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Kia Sportage 2020 review: SX Plus FWD

Kia's Sportage still looks the part in 2020 - but is it still competitive in 2020?
EXPERT RATING
7.5

Okay, so you’re looking for a mid-size SUV.

I feel bad for you, because there are so many options. A lot of them are very good. Kia’s Sportage is one of them.

It’s been around for a little while, drawing people in with its seven-year warranty promise and interesting looks. Given it was recently updated for the 2020 model year, you’re probably reading this review to find out if it's still worthy of your consideration.

So, in an environment of ever-evolving rivals, has Kia done enough to keep the Sportage competitive? We took an SX Plus for a week to find out.

Kia Sportage 2020: SX (FWD)
Safety rating
Engine Type2.0L
Fuel TypeRegular Unleaded Petrol
Fuel Efficiency7.9L/100km
Seating5 seats
Price from$32,290

Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?   7/10

Kia has switched the names about for the Sportage in 2020. The car tested here is the SX Plus grade, what was once known as the SLi.

Our car is a petrol 2WD wearing an MSRP of $37,490. This means you’ll be looking at this car against Subaru’s Forester (2.5i-L $36,940), Toyota’s RAV4 (GXL 2WD hybrid - $38,490), or Mazda’s CX-5 (Maxx Sport 2WD - $36,090). We obviously could go on to include more rivals, but these are perhaps the most notable in the segment.

At this SX Plus grade, you’re getting 18-inch alloys. At this SX Plus grade, you’re getting 18-inch alloys.

If you’re a keen observer, you might have noticed the problem right from the outset, and that’s the fact that for such a similar price, Subaru is offering all-wheel drive and the RAV4 will cut your fuel usage right down with a hybrid drivetrain.

Drivetrain issues aside, the Sportage still has competitive gear inclusions. At this SX Plus grade, you’re getting 18-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity as well as built-in nav, DAB+ digital radio, 'leather-appointed' seat trim, keyless entry and push-button ignition, electrically adjustable driver’s seat, an electronic parking brake, privacy glass, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera, and LED DRLs with matching rear combination lights.

Still a great spec level, although it comes at a significant price jump over the SX which sits below it, so you’ll really have to want the keyless entry, leather seats, and electronic handbrake, because there’s nothing extra going on from the outside.

The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Safety spec is competitive, although it has fallen behind some of the more recently updated players. For more on that take a look at the safety section of this review.

Is there anything interesting about its design?   8/10

Although almost every single one I see is in this 'Steel Grey' colour (please buy the 'Fiery Red') I think the Sportage has stood the test of time well thanks to its avant garde styling.

This car could have been launched this year and you wouldn’t know any better. The light clusters which sit high on the bonnet, light strip across the rear and bulbous, slightly insectoid styling, really set it apart from the crowd, including its mechanical cousin, the Hyundai Tucson.

The Sportage has stood the test of time well. The Sportage has stood the test of time well.

Always a subjective call, but I see a Porsche influence which gives it a welcome point of difference.

Mazda’s CX-5 looks a bit more swish and delicate, while Toyota’s RAV4 has a newfound toughness in all its angles. Truly, there’s now a mid-sizer for every taste.

The light clusters which sit high on the bonnet, light strip across the rear and bulbous, slightly insectoid styling, really set it apart from the crowd. The light clusters which sit high on the bonnet, light strip across the rear and bulbous, slightly insectoid styling, really set it apart from the crowd.

On the inside, the Sportage offers a sportier look than the modern Tucson, but much like the outside, it’s ageing pretty well.

I like the contoured leather bound wheel, traditional quad analog dial instrument cluster, and the nicely integrated dash design.

Some will see the embedded screen as a little older looking than some of its tablet-mounted competition, but it’s bright and functions well. The choice of plastics ranges from great to not-so-impressive as you work your way down the dash.

The seating position is a bit more hatch-like than the glasshouse of the RAV4, Tucson, and Forester. Some will prefer its more engaging feel.

The dash centre might look a little old fashioned with its smattering of buttons, but the shortcuts are a practical alternative to offering most of the car’s functions through a touchscreen.

How practical is the space inside?   8/10

A bit of smart packaging goes a long way, and Kia’s done a great job here. Every bottle holder and storage area is oversized and clad in hard-wearing plastics, leaving loads of room for all sorts of objects around the front of the cabin.

The 8.0-inch multimedia suite is no-nonsense. The base software is easy to navigate, and connected to my iPhone without problems every time I got in the car. There’s no lag, either, and being placed in the dash means it's less susceptible to glare.

In the tray under the air conditioning controls there are two 12-volt power outlets, as well as USB and AUX inputs. There’s also a large (if unadorned) armrest console and a glove box on the passenger side.

Back seat occupants get fantastic amounts of legroom. Back seat occupants get fantastic amounts of legroom.

Although the Sportage's glasshouse isn't as expansive as some of its rivals, visibility is fantastic, and the reversing camera proved paired with front and rear parking sensors made maneuvering in tight quarters a cinch.

Back seat occupants get fantastic amounts of legroom, providing ample airspace for my knees behind my own (182cm tall) driving position.

Amenities are up-to-spec too with large bottle holders in the doors, netted pockets on the back of the front seats, a set of directional air vents, as well as 12-volt and USB outlets.

Amenities are up-to-spec with netted pockets on the back of the front seats, a set of directional air vents. Amenities are up-to-spec with netted pockets on the back of the front seats, a set of directional air vents.

The rear seats can be reclined in two steps and the Sportage’s rear door apertures are gigantic, allowing for ease of access or the fitting of child seats.

