Kia Sportage review

Kia Sportage review

Kia ended 2021 on a high with a record UK market share of 5.5% before getting off to a cracking start in 2022.

The South Korean brand finished January as the best-selling brand (9.1% share) – a first in its 30-year history.

This success was led by the Kia Sportage, which was January’s most popular car overall, having ended 2021 as the ninth best-selling popular new car.

Kia Sportage review

It’s remarkable that this family favourite was still flying out of the showrooms in 2021 and early 2022 because these were the last of the fourth generation Sportage (originally launched in 2016) models.

Which brings us to the all-new Mk 5 Sportage – one of the most striking new crossovers on the road.

Rocking a bold, confident new design, hi-tech interior and a range of petrol, diesel and hybrid (mild, self-charging) engines (with a plug-in to follow), the range is priced from £26,745 to £38,445.

Kia Sportage review

There are five trim levels (2, GT-Line, 3, 4 and GT-Line S) and it will do battle the likes of the Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Nissan Qashqai and Suzuki S-Cross.

There’s no doubt that the new Sportage has serious road presence, echoing some of the futuristic styling cues of its pure electric big brother, the EV6.

Inside, the change is just as radical with a smart two-screen infotainment set-up. As standard, there’s a an 8.0-inch main touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and additional digital driver’s display on the right. From GT-Line spec up there’s a larger 12.3-inch screen in the centre.

Kia Sportage review

The curved console is clear, bright, responsive and intuitive to use, partly down to the short-cut buttons below the screen.

We tested three variants (all using a 1.6-litre turbocharged petrol engine) – the entry-level with no electrical assistance, followed by the mild hybrid and the self-charging (or full) hybrid.

Four-wheel drive is available with any of the hybridised models, which are only fitted with automatic gearboxes, while the regular 1.6-litre car only comes with a manual box.

Kia Sportage review

Apart from the obvious kerb appeal, the first thing you notice about the new Sportage is that it’s a little longer, wider and taller than the outgoing car and there’s more room inside.

Overall, it has a more mature, sharper look, it’s well put together, has a quality feel and is generously equipped.

In fact, there’s plenty of space for adults front and back, while the luggage capacity is an impressive 587 litres, expanding to a huge 1,780 litres when the 40:20:40 split rear seats are flipped.

Kia Sportage review

On the road, the Sportage is easy to drive with light steering and good all-round visibility. 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 more challenging corners.

The only slight disappointment is the 1.6-litre T-GDi engine which isn’t the most engaging of units and can be vocal when pushed- a shame because the Sportage is a refined cruiser.

For the record, the conventional engine’s 148bhp is good enough for a 0-60mph sprint time of 9.9 seconds, while the mild hybrid (same engine power, but with 48V battery assistance) is slightly faster (9.4 seconds).

Kia Sportage review

What’s more, on paper the claimed fuel consumption of the basic petrol turbo is 41.5mpg, compared to 40.4mpg for the mild hybrid (though in real world driving you won’t get near 40mpg), so I’m not sure that the latter is worth the extra expense.

Puzzlingly, the CO2 emissions for the all-wheel-drive mild hybrid I drove were higher (158g/km) than the regular petrol (154g/km), so where’s the benefit?

The six-speed manual has an easy shift action, while the automatic options (seven-speed dual-clutch and traditional six-speed torque-converter) are suitably smooth for the mild and full hybrids.

Kia Sportage review

Obviously, if money is not the main concern, then the full hybrid is the most tempting model in the range (until the plug-in hybrid version comes along) – especially if your journeys tend to be longer. There’s extra poke, it’s a more relaxed drive generally and EV mode kicks in at low speeds or when manoeuvring.

The front-wheel drive version I tested delivers a combined 226bhp, a 0-60mph time of 7.7 seconds, fuel economy of up to 48.7mpg and emissions as low as 132g/km.

The Sportage is packed with the latest safety and driver assistance kit including autonomous emergency braking (AEB) and, as with all Kia cars, it comes with a generous seven-year warranty.

