At first glance, it may not seem as though the facelift of the 2019 Kia Sportage has been that comprehensive, but peer under the skin and you’ll see that there’s a completely new range of diesel engines that meet the latest Euro- 6d Temp emissions regulations, together with 48-volt mild hybrid technology for the first time. The all-new ‘U3’ 1.6-litre CRDi units, with 114 and 134bhp power outputs, are likely to take the lion’s share of Sportage sales, while the 182bhp 2.0- litre powerplant with 16bhp mild-hybrid boost and an all-new Kia-designed eight-speed automatic transmission sits at the top of the revised medium SUV range. Park the old and new car side-by-side, and you’ll notice that there’s a redesign front bumper, with new fog light housings, and an evolved version of Kia’s ‘tiger nose’ front grille. In addition, there’s fresh headlights and rear clusters, and a range of new designs for the alloy wheels. On the inside, there’s a revised steering wheel and an updated instrument cluster, with a re-profiled climate control panel and new black leather upholstery with red accents for the GT-Line model, as fitted to our test car.
The addition of the mild-hybrid technology has resulted in a decrease in CO2 emissions of 14g/km, and a boost to fuel economy of almost 4mpg, compared to the outgoing model. And while the addition of the electric motor isn’t immediately apparent when moving off from rest, you can feel the added aggression of the brake regeneration system as soon you lift off the throttle, with the system harnessing the energy, so that it can be used at a later time. The stored power is utilised when you’re accelerating, so that the engine isn’t working quite as hard as it would be if there was nothing there. This ‘free’ power then contributes to improving the fuel economy figures, and as a result lowers the CO2 emissions accordingly.
The new eight-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive and contributes to the swift performance that is available off the line. There’s a good spread of mid-range torque, with decent flexibility. There’s paddleshifts if you decide you want to take over manual control, positioned behind the steering wheel. The 2.0-litre CRDi engine is quiet, never sounding intrusive or loud. Road, tyre and wind noise are neatly contained, too, contributing to the calm ambience, no matter what the speed is. The steering feels more agile and responsive, and is more driver focussed than before. It’s highly manoeuvrable around town and is easy to slot into a tight parking space. On an entertaining back road, the Sportage feels agile and chuckable, with body lean nicely contained, and high levels of grip. And the ride comfort is a real highlight, with Kia’s engineers conjuring up suspension settings that soak up potholes and imperfections really well, as well as when driving over cobbles and across exposed train tracks. The changes to the cabin have been modest, and that’s because there was very little wrong with the previous design.
The matt finish to the navigation and infotainment screen is handy, as it cuts down on glare, with an easy to understand interface and clear, colourful menu choices. Although most of the surfaces are soft and pliable, there’s an odd, hard band across the middle of the dashboard, that is at odds with the rest of the materials. The driving position is command-like, with good all-round vision afforded by a large rear window, though the thick rear pillar does obscure the view somewhat. Kia does, however, fit a reversing camera to all versions of the Sportage to help solve this issue, though. The seats are nicely bolstered for good lateral support and remain comfortable even after a long journey. There’s a large tray in front of the gear lever for oddments, including wireless charging for a smartphone on GT-Line S models. The centre armrest has a deep storage area underneath and the glovebox is generously proportioned, however, the door pockets are narrow and slot-like. Even with a panoramic glass sunroof there’s plenty of headroom front and rear, and lots of space for legs, knees and feet. Cargo capacity is less than some rivals at 439 litres, and the sill is high, in common with a lot of SUVs. But the rear chairs can be folded down flat at a pull of a lever, extending the space to 1,428 litres.
SPECIFICATIONS 2019 Kia Sportage GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V
On sale 2018 Now In showrooms Now
Prices £21,595 to £34,545
Body styles 5-door SUV
Engines 1.6 (114bhp), 1.6 (134bhp), 2.0 (182bhp)
Trim levels 1, 2, 4, GT-Line, GT-Line S
Also consider Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan
Model tested GT-Line S 2.0 CRDi 48V
Price £34,545 Built in Zilina, Slovakia
Body style 5-door SUV, 5-seats
Powerplant 1,995cc, 4-cylinder, 16-valve, turbo diesel with 48V mild hybrid starter and generator with electric motor and lithium-ion battery
Transmission 8-speed automatic
Stop-start Yes SCR Yes
Max power (engine) 182bhp @ 4,000rpm
Max power (electric motor) 16bhp
Max torque (engine) 295lb ft @ 1,750-2,750rpm
Top speed 125mph
CO2 emissions 152g/km (Euro-6d Temp)
Economy (urban/extra urban/combined) 45.6/53.3/48.7mpg
Fuel tank size 55 litres
Range 589 miles
Insurance group 25 BIK rate 35%
Size (length/width without mirrors) 4,485/1,855mm
Boot space (min/max) 439/1,428 litres
Kerb/max towing weight 1,712/1,900kg
Euro NCAP crash rating (pre-facelift)
Verdict Some useful changes to the Sportage help it stay towards the top of the SUV class, including a range of all-new diesel engines that are refined, quiet and frugal.
Drive-My EN/UK rating 5