First Drive

First Drive: Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V

The story:
Kia’s biggest-selling model, the current Sportage has reached mid-life revision status, which includes new diesel engines and mild-hybrid technology as well as visual and tech upgrades.
Key rival:Nissan Qashqai
Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V auto GT-Line S
Emissions:152g/km (est)
On sale:Now

The Sportage crossover takes an incredible 40% of Kia’s UK sales, and the car has been a runaway success, in particular across the previous and current generations of the four that have worn the nameplate.

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V auto GT-Line S - 2018 - Image 5The mid-life revision of Kia’s international best-selling car brings the expected visual and technology tweaks, as well as interior upgrades, but also a complete change to the diesel engine line-up.

The previous 1.7-litre diesel, which came in 114hp and 139hp power outputs, is replaced by a new 1.6 in 114hp and 134hp alternatives, and has a claimed efficiency improvement, although that is hidden by the change in the efficiency testing regime that means official emissions are broadly the same, running from 126g/km for the seven-speed automatic to 139g/km for the all-wheel drive manual.

But the other diesel is bigger news, although not in volume terms as it’s only available on the higher 4 and GT-Line S trims, though not the GT-Line that sits between them. This new engine is Kia’s first mild hybrid, where a small 48V battery backs up the 182hp 2.0-litre diesel engine, supplementing power under hard acceleration and enabling a “moving stop-start system” during braking and deceleration. When necessary, the battery recoups energy from the crankshaft under deceleration.

Kia’s new top diesel has emissions of 152g/km and an official fuel economy of 48.7mpg, which aren’t great from a fleet perspective, but it gives a more powerful alternative to the mainstream 1.6 diesel.

To drive, the mild hybrid system is tricky to detect in most situations, although feathering the throttle seems to unsettle it, causing a slight judder as the system appears to hesitate about how to combine the powertrains. But it’s an otherwise smooth and powerful diesel that combines well with the new eight-speed auto gearbox for a virtually seamless shift. The downside is that it’s well over £30,000 for the top-spec engine, but as a range-topper it works well.

Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V auto GT-Line S - 2018 - Image 1Visually, the new car is subtly different from the pre-facelift version. New bumper and fog light housings with new black or chrome inserts are joined by a revised grille that now comes in either gloss or matt black, and LED headlights from 4 trim upwards, while the same trims also get silver painted front and rear skid plates to enhance the look of the higher models.

Inside, the new steering wheel and revised instrument cluster will be obvious to drivers of the current car, while spec increases include all cars now getting at least a seven-inch touchscreen, reversing camera and Apple Carplay/Android Auto, while the 2 grade adds Kia Sportage 2.0 CRDi 48V auto GT-Line S - 2018 - Image 8heated front and outer rear seats. The middle 4 spec now has 360-degree around-view monitor and forward collision warning, GT-Line gets nice black leather seats with red stitching and paddleshifts on the automatic gearbox, and GT-Line S also gets ventilated front seats.

The Sportage hasn’t been dramatically altered, but useful spec improvements, subtle design enhancements and, most necessary of all, new diesel engines, make for a car that should continue to be a hit.

Paul Barker

The verdict

Sensible update sees improved diesels and spec tweaks make for an even more appealing crossover model.