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 only been on sale for a couple of months, and it’s already proving popular with UK drivers. In February 2022, the Sportage nameplate was the most popular new-car registration in Britain, and it remains one of the top 10 best-selling cars in the country.
We can understand why, as the full-hybrid version we drove earlier this year is a thoroughly impressive family SUV and a worthy adversary for the Hyundai Tucson and Volkswagen Tiguan. But this is the plug-in hybrid model – the first-ever Kia Sportage PHEV, in fact – and the one company-car drivers and anyone looking to reduce their fuel consumption will be eyeing up.
On paper, the first 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 – enough to take the nearly-two-tonne SUV from 0-62mph in 7.9 seconds. A six-speed automatic gearbox is the only option for the PHEV, with all-wheel-drive standard, too.
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 sister can boast and should be plenty for most people to do 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 until at least April 2024 – nearly a third of 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-£38,000 starting price will make 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 alloy wheels, a 12.3-inch infotainment system, 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, with the price rising to just over £39,500 in the process.
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, like our test car, 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. It’s worth noting that both of these versions start from over £40,000, so attract higher VED (road tax) bills at their first five renewals.
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 its Hyundai Tucson sister.
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 a little unnecessary, and doesn’t do a whole lot in terms of improving performance and introducing 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.
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.