The Auto Trader expert verdict: ★★★★★ ★★★★★ 4.0

The Sportage is one of the most popular mid-sized SUVs on sale, and with good reason. It’s a very well-rounded car available in a range of versions to suit a wide spectrum of customers. It might not excel in one particular area, but it’s solid in every area that counts. The Sportage was named by the public as the Best Car for Towing in the 2019 Auto Trader New Car Awards.

Reasons to buy

  • Decent handling
  • Good quality interior
  • Excellent reliability record
Most economical
Sportage 1.6 CRDi (116 PS) 2WD
Entry-level diesel is the easiest on fuel.
Blow the budget
Sportage 2.0 CRDi GT Line S
The most powerful diesel isn't cheap, but it's a strong engine.
Best avoided
Sportage 1.6 T-GDi
Most powerful petrol engine is a disappointment.

How good does it look? 4/5

The mid-life facelift of the Sportage hasn’t radically change its looks from the 2014 model. Look at the original and this facelifted version side by side, and you’ll notice a few tweaks to the bumper design and grille, and different designs for the lights too.

There are several trims to choose from, all of which have alloy wheels and LED daytime running lights as standard. The entry-level 1 trim has 16-inch alloy wheels and front fog lights, while the 2 model gets 17-inch wheels and some extra chrome bits on the bodywork.

New for the facelifted model is the Edition 25 trim, which gets even more chrome bits and silver painted skid plates at the front and back, as well as upgraded LED headlights. The 4 model rides on 19-inch alloy wheels, as does the GT-Line and GT-Line S cars. The latter two also get a different grille design and dark chrome elements on the bodywork, as well as dual exhausts at the back and fancier-looking fog lights.

What's the interior like? 3/5

The interior of the Sportage hasn't changed much either, which means it’s functional and well made without being particularly eye-catching, and it doesn’t have the top quality boasted by Skoda’s Karoq. Still, everything is easy to find and use, the seats are comfortable and the infotainment system, while not particularly jazzy, is similarly functional.

One change for the facelifted model is that the screens are different from earlier Sportages. Lower-spec cars get a 7.0-inch touchscreen system, while the fancier models get a larger 8.0-inch set-up, and all cars get both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration.

How practical is it? 4/5

This really is a crucial area for the Sportage to get right, because most are used as family cars that need to be ready for anything and everything. Thankfully, the latest model does the job relatively well. A brace of six-foot adults have room to stretch out in the back, even when those in the front are of a similar size, and because the central transmission tunnel is low and flat, a third passenger can also sit in the back in reasonable comfort. The rear seat backs recline, which is a nice touch too, although some rivals do offer sliding seats as standard.

The boot is an impressive size at 491 litres, and the standard split-folding rear seats drop more or less flat to open up a whopping 1,480 litres of space. There is one major oversight though: you can't drop the rear seats down from inside the boot, so if you want to unlock the maximum amount of space, you have to open the boot, then do each side individually, which is frustrating and time consuming.

The Sportage was named by the public as the Best Car for Towing in the 2019 Auto Trader New Car Awards.

What's it like to drive? 3/5

On the road, the most crucial aspect of a family car is ride comfort, and the Sportage is definitely tuned to be on the soft side, which is perfect for keeping everyone on board comfy. We did detect a hint of firmness over sharper bumps, though, and for that reason we'd avoid fitting large alloy wheels. The ride on the standard 17-inch rims is nicely judged.

The Sportage is also nicely composed in the bends, too. You get extremely strong grip and progressive body roll that is easy to manage, so it's fairly nimble when changing direction. A Seat Ateca is a bit keener though. The steering is rewarding, because it’s responsive, direct and well weighted. There are better all-rounders in this class, but the Sportage is not far behind.

How powerful is it? 3/5

This facelifted version of the Sportage has a new diesel engine, with a 1.6-litre engine replacing the thoroughly recommended 1.7-litre unit found in the 2014-2018 car. It’s available with either 116 or 136 horsepower, but we’ve yet to try it in either guise.

