Gareth Butterfield picks out the changes in the new Kia Sportage
THE Kia Sportage, one of the brand’s best-selling cars, has been given a bit of a nip and tuck. But while you have to look hard to spot the visual tweaks, there’s bigger news under the bonnet.
For the first time the popular SUV is now available with a hybrid system bundled in. It’s part of a revision of its engine range that’s seen its old 1.7 litre diesel lump removed, and replaced with the option of a diesel and electric hybrid system. If CO2 output is your priority, a 1.6 litre diesel, manual with 2WD, will float your boat. A bigger 2.0 litre diesel engine is also worth a look, if you need more oomph.
And it’s a hybrid system, but not as we know it. Rather than follow the method of the Toyota Prius, for example, the system in the Sportage is referred to as “mild hybrid”.
The system effectively has a big, 48v battery, and a huge starter motor that combine with the diesel engine to take over some of the driving load. It also means the engine can stay off for far longer in stop-start mode.
The benefits of this system are found in the reduction of CO2 emissions, which are better than its solely solid fuel counterparts. However, it does lag behind in the cleanliness stakes when put alongside the proliferation of fully hybrid SUVs on the market nowadays.
Having said that, it’s a cheaper system to engineer and it does mean there’s no big, heavy battalion of batteries to store away. So you still have the Sportage’s fine ergonomics and ample interior space, and you don’t have to worry about added weight ruining the dynamics.
A win-win? Sort of. The trouble is, while the hybrid system does add in some engine braking to regenerate the batteries, and it cleverly cuts the engine when rolling up to a junction or traffic light, it’s never going to match up with a full hybrid system for sheer economy figures.
You’re looking around 120G/km for the basic 1.6 litre versions, and up to around 150g/km for the AWD, automatic 2.0 diesel. The hybrid setup does make achieving a 60mpg plausible for the small diesel unit, which isn’t too shabby. It’s quite a bit better than the conventionally-powered Sportages, which are still available.
The exterior changes in the newcomer are limited to some smarter headlights and design tweaks, but there’s even less to shout about inside. There’s a new eight inch touch screen for premium models, but you’d be hard-pushed to find the rest of the alterations.
It’s not a bad cabin though, Kia’s interiors have come a long way in a relatively short time and, while the new Ceed offers a nicer overall feel, the Sportage’s layout and quality shouldn’t disappoint.
What adding a hybrid system to the Sportage has ultimately done, is bring its economy figures in line with some of its cleanest rivals. It won’t compete in the numbers stakes with the likes of Toyota’s hybrid Rav4, but it’s now a credible alternative to its solid-fuel competitors.
The hybrids are introduced into the range at the Sportage “4” level, which ensures plenty of goodies are thrown in, but the entry price is around £30,000. That said, it doesn’t get much higher than that as you move up the range, and you’ll not need to spend a lot on options. It’s a sensible price. And it’s a sensible car. With a seven-year warranty, let’s not forget.
If you’re in the market for a small SUV and keeping running costs down is your priority, it’s definitely worth a look.