Hyundai Venue VS Kia Sportage
- Great looks
- Good to drive
- Roomy for its size
- Engine buzzy under load
- Dodgy tyres and steel wheels
- Plastic steering wheel
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
I'm sure someone else came up with the phrase micro SUV, because I'm not that original, but they're an intriguing idea. Far too tiny to even offer all-wheel drive as an option let alone a sensible engineering challenge, they're rapidly eating into the sales of lights cars.
Suzuki's Ignis strikes me as the first one to drop but Hyundai's Venue became the most high profile. And soon after its launch we learnt it would not only eat into Hyundai's ancient light car offering, the Accent, it would effectively take it out.
Any hitman will tell you the key to a successful assignment is getting a return for your efforts. I imagine these are the sorts of conversations these people have with their employers. While the Accent is cheap as chips, the Venue, even in the basic Go version, is not. A tick over twenty grand is not what you'd call entry-level...
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
If you take a snapshot of the Australian mid-size SUV market, it becomes apparent that the Kia Sportage is an oft-overlooked option in a sea of storied Japanese nameplates.
Perhaps it’s because the Sportage is a bit more controversially styled than its Tucson cousin, or perhaps it’s a victim of its own success, having been an attractive option for populating car-share fleets like GoGet.
But I’d argue that the Sportage is special in more ways than it gets credit for, and shouldn’t be overlooked by Australians on the hunt for a new mid-sizer, even this far into its lifecycle.
Read on to find out why, and which variant in the Sportage’s just updated 2020 lineup is our pick of the bunch.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
The Venue Go is probably the near future of entry-level cars. As the light car market continues to shrink in favour of SUVs (makes note to return to this statement annually to see how long it takes to be laughably wrong), cars like this will become commonplace.
The Venue Go's depth of engineering, half-decent equipment level and pretty reasonable dynamics mean that price aside, the bog-spec car is actually alright.
The Sportage continues to age gracefully, now offering an increasingly finely tuned range of variants to suit most price brackets.
While its engine and transmission choices leave a little to be desired, it continues to offer impressive ride, handing, and technology when compared to many (but not all) Japanese segment rivals.
Our pick of the range is the SX in either engine, as it offers the lion’s share of Sportage spec items at the right price.
The Venue is a nice piece of design. In Elite form, which I drove a hundred years ago in 2019, it was bristling with cool detailing. The Go, being the taster for the rest of the range, is comparatively stripped back. The 15-inch steelies - while excellent for bashing around town with the expendable hubcaps - do look a bit ridiculous, but if you're not bothered, there's nothing wrong with them.
I quite like the black grille and the otherwise unadorned bodywork, though, and the basic chunky design survives and stands up nicely. Does it look like you've cheaped out? Apart from the wheels, no.
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
Let's start with the bad stuff. The back seats, while enough to fit two adults for short journeys (as long as the front seats passengers aren't too tall) are pretty sparsely equipped. No armrest, cupholders, air vents, nothing. Just the seats. The doors have bottle holders, to join the front pair for a total of four. Headroom is good, though.
Moving up front, you get two cupholders and a spot for your phone under the centre stack and some space for little bits and bobs.
The boot is an impressive 355 litres, clobbering just about everything in this class and many in the next size up. Hyundai's own Kona (one-size-up), has a 363-litre boot. The false floor in the boot means you can hide stuff under the boot floor, separate your goods or take it out completely for a bit more height.
Like most Korean SUVs, the Sportage has the idea of practicality cooked-in throughout its cabin. It starts in the front row, where the driver and passenger have access to some large cupholders in the doors and centre console (suitable for 500ml containers), a decently sized top-box and glovebox, as well as a very large trench in front of the shift-lever, which also hosts the USB and aux inputs, as well as dual 12V power outlets.
In the back seat, there are plenty of amenities, with decently sized cupholders in each door, pockets on the back of the seats, air-conditioning vents on the back of the console as well as dual power outlets. Another neat trick is that the Sportage has reclining rear seats, allowing extra comfort for rear-seat passengers, or extra boot space where required.
To its credit, the boot space is easy to use and comes with an adjustable rolling cover. Part of the reduction in sheer capacity is due to a full-size alloy spare living under the boot floor – a big bonus for regional buyers, who may need one as a matter of safety.
Leg and headroom are simply great, no matter which seat you’re sitting in, and the big rear doors on the Sportage open nice and wide – good for low-mobility passengers or those needing to fit a child-seat.
