Parkers overall rating: 4.2 out of 5 4.2
  • Good range of petrol and diesel engines available
  • Two petrol options and two diesels
  • All-wheel drive available, and choice of gearboxes

Picking an engine for your Sportage shouldn’t be too tricky – you can choose between two petrols and three diesels, while your preferred transmission type and the desire for all-wheel drive (or not) will help guide your decision.

Diesel engines are best suited

Starting with the more efficient end of the range – the diesels – and the Kia comes with a good choice for buyers. While there are only three to choose from, all are strong, refined and come with mild-hybrid technology to boost efficiency as well as everyday performance.

Things kick off with a 1.6-litre CRDi unit with 116hp and 280Nm of torque (only in entry-level 1 spec) or with 136hp in other models. The lower-powered unit gets from 0-62mph in 11.4 seconds and will go on to reach 109mph.

Next up, is the 136hp version with 320Nm of torque and will sprint from 0-62mph in 10.8 seconds when fitted with a manual gearbox, while the seven-speed DCT automatic will take 11.4 seconds.

We’ve tried the higher-powered version of the 1.6-litre engine and found it to deliver punchy performance, considering its size, with horsepower and torque figures more in keeping with something you’d used to find on a larger 2.0-litre engine.

The mild-hybrid (MHEV) system works well, occasionally nudging the car along with electrical assistance under acceleration, with strong brake regeneration as soon as you lift off the accelerator pedal to help charge up the hybrid battery.

Higher-spec models can be had with all-wheel drive, which also results in the 0-62mph time dropping slightly to 11.6 seconds.

At the top of the diesel range is a 185hp 2.0-litre CRDi that comes with all-wheel drive and either a six-speed manual or an eight-speed automatic gearbox. With 400Nm of torque it’s a great unit for long journeys with effortless performance, however the automatic gearbox can be a bit slow to respond when you want to overtake on the motorway, for example. Still, a 0-62mph time of 9.2 seconds makes it nippy enough for most.

Kia Sportage petrol engines - less impressive

If you prefer petrol power, there are two 1.6-litre units available. The first is a non-turbocharged GDi unit with 132hp and 161Nm of torque. With an 11.1-second 0-62mph time and a lack of torque, it can feel like you really need to work it hard to get up to speed while sounding a little coarse in the process. However, the power delivery is still smooth, and if you’re going to be a low-mileage user, this Sportage could still make a lot of sense.

Alternatively, there’s a turbocharged engine (badged T-GDi) with a much more generous 177hp and 265Nm of torque. Depending on the choice of gearbox and how many wheels are driven, it gets from 0-62mph in 8.8 seconds in the fastest set-up, or 9.2 seconds in the slowest. However, while it offers more power and torque, it too is quite noisy and coarse when you rev it (which you need to do more than in the diesels, and isn’t quite as peaceful as you’d like. It’s also not as smooth as the lower-powered unit, making the torquey diesels feel a far better fit in the Sportage.

One manual gearbox and two automatics available

A six-speed manual gearbox is available on all engines and while it’s a little light and baggy to use, this is hardly an issue in a car like this, where effortless gearshifts are more of a priority.

A seven-speed dual-clutch automatic is available on the 136hp 1.6-litre diesel and 177hp petrol engines, and while it’s smooth at changing gears, it can be a little slow to respond to throttle inputs. There is a Sport setting which holds onto gears a little longer, but doesn’t speed up reaction times to throttle inputs. An eight-speed automatic is only available on the 2.0-litre diesel.

Kia Sportage handling

  • Easy to drive
  • Four-wheel drive has little benefit on the road
  • Steering lacks feel and is too light

Thanks to a sophisticated suspension system mounted on lightweight chassis components and fine-tuning specifically for the UK market, Kia has pulled off building a car that we think drives among the best in its class. There’s an expected amount of bodyroll for a car this comfortable and with this much bodywork – this is an SUV, after all – but it remains composed and predictable.

The electrically-assisted steering has a little weighting to it in the bends, and has been improved over the previous model by having the motor moved from the steering column to the rack, making the system more accurate and responsive. The previous Sportage suffered in this respect, so it’s refreshing to drive one with it fixed.

We’ve tried both front-wheel drive and all-wheel drive Sportages, with the latter able to send up to 40% of its power to the rear axle if the front loses grip, or split it half-and-half if you activate the locking centre differential function for harder-core off-roading.

We can’t see the point, though, because the Sportage isn’t going to spend much of its time off-road and there’s loads of traction even in front-wheel drive configuration. Think very carefully whether you’ll make good use of the all-wheel drive, because the front-wheel drive models are very proficient in their own right.

What’s more important to many Sportage owners is how easy the car is to drive. In this regard, the answer is very. The controls are light without feeling too flimsy or like you don’t know what’s going on when you turn the steering wheel, and it feels very composed and predictable – whether it’s a twisty country lane or a tight city street. The good visibility helps here, too.

Used Sportage: engines no longer available new

The bottom rung of the diesel offerings was previously a 1.7-litre CRDi unit, which was available only with a six-speed manual gearbox. It had 116hp and 280Nm, taking 11.1 seconds to cover 0-60mph and hitting a top speed of 109mph.

It has enough punch to overtake easily, isn’t too noisy when doing so and combines pleasingly with the manual gearbox. The gearchange doesn’t have the pleasing short throw of the Mazda CX-5, but it slots confidently and solidly between ratios.

There was also a pair of 2.0-litre CRDi diesels, with either 136hp and 373Nm or 184hp and 400Nm. There was a choice of two six-speed gearboxes – one automatic (an old torque-convertor design) and one manual. With the former it covered 0-60mph in 11.6 seconds with a top speed of 114mph, while the latter will be significantly quicker, taking 10.1 seconds to cover the same sprint from standstill to 60mph. Top speed was the same.

The higher-powered 2.0-litre diesel had the same choice of gearboxes, but the 0-60mph time was 9.2 seconds for both, and top speed was 125mph. It worked very nicely indeed with the automatic gearbox. Sure, the ‘box’s tech is old, and it’s slow to react and swap gears, but this isn’t a sporty car and we didn’t find this a frustration. It was a pleasure not to worry about changing gear ourselves.