Kia Sportage Mk4 (2015-2021) Expert Review
The Sportage is Kia’s long-popular mid-size SUV, and this fourth-generation model aims to continue its past success. We think it deserves to, as it’s a great all-rounder, with a stonking warranty, generous features and a solid driving experience. It’s good value for money too, and should be on the shortlist for anyone looking at this type of car.
- Five-door SUV
2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020
The Kia Sportage is often found near the top of the shopping list for people looking for a mid-size SUV, and for good reason. It’s a well established name badge from a brand that’s been growing in reputation over the years, and it now finds itself in an enviable position in the market. This is the fourth generation of Sportage, known in the industry by the codename QL, and Kia has really fine-tuned it nicely. The styling is sleek but not too out there, there’s a range of petrol and diesel engines to choose from and a plethora of trim levels, but all include plenty of standard equipment for the money, including air conditioning and cruise control. And then of course there’s a market-leading seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty, which means plenty of used examples are still covered.
Of course, this would all be slightly academic if the car was disappointing, but it’s actually pretty impressive. Sure, there are cars that you can buy that do various things better than the Sportage, but few are as solid all round. There’s very little that it doesn’t do at least reasonably well. The interior is well put together with some solid materials, even if it’s not quite as plush as Skoda Karoq, and the infotainment system, while lacking visual panache, is quick and easy to operate, which we’d take over fancy-looking but slow any day.
Practicality-wise, it’s again a solid performer with plenty of space in the rear seats for two adults, and a third without too much of a squeeze. You don’t get the sliding rear seats that some rivals offer, but they do recline and fold flat to improve boot space, which is a good size to start with and pretty cavernous if you open everything up.
On the road, the Sportage tries to tread a line between comfort and enough firmness to provide sprightly handling, and for the most part it succeeds. Compared with something like a Seat Ateca, the ride is positively cloud-like, although it can be a bit firm over larger bumps in the road. That can be helped by avoiding large alloy wheels, which have thinner profile tyres and therefore less cushioning. It feels nice and composed through the bends, nimble even, and the steering is nicely weighted and responsive. The Ateca is still the benchmark for enjoyment behind the wheel, but if that’s not a priority for you then you shouldn’t feel shortchanged by Kia’s efforts.
When it comes to engines, there’s plenty of choice. Kia updated the offerings in 2018, and the perfectly serviceable 1.7-litre diesel engine was replaced by a pair of 1.6-litre units with added mild hybrid technology to help reduce emissions. They’re very good too, although more expensive. There are also a couple of 2.0-litre diesels, one of which has 134bhp and the other 182bhp. The latter has plenty of poke, but the lesser powered versions should be enough for most people. There are a couple of 1.6-litre petrol engines too, but they lack the grunt of the diesels, which we think suit the car much better.
The Sportage trim levels are plenty, and from entry-level upwards are numbered 1, 2 3 and 4. The Sportage is front-wheel drive by default, but all-wheel drive models get the prefix KX in front of their name, from KX-2 to KX-5. Top-spec models get the GT-Line name, of which there are several versions – GT-Line, GT-Line S and GT-Line Edition.
The range was slimmed down in 2020, with trim levels 2, 3 and 4 available and GT-Line and GT-Line S at the top of the tree. All are available with either two or four-wheel drive. The 2.0-litre CRDi was dropped from the line-up too.
Three Things To Know
- As many people will buy the Sportage as a family car, it’s reassuring to know that it scored the maximum five stars in crash tests by safety organisation EuroNCAP. That said, it’s disappointing that automatic emergency braking isn’t included as standard across the range. It’s only included on 4 trim models and above. Some rivals feature it across every model.
- Cars from 2018 onwards had slightly revised looks and a different engine line-up. The exterior changes were pretty minimal, with different bumpers and updated front and rear lights, as well as new paint choices and alloy wheel designs. Inside the refreshed cars there’s a different design of steering wheel and more up-to-date infotainment options. The new engines consisted of new 1.6-litre diesels, which improved fuel economy and reduced emissions over the 1.7s, and a mild hybrid-equipped 2.0-litre diesel, badged as EcoDynamics+.
- The presence of Kia’s seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty could be a particular boon for used buyers, as the chances are high that your second-hand Sportage will still be covered. Only SsangYong and MG offer similar warranties, and neither of those manufacturers produce a car that matches the Sportage for all-round appeal. Most other rivals will be long out of warranty before the Kia.
