The Kia Sportage is the brands most successful car, so no wonder the launch of a new one is a big deal for the Korean brand. The range features a choice of petrol & diesel, with mild hybrid, full hybrid & plug-in hybrid drivetrains & it was the latter the choice for company car drivers that we drove recently.
Five model grades – ‘2’, ‘GT-Line’, ‘3’, ‘4’ & ‘GT-Line S, with a choice of 18 different versions.
Built on Kia’s brand-new ‘N3’ architecture, the latest Sportage is 30mm longer, 10mm wider, features a 10mm longer wheelbase & it’s also 10mm higher. The front features a new take on the Kia Tiger Nose grille, boomerang LED daytime running lights, with Matrix LED headlamps. Along the side is a chrome belt line that kicks up at the rear & at the back the there’s a fast back design with razor rear lamps, all finished off with the option of a black roof, the first time this has been available on European models. There’s also a choice of ten colours & four alloy wheel designs, through 17”, 18” or 19” versions.
First seen in the EV6, the dashboard is dominated by the car’s infotainment & instrument cluster screens, which stretch across two-thirds of the car. Below the central touchscreen, sits the car’s multi-mode display. This replaces physical buttons with a dedicated ‘haptic’ touchscreen, providing shortcuts to control the cars climate control, infotainment & SatNav. The good news is, that you don’t need to delve into too many sub-menus to choose what you want. It’s easy to work, with a small arrow which when pushed, switches from climate to the cars functions, which helps free up dashboard space.
The centre console on automatic versions, also features a new shift-by-wire automatic transmission dial, taking up less space than a traditional gear selector, which is available on ‘GT-Line’, ‘GT-Line S’, ‘3’ & ‘4’ grades. Also new, is a high speed 15W wireless charging for smartphones on ‘4’ & GT-Line S’ editions.
Up front you get twin cupholders between the front seats. On some versions, the cup holders rotate outwards & can be pushed back in when not needed, creating more space in the cabin. In front of this you get two USB connections & a 12v socket. The door pockets will also hold a bottle, but the glove box is slim. The front armrest lifts up to add more storage. Front & rear head & legroom is good as well.
The cabin now offers an integrated hanger-type design within the headrests, allowing clothing or bags to be hooked into place. Sitting next to these, are twin USB inputs located on the inside of the front seat sides. Slimmer front seats increase rear legroom to 996mm & coupled with the increased measurements all around, the cabin is more spacious than any previous Sportage.
The 40:20:40 split rear seats fold down by pulling a lever & the PHEV boot features up to 540 litres of luggage space with the seats up, with a maximum boot capacity of 1,715 litres when folding the rear seats down.
As with Kia’s latest electric car the EV6, the cabin quality is excellent, especially on higher spec versions. So there’s plenty of soft touch finishes, in black & chrome & it’s all very tastefully executed. As you shift down to ‘2’ or ‘3’ model’s, the quality dips a little with cheaper plastic used between the front seats.
Kia have come up trumps here, with twin 12.3″ touch screens & the curved panoramic display standard on most variants, plus Android Auto & Apple CarPlay smartphone compatibility fitted as standard.
Safety wise, again Kia have been generous, with Forward Collision Avoidance Assist (FCA) which includes sensors for city, pedestrian, cyclists, & junctions, offered on all models. Choose an auto & benefit from Highway Driving Assist (HDA), Smart Cruise Control with Stop & Go & paddle shifters. All models come with Lane Follow Assist (LFA) & Lane Keep Assist (LKA), front & rear parking sensors & a reversing camera. Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA) with Parking Collision Avoidance Assist (PCA) is standard on ‘4’ & ‘GT-Line S’ versions, with Remote Smart Park Assist (RSPA) standard on ‘4’ & ‘GT-Line S’ hybrid models.
1.6 T-GDi ‘GT-Line S’ PHEV AWD
Whilst we drove a couple of petrol models at launch, it was the PHEV Sportage, the 1.6 T-GDi PHEV that we felt held most appeal for company car drivers with it’s low BIK & a GT Line AWD version arrived for us to try out.
Even plugging in to a domestic plug wil enable your plug-in to charge to full in 5 hours 30 minutes. Better still use a home 7kWh wall box & it will only take 1 hour 45 minutes.
BIK & fuel economy
With CO2’s of just 25g/km the Sportage PHEV should be on any SUV company car drivers shopping list as it attracts just 8% BIK. Furthermore combined economy is 252 mpg
0-60 mph takes just 7.9 seconds & top speed is 119 mph.
The first thing you notice is how easy this is to drive. In town, the auto box is excellent & on the motorway, simply select cruise control & away you go. At motorway speeds, the cabins quiet & the drivers seat is comfortable. Kick down to overtake & the revs go up & the engine noise gets a little intrusive. There’s plenty of power on offer, with the plug-in hybrid version offering 261bhp & 350Nm of torque.
This version blends a 13.2kWh battery to a 1.6 petrol engine. EV range is 43 miles. This enables the car to travel a fair distance on electric power only & if you’re careful & aren’t going on a longer motorway trip, you may find that you’re able to spend several days in your Sportage before the need to plug it in.
As with the other Sportier versions, the PHEV features light steering & good all-around visibility. The plug-in does feel a little unsettled over bumps in the road & you can feel the extra weight in corners. After all with a 140kg battery on board & AWD capabilities, the GT Line we drove is heavy, coming in at 2,415kg, a full 320kg heavier than the petrol only version. Having said that most drivers won’t even notice this.
As with all PHEV’s the combined fuel economy that is claimed, is always matter of conjecture.
For example, drive locally under 43 miles, plug-in at home, utilise discounted night time charging rates of 7.5kWh & you’ll be quids in. However, take a 400 mile motorway round trip saving the EV range for later, & you’ll be looking at 40.5 mpg the figure we averaged. Food for thought.
With a wide range of engines & a good choice of specs, there’s a Sportage for all. The interior is arguably, best in class, with the excellent infotainment system lifting this Sportage to new heights. Despite it’s high price tag, the plug-in Sportage as a company car is a no brainer.
Like all SUV’s, the Sportage is a little bland to drive. The PHEV’s are considerably more expensive than the petrol versions. We’d go for a lower specced’3′ or ‘4’ version than the range topping AWD GT Line, which comes in at an eye watering £45,550 !
How do you improve your best selling & most successful car ? Simple. Don’t fiddle around too much with how it looks, tick. Offer a wide choice of engines including a fleet-friendly plug-in version, tick. Offer loads of goodies even on the cheaper versions, tick. Add a great looking, top notch infotainment system, tick. And, build it using higher quality materials, tick.
In essence, the new Sportage does what all of the other Sportage’s did from Gen 2 onwards, which is to make a very good car even better. Existing Sportage customers will love it & it gives the competition a real run for their money.
Plug-In & Go 4.25/5