Kia recently released its 4th generation Sportage – 21 years after the original. I recall being the passenger in a 1st generation Sportage, being driven off-road by a maniac. Basically he was trying to destroy the poor little Sportage (it was a rental), but it never gave up. While I’ve not been a fan of the looks of the Sportage over the years, it gained my respect that day.

The 4th generation Sportage is a totally different car. It is just so much bigger now, and is now running with the big boys instead of being a bridesmaid.

Can this latest Sportage be that good? Drive Life grabbed a 2.4L Limited model to find out.


There are 3 engines in the Sportage range, all with the same 6-speed auto. There’s the base model’s 2.0 multi-point fuel injected petrol engine (114Kw/192Nm), then the 2.4 direct injection petrol (135Kw/237Nm), and lastly the 2.0 turbo diesel (136Kw400Nm). The 2.0-litre petrol motor has been carried over from the generation 3 Sportage, but has had some improvements.

The LX, EX and Limited models are available in FWD with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, while you can also have AWD using Kia’s Dynamax™ system with the 2.4 or the diesel engine.

First Impressions

This SUV looks sexy as hell. The frontal treatment with its trademark Kia ‘tiger-nose’ grille and projector headlights look great and the rear design is just as nice – it’s amazing how just having some serious thought into the design of just the tail lights can really make a car look great, and this is where Kia have excelled. At night time this car looks awesome from the rear.


The new Sportage is longer overall, with a longer wheelbase and also is taller, all adding to the new Big Boy look.

I got some nice comments from people on the design, so it wasn’t just me. Helping with this is the Limited’s 19” alloys – they look very cool, with their tear-drop features around the wheel nuts adding something a little different.


My only problem with the design of the Sportage is that while it looks great, it can look like a CX-5/Qashqai/Tucson from some angles. I guess this is the danger of running with the current design trend, that cars start to look too much the same. In a car park with three white SUVs of similar size, I really had to get close to pick out the Sportage, especially from the side or rear. As I got close I resorted to using the remote to open the car to find out which one it was – they were that similar.

The Inside

The interior has had some work for this new model, and while much work has been done to lighten the interior, it still seems a little dark inside. Still, it’s all very luxurious with lashings of leather and a build quality that is truly excellent. The fit and finish of the Sportage is superb and at the top of the class in this price range. Rear legroom is also above the class average – it’s almost feet straight out for some!


All models get leather on the inside except the LX. All models, bar the LX (manual A/C), benefit from fully automated climate control, including auto-defog, with increased air flow and outlets to the rear occupants compared to the previous model. An electric park brake is standard across the range, and it’s applied automatically when the engine turns off – a nice touch.


Standard across the range are auto lights and wipers, Hill Start Assist, keyless entry and start, reversing camera, front fog lights, Bluetooth connectivity, parking sensors (rear only on the LX) steering wheel mounted controls for audio and cruise control, and heated/folding exterior mirrors.

As standard, all Sportage models, bar the LX (which has 3.5-inch mono TFT LCD display), are equipped with a 4.2-inch colour display for the driver. All models have a 7” touchscreen central display.

All Sportages (except the LX) come with Blind Spot Detection, Lane Change Assist, Lane Departure Warning System, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Forward Collision System as well as tyre pressure monitoring.

I’m thinking there won’t be any LX models sold at all…I’d almost bet some money on that.

The Limited and GT Line models then go even further with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) and Forward Collision Warning System (FCWS), which employs a radar detection system to detect a potential collision with another vehicle or pedestrian and help bring the car to a halt. Only the GT Line has a panorama roof as standard.

Other safety features across the range include 6 air bags, two ISOFIX child-seat tethers and three anchor points are fitted as standard to the second row of seats, to safely secure younger passengers.

There’s two 12V outlets for the front seat passengers, along with an AUX port and a single USB port. The rear seat passengers are looked after with a single USB and single 12V charging port.

One thing that seemed a little weird but did work as the top of the dashboard. It’s a fairly hard plastic, but Kia have added some fake stitching near the front. You would think this would look awful and cheap, but it’s one of those things that you have to actually touch to make sure it is fake – it looks like real stitching and is textured to look real, and does work.

The Limited and GT Line models have electric seats for both driver and passenger (vented on the GT Line), with electric lumbar adjustment for the driver’s seat and auto high-beam control for the headlights. These two models also come with a ‘Smart’ rear door, which is powered and has an auto-opening feature.

The leather steering wheel of the Sportage feels nice to the touch, and the controls for audio and cruise control are well placed. Kia have gone to a similar design as GM, with up/down toggles for audio volume/track and cruise speed up/down, but I’ve got to say that Kia have done it better, and it actually works. A shame the cruise control isn’t radar controlled though, I would have thought for 2016 this would be standard.