Which One to Buy
- If you want the best all-rounder: For our money, a pre-facelift diesel-powered 1.7 CRDI Sportage 2 will satisfy most needs, and provides enough equipment and performance without overly taxing the wallet. You’ll get 114bhp which is enough for day-to-day driving, two-wheel drive for improved fuel economy, 17-inch alloy wheels for stylish looks without the crashy ride and 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system. Oh, and a reversing camera and sensors for easy parking. Cars from 2017 onwards were equipped with AppleCarPlay and Android Auto for smartphone integration.
- If you want to blow the budget: The top-of-the-line Sportage has changed over the years its been on sale, but at the time of writing, the swankiest model is the 1.6 CRDi DCT AWD T-Line S. This will give you the mild-hybrid equipped, newest diesel engine, all-wheel drive and all the standard toys, from 19-inch alloys to a panoramic sunroof, LED headlights, upgraded sound system and larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system with satnav.
- If you want the most exclusive model: The Edition 25 Sportage was released in 2018 to celebrate 25 years since the first Sportage hit the market. It was based on the 4 model and available only with the 1.6-litre GDi petrol engine, and a manual transmission. Special features included 17-inch alloys, black cloth and leather upholstery and special premium paint, as well as an upgraded sound system and the larger 8.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system.
- If you need extra traction: The all-wheel drive-equipped Sportages shouldn’t be confused with proper off-roaders, so don’t expect to go green-laning in them. But if you live in an area that sees regular inclement weather, or you want to do some towing, then an AWD Sportage may well be for you. It’s particularly popular among caravan owners, as it’ll tow up to 2,200kg (braked), depending on the model. The best performing car in this regard is any Sportage with the 2.0-litre CRDi engine and a six-speed manual gearbox.
As with most cars, the diesel models will prove the most frugal on fuel, with the 114bhp 1.7 CRDi claiming an official fuel consumption of 61.4mpg. With some careful driving, you should be able to get well over 50mpg in the real world. In newer cars, the 1.6-litre diesel with 114bhp would manage 53.3mpg, although it’s important to note that it’s measured under new WLTP testing rules, rather than the NEDC tests of the 1.7. These are intended to be closer to real life figures than the lab tests that determine official ratings. The more powerful 1.6 diesel, with 134bhp, has an official mpg of 49.6.
Among the more powerful engines, the turbocharged 1.6-litre petrol with 174bhp is particularly thirsty, with an official mpg of 32.1mpg. The 130bhp 1.6 petrol will return 36.2mpg.
On most models, opting for an automatic transmission will reduce your fuel economy and boost up your CO2 emissions, which can have an impact when it comes to Vehicle Excise Duty.
When it comes to servicing, most Sportages will need to be looked at every 20,000 miles or 12 months. However, if you’re doing high mileage, be aware that on turbo petrol models, that interval drops to 10,000 miles or 12 months.
Kia offers fixed-price service plans on the Sportage. The prices vary depending on age and model, but as a guide, a fourth and fifth service (40,000 miles/48 months and 50,000 miles/60 months) on a 2016 1.7 diesel model would cost around £390, with the option to add MOTs on for £35 a time. A third and four service (30,000 miles/36 months and 40,000 miles/48 months) on a 2019 1.6 turbo model would be £429.
Kia as a brand has a reasonable record for reliability, sitting mid-table or higher in most independent dependability studies. The Sportage specifically also seems like a good performer, scoring well in several owners’ surveys and topping the 2019 What Car? Reliability Survey for the family SUV class.
Generally, the Sportage seems to be a well-put together and reliable machine. The few issues we have heard about tend to relate to electrical glitches and clutches juddering or failing earlier than expected. Some owners have also reported throttle hesitation issues, although a software update can cure this. And a few cars have suffered from “notchy” steering feel, which in some cases has required a replacement steering rack.
Many Sportages will be used as family cars and so could bear the scars of a life well lived. Watch out for scuffs, dents, stains and the like, and check the alloy wheels for damage.
At the time of writing, there had been no recalls for this model of Sportage, which is reassuring to know.
The CarGurus Verdict
The Sportage is a very attractive proposition for anyone looking at a mid-size SUV. There are lots of them available in lots of different configurations, they have a good reliability record and even if you have problems, the chances are high that Kia’s excellent seven-year, 100,000-mile warranty will still be in effect.
Sure, there are cars that are more engaging to drive, or a bit nicer inside, or that have a little bit more space. But there aren’t many that do such a good job in all areas and for such a reasonable price. Kia has attracted thousands of satisfied customers with the Sportage, and we’d be pretty confident that if you can find the right used example – one that has managed to withstand the rigours of being a family runabout – you’ll join them.