Verdict: The all-new Kia Sportage goes straight to the top of the family SUV class with its blend of striking looks, hi-tech interior, practicality, top safety features and big bang for your bucks.

Kia UK

Nissan Qashqai review

Nissan Qashqai review

When the original Nissan Qashqai was launched back in 2007, it pioneered the crossover concept with its blend of hatchback compactness and SUV practicality.

The all-new third-generation model is the best yet. Again built in Britain, it’s set to emulate the sales success of its predecessors. 

And it’s just as well that it is hugely improved because a lot has happened in 14 years and it’s now up against strong competition from the likes of the Kia Sportage, Volkswagen Tiguan, Hyundai Tucson, Peugeot 3008, Seat Ateca and Skoda Karoq.

Nissan Qashqai review

Essentially, the new Qashqai is a step up in just about every area compared to the outgoing model which was launched in 2013 and was beginning to show its age by the end of its production run.

Still instantly recognisable as a Qashqai, the new car looks distinctive and modern – and enjoys much greater kerb appeal.

Priced from £23,985, it’s initially only available with the revised 1.3-litre turbo petrol engine from the Mk2. However, it now features 12v mild-hybrid technology and is available with 138bhp and 156bhp outputs.

Nissan Qashqai review

There is no diesel engine option, but buyers can choose between manual and automatic transmissions, plus all-wheel-drive.

Perhaps most intriguingly, Nissan plans to bring an e-Power version to market in 2022, offering a set-up different to any other currently on sale.

Unlike self-charging hybrids, it will feature a 1.5-litre engine/electric motor/battery combo. The petrol unit is used solely to generate electricity and the wheels are driven by the electric motor.

Nissan Qashqai review

In other words, it’s a way of bringing the advantages of an EV (ie instant torque, smooth power delivery and near-silent operation) to those who don’t want to make the jump to a fully electric car just yet. Additionally, there’s no range anxiety, better fuel efficiency and lower CO2 emissions.

For now we have to make do with the existing mild hybrid petrol engine, which is fine because it’s a refined unit. I only tested the more powerful version (156bhp) with a manual gearbox and it managed just fine, even if you won’t be troubling any hot hatches.

Nissan claims it can sprint from standstill to 60mph in 9.5 seconds and on to a top speed of 128mph, while fuel economy is 43.6mpg and CO2 emissions as low as 146g/km.

Nissan Qashqai review

Personally I’d opt for the slick Xtronic automatic gearbox, which seems better suited to the generally relaxed driving style of the car than the six-speed manual transmission.

It’s possible to exceed the claimed fuel economy figure in everyday driving and exceed it on longer, steady runs, but considering there’s hybrid technology on board (recovering energy under deceleration and providing a small torque boost when accelerating), it’s not streets ahead of its rivals, while its emissions are average.

That said, the new Qashqai handles well and feels more agile than before, perhaps thanks to the 60kg overall weight reduction. Push it and there’s a little body lean in corners, but otherwise it offers a comfortable ride with plenty of grip, while the light steering works a treat in town.

The driving position is ideal, and just as you’d expect from a high-rider, visibility is great.

Inside, Nissan has listened to feedback from owners, so the rear doors open wider and there are more soft-touch plastics inside the cabin, for instance. There’s also a fresher, more modern look to the spacious cabin.

Nissan Qashqai review

In fact, the wheelbase of the car has increased by 20mm, providing extra legroom for rear seat passengers, while the exterior length has grown by 35mm. There’s a slight increase in height (25mm) too, and width has expanded 32mm, making the new model larger overall.

What’s more, there’s also more storage around the cabin, while luggage capacity is a useful 504 litres, expanding to 1,447 with the rear seats folded down.

Nissan Qashqai review

Not only can the new Qashqai carry five adults in comfort, with space for luggage, but it sports the latest technology.

