The auto industry has made good money on plug-in hybrids in recent years. The over-subsidization without proof that the use actually has less impact on the environment will end in the next year, provided that Federal Economics Minister Habeck prevails in the coalition. He claims these cars are marketable. Whether this is the case remains to be seen. Many plug-in hybrids are currently making electric use more difficult due to their short distances in practice and slow charging speeds. Kia promises to do better with the new Sportage PHEV. A first exit.
No special way with the unit
Technically, Kia does not dare to go its own way in the Sportage: the electric motor is installed between the combustion engine and the six-speed automatic transmission and there is no electric secondary axle. It would improve efficiency and bring the E Mode driving experience closer to that of a battery electric car. At 13.8 kWh, the battery also remains in the range of what the competition has to offer too. Kia specifies the interval in the WLTP as 70 km. Spontaneously it looks decent enough, but it also means that the car in this form does not meet the funding requirement of a minimum electric range of 80km, which will apply from January 1, 2024. So it’s entirely possible that Kia will follow suit. within a year.
Charging power 7.2 kW – single phase
The battery, which weighs 140 kg, can only be charged with alternating current; the option for DC charging is also missing here. It’s a shame that Kia missed the opportunity to enable fast charging at home. The tank can be filled up to 7.2 kW of power, but only in one phase. The full charging capacity can therefore only be used on public infrastructures. In the home, in most cases, the unbalanced load limit should be the 4.6 kW end, on one of the subsidized wall boxes, which distribute their 11 kW over three phases, at 3.7 kW.
Known power sources
The two power sources are already known from Hyundai and Kia SUV models. The electric motor has a power of 67 kW, the petrol engine 132. The power of the system here comes very close to adding the two motors with 195 kW. The larger Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe were much more than powerful enough with this powertrain, in the slightly smaller and lighter Sportage the combination is obviously even simpler. In hybrid mode, the driver notices only a small part of the control of the drives. Kia skillfully blurs when which engine is engaged with which part of the propulsion.
It works quite well as long as the driver doesn’t draw full power. Because then the 1.6-liter four-cylinder announces itself quite audibly. On the other hand, it proceeds so quickly that requests for acceleration are handled fairly quickly. At very high speeds on the motorway, the distance to the more expensive models thus becomes acoustically clear. The Sportage isn’t loud, but the larger models are a bit better insulated.
It will be interesting to see if Kia has overcome the hybrid’s biggest weakness. In our tests in winter conditions, purely electric operation was only possible if all the air conditioning was turned off. The first outing was too short for a statement. This also applies to a serious consumption assessment. It can be estimated that much: if you don’t charge the battery externally, you’ll only stay under six liters if you drive very carefully.
Frame without roughness
The frame is free of hardness and offers a comfortable filtering level. With long waves on the highway, however, the body vibrates noticeably. The steering also fits the design of the car and does not bother the driver with information that many in this segment are not looking for anyway. Overall, the tuning felt more consistent than in a similarly sized BMW X2, the Sportage being more comfortable.
Well done and functional
The Kia made an overall positive impression on this first test drive. The workmanship looks solid, in the expensive GT equipment some materials look decidedly classy. Furthermore, there is little to criticize from a functional point of view, not least for the fact that Kia does not follow the fashionable ideal of a buttonless interior. The essential basic functions are therefore quickly self-explanatory: the wide bar under the air vents, whose touch surfaces control different functions depending on the setting, takes some getting used to. What the driver may be missing: matrix light, head-up display and voice control that doesn’t always recommend the weather in London when selecting a navigation destination. On the other hand, we liked the good amount of space and comfortable seats.
The basic model costs 44,390 euros and is already richly equipped. Included are, among other things, a steering wheel and seat heating, three-zone automatic air conditioning, remote cruise control, parking assistance with reversing camera and a navigation system with six updates for map material. It’s just a shame that there is hardly any option to order extra singles for the cheaper model. For example, if you want an audio system or the large glass roof, you have to choose the equipment lines “Spirit” (+ € 3700) or “GT-Line” (+ € 5900). Only then can you select these options in addition.
The Kia Sportage PHEV makes a good first impression overall. It is powerfully motorized, generously proportioned inside and solidly manufactured. It is not badly equipped to compete against popular competitors such as VW Tiguan e-Hybrid (test), Mitsubishi Eclipse PHEV or Opel Grandland Hybrid. However, Kia missed the opportunity to stand out from the competition with the new model in terms of battery and charging options. Depending on the evolution of the subsidy conditions, this could quickly take revenge if the Federal Minister of Economy is wrong in its assessment that plug-in hybrids are marketable even without a purchase premium.