After more than 20 years, how relevant is the latest Sportage?
It may be more than two decades since production of the Sportage started, but it’s only since 2010 that the public has seen a version it could really get behind. It’s still a handsome small SUV but has the latest version overcome the issue that, behind the looks, it wasn’t always that great to drive?
If you want to back up those SUV looks with four-wheel drive then you’ll need to get the bigger, 2.0-litre CRDi diesel engine. It comes with either 134bhp or 182bhp, and certainly pulls well in either configuration. But for many that will be spending too much money, so we’re going with the wisdom of crowds and are trying the 1.7-litre diesel, which only comes in front-wheel drive form.
It only comes with a six-speed manual gearbox too, but this combination works well and is probably the most cost-effective variant. The issue is that it sits slightly at odds with the way the chassis is set up. It feels like there is a slight disconnect, as if the engineers in charge of chassis design were told to come up with something that was sporty, fairly firm, a bit more of a hard charger. At the same time the engine engineers were told to produce a family-friendly, torquey and easy-going unit that would be more practical than exciting. Put the two together and the chassis feels too firm and a bit jittery compared to the rest of the experience.
One upside is that it sticks to the road well and doesn’t lean much through the corners, so the handling is certainly quite strong. However the steering lets it down, being vague and artificial, certainly to the extent that it will stop you pushing too hard.
That vague steering isn’t helped by a dose of vibration through the wheel from the engine, which has that guttural diesel clatter going on, even when it’s not being pushed hard. There are a couple of petrol engines, a 1.6-litre and a turbocharged 1.6 T-GDi, and they’re both smoother but you need to keep them revving to make progress, even with a turbocharger on the more powerful version.
The cabin feels robust and well put together and the materials are generally pretty good. It feels quite spacious, and the driver can easily get comfy in a seating position which is high enough for an SUV aimed mostly at the road. It’s easy to get in and out and there’s easily as much space as the competitors have, along with useful stowage areas.
It’s the same in the rear, and passengers there will appreciate the rear split 60/40 but even more they’ll like the way you can rake the rear seatback down to a very relaxed degree. Behind them there’s a big boot, one of the best in class.
The driver can see out in all directions fairly well, although if you go for level 2 or above you’ll get that supported by rear parking sensors and a reversing camera. Moving up to level 4 and above adds blind-spot monitoring.
The level 1 entry trim is quite basic so we’d go for 2 or above as that brings you a seven-inch colour touchscreen, with sat nav, DAB radio, Bluetooth and more. Trim 3 or more replaces that with an eight-inch screen.
If we were buying a Sportage, we’d go for the 1.7 CRDi in 2 trim. If you’re looking at list prices it’s way cheaper than a Nissan Qashqai, and there are some great PCP finance deals going. However, emissions aren’t great compared to the competition, so we might think about the 1.6 GDi petrol engine if you don’t do the miles as it’s more than £1000 cheaper and will be cheaper to run.
Reliability seems to be fairly good, in that middle of the road kind of way, but let’s not forget the seven-year warranty, which includes UK and European roadside assistance for the first year free and for a discounted cost after that. If you’ve got your sensible head on, that might just swing it towards this practical, economical and stylish SUV.