I was surprised to see that, like the Captiva I had on test before the Sportage, you don’t know what temperature you have the AC set to, without actually changing the temperature – then the display comes up on the touchscreen to tell you what temperature you have it on now. I hope other manufacturers don’t follow suit on this one. Ditto the cruise control – how I wish all cars would show you what speed you have the cruise control set to, in the display between the rev counter and speedo. The Sportage doesn’t do this.

On the plus side, when using SatNav (which worked excellently), the current speed limit is shown on the touchscreen display – shame it isn’t shown in the driver’s display, but still a bonus. Even better is when you are using SatNav and are approaching a change – like on a motorway – green signs come up in the top of the touchscreen showing the signs, with the lane you need to follow in a brighter green. This is a brilliant feature and yet is so simple – and so effective. As with the speed limit, any directions from the SatNav aren’t shown right in front of the driver, even though the display is right there. Hopefully a later release will have this functionality.

Hooking my phone in via Bluetooth was a breeze, as was switching to other phones when my daughter got sick of my choice of music. Sound quality was good too, even though there isn’t much adjustment to be made, cranking up the volume didn’t bring any distortion at all. The Sportage doesn’t offer Google Auto or Apple Car Play yet, but apparently it is in the works for a later release.

I also really liked the fact that you could turn off the entire display by pressing one physical button – the one marked, ‘Display’. Sometimes – especially at night – you just don’t want or need it on. Other manufacturers make you go through a series of menus to do this, but with the Kia it’s just the one button. Excellent.

Visibility is good, and those narrowed-for-2016 A and C pillars have helped with this. So many cars now have massive A pillars to the point of being dangerous, so it’s great Kia have taken note and still manage to get a 5-star ANCAP rating.

The Drive

Apparently much work has been done on body stiffness and NVH over the whole car, and this has paid off. The feeling of insulation from bumps and (most) road noise is excellent. Motorway travel on smooth seal is almost limousine-like, with barely a whisper or other sound. Wind noise is kept to an absolute minimum.

However (oh how I hate to use that word), while so much work has been done on NVH, I was really surprised just how loud that 2.4 petrol engine is. On the motorway and at steady speeds it’s whisper quiet, but under acceleration, it lets itself be known. Oh it has the performance overall, but it could never be called quiet under acceleration. I actually noted this down four different times during my week with the Sportage, so it certainly wasn’t just me having a bad day and being picky.


Another noise issue for me was on coarse chip seal. I feel it was the Hankook tyres on those 19” rims, but it was fairly, well, vocal. I don’t want to use the word ‘noisy’ as it wasn’t, but it there was a bigger difference than when driving on tarmac that surprised me.

As mentioned, performance is very good. It’s not excellent, but off the mark – once it gets some revs up – it’s away, and midrange acceleration is good but the top end seems to die away. To be honest I thought it would be better, but it’s more than acceptable. I certainly would be interested to drive the 2.0 litre petrol version to see what that’s like for noise and performance. Day after day of driving the Sportage, I wished I had the diesel version. With 400nm of torque compared to the petrol’s 237N, I think this would be the model to go for.


In saying all this, I switched the car into Sport mode on the auto one day, and then left it there. Sport mode transforms the Sportage into a bit of a boy racer, with performance a huge difference from Normal mode. The engine, which as mentioned can sound noisy, takes on a rorty, tuned-engine type of note. Still noisy, but a nicer noise at least. I expect this sucks the gas a lot more, but it’s much more fun to drive. Overall, my week and 500 kilometres with the 2.4 saw 10L/100Km, compared to the claimed rating of 8.5.

The auto has three mode settings the same as some other cars, Eco Normal and Auto. Of course it also has a manual mode on the auto gearbox – and the lever shifts to the right, instead of the left like most manufacturers. This small change means you feel a bit more engaged when driving in manual mode, and also it makes you feel a bit like you are flying a jet fighter. Well, it did for me, and I’m happy to live in my little world like that.


Our test Sportage was the AWD Limited model, and while I can’t compare it with the FWD model, it gripped extremely well, and when pushed along in a few corners had surprisingly little understeer. This SUV really does handle bloody well. Body roll is really well controlled and it’s quite a fun experience to push this mid-range SUV around some tight bends – even in the wet.

If you want to head off-road, the AWD models come with a diff lock, which shares the torque equally, between the front and rear axles and maintains that split up to a speed of 40 km/h (above that is disengages).

