Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

A best-seller for Kia, the Sportage mk3 is a stylish and competent mid-size SUV that’s available in front-wheel-drive and four-wheel-drive forms. The Sportage mk3 is very well equipped and while its driving dynamics aren’t class-leading, most owners find it very pleasant to drive.

Fact File

Body Styles

  • Five-door SUV

Years Available

2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014


Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

What is the Kia Sportage?

When Kia launched the third-generation Sportage onto the UK market late in 2010, it was an instant winner. Compared with its predecessor, the mk3's styling looked modern and sophisticated both outside and within, and it was well equipped, with air-conditioning and electric windows all-round even for the base model. Customers had the choice of front-wheel drive or four-wheel drive as well as manual or automatic transmissions, its engine range was greatly improved and its pricing was extremely competitive. And, of course, the Sportage mk3 came with Kia’s very impressive 100,000-mile/seven-year warranty.

Today a used Kia Sportage mk3 remains an appealing prospect as a family car and some people prefer its looks to those of the newer Sportage mk4. Although roughly the same length as a Vauxhall Astra, the extra height of the Sportage mk3 makes it appear to be a much bigger car, which serves it well in terms of perceived prestige and gives occupants a better view of the road.

How Practical is it?

The Sportage is one of the bigger cars in its class, and happily, this means that it also has more interior space than most. Like with pretty much every car, there's room to spare in the front seats, but in the rear, there's a really impressive amount of legroom on offer, and headroom is also good despite the tapering roofline. And unlike most cars of this vintage, the rear seats have a virtually flat floor in front, so there's no pesky transmission tunnel eating into your foot space. That means a central passenger will be more comfortable when you're having to travel five-up.

At more than 560 litres, the Sportage's boot is big even by today's standards, and back then, it was positively huge for the class. The length of the load area also means it'll swallow a baby buggy with no intricate packing techniques required. The seats drop in a 60/40 split for when you need to boost your cargo capacity.

What's it Like to Drive?

The Sportage mk3 gives the choice of two petrol engines, a 133bhp direct-injection 1.6 GDi, and a 2.0-litre with 159bhp. The diesel line-up comprises a 1.7-litre CRDi unit good for 114bhp, and a 2.0 CRDi available with either 134bhp or 181bhp. The latter launched in July 2012 and is available only with all-wheel drive. All the engines perform reasonably well and have moderately good fuel economy, although when the Sportage 2.0-litre units are teamed with four-wheel drive, you do take a hit at the pumps. Add an automatic gearbox on top, and your economy plummets further.

In 2014 the Sportage mk3 was treated to a facelift that features a revised front grille and tail-lamps, but more importantly a raft of improvements to the suspension, engines and soundproofing aimed at enhancing the car’s refinement. Earlier models can get a little rowdy inside and their ride quality is a tad firm, especially in the rear seats. A facelifted Sportage mk3 is a smoother travelling companion.

The handling is capable and secure, with even the two-wheel drive models giving plenty of grip and traction. The steering is rather light and remote-feeling, so while it's not the most enjoyable car in the world to drive, it is nevertheless easy and assured on the road.

Technology and Equipment

Kia welcomed in the Sportage mk3 with a full bells-and-whistles model, the First Edition, available only with 2.0-litre petrol and diesel engines. After that the trim levels for the Sportage mk3 were designated 1, 2 and 3, with the prefix KX denoting the four-wheel drive versions. The KX4 was introduced in July 2012 as a range-topper that also debuted the 181bhp 2.0 CRDi engine.

Even the Sportage 1 has air conditioning, cruise control, rain-sensing wipers, cornering lights and voice activation for the infotainment system. On top of all that the Sportage 2 adds part-leather upholstery, panoramic sunroof and electrically folding door mirrors, while the Sportage 3 gives you full leather seats, dual-zone climate control, heated seats front and rear, automatic (xenon) headlights, and windscreen washer de-icers. Highlights of the KX4 include parallel parking assistance and upgraded satnav and entertainment systems.

