REVIEW: The Fifth-Gen Kia Sportage

Didn’t realise there had been more than 3 iterations of this car? Me neither…

Tested model: 2023 Kia Sportage 1.6h T-GDi Petrol Hybrid Auto 226bhp.

Was the Sportage always dynamic and angled?

In a word, no. The first Sportage shared its platform with a Mazda Bongo and first hit the roads in 1993, landing on UK shores two years later, but it wasn’t until the car’s fourth generation that it began to look less soft and Suzuki Jimny-esque, and more like the current generation. Sales were relatively good, but the original version had scored the lowest-possible results in the Australian ANCAP, and its successor is displayed by the IIHS as an example of a weak roof, both of which were improved on by Kia for subsequent generations.

It’s what’s on the outside that counts…

Unlike previous models, the NQ5 (fifth generation) has a bold and striking exterior. It’s sharp, angled and fits well with Kia’s minimalist rebrand. The lights are shaped… excitingly (?), but the rear window is small and reduces visibility compared to previous models. The front is taken up by a wide grille and triangular day-lights and is relatively ordinary in the darker colours, although the black of the grille contrasts well with red, green and blue models.

The Interior

In 2017 we test-drove a fourth-generation Sportage as a potential to replace our family car, but we were ultimately disappointed by the interior, which was very upright and not very easy to use on the move. For the NQ5 generation, this has been completely uphauled; dual 12.3-inch screens display both the infotainment system and the instrument cluster and now stick up out of the dashboard. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are both available, but the built-in operating system has been considerably improved upon since the previous model. My only complaint would be that, whilst driving, the infotainment system is quite fiddly and can be distracting when you’re trying to change radio station or add a destination into the sat-nav. The seats are comfortable (the tested model had cloth upholstery), and there is a wireless phone charger, as well as USB-C ports in the front and back. The heated seats and steering wheel alike would be welcome on a cold winter morning.

The Drive

Compared to the current family car (2016 Nissan X-Trail), the FWD Kia seemed relatively smooth and refined. The suspension was firm, the steering light and the turning circle relatively good. I was particularly interested in the drive modes. Compared to market rivals, which often have 4 or 5 to select from, the Sportage offers only two: Eco and Sport, with the former being designed for every day driving, keeping revs low and making use of the hybrid powertrain. Engaging sport mode turns all the dials on the (digital) instrument cluster red and allows the car to rev higher before changing gear, making it slightly louder. It does give the acceleration more of a kick, but really there’s not much difference.

The Verdict

Personally, I think What Car? naming the Sportage its Best Family SUV of the year is well-justified. It’s large boot (591L with seats up), spacious back and impressive range of standard features all work in its favour, as well as the fact the tested model (which falls in the middle of the specification range) would set you back around £35,000, with the base model starting at just £29,375, almost £2,000 less than Hyundai’s rival Tucson. Although the drive modes feel a bit pointless, the operating system is fiddly and premium options such as leather upholstery and a sunroof don’t feature on lower-spec models, Kia’s fifth-generation Sportage could be the best one yet.

Where do you think the Sportage stands in comparison to other family SUVs? 

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