Price and features
Starting at $20,190 for the six-speed manual, adding an automatic transmission to the Venue Go lifts the price to $22,210. That's a decent wedge for a tiny car, especially when the larger i30 isn't that much more expensive. Leaves a bit of clear air for the next-size-up Kona, though.
Shipping in from South Korea, the Venue Go is kitted up with 15-inch steel wheels, a four-speaker stereo, air-conditioning, reversing camera, cruise control, automatic headlights with auto high beam, power door mirrors, power windows and a space-saver spare.
You did read that right, the Sportage range – despite looking exactly the same as last year’s iteration – has received a mild nip and tuck, which includes new variants and pricing. As before, the Sportage range is offered with a choice of three engines, two petrols and a diesel, with either front- or all-wheel drive across four trim levels. All prices on the Sportage range are drive-away.
Kicking off the range is the S, which is available as a 2.0-litre petrol front-wheel drive in either a re-introduced six-speed manual ($28,990), six-speed auto ($29,990) or as an eight-speed auto diesel AWD ($36,990).
Standard spec, even on the entry-level car, is impressive. Included are 17-inch alloy wheels (no steelies here), LED DRLs (but halogen headlights), leather-trimmed wheel and shift-lever, hard-wearing cloth seat trim, a 3.5-inch dot-matrix info screen in the dash, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android auto support, dual-zone climate control, as well as rear parking sensors and camera. Another nice touch is that the base S model also scores auto rain-sensing wipers as standard.
Considering the standard active-safety suite explored in the safety section of this review, the S could easily be the pick of the range of any other SUV lineup, but our pick is still the mid-grade SX (previously known as the Si).
Available in the same three drivetrain choices at a $2500 premium, the SX adds larger 18-inch alloy wheels, front-facing parking sensors, a more impressive-looking 8.0-inch touchscreen with DAB+ digital radio and built-in sat-nav, backed by an eight-speaker JBL audio system. We’d say the extra spice is well worth it, making the SX our pick.
Jumping up to the SX Plus (previously the SLi) adds leather seat trim (which is hard-wearing, but isn’t the most luxurious-feeling fake leather on the market), an upgrade to the visual treatment with chrome and gloss black highlights, a larger colour TFT screen embedded in the dash, and, for the first time in a mid-grade Sportage, a powered tailgate. The SX Plus is well equipped, but if you can do without leather seat trim, it's not really worth the $7000 like-for-like switch up from the SX…
Available as an all-wheel-drive only, the penultimate Sportage is the GT-Line. Finally gaining a full suite of LED front lights and, frustratingly, the only way to specify a Sportage with blind-spot monitoring, active cruise control and rear cross traffic alert, the GT-Line is relatively expensive, even for the segment, at $46,490 for the 2.4-litre six-speed auto petrol or $49,490 for the eight-speed auto turbo diesel.
Other fruit for the extra money includes a sports bodykit, aggressive 19-inch alloy wheels, a panoramic sunroof, flat-bottomed sports steering wheel, a wireless phone-charging bay, and an automatic-parking suite.
Engine & trans
A rocket it isn't, with Hyundai's 1.6-litre naturally aspirated four cylinder, with 90kW/151Nm to pull the 1225kg of kerb weight along. Hyundai's in-house six-speed auto supplies the power to the front wheels.
Similar to French rival Peugeot's 'Grip Control', the Venue has a range of settings for low grip situations as well as three on-road modes that seem to be a volume control for the engine.
The Sportage is offered with a choice of three engines, all of which are unremarkable.
These engines are also starting to show their age, but the fact that you can choose either petrol or diesel across the range will be a win for some consumers.
The 2.0-litre petrol offered as the front-wheel drive option on the S, SX, and SX Plus grades produces 114kW/192Nm and can be chosen with either a six-speed auto, or a six-speed manual on the bottom two grades.
The 2.0-litre turbo diesel engine offered across the range with only an eight-speed automatic in all-wheel drive produces a better-sounding 136kW/400Nm (hence the price hike).
The GT-Line is the only grade that can be had as a petrol in all-wheel drive, it benefits from a larger 2.4-litre petrol engine with outputs set at 135kW/237Nm, paired only to a six-speed automatic.
It would be nice to see higher tech turbocharged petrol engines make it to the Sportage range for the sake of both power and fuel efficiency, but these kinