Review: Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid

From £40,575

The Kia Sportage is the South Korean brand’s best-selling car and the latest model is already a firm fixture in the UK’s Top 5 most popular new cars. One of the most striking crossovers on the road, the fifth-generation Sportage was launched in the UK in 2022.

Available with a choice of hybrid petrol powertrains (mild, full and PHEV), it’s the plug-in hybrid version that’s the subject of this review. The award-winning Sportage mid-sized SUV competes in one of the most competitive sectors. Its rivals include the Ford Kuga, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Citroen C5 Aircross and Toyota RAV4.

We put the Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid through its paces over a week on a variety of A and B roads, plus motorways in the UK.

Kia Sportage side view

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Exterior

There’s no doubt that the Mk 5 Kia Sportage has serious road presence, echoing some of the futuristic styling cues of its 100% electric big brother, the EV6. One of the sharpest-looking family SUVs in its class, it’s covered in bold creases and angles, and there’s no missing those boomerang-style LED running lights up front.

Nicely proportioned with a confident stance, it’s available in six exterior colours, including Infra Red, Fusion White, Experience Green, Dark Penta Metal, Blue Flame and Phantom Black. Some also come with contrasting roof combos.

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Kia Sportage rear view

The Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid is offered in three well-equipped trim levels – GT-Line, ‘3’ and GT-Line S – with goodies such as 19-inch alloys, rear privacy glass, dual LED adaptive headlamps, adjustable and heated door mirrors with LED indicators, plus rain-sensing wipers, all as standard. As with all Kia cars, the Sportage PHEV comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Interior

Inside, the fifth-gen Sportage doesn’t disappoint, with a smart two-screen infotainment set-up. This consists of a 12.3-inch main touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, plus a digital driver’s display the same size on the right.

Kia’s infotainment systems have been bang on the money for a while now, so not only is the Sportage clear, responsive and intuitive but it can also be customised. Plus, there are welcome touch-sensitive shortcut buttons below the main display.

Step inside and it’s easy to find a comfortable driving position, plus there’s a real sense of space and build quality, though some of the plastics lower down are a tad hard. Additionally, there’s plenty of room for adults front and back, while the luggage capacity is a useful 540 litres, expanding to a decent 1,715 litres when the 40:20:40 split rear seats are flipped.

It’s also worth mentioning that the Sportage is stuffed with safety and driver assistance features as standard, such as Automomous Emergency Braking (AEB), Lane Keep Assist and Cruise Control.

Kia Sportage rear seats

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Performance and economy

The Sportage Plug-in Hybrid features a 1.6-litre four-cylinder petrol turbo engine paired with a 13.8kWh battery and a single electric motor on the back axle, producing a combined 261bhp.

It can travel in pure electric mode for up to 43 miles on a single charge, though in the real world, it’s closer to 35 miles. Drive is delivered to all four wheels via a six-speed automatic gearbox.

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The 0-60mph sprint in the Sportage PHEV takes 8.4 seconds, while the top speed is 112mph. In theory, it’s capable of 252mpg but will drop significantly when the battery charge has been used up and it’s functioning as a regular hybrid.

CO2 emissions are as low as 25g/km and company car drivers will pay only 8% benefit-in-kind (BIK) tax. Usefully, it’s also capable of pulling a decent 1,650kg.

As with any plug-in hybrid, it’s most efficient when the battery is kept charged up. On shorter trips with plenty of charge, impressive fuel economy is possible (especially if you stay in EV mode), but on longer journeys, it can dip below 40mpg.

Kia Sportage interior

Driven sensibly diesel-equivalent economy overall can be achieved. driven hard and it will end up closer to 30mpg. The official combined economy figure is 51.4mpg.

The switch from electric to engine power (and vice versa) is seamless, and it’s always satisfying to see the EV light illuminate on the dashboard so often – sometimes when just cruising along. Plug your Sportage PHEV into a 7.2kW home charger and you will get from 10-10% in around 1hr 45min, which is fast for a PHEV.

There are various driving modes to choose from including EV, Hybrid and Automatic, which decides how best to blend the petrol and electric power. The Sportage PHEV also has Eco and Sport modes, and settings for different terrain (Mud, Snow and Sand).

Sport mode is fine if you’re pushing on, but fuel economy will take a hit. Eco mode dulls the driving experience, but it’s fine for cruising along and is the best way to extract as many miles as possible from the petrol engine/battery combo. That said, Sport also charges the battery, which can be useful if you want to use EV mode in town, for instance.

Kia Sportage boot

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Handling

On the road, the Sportage Plug-in Hybrid is easy to drive with light steering and good all-round visibility. If you need some extra peace of mind when manoeuvring, there’s a reversing camera and parking sensors.

It would be wrong to say it has the most sophisticated ride thanks to its firm suspension settings, but it does the job and remains reasonably flat when pushed in fast corners.

It automatically starts in electric mode, so the initial experience is just like driving an EV. However,  the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine isn’t the most engaging of units and can be vocal when pushed- a shame because the Sportage is a refined cruiser.

Four-wheel drive inspires a bit more confidence in poor conditions. We didn’t get the chance to test it off-road, but it should be able to handle a gentle dirt track, get you out of a muddy field and keep you moving in the snow. Crucially, there’s also a hill descent control.

It’s easy to understand why the Kia Sportage is so popular in Ireland as it’s a great all-rounder. The plug-in hybrid is the pick of the line-up, thanks to its ample performance, all-wheel drive and ability to cover most people’s commutes on electric power alone. As ever with PHEVs, it only makes sense if you can regularly plug it in at an inexpensive source of electricity (i.e. at home or work), though fans of the Sportage will find plenty of alternatives in the line-up if they’re not ready to plug a car in just yet. Aside from that, the additions that make up the Anniversary Edition lift the car above the rest of the range in terms of visual appeal, so we’re sure Kia Ireland won’t have any difficulty finding homes for every one it imports.

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Verdict

The plug-in hybrid is the pick of the Kia Sportage range thanks to its decent performance, practicality, all-wheel drive and potential for superb economy if you make full use of the hybrid system and keep the battery charged up. However, it comes at a price and some rivals offer much the same for less.

Kia Sportage Plug-in Hybrid – Tech specs

Price: £40,575 – £45,775
On sale: Now
Engine: 1.6-litre petrol engine/ electric motor/ 13.8 kWh battery
Power: 261bhp
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Performance: 0-60mph in 8.4s, top speed 112 mph
Weight: 1,905kg
Dimensions: L/W/H 4,515/1,865/1,645

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The plug-in hybrid is the pick of the Kia Sportage range thanks to its decent performance, practicality, all-wheel drive and potential for superb economy if you make full use of the hybrid system and keep the battery charged up. However, it comes at a price and some rivals offer much the same for less.
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Quality

3.50/5

Performance

3.50/5

Range

4.00/5

Comfort

4.00/5

Dynamics

3.50/5

Fast Facts

Price

£40,575
-45,775

Battery Capacity

13.8 kWh

WLTP Range

43 miles

Maximum Power

261 bhp

Torque

256 lb-ft

0-60

8.4 secs

Top Speed

112 mph

Boot Capacity

540-
1715 litres

Pros and Cons

43-mile electric range
Well equipped and spacious
Comfortable and refined
Seven-year warranty
£40,000 starting price
Could be more dynamic
Ride on the firm side
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