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Used Kia Sportage review: 1996-2016

Ewan Kennedy reviews the 1996, 2000, 2005, 2007, 2010, 2015 and 2016 Kia Sportage as a used buy

The Kia Sportage was a real 4WD when launched here in 1996. Its ladder frame chassis and dual-range 4WD system meant it could carry out genuine off-road operations.

Indeed its relatively light weight and smallish size meant it could sometimes squeeze into tight spots where big truck-based 4WDs couldn’t fit. Sportage owners just loved that.

From May 2000, the Kia Sportage had basically the same front as the 1996 model, but gained a significantly longer tail to provide a lot more boot space, though the back seats had much the same room as before. A reduced departure angle was the downside, so it’s not as popular with the genuine off-roaders.

These original Sportages are getting on in years and may be nearing the end of their lives. Unless you can do some of your own repairs, or have mates to assist they are possibly best avoided. 

Many 4WDs became increasingly softer in the late 20th century and many were retagged as being SUVs, and later crossovers. Kia was quick to follow the trend and from, April 2005, the Sportage has a car-type monocoque body. However, there's a fair bit of strengthening under the floor so it can handle hard dirt road running. Ground clearance is about midway between that of a ‘real’ 4WD and a passenger car. The biggest news was that a V6 engine replaced the four-cylinder unit.

Australian suspension engineers worked alongside Kia’s to give the sort of feel our drivers like.

In September 2007, a 2WD variant joined the Sportage range for the first time. It had a four-cylinder engine as it was lighter than the all-wheel-drive V6 model. Further expanding the range was a turbo-diesel four-cylinder, mated to an AWD transmission.

Seating in the earlier Sportage range is fine for the two in front, but rear legroom may prove marginal for many adults. From the new-gen 2005 onwards Sportage is much better in the back, even providing room for tall adults.

Until August 2010 Sportages had been on the conservative side in their looks, then a new-generation model broke the mould in a big way, with a bold European inspired body an interior. Power comes from a 2.0- or 2.4-litre four-cylinder petrol engine or a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel. The smaller petrol engine is sold only in the front-drive model, the others power all four wheels.

Australian suspension engineers worked alongside Kia’s to give the sort of feel our drivers like. It may be a little on the firm side for some, but we like it.

A new Kia Sportage was introduced in January 2016, but is still rather new to be covered in this used-car feature. Other than to say the styling is even more striking than that of the model it superseded.

There is a reasonable number of Kia dealers in Australia, chiefly in metro areas, though there's some country coverage as well. 

Prices for spare parts and servicing are about average for this class, perhaps a little cheaper than for some Japanese competitors.

You can do a fair bit of your own service and repair work and there's good underbonnet space. As always, leave any safety related items to the professionals.

We seldom see any major variations in insurance premiums between companies. It's still worth shopping around - with the usual warning to make sure you’re doing accurate comparisons. 

What to look for

Make sure the engine starts easily, idles smoothly and has reasonable performance at all times. Obviously the V6s are better than the fours.

Hesitation of the engine under hard acceleration is a sign to be wary.

The gearshift should be smooth and quiet and not crunch on fast downchanges. The 3-2 change is usually the first to suffer.

Interiors on early models can be on the rough and ready side as quality control often wasn’t up to scratch in older Kias. 

Serious off-road use is unusual so if you find a Kia Sportage with body and underbody scars be wary. The areas that usually suffer first are the door sills, bumper corners and protection plates. 

Look for fine scratches in the paint on the side panels, a sign that have been scraped through narrow scrubby areas.

Off-roaders can really get knocked around inside when people clamber in and out with dirty clothes, heavy-duty boots, fishing gear and the like. Check all areas, including, obviously, the cargo compartment.

Stereo systems gave problems at times in older models, try all the controls to make sure you can hear clearly now.

If you do plan to take a Sportage off-road make sure the front hub mechanism used on the earlier 4WD models works correctly.


Year Price From Price To
2016 $13,000 $33,330
2015 $11,100 $24,750
2014 $9,700 $21,560
2013 $8,000 $19,690
2012 $7,300 $18,040
2011 $7,200 $16,720
2010 $5,800 $15,290
2009 $5,200 $12,540
2008 $4,500 $11,440
2007 $3,900 $10,230
2006 $3,700 $6,050
2005 $3,100 $5,390
2004 $2,900 $5,500
2003 $2,500 $4,730
2002 $2,400 $4,070
2001 $2,400 $4,070
2000 $2,400 $4,510
1999 $2,400 $4,290
1998 $2,400 $4,070
1997 $2,400 $4,070
1996 $2,400 $4,070

View all Kia Sportage pricing and specifications

Pricing guides

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Range and Specs

(4X4) 2.0L, ULP, 4 SP AUTO $2,400 – 4,070 1996 Kia Sportage 1996 (4X4) Pricing and Specs
Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.