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REVIEW – Kia Sportage GT-Line S

Editor-in-chief, Senior Reviewer | Website


Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48v GT Line S AWD Auto
  • Exterior Styling
  • Interior Finish
  • Engine/Performance
  • Ride/Handling
  • Economy
  • Practicality
  • Equipment
  • Value For Money
4

Summary

The facelifted Kia Sportage looks fantastic in GT-Line S guise: the perfect blend of aggression and sleekness. The equipment list is still comprehensive. Creature comforts such as heated rear seats will go down a storm with friends and family. But we fail to see the merit of the 48V mild hybrid. The real-world economy benefits don’t seem to justify the price. It would be hard to recommend the mild hybrid over a regular diesel.


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Exterior Styling

The Kia Sportage was already one of the best-looking cars in its class. And with the recent tweaks to its styling, there’s no danger of that changing.

Furthermore, the GT Line S model we tested is the most dapper of them all, not least when finished in striking Blue Flame paint.

The four ‘ice cube’ LED daytime running lights have been replaced by ‘ice cube’ fog lights. The daytime running lights are now incorporated into the headlights. There are still four of them, and they look a bit – dare we say it – ‘Porsche-like’.

Cluster LED indicators are similar to those on the Stinger, and the shouty front grille is recognisably Kia. The front corners have been made broader to give a more imposing stance.

Filling the arches are 19-inch alloy wheels in a dark grey and brushed aluminium finish. There are flashes of chrome on the side skirts, window surround and door handles. Privacy glass gives an air of luxury.

At the back the lines are smoother, while the tail-lights are as striking as the headlights. Twin exhaust pipes are neatly nestled into the rear bumper.

A roof spoiler completes the athletic exterior package. The Kia Sportage is a car with serious kerb appeal. And this new model is a real winner. It definitely puts the ‘sport’ in ‘Sportage’.

Interior Finish

Take your seat in the Kia Sportage and you will be impressed with the cabin that surrounds you. On the whole it’s a nicely-finished place to be.

The seats are finished in black leather with contrast red stitching and piping. The front seats don’t look the most sporty, but once you settle in there’s plenty of bolster support to keep you in your place.

The perforated leather steering wheel is flat-bottomed and brandishes the ‘GT Line’ logo. In front of these sit the disappointingly-plain dials. At a time where digital instrument clusters are becoming more commonplace, this is an area Kia could look to improve.

The centre console is angled toward the driver, including the 8-inch touchscreen and all the controls. A ‘stitched’ effect to the dashboard is novel, but is in no way fooling you that the material is anything other than plastic.

That being said, the plastics in the Kia Sportage are nice. There’s plenty of soft touch material and different textures. Our only grumble was a lack of different colours. The brushed silver trim is nice, but we would have liked more of it.

To stop the cabin feeling too dark, there is a simple solution. Open the electric blind on the panoramic sunroof and let some light in.

There is no doubt that if you take your friends out in the Kia Sportage, they will be impressed. Understandably so.

Engine/Performance

There are three engine choices for your Kia Sportage GT Line S: one petrol, one diesel and one ‘mild hybrid’.

Our test car was the latter. So what’s a mild hybrid I hear you ask? This relatively new technology uses a 48-volt battery and electric motor to assist a diesel engine.

The idea is that it is completely unobtrusive. Providing efficiency benefits without you even noticing. The big question is: does it work?

Power from the 2.0-litre diesel engine is 182PS. The electric motor adds a further 16PS. Combined torque is 400Nm. With AWD and an 8-speed automatic gearbox, 0-62mph is dealt with in 9.2 seconds. The top speed is 125mph.

True to concept, you get no sense of when the electric motor kicks in. You can feel some resistance when coasting, which is the regenerative braking system putting charge back in the battery. To help you see what the 48V system is doing, there is a display available in the instrument cluster.

On the performance front, the 48V motor is noticeable. A prod of the right foot results in much more instant acceleration than the diesel alone. That being said, the Kia Sportage isn’t what you’d call fast.

For what it’s worth, the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine, with its 177PS and 7-speed DCT gearbox will get from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds.

Not only is that faster than the mild hybrid, but it’s a revvy petrol engine that is much more suited to the nature of the GT Line S. We still think Kia needs to produce a hot Sportage. It now has the engines in its armoury – such as the 2.0 T-GDi with 245PS – to do so.

Ride/Handling

While the performance of the Kia Sportage GT Line S still leaves a little to be desired, the handling does not. There are no complaints here.

For a reasonably tall SUV, the Kia Sportage has almost no body roll at all. That’s extremely impressive, and means the GT Line S has the handling prowess to match its styling.

There are no fancy adaptive damping systems in the Sportage, but you wouldn’t know. It handles the lumps and bumps of our roads with ease. And on the motorway it’s smooth and relaxing. Throw it round a B-road and it stays flat and composed.

The steering is nicely weighted, but lacks feel. You don’t really get a sense of what the front wheels are doing through the steering wheel. It is, however, direct enough to provide an engaging drive on a twisty road. You can point the nose into a corner effortlessly.

Despite a 1,747kg kerb weight, the Kia Sportage GT Line S feels relatively nimble. With plenty of braking power, it stops well too.

This particular Sportage is rated for braked trailers up to 1,900kg. And it makes an excellent tow car: smooth and comfortable. The suspension is designed to cope with a trailer just as well as it copes with a boot full of, well, whatever you want to fill it with.

SUVs are meant to be versatile, and that’s exactly how the Kia Sportage handles. We have never been left this impressed with a car that doesn’t have a super clever air or magnetic suspension setup. Well done, Kia.

Economy

So what’s all this about a ‘mild hybrid’ then? So it’s a self-charging system, with no plugging in required. There’s a 48-Volt battery under the boot floor, and a Mild Hybrid Starter and Generator (MHSG) at the back of the engine.