The boot is where the Sportage loses points. Its capacity is listed as 466-litres (VDA) which is modest compared to most of its mid-size competition, although this compromise is largely to facilitate a full-size matching spare wheel which will be significant for some.

The boot capacity is listed as 466-litres (VDA). The boot capacity is listed as 466-litres (VDA).

What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?   7/10

The Sportage we tested soldiers on with a 2.0-litre, non-turbo petrol engine, producing 114kW/192Nm. It drives the front wheels via a six-speed (torque converter) automatic transmission.

The Sportage we tested soldiers on with a 2.0-litre, non-turbo petrol engine, producing 114kW/192Nm. The Sportage we tested soldiers on with a 2.0-litre, non-turbo petrol engine, producing 114kW/192Nm.

It's also available as a 2.0-litre turbo-diesel all-wheel drive (136kW/400Nm) at a significant price hike ($44,490), although it comes packaged with a newer eight-speed auto.

The Sportage’s powertrain, while not bad for the segment is really the main issue with the value on offer. Newer rivals offer turbo, all-wheel drive, or even hybrid at this price.

How much fuel does it consume?   6/10

The 2.0-litre engine is a lower-tech solution than many emerging low-capacity turbocharged solutions, and hence has to be pushed a bit harder to move a vehicle of the Sportage’s (1532kg) weight.

Subsequently, fuel consumption could be better. The Sportage wears an official/combined figure of 7.9L/100km, but I scored 10.7L/100km over my week of mostly urban testing.

The Sportage wears an official/combined figure of 7.9L/100km, but I scored 10.7L/100km over my week of mostly urban testing. The Sportage wears an official/combined figure of 7.9L/100km, but I scored 10.7L/100km over my week of mostly urban testing.

I recorded similar figures from tests of other petrol variants in the Sportage range, so this isn’t an outlier, either.

Thankfully, you can fill the Sportage with base-grade 91 RON petrol. It has a 62-litre fuel tank.

What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?   7/10

The Sportage once had an impressive active safety package, although with only minor updates year-on-year its score has fallen since it was last overhauled because competitors are offering more.

On the active safety front, there's auto emergency braking (AEB), forward collision warning, lane keep assist and departure warning, driver attention alert and high-beam assist.

Those are nice standard features, but only the flagship Sportage GT-Line can get blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, lane change assist and active cruise control.

Major competitors like the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester are now offering these features on base variants.

The Sportage has a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of 2016 and has six airbags, the expected electronic stability and brake controls, as well as two ISOFIX and three top tether child-seat mounting points.

Warranty & Safety Rating

Basic Warranty

7 years / unlimited km warranty

ANCAP Safety Rating

ANCAP logo

What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?   9/10

Kia continues to offer its seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty; still one of the best in the business, although Kia has fellow Korean challenger SsangYong biting at its heels with an identical promise on its new Korando.

Kia also backs the Sportage with seven years of capped price servicing, although averaging out to 391.71 per year it’s not as cheap as something like the RAV4.

Kia continues to offer its seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty; still one of the best in the business. Kia continues to offer its seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty; still one of the best in the business.

What's it like to drive?   8/10

Despite more recent competitors launching, the Sportage continues to impress with its balanced ride and handling characteristics.

Part of this is down to its Australia-specific suspension tune, but a recent comparison test pitting the Sportage against its Tucson cousin had us preferring the Sportage.

The ride is firm, but not brutally so. When pitched against major rivals, it’s a sportier ride than the Forster or RAV4, yet not as firm as the CX-5 or Tucson. Food for thought when choosing against competitors.

The steering is nice and direct, too, making the Sportage decent to helm around corners.

The steering is nice and direct, too, making the Sportage decent to helm around corners. The steering is nice and direct, too, making the Sportage decent to helm around corners.

The Sportage’s weak point is its 2.0-litre petrol engine, as tested here. It’s predictable and works well with the transmission to provide a decent amount of low-down torque for springing off-the-line, but has a tendency to be thrashy and unrefined further up the rev-range.

I recently tested the SsangYong Korando with a 1.5-litre turbo which proved more engaging and powerful.

As mentioned, asking this engine to pull such a heavy SUV pushes up fuel consumption. While many rivals suffer from the same issue, it could be worth considering.

The six-speed auto proved reasonably smooth, and certainly better than CVT-equipped rivals.

Verdict

When it comes to value for money, the lower-spec Sportage SX is unbeatable in the range, but a close next-choice would be the SX Plus with its bump in features and improved cabin ambiance.

This will be worth it to many buyers, and it’s nice to see the Sportage is still very worthy of consideration since it now competes in a congested field of new or more recently updated rivals.

Pricing guides

$37,940
Based on Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP)
Lowest Price
$28,190
Highest Price
$47,690

Range and Specs

VehicleSpecsPrice*
GT-LINE (AWD) 2.4L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $44,790 2020 Kia Sportage 2020 GT-LINE (AWD) Pricing and Specs
S (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $35,590 2020 Kia Sportage 2020 S (AWD) Pricing and Specs
S (FWD) 2.0L, ULP, 6 SP AUTO $30,190 2020 Kia Sportage 2020 S (FWD) Pricing and Specs
SX (AWD) 2.0L, Diesel, 8 SP AUTO $37,690 2020 Kia Sportage 2020 SX (AWD) Pricing and Specs
EXPERT RATING
7.5
Price and features7
Design8
Practicality8
Engine & trans7
Fuel consumption6
Safety7
Ownership9
Driving8
Tom White
Journalist

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