Kia Sportage PHEV review
The first-ever plug-in hybrid Kia Sportage is a refined and practical family SUV, with an impressive 43-mile electric range, but it starts at nearly £40,000
- Cabin quality
- 43-mile electric range
- Dual-screen infotainment
- Slightly firm ride
- Reduced boot space
- £38,000 starting price
|Car type||Electric range||Fuel economy||CO2 emissions|
|Plug-in hybrid||43 miles||252mpg||25g/km|
The fifth-generation Kia Sportage has built on the success of its predecessors and remains one of the most popular family SUVs in the UK. In February 2022, the Sportage nameplate topped the new-car registration charts and it regularly features in the monthly top 10.
We can understand why, as the full-hybrid version is a thoroughly impressive family SUV and a worthy rival for models like the Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan. This is the more expensive plug-in hybrid model – the first Sportage to be available with such a drivetrain – and the one company-car drivers and anyone looking to reduce their fuel consumption will be eyeing up.
On paper, the Sportage PHEV looks very promising. It shares its powertrain with the Hyundai Tucson Plug-In: a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine coupled to a single electric motor fed by a 13.8kWh battery. The result is a combined 261bhp and 350Nm of torque – enough to take the nearly-two-tonne SUV from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. A six-speed automatic is the only gearbox for the PHEV and all-wheel drive is standard.
More importantly, Kia claims the plug-in Sportage will cover 43 miles on electric power alone – upped to 48 miles if you’re just driving around town. That’s further than its Tucson Plug-In cousin can boast and should be plenty for completing the school run or daily commute without using a drop of petrol. The Sportage PHEV also returned up to 252mpg fuel economy in official testing, while CO2 emissions stand at 25g/km. Fully recharging the 13.8kWh battery from a home wallbox will take just under two hours.
The other benefit for being so efficient is the plug-in Sportage gets an enticing 8% Benefit-in-Kind (BiK) tax rating – around a third the rate the full-hybrid version attracts. If you’re a company-car driver sizing up the advantages of the two electrified Sportages, note that a 20% taxpayer could save up to £5,000 a year in tax alone by going for the plug-in variant.
However, the Sportage PHEV's over-£39,000 starting price makes it a more challenging prospect for private buyers, as it’s £5,000 more expensive than the equivalent full-hybrid. The PHEV line-up starts with GT-Line trim, which gets you 19-inch alloys, 12.3-inch infotainment, front and rear parking sensors with a rear-view camera, keyless entry, suede leather upholstery, heated and folding mirrors and automatic headlights and wipers. Stepping up to 3 trim adds a 12.3-inch digital instrument panel, heated front and outer rear seats, a heated steering wheel and smart cruise control.
Next up is 4 grade, which adds a panoramic sunroof, a Harman Kardon sound system, LED adaptive headlights, wireless smartphone charging, remote parking assistance and a raft of additional safety kit. Finally, there’s the GT-Line S, which gives you the option of two-tone paintwork with a black roof, plus styling additions, ventilation for the front seats and a powered tailgate.
There are several driving modes to choose from including EV, Hybrid and a third labelled ‘Automatic’, which decides how best to blend the petrol and electric power sources itself. The Sportage PHEV also has Eco and Sport modes, and settings for different terrain.
Eco is what you roll away in, silently on the electric motor. Our car indicated 37 miles of electric range on a fully charged battery, and overall the plug-in hybrid setup feels natural in the Sportage. Although the addition of the hybrid system does add 330kg over the petrol Sportage, which is already larger than the Tucson.
The plug-in Sportage is a decent cruiser. Wind noise is well suppressed, plus the hybrid system is refined and manages switching between the different power sources well. On the motorway, it’s a serene place to be, thanks to the ability to run on electric power alone at higher speeds.
Because you never feel rushed behind the wheel of the Sportage PHEV, its Sport mode feels unnecessary, and doesn’t do a lot to improve performance or add a sense of excitement to proceedings. The steering isn’t particularly sharp, either. But let the Sportage PHEV do its thing and you’ll be rewarded with effortless fuel economy; we managed to return 87mpg on our car’s trip computer completely without fuss.
The Sportage’s ride, however, does let the car down. It’s not firm enough to be off-putting by any means, but it simply isn't an outstanding setup when you encounter bad surfaces, although the 19-inch wheels probably don’t help in this regard.
But what is impressive about the Sportage is the generous amount of kit and technology on board. Plonk yourself in the driver’s seat of anything but the base model and you’re presented with two 12.3-inch displays for the infotainment and driver information. Meanwhile, the centre panel controls in the dashboard can flick between either heating and ventilation or infotainment controls, as in the pure-electric Kia EV6. Kia has been liberal with the application of soft-touch plastics in the Sportage, and overall it’s a pleasant place to sit.
Safety is a strong point, with the Sportage gaining a five-star Euro NCAP crash-test rating in mid-2022. Adult and child occupant protection was rated at 87% and 86% respectively, while the safety assistance score was 72%. The rating applies across all the trim levels and powertrains that make up the Sportage range.
Space inside is strong, too, with passengers in the rear only missing out on a little foot room as a result of the hybrid system. Boot space does take a hit in the plug-in hybrid compared to others in the line-up, but 540 litres is nothing to scoff at. Plus, you can lower the rear seats and expand the space on offer to 1,715 litres.
While the notion of a £40,000+ Kia isn’t so unimaginable after the arrival of the EV6, private buyers may still struggle to reconcile the price increase over the already impressive full-hybrid. However, the Sportage PHEV can comfortably wear that price tag, as it combines all the best qualities from Kia’s latest offerings, including efficient hybrid technology, excellent cabin quality and decent value for money.