There’s also a 2.0-litre diesel with 185 horsepower, which is strong and pretty smooth, but it makes the Sportage rather too pricey to buy and run, especially as it’s only available with all-wheel drive when lower-powered versions are front-wheel drive.

The entry-level petrol is a naturally-aspirated 1.6 with 132 horsepower that’s not really got enough grunt if you’re ferrying more than just yourself around. You have to work it hard, and it’s pretty loud at higher revs. We’ve also had a go in the turbocharged version that gives 176 horsepower. We almost wished we hadn’t. It too doesn’t do its best work until you’re upwards of 3,500rpm, and even then, it doesn’t feel anywhere near as pokey as the numbers suggest. More frustratingly, it feels disappointingly flat further down the rev range, so you’ll find yourself flogging the engine for too much of the time.

Gears are changed via either a six-speed manual gearbox, or two types of automatic gearbox. Not all gearbox choices are available on all models, but they all do the job with minimal fuss.

How much will it cost me? 4/5

We’ve compared the 136-horsepower, 1.6-litre diesel Sportage 2 – which is likely to be one of the biggest selling models – with a couple of its main rivals, the Seat Ateca and the Nissan Qashqai. All three are virtually the same price to buy. You get more power in the Kia than the equivalent Ateca or Qashqai, because the Sportage’s entry-level 116 horsepower diesel engine is only available in the most basic trim. That does mean, however, that fuel economy in the Sportage isn’t as good as the 115-horsepower rivals.

This is offset by a strong predicted resale value for the Kia though, which according to industry expectations will hold its worth better than either rival. All of this means that overall, the Sportage is broadly on a par with its rivals when it comes to cost.

How reliable is it? 5/5

Look at JD Power's 2017 Vehicle Dependability Survey, and you'll find Kia right at the top, outperforming all other car manufacturers. That's a trend that continued in the 2018 study, where Kia placed third overall. If those aren't comforting stats, we don't know what are. What’s more, Kia has introduced a seven-year/100,000-mile warranty since then, and as it hasn’t bankrupted the company, you have to think its cars have proved to be pretty reliable.

How safe is it? 4/5

The Sportage comes with a decent selection of safety kit provided across the range, including six airbags, sophisticated brakes, stability control, trailer stability assist, downhill brake assist and hill-start assist. You get more safety aids as you progress up the model range, too.

Cars of 2 trim and above get lane-keep assist, automatic high-beam and speed limit information, while 4 trim gets blind spot detection and rear cross traffic alert. It also comes with autonomous city braking, but it’s perhaps a little disappointing that this important feature isn’t provided as standard a little further down the range.

Nevertheless, the Sportage has achieved the maximum five-star rating in safety organisation Euro NCAP's crash tests, although that was in 2014, and the standards have tightened since then.

How much equipment do I get? 4/5

The Sportage is well-equipped as standard, with all cars getting a rear-view camera, leather-trimmed steering wheel, electric mirrors and DAB radio. From the 2 trim upwards, you’ll get a reversing sensor, satellite navigation, automatic wipers and duel-zone air conditioning, as well as cruise control.

Upgrade to the 4 model (there’s no 3, for some reason) and you’ll get the bigger touchscreen, a panoramic sunroof, black leather upholstery and front seats that adjust electrically. There’s also an upgraded JBL soundsystem and a 360-degree camera system for manoeuvring.

The Edition 25 model, which is based on the 4, isn’t exactly an upgrade, more a step sideways. It rides on smaller, 17-inch wheels, and you get cloth and leather upholstery and premium paint, as well as keyless entry and start.

The GT-Line model, unlike the feature-packed 4 model, goes for a sportier vibe, and includes LED rear lights, front parking sensors and paddle shifters if you spec the automatic gearbox. GT-Line S adds adaptive cruise control, a panoramic sunroof, powered boot lid and ventilated front seats that keep you cool in hot weather, as well as a heated steering wheel for those chilly mornings.

Why buy? 4/5

Customers will be attracted to the Sportage because they want a stylish and family-friendly SUV, but also want generous standard kit and good value for money. The Sportage delivers on all that, and it’s reasonable in quality and decent to drive, too. It’s a very competent car that should be on anyone's short list when looking for a new SUV.