When coasting and under braking, friction energy is able to charge the battery. And that battery is able to assist the engine in reciprocation. That could be a bit of extra get-up-and-go when you put your foot down. Or it could be saving fuel under minimal throttle.

On paper this system has a lot of merit. Combined fuel consumption of 48.7mpg is very respectable in a 4WD SUV like the Kia Sportage. CO2 emissions of 152g/km are roughly in-line with rivals. First year VED is £515, and £140 thereafter. There is no supplement as the Kia Sportage is under £40,000.

Truthfully, we’re not altogether convinced by this mild hybrid lark. And in the real world we never saw anything near 48.7mpg. During our week on test, we saw a return comparable to most diesel alternatives.

We could feel the regenerative braking system harnessing friction to charge the battery. There is an improved sharpness to the throttle response too. But it’s no good having a bit of extra oomph without any economy benefits. The 48-Volt setup is not a cheap one, and with no apparent real-world economic benefit then you’d be as well with a standard diesel.

Practicality

The Kia Sportage is well-established as a family car. It is therefore no surprise that this new model is a capable vehicle, perfect for any family.

For starters, there’s plenty of space inside. So even if your children are all big and grown up, they’ll find the Kia Sportage comfortable in the back. Even if the front occupants like their seat almost out of reach of the pedals, there is ample legroom behind.

In the front, there’s even more room. The big, comfortable seats are inviting. A centre armrest is useful on longer drives.

Boot space of 439 litres is easily accessible thanks to the large boot opening. The 60:40 split rear seats fold pretty-much flat, allowing you to load bigger items. You wouldn’t have an issue picking up a few things from Ikea that’s for sure.

As a car to own, the Kia Sportage is very likeable indeed. With such a strong visual impact, you’ll love having one on the driveway. The gadgetry available – which we’ll come on to next – ensures that every journey is comfortable and enjoyable.

Visibility is great from the elevated driving position, and reasonably-slim A-pillars minimise blind spots going round corners.

Despite being spacious, the Sportage never feels overly big from behind the wheel. So when driving through town there’s no feeling claustrophobic. Parking is easy enough, with or without technological assistance.

Lastly, the Kia Sportage has an all-wheel drive system to ensure that when the going gets a bit tougher, you can keep on going. Great for those that live a little off the beaten track, or for those 2 days of snow we get a year.

Equipment

If there’s one thing Kia does particularly well, it has to be standard specifications. Take the Kia Sportage as a case in point.

All models come with front and rear electric windows, electrically-adjustable door mirrors, air conditioning and a touchscreen multimedia system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

For practicality there’s Trailer Stability Assist, Hill-start Assist Control, Downhill Brake Control and cruise control.

Then you come to the Kia Sportage GT Line S. Not only is this model the most sporty-looking in the range, but it has an impressive array of creature comforts to make every aspect of driving a treat.

Most impressive is the safety equipment, which features forward collision avoidance with autonomous emergency braking and pedestrian detection. You also get blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping assist, high-beam assist and a rather cool 360-degree parking camera with overhead view.

For comfort, the front seats are both heated and cooled. The outer rear seats are heated too, as is the steering wheel. So the Kia Sportage is great on a chilly morning.

In terms of music, the 8-speaker JBL sound system with subwoofer won’t disappoint. This, and other settings, are very easy to navigate and control with the 8-inch touchscreen. The centre console features a wireless charging pad, allowing you to easily store and charge your smartphone at the same time.

Keyless entry adds convenience, as does the electric tailgate. So you can see the Kia Sportage is a dream to live with. The GT Line S does so much that you’ll spend a great deal of time showing all of its party tricks off to your friends.

Value For Money

Kia certainly takes a lot of stress out of the car buying process by removing optional extras. The idea is simple: pick the grade which has the kit you desire.

There are sufficient grades in the range to suit the majority of tastes, and the difference in price between grades is usually justifiable when you see the additional equipment on offer. Generally the only chargeable extra is premium paint, at £595.

The Sportage range starts from a very reasonable £20,305 for the two-wheel drive ‘1’ with a 1.6-litre petrol engine.

The cheapest GT Line S is the 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol, at a similarly-reasonable £31,645. For the amount of equipment on offer, combined with decent performance, it’s hard not to see the value in it. Remember that you’ll also get Kia’s standard –year warranty.

But the model we tested, the ‘mild hybrid’ one, comes at a price. You see the 48V battery and motor technology doesn’t come cheap, so pushes the price of the car to £34,545.

Relatively speaking, that’s still good value. It’s certainly a lot cheaper than other cars which feature the technology, such as the Audi Q8.

But the real-world economy benefits don’t seem worth the extra outlay, especially with the rising price of diesel fuel. Or, more specifically, the increasing price difference between petrol and diesel fuel.

There’s no doubt in our minds that the Kia Sportage GT Line S offers excellent value for your money, loaded with gadgets and very easy on the eye. But save yourself a few quid and go for the petrol one. It just makes more financial sense.

Facts and Figures

Engine 2.0-litre, 4-cylinder turbocharged diesel and 48v electric motor
Max power 182PS at 4,000rpm, 16PS electric motor
Max torque 400Nm at 1,750-2,750rpm
Drivetrain 8-speed automatic gearbox, four-wheel drive
0-62mph 9.2 seconds
Top speed 125mph
Fuel tank size 55 litres
Fuel consumption 48.7 mpg, combined cycle
CO2 emissions 152 g/km
Kerb weight 1,747 kg
Towing capacity 1,900kg braked / 750kg unbraked
Luggage capacity 439 litres
NCAP rating 5 stars
Base price £34,545
Price as tested £35,140
Company website www.kia.com/uk/new-cars/sportage/

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