Perfect Match: Kia Sportage Earth Hybrid review

Dean Evans
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Kia Sportage Earth Hybrid

  • Smooth and efficient hybrid
  • Competitive pricing.
  • Latest tech
  • Black panels get dusty
  • Turning circle not ideal.
  • Lots of plastics inside & out

Within the first few kays of driving the 2024 Kia Sportage Hybrid, I’m thinking there is no such thing as a perfect car; and even if there were, what’s perfect for one could be imperfect for another – we often have this heated discussion in the office, with David regularly throwing down and wanting to punch on, about his love and distaste for certain brands - he might appear calm to meet him, but don’t get on his bad side!

Anyway, empty nester David loves smaller cars, Damien is happy in almost anything that doesn’t incessantly beep at him, but my needs lean towards a bit more comfort, practicality and a bit of tech, to help my 260km round trip to the office, and cart around our three kids.

For me and my needs, the Kia Sportage Hybrid is as close to perfect as I’ve driven all year.

For a start, I’m not badge-biased. The choice of models in the Kia Sportage range is vast: 11 models, AWD or FWD, three petrol or diesel engines, with prices spanning $40k to $63k. We’ve hit a sweet spot with our test car, the Sportage Earth Hybrid at $55k, using a modest-on-paper 1.6-litre petrol turbo four-cylinder, and a hybrid battery boost. It’s far from meek.

First impressions do count, and while our vanilla colouring certainly looked appliance-like, it was quick to impress.

Tap the remote door unlock button, climb inside, and while there is an abundance of plastics, the layout is very user-friendly and familiar: a clean digital dash, handy storage pockets, wireless smartphone charger and the perfect amount of actual buttons, for things like the electric seat-heating, drive mode, camera, and a very functional and practical Hyundai/Kia dash that switches between either HVAC controls, or - with the touch of a button - audio controls. Simple but clever, with the rotary dials at either end controlling either volume or climate.

Hit the starter button, and the engine doesn’t fire into life; instead, the hybrid system wakes, and assuming there’s enough battery on the bar graph - which there almost always is - the Sportage hybrid silently creeps away in full electric mode, symbolised by both the EV light on the dash, and the digital engine tachometer that displays 0.0 when in electric.

Like most hybrids, it doesn’t spend a huge amount of time in dedicated full electric, due to the small 1.5kWh battery size, however, in the right conditions, such as low throttle, a full charge, and maybe even a slight descent, we managed around 3km in pure EV mode driving, and the battery still had some charge.

Additionally, when typically slowing for a destination, it builds enough charge to silently slip into a garage in EV mode, meaning home exits and entries are always under the peacefulness of EV, good for both noise and exhaust gases.

It’s similarly good while driving, smoothly and discretely slipping between electric and the 1.6l petrol motor, with minimal noise and fuss – to the point where it becomes fun watching that digital tacho switch between revs and 0.0, as the bar graph constantly moves between Charge, Eco and Power modes depending on the angle of your right foot. It’s truly one of the best hybrid systems around and a true rival for the Toyota and Honda systems.

Furthermore, the electric motor also fills any gap that a small capacity turbo engine might present, especially one moving 1707kg. The Kia hybrid eagerly shoots it off the line, before turbo boost arrives and takes charge (pun intended). Zero-to-100 isn’t quoted, but we managed a rather zippy 7.4 seconds. Impressive for just a 1.6!

Drive modes are also offered: green Eco default, red Sport and a purple Smart mode, though we couldn’t pick much difference, so let it default.

The interior is very traditional; that is, the indicators are on the right, wipers on the left. There’s auto headlights/highbeams, auto wipers with rear wiper twisted on the end, and a big 12.3in touchscreen, which is rather quite good, offering CarPlay/Auto.

On the steering wheel, auto radar cruise controls are on the right, volume on the left, and everything in its place, plus a configurable home key, and shift paddles to manually override gears. Even the sunvisors extend, so that the side glass is fully covered, a particularly cherished function given my northbound morning drives. If I were designing my own interior… I don’t need to: Kia Sportage is perfect.

Tech is everywhere in this Hybrid Earth model: rear-cross traffic alert, rear camera with dynamic guidelines, an automatic electric tailgate, collision-avoidance when reversing, and even a wake-up-Jeff alert when the car in front moves away.

The superb electric/lumbar heated front seats are a pleather/leather combo, while the second row is spacious and accommodating, though lacking a little tech: USB-C plugs in the sides of the front seats and little hooks are about it.

The boot is large, with 543 to 1829 litres on the non-hybrids, and presumably a little less on the two hybrid models, as they aren’t quoted - but fuel capacity is 52 litres, 2 less than the non-hybrids. Economy? We managed high-5s, from the 5.4l claim.

What’s not perfect? The 11.8 metre turning circle could be smaller, and it could do with a front camera (reserved for X Line models), but front sensors suffice.  

The ride and comfort package on the 18-inch wheels and 60-profile Hankook tyres is superb, as is road-noise.

At 4660mm, it’s 6cm longer than a RAV4, and spec for spec, likely compares to the RAV4 XSE, at $55k (drive-away), which offers a 2.5 with similar frugality and a fraction heavier.

Try our Car Comparison Tool here: compare RAV4 with Kia Sportage and Honda CR-V

Some cars just fit your groove, and at $55k plus ORC, this new Sportage Hybrid Earth goes straight to the shortlist for the DRIVEN Car of the Year. Perfect? Not quite, but not far off.

Kia Sportage Earth Hybrid
ENGINE: 1.6-litre turbo petrol four, hybrid
POWER: 169kW/350Nm (combined)
GEARBOX: Six-speed auto, FWD
0-100KM/h: 7.4 secs (tested)
ECONOMY: 5.4l/100km
PRICE: $55,390


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