any great surprise to discover quality and craftmanship is second to none; that’s really no less than what buyers have come to expect from the South Korean manufacturer in recent times. Jump inside and everything is smartly – and simply – laid out with controls from the same family grouped together. All bar ‘2’ models receive the clear and toggleable 12.3-inch digital driver display which is positioned in such a way that is merges into the central infotainment display. A knurled knob to engage gear takes pride of place on the nicely positioned lower console where other buttons housed on it include those for parking functions, ‘Downhill Brake Control’, ‘Drive Mode’ that alters the weight of the steering and throttle response, and shortcut buttons for either cooled – or heated – front seats.

JUST HOW PRACTICAL IS IT?

People splash the cash on a SUV primarily for the extra all-round space it secures. In the Sportage’s case, room up top and in the back is among the best in this class. Elbow and leg room score highly and access to the front and back seats couldn’t be easier as the doors open to almost 90 degrees – equally important when it comes to safely buckling up small kids into their child seats. Pockets on the back of the front seats, a fold-down centre armrest that houses two cupholders and USB ports are welcome, too. Generally, the cabin feels light and airy and the panoramic glass sunroof – if fitted – accentuates this, although the key drawback is less headroom for taller passengers in the back. Those of a 6ft disposition are likely to find their head brushing against the roof lining. Reclining rear seats that split-fold 20/40/20 rather than the less flexible 60/40 arrangement, and a flat floor for the 587-litre cargo that lies flush with the boot opening, are yet further plus points.

AN ENGINE TO SUIT EVERYONE

Whether it is a turbo diesel or turbo petrol, a mild-hybrid or a plug-in hybrid you are after, Kia has you covered. The self-charging hybrid concept is now pretty commonplace in this sector so there is nothing ground-breaking as far as the Sportage is concerned. A 1.6-litre petrol joins forces with an e-motor that is fed by a 1.49kWh battery for a combined 226bhp. In ‘GT-Line S’ spec, front-wheel-drive is standard and four-wheel-drive is available, albeit at extra cost. Overall, this is a well-oiled system that packs punchy performance: 0-62mph takes 7.7 seconds and top speed is 120mph. However, the automatic transmission isn’t the brightest, often needing a second or two before becoming aware of the situation and acting accordingly. As for driving on battery power alone, this is exclusively limited to lower speeds and for short distances, although over the course of the working week it all adds up and should ensure you achieve fuel returns in the mid-40mpgs.

OUT ON THE ROAD 

The Sportage is blessed with excellent refinement, and sound deadening materials do a good job of supressing engine, wind and road noise to ensure a relaxing drive. All round visibility is strong and that helps when judging the car’s width on narrow country roads given its sizeable footprint. From behind the wheel, this Hyundai Tucson and Ford Kuga rival is geared more towards comfort than excitement and, considering its target audience, that makes sense. The front end grips keenly and the steering loads up nicely as you quicken the pace, though it should be pointed out that the 19-inch wheels equipped to higher grade cars exacerbate the rough edges on nasty potholes.

PROS AND CONS

+ Attention grabbing looks        
+ Nicely presented cabin            
+ Quiet and refined cruiser       
Ride can become unsettled    
Not as efficient as PHEV model            
Panoramic sunroof hurts headroom

DRIVE MODES: The number of these vary according to which Sportage you end up buying but on four-wheel-drive variants there’s four in all. Selected via a small dial on the lower console, drivers can switch between ‘Eco’ for maximum economy to ‘Normal’ and ‘Terrain’ and finally ‘Sport’. The latter results in heavier steering and noticeably sharper performance from the hybrid set-up.

INTERIOR: The panoramic-esque digital display that stretches from the centre of the dash right across to the driver’s side is the big talking point in pricier examples of the Sportage. Best of all, the two 12.3-inch displays are easy to get on to and look the part. Our test car also came equipped with a Harman Kardon stereo, a 360° ‘Around View’ monitor and a wireless phone charging pad.

STYLING: The overall look of the fifth-generation Sportage is sure to grab people’s attention. If you opt for sportier ‘GT-Line’ and ‘GT-Line S’ trim bigger wheels, rear privacy glass, black side sill and wheel-arch body mouldings, and LED light technology all make an appearance. Colour choice is limited to five, and includes ‘Blue Flame’ – a chic metallic paint that commands an extra £650.

PRACTICALITY: Total boot volume in the Sportage varies according to engine. So, in the case of self-charging hybrid models, this stands at 587-litres dropping to 540-litres for the PHEV due to the size of the batteries. Either way, the load area is big and flexible enough to swallow a family’s luggage, a buggy plus the weekly shopping, or for taking items to a nearby refuse collection point.

SPECIFICATION

Price: £38,665 (as tested) 
Engine: 1.6-litre turbo petrol plus one e-motor
Power/torque: 227bhp/258lb ft    
Transmission: 6-speed automatic, front-wheel drive         
0-62mph: 7.7 seconds    
Top speed: 120mph       
Economy/CO2: 48.7mpg/132g/Km 

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