The electric power steering was perfectly suited to the car, light at low speeds and loading up nicely when you go faster. Brakes too were good, and the discs have been enlarged both front and rear for this new Sportage. Speaking of brakes, all generation 4 Sportages come with an electric park brake, thankfully with the auto-release function.

The Sportage also has the ‘Auto Hold’ function that I last saw on a Honda HRV. This means as soon as you come to a full stop, the electric park brake automatically engages, and then releases itself when you touch the gas pedal. I can’t explain how comforting this is – just rock up to the lights to a standstill, and take your foot off the brake. It means if you get a little distracted, you aren’t about to start drifting forward without knowing it. Also when you come to a stop at a give-way or stop sign, you can really grab the smaller gaps as you aren’t moving your foot from the brake to the gas – just hover over the gas pedal and punch it when you are ready. I hope this feature flows down to all makes and models soon.

I loved the powered rear door, especially for the auto-open feature – just stand there for 3 seconds, wait for a few beeps and the door opens. No waving your foot under the car like some brands make you do – just wait for it (as long as they keys are in your pocket of course). You can also open the door with the remote, or from the driver’s seat.


The boot itself is relatively roomy, even with the very-welcome full-size spare hiding under a cover, and the load height has been reduced from the previous model. I’d say the boot space is on par with the class.

The Competition

Brand / Model Engine Power Drivetrain Fuel L/100km Price Highest to Lowest
Holden Captiva LT AWD 3.0l V6 petrol 190kW/288Nm 6 speed sports auto 10.1 $49,990
Hyundai Tucson AWD 1.6l petrol turbo 130kW/265Nm 7 speed dual clutch auto 7.7 $47,990
Mazda CX-5 GSX AWD 2.5l 4 cylinder petrol 138kW/250Nm 6 speed auto 7.4 $45,995
Kia Sportage Limited AWD 2.4l 4 cylinder petrol 135kW/237Nm 6 speed auto 8.5 $45,990
Subaru Forester Sport Wagon AWD 2.5l 4 cylinder petrol 126kW/235Nm CVT 8.1 $44,990
Toyota RAV4 GX AWD 2.5l 4 cylinder petrol 122kW/233Nm 6 speed sports auto 8.5 $44,990
Ford Kuga Trend AWD 2.0l petrol turbo 178kW/345Nm 6 speed auto 8.8 $44,490


The Pros and Cons

Pros Cons
  • Handling
  • Build quality
  • Design
  • SatNav functionality
  • Ergonomics
  • Bump isolation
  • Sport mode performance
  • Engine noise
  • SatNav functionality
  • No radar cruise control

What do we think?

I was really looking forward to testing the Sportage. Since this generation was released, the look of the car and specs had me interested.

Did it let me down? Not at all – I can see why sales for the Sportage are streaming ahead. It is great to drive, the AWD has fantastic grip, it has excellent handling for its size and height, and is a comfortable, easy to drive SUV.

There were some surprising things; the engine noise, and some missed opportunities to do simple things like having SatNav directions in the dash for the driver. Sure, that’s a small thing, but there were a few other small things I mentioned which just didn’t seem to fit with the car and its design.

For me, the Sportage Limited is an easy 4 Chevron car. It’s trying to be a 4.5 rating car, but it’s got a way to go to get there yet.Chevron_4out5




If you are in the market for this size SUV, definitely add the Sportage to your list of Must-Drive cars.


Vehicle Type Medium Family SUV/Crossover
Starting Price $35,990
Tested Price $45,990
Engine 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder, petrol CVVT
Transmission 6-speed automatic with sequential sportshift
0 – 100 kph Not quoted
Kerb Weight 1,590kg
Length x Width x Height 4480x1855x1645mm
Cargo Capacity 466/1455
Fuel Tank 62 litres
ANCAP Safety Ratings 5 stars
Towing Capacity 750kg unbraked

1500kg braked

Warranty 5 year/100,000km warranty

5 years Roadside Assistance

5 years Kia Incident Care


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Fred Alvrez
How on earth to start this? I've been car/bike/truck crazy since I was a teen. Like John, I had the obligatory Countach poster on the wall. I guess I'm more officially into classic and muscle cars than anything else - I currently have a '65 Sunbeam Tiger that left the factory the same day as I left the hospital as a newborn with my mother. How could I not buy that car? In 2016 my wife and I drove across the USA in a brand-new Dodge Challenger, and then shipped it home. You can read more on We did this again in 2019 in a 1990 Chev Corvette - you can read about that trip on DriveLife. I'm a driving instructor and an Observer for the Institute of Advanced Motorists - trying to do my bit to make our roads safer.


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