2016 Kia Sportage KX-3 2.0 CRDi 134 bhp Auto AWD long-term test and review – Update 1

Update 1: 14th November 2016 – 30th January 2017

Start milage on clock: 396 | Miles covered this update: 2,142 | Average (UK) mpg: Town: 35/37  mpg | Motorway: 38 – 48 mpg | Mixed routes: 35 – 40 mpg

It’s been a whole four years since I was last in a Kia Sportage – the third generation (2012) at that time. This forth-gen version is Kia’s best-selling model in the UK, and it’s not just a face-lift but instead is entirely new.

For a six-month long-term test and review, I was sent the new 4th generation Kia Sportage KX-3 2.0 CRDi 134 bhp 6-speed automatic, to give the car its full title. The KX in the name denotes that it’s the all-wheel-drive (AWD) model, which I’d requested as this test would be over the winter months and into spring, which will hopefully give at least a few opportunities put that AWD system to the test properly.

It might be all-new, but what are the differences between this and the previous Sportage? As a brief overview, here are a few specs and stats before I report on how the SUV has performed for the first few months of its time with Car Products Tested;

  • ‘Extensively revised’ engines now more economical with CO2 emission reductions.
  • New turbocharged petrol 1.6-litre T-GDi added to engine line-up choice.
  • New sporty GT-Line spec added to model line-up.
  • Improved driving dynamics and safety.
  • 4th-gen Sportage is Kia’s ‘most technologically advanced cars ever launched in UK & Europe’
  • Higher ‘actual and perceived quality’ in cabins, with more comfortable seating.
  • Interior is more spacious, with better leg and headroom front & rear.
  • Larger boot space with lower load level at the boot-lip.
  • Priced from £18,250 to £32,575

When asked which spec I’d wanted, I’d requested a KX-4 auto with the 2.0 CRDi in 182 bhp guise, but due to fleet numbers they’d had to send the KX-3 automatic 2.0 CRDi 134 bhp. I was slightly disappointed as I’d wanted the higher-power model, but as you’ll find out in more detail later, the 134 bhp model is perfectly adequate.

I’d not closely checked out a Sportage in the metal previous to my long-termer arriving, and when it arrived I was surprised by how decent-looking it actually is. For a start its design is contemporary, easily rivalling the competition in that department, and I believe that like the previous third generation version, its look will age well.

There’s an almost muscularity to the Sportage, with taut, well-sculpted bodylines which not only look good, but the design also quiets down the naysayers who still (bizarrely) believe Kias are a budget, downmarket marque, for in a line-up it easily holds its own next to similar-sized SUVs such as the Audi Q3, BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLC SUV.

In case you’re wondering, the colour of my long-term tester is Alchemy Green – a £575 option – and it’s the one I’d specifically chosen. The paint can ‘flip’ to a variety of hues, going from a dark bronze/brown when the weather is overcast, to shimmering a greeny-gold/lighter bronze in the sunlight. I love it!

This KX-3 spec includes 19-inch multi-spoke alloys, rear tinted glass, LED running lights, leather upholstery, heated front and rear (side) seats, an 8-inch touchscreen system with satellite navigation, rear parking sensors, reverse camera, Bluetooth for calls and music, an 8-speaker JBL premium sound system with subwoofer and external amp.

If you’re looking to buy a KX-3 model, here’s a tip; buy one from December 2016 onwards, as Kia added as standard a panoramic opening sunroof as well as an upgraded multi-media system featuring Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. My test car is from October/November and therefore misses out on those. D’oh! For a list of all features, click here to visit Kia spec page.

The Sportage arrived mid-November, and the gloomy, chilly winter days were starting to become more frequent. The usual lead-up to a typical UK winter includes dreary, overcast skies spiked with downpours of the type of heavy rain that relentlessly attacks until you’re cold, miserable and soaked through.

Thankfully, the Sportage KX-3 has the benefit of heated front and rear (outer) seats – something really very nice to have, especially as I carry passengers fairly often. Something I noticed early on was just how fast the 3-stage heated seats get properly warm, and after just a minute or so your bum and lower back are basking in tropical-type heat. Actually, the higher-grade KX-4 model gets a heated steering wheel, which while slightly opulent is also a fantastic thing to have. I do miss that, as once you’ve had a car with it, you’ll wish all cars do.

When the previous (third generation) Sportage arrived on the scene, the layout and overall quality of the interior impressed. With this forth generation model Kia have clearly upped their game once more, and this is immediately obvious from the moment you open a door.

Remembering that this model costs just a shade over £28,000, it’s likely that you’ll be surprised by just how nice a space it is, and especially so if you’ve not looked at Kias before. I’ve said similar before in my other Kia reviews, but if you’re a badge-snob in the market for mid-size SUV and are avoiding looking at the Sportage simply becuase of the name on the bonnet, then go and test one against a higher-priced rival, because once you look at the price difference, and then the overall quality of the Kia, it’ll quickly change your mind.

Sliding onto the driver’s seat, I can tell within a couple of minutes that this is going to be a comfortable few months. The leather feels like it’s good quality, like it’ll last well, and both front and rear they’re also nicely-styled too, with contrast stitching and piping around various edges.

One thing that wouldn’t particularly bother me on a short-term tester though, but that I’ve noticed over the past weeks with the Sportage, is that the holes in the perforated leather seats (I presume to keep them from getting as hot as ‘flat’ leather) seem to gather and hold any crumbs etc, and they’re really difficult to get out. Same with a lot of cars now, but it’s something to remember when it comes to cleaning the car.

Going back to the design, immediately obviously is the low, almost flat dash top which not only gives a clean, uncluttered look, but allows for superb vision out the windscreen. A nice touch are the satin-finished trim surrounds to the vents, which match the ones on the steering wheel, gear-shifter and door handles. This is something simple, but provides an upmarket feel.

Piano-black trim is something a lot of manufacturers now use to give their cars a higher-end feel, but I think that on some cars it’s either over-used or looks cheap. Kia have used it in the Sportage, but thankfully it both looks good and hasn’t been slapped all over the cabin, just where needed.

Another thing more and more manufacturers have started to do is put almost every control through the touchscreen system. While this allows for a cleaner look to the centre console, it’s not particularly practical and it means faffing about for simple things, such as operating the heated seats. Kia’s designers have been wise in this department too, by giving the driver all the necessary controls for the climate/heated seats/radio/phone/media/map, but laying them out ergonomically and easily memorable. Less time looking down, more time looking ahead.

They feel good to use too, with no clicking noise from either the switchgear or dials on any control. The clicking point sounds like a small point, but I’ve had luxury cars on test (Jaguars, for instance) where they’ve had buttons that click so loud that in the end it gets on your nerves every time you have to use them.

I’ll go through the cabin in more detail in the following long-term updates, but suffice to say up to now I really like the layout, equipment level, materials used and general comfort of the Sportage KX-3.

As mentioned earlier, the engine in this long-termer is the 2.0 CRDi. All engines for the Sportage have been ‘extensively revised’ according to Kia, and on the CRDi it includes a new, high-efficiency turbocharger and a lighter engine block, amongst other things, plus noise, vibration and harshness (NVH) levels are reduced too.

This is a four-cylinder, 16-valve turbocharged diesel unit, which produces 132 bhp at 4,000 rpm, and 275 lb ft (373Nm) of max torque between 1,500 – 2,500 rpm. That’s a torque increase of 39 lb ft (53Nm) over the previous generation model, and it’s spread over a wider rev range too.

0 – 60 mph is done in 11.6 seconds, and it’ll go on to 114 miles-per-hour at the top end. Not exactly mind-blowing acceleration figures, but there are two redeeming things to consider; firstly, 0 – 60 runs aren’t exactly frequent now, are they, and therefore not really too relevant. Instead, the rolling acceleration it delivers – especially from 40 mph upwards – is easily adequate, as I’ll talk about in future updates.

On this 6-speed automatic version, CO2 emissions are down by 29 g/km, while the combined quoted fuel economy figure increases by around 7.5 mpg, pushing it up to 47 mpg.

While I’m on the topic of fuel economy, the test car was delivered with just 396 miles on the clock so the more miles we put on it, the better it should be on fuel. However, I’ve already seen up to a 48 miles-per-gallon average on a mixed-road run, which I think is decent.

I’ve got the 6-speed automatic version on test and to be honest in the first few weeks of running the car, I was disappointed as it’s still using an ‘old-style’ torque-convertor unit, and it just didn’t feel anywhere near as smooth or slick as the majority of modern autos do. It’s a little strange actually, because Kia offer both the 1.7 CRDi and 1.6 T-GDi (petrol) version with a new 7-speed dual clutch transmission (DCT), which I know is better than the 6-speed torque convertor auto as I’ve tested the same thing on a Hyundai.

However, after the initial slight dissatisfaction with the six-speed auto, I did get used to it and now I actually even kinda like it. No, it’s not as polished as the DCT or some other automatics, but as far as torque convertor gearboxes go it’s still smooth enough and the ‘manual’ shifts make things more interesting should you want to have a more involved drive.

I’ve been pleasantly surprised by just how well this new Sportage handles, and in the couple of months testing it I can’t help but be impressed at just how well Kia have done in setting up the chassis and suspension. While on 19″ rims and fairly low-profile tyres – which usually means a harsh ride – the Kia delivers a rather comfortable ride, soaking up bad road surfaces with ease, while also being unexpectedly well composed when you do want to push on down a particularly twisting section of road. It now handles more like a well-balanced car, in fact, and I’m genuinely enjoying driving it.

Now that the temperature is dropping, rainy days are more frequent and the trees have shed their leaves, the roads feel more greasy, and this is when the KX-version with its all-wheel-drive starts to come in handy. I drive on country roads dozens of times per week, and they’re usually covered in a mixture of mud from tractors, blankets of leaves and standing water hiding rutted sections of tarmac. Not a great combo.

Because I drive on these same sections of roads regularly in a variety of cars, I can tell you that the Sportage’s AWD does make a big difference, both in the level of grip offered and also the amount of confidence that brings, meaning a more relaxed experience overall. Would I have a 2-wheel-drive Sportage. Only if I did 90% of my driving in a city/town and lived in an area that rarely got snow. Other than that, a ‘KX’ AWD version would absolutely be my choice.

Keep an eye out for my next update on the Sportage, as I test it on a day-to-day basis in real-world conditions. If you’re looking to buy one, these updates will give you an excellent guide to what’s good an not-so-good about the car.

Thinking of buying a 4th generation Kia Sportage, have questions about it or simply want to share thoughts on your own? Leave a comment using the form below! 

Model (as tested)  2016 Kia Sportage KX-3 2.0 CRDi AWD
Standard spec includes  Exterior: 19″ alloy wheels,  rear tinted windows, panoramic sunroof with slide function (Dec. ’16 model onwards), LED daytime running lights | Interior: Black leather upholstery, heated front & rear outer seats, manual adjusting front seats, driver seat power lumbar, rear reclining seats, dual auto air conditioning with Ioniser | Tech: Cruise control with speed limiter, auto-dimming rear mirror, electric folding, adjustable & heated door mirrors with LED indicators, 8-speaker JBL premium sound system, 8″ touchscreen with satellite navigation, DAB, Bluetooth, reverse camera, Android Auto & Apple CarPlay (Auto & CarPlay Dec. ’16 model> onwards), rear parking sensors, 4.2″ LCD TFT driver display.  See full spec here
Safety  ABS, EBD, ESC, DBC, trailer stability assist, ESS, Lane Keep Assist, High Beam Assist, Hill Assist, TPMS, Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive, front active headrests, ISOFIX child seat top tethers & anchor fixings | Airbags: front, side, curtain with roll-over sensor.  Euro NCAP safety rating of 5/5 stars.
Options fitted  Alchemy Green premium paint: £575.00
Off-road information  Ground clearance: 172 mm (6.8″) min. | Approach angle: 16.7˚ | Departure angle: 23.9˚ | Ramp-over angle: 18.6˚
Price (inc. options)   As tested inc options: Sportage KX-3 2.0 CRDi 134hp auto AWD: £28,890. Updated Dec. 2016> model: £29,095 (no added options)
Engine  Diesel, 2.0 litre, 4-cylinder, 16-valves, turbocharged
Power, Torque  Power: 134 bhp @ 2,750 – 4,000 rpm | Torque: 275 lb ft (373Nm) @ 1,500 – 2,500 rpm
Drive, Gears (as tested)  Intelligent All-Wheel-Drive | 6-speed torque-convertor automatic
Towing capacity, boot space Towing: Unbraked: 750 kgs (1,653 lbs), Braked: 1,900 kgs (4,188 lbs) | Boot capacity (litres): behind rear seats: 491, Rear seats folded: 1,480
Top Speed, 0 – 60 mph, Euro NCAP  Max speed: 114 mph | 0 – 62 mph: 11.6 seconds
Fuel economy (UK mpg), CO2  Urban: 40.4, Extra urban: 54.3, Combined: 47.9 | CO2: 154 g/km
Weight (kerb)  Min.: 1,690 kgs (3,725 lbs) | Max. 1,859 kgs (4,098)
Websites  Kia UK, Kia USA, Kia global (choose country)

Words: Chris Davies | Photography/film: Chris Davies, Patrick Davies

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