The infotainment system, featuring Android Auto and Apple CarPlay connectivity, is faster and easier to use. A large digital driver’s instrument cluster is now also available, along with the latest version of Nissan’s ProPILOT semi-autonomous driving system.

All models are equipped with Nissan’s driver assistance and safety package, which includes autonomous emergency braking (AEB), adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist and blind spot monitoring.

Verdict: The competitively priced all-new Qashqai puts Nissan back in the game with its winning blend of sharp new looks, refined driving experience and practicality, plus better build quality, the latest tech and generous equipment levels.

Nissan UK

Volkswagen Tiguan R review

Volkswagen Tiguan R review

When you’re driving an ever-increasing amount of hybrid and electric vehicles, it’s refreshing to review a car with no eco pretensions – just a good, old-school car aimed at petrolheads.

To be exact, the Tiguan R is the performance version of Volkswagen’s mid-sized SUV that’s attractive, practical, well-equipped, fully connected and apparently a hit on the school run.

Presumably, VW wants to repeat the success of the Golf R, which is still a benchmark for hot hatches. If so, it very nearly succeeds because the Tiguan has never been so engaging to drive.

https://www.volkswagen.co.uk/

Under the bonnet is a potent version of Volkswagen’s venerable 2.0-litre petrol turbo engine, here making 316bhp and 310lb ft, combined with four-wheel drive.

It’s suitably swift with a 0-62mph time of just 4.9 seconds, while top speed is an electronically limited 155mph.

As you’d expect, the Tiguan’s eco credentials aren’t quite so hot. Fuel consumption is 28.5 mpg, while CO2 emissions are up to 225g/km.

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review

If you behave yourself behind the wheel, then 30mpg is possible, but it’s hard to resist having fun in the R, while ‘Sport’ as the default drive mode doesn’t help!

So, what do you get for your £46,220? For starters, it’s available in trademark Lapiz Blue paint (unique to R models).

Plus, it comes as standard with 21-inch alloy wheels, sportier front and rear bumpers, matte chrome door mirror covers, four epic exhaust tips, LED headlights and keyless entry.

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review

Inside, there are supportive heated sports seats, a new steering wheel with gear-shift paddles, multi-coloured mood lighting, R badging and an ‘R’ mode button which lets you quickly engage the sportiest driving mode without having to access the infotainment screen (which sadly incorporates the new touch sensitive climate control panel first seen on the latest Golf).

Other than that, it’s much the same as a regular Tiguan, which means it’s generously equipped, spacious front and back, plus a healthy 615 litres of storage capacity (1,655 with the rear seats folded).

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review

Set off and the first thing you notice is the engine note, which is augmented via the audio system. It certainly sounds the part in the faster drive modes, but if you’re not a fan of fake noise, then there is a setting to switch it to ‘Pure’.

Slightly lower and stiffer than a regular Tiguan, it feels planted on the road, hides its size well and body lean is kept to a minimum in faster corners.

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review

The engine is equally impressive. Responsive and smooth with plenty of torque, it’s possible to squeeze out some entertaining pops and crackles when down-changing in the faster drive modes (as well as the road-going Comfort, Sport, Race and Individual modes, there are also Off-Road and Off-Road Individual modes).

The DSG box is as efficient as ever, pumping through the gears, while the new torque vectoring differential (nicked from the Golf R) helps the four-wheel drive system send power to the wheels that have the most grip, enabling you to make tighter turns at speed.

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review

In fact, grip and traction on more challenging roads is superb, while the steering is light and accurate.

Ultimately, it’s not as nimble and engaging as a Golf R, but Volkswagen has made a great attempt to add some dynamism to the Tiguan SUV – its biggest global seller.

Verdict: The Volkswagen Tiguan R is a mid-sized family crossover with serious attitude, boasting badge appeal, performance and practicality. If you can live with the ticket price and relatively high running costs, it should definitely be on your hot SUV shortlist.

Volkswagen UK

Volkswagen Tiguan R Review