Three Things To Know

Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)
  • The Sportage mk3’s four-wheel-drive (or AWD) system is of the part-time variety. In ordinary driving conditions it operates as front-wheel drive only, but when the road or track surfaces become slippery, drive is automatically fed to the rear wheels too, up to a maximum of 40%. The driver can also manually select an ‘off-road’ mode that splits the drive 50:50 for more extreme conditions, although the Sportage mk3 isn’t a hardcore off-roader so don’t expect to go rock-crawling in it. Four-wheel drive is available only with 2.0-litre engines and fuel economy suffers considerably because of it. If you want to tow, though, it’s the only choice – the 4WDs can tow 2,000kg, the others just 1,200kg.
  • Although it didn’t represent a massive visual change, the Sportage mk3’s 2014 facelift was far-reaching in other respects. To enhance the car’s overall refinement there was more soundproofing, including a thicker windscreen, improved bushing for the front subframe, a new transmission mounting, re-valved dampers, softer anti-roll bars and new driveshafts. Variable assistance for the power steering was also fitted. The interior was treated to higher quality plastics and upholstery and there was a new range of audio systems, as well the options of powered adjustment for the driver’s seat and a heated steering wheel.
  • During the course of the Sportage mk3’s lifetime Kia marketed several limited editions, including the First Edition, which you won’t be surprised to hear was the first model launched and was available only with a 2.0-litre engine. The Black Edition, White Edition, Axis Edition and Alpine Edition followed, each of them tending to sit between the standard trim levels. If you happen to spot one of these specials on a forecourt it’s worth asking precisely what the specification is: it might be just what you’re looking for.

Which One to Buy

Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)
  • If you want the best all-rounder: The diesel-powered Sportage 1.7 CRDi might be a bit loud when pushed hard, yet it’s feisty enough for everyday driving – as long as not too many really steep hills are involved – and is capable of 50mpg-plus fuel economy. Sure, it’s available only in front-wheel drive, but that’s perfectly adequate 99% of the time. Standard equipment levels are so generous on the Sportage mk3 that it doesn’t really matter if your budget doesn’t extend beyond a Sportage 1 – you’ll have everything you need.
  • If most of your adventures are urban ones: The front-wheel drive, direct fuel injection petrol 1.6-litre GDi is brisk away from the lights and is claimed to deliver 44mpg. And it appears to be more reliable than the 1.7 CRDi. Try to find a Sportage 2 – as well as air conditioning you get a panoramic sunroof so you can pretend you’re in the open air, privacy glass and folding door mirrors for when you park in narrow residential side streets.
  • If you need to tow something large: Either the 2.0-litre petrol or 2.0-litre diesel engines provide you with four-wheel drive and a towing capacity of 2,000kg – that’s not as much as your average double-cab pick-up, but it’s better than the 1,200kg the front-wheel drive Sportage mk3s are restricted to. The four-wheel drive models also have the option of an automatic transmission, which you may prefer if you tow frequently.
  • If you want every little luxury: Introduced as a range-topper in July 2012 and fitted with the 181bhp version of the 2.0-litre CRDi engine, the Sportage KX4 features Kia’s Parallel Parking Assist system, keyless entry and an engine stop/start button. It rides on 18in alloys and also features privacy glass, xenon headlights, automatic lights and wipers and dual-zone climate control. Not enough? How about a panoramic sunroof, leather upholstery, cruise control, a seven-inch touchscreen and satnav with European mapping? Oh, and a reversing camera, and a seven-speaker audio system with separate amplifier and subwoofer? And that’s not even the full list.

Running Costs

Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

In general terms the Kia Sportage mk3 shouldn’t apply too much pressure on your wallet. All models have a claimed combined fuel consumption figure of at least 40mpg, while the 1.7 CRDi diesel takes the Sportage mk3 mpg crown with 55. Even the 181bhp version of the 2.0 CRDi, available with four-wheel drive only, is said to go as far as 46 miles on a gallon. Rates of road tax can be as cheap as £150 for the 1.7 CRDi, rising to £265 for some versions of the CRDi, which isn’t so bad for the size of the car. Similarly, insurance groups for the Sportage mk3 aren’t too frightening, the range spanning groups 14 to 18.

If you’ve bought a Sportage mk3 from the last couple of years of its production you should be able to avail yourself of the Kia Care Service Plan. For a basic price of £299 for a petrol model and £329 for a diesel, you get the sixth and seventh service (60,000 miles/72 months and 70,000 miles/84 months) for your Sportage mk3. Cars too old for the scheme leave you with a slight dilemma: either to have your Sportage mk3 serviced outside the dealer network where possibly the costs are lower, or think to yourself that the car has already got seven years’ worth of Kia service stamps in the book, and that there may be future value in continuing with a full dealer service history.

A minor service at a Kia dealer for a 1.7 CRDi is about £185 (and roughly £215 for a 2.0-litre diesel) while a major service costs in the region of £325. Petrol engines are approximately £50 cheaper. Spares prices aren’t too bad either – roughly £60-90 for front brake discs, £30 for a fuel filter, £50-90 for a water pump. Every driver is different, of course, but we’ve heard of one feather-footed soul getting more than 45,000 miles out of a set of tyres, while another more enthusiastic driver was chewing through front brake discs every 15,000 miles.


Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

Kia as a brand traditionally fares well in used car customer satisfaction surveys, and while there are some very disgruntled Sportage mk3 owners out there, on the whole this compact SUV is very reliable. But that’s not to say it doesn’t have its faults.

Given it’s such a smart-looking beast, it’s no wonder that corroding alloy wheels upset owners so much. There are numerous reports of the lacquer starting to peel away from the centre of the alloy wheels, and once that happens the aluminium beneath starts to corrode and become powdery, which then causes more lacquer peel. For most original owners Kia replaced the wheels under warranty, but then dug its heels in with others and wouldn’t cough up.

A few owners have reported problems with the stop/start system on the Kia Sportage 1.6 GDi and 1.7 CRDi models, while the latter has also suffered issues with the cruise control, which in some instances prevents the engine from running. Sticking with the 1.7 CRDi, there have been a few problems with the diesel particulate filter (DPF) not burning off the diesel fed to it as a way of cleaning the filter – this unburnt diesel drops down into the sump, causing the oil level to rise. A forced regeneration of the DPF and fresh oil and filter cures this.

One or two 1.7 CRDis have also been affected by clutch failures early in their lives: this turned out to be caused by faulty dual-mass flywheels. Some 2.0 CRDis have had the same problem: on one car the issue wasn’t covered under warranty and a replacement clutch and flywheel cost the owner £2,500

And rather less traumatically, though a nuisance nonetheless, there are reports of tyre pressure monitor valves becoming so corroded that they’ve snapped off.

The CarGurus Verdict

Kia Sportage Mk3 Review (2010-2014)

Let’s face it, if you love the looks of the Kia Sportage mk3, the fact that it doesn’t drive quite as well as a Nissan Qashqai or Ford Kuga isn’t likely to put you off. And nor should it. The Sportage goes about all its tasks with competence and confidence, and what it lacks in ultimate finesse it makes up for with strong levels of standard equipment and a record for reliability that most other car makers now envy.

If your budget stretches to it we’d recommend aiming for one of the post-2012 facelift versions of the Sportage mk3. Kia’s tweaks to make it more refined and comfortable do make a difference, plus certain items of equipment such as satnavs and audio systems are superior quality to those of the earlier cars.

But it doesn’t matter too much if your Sportage mk3 isn’t a facelifted example: it still looks chic, is packed with kit, has perfectly adequate driving dynamics, and is excellent value.

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Updated by Brett Fraser

What's your take on the Kia Sportage Mk3 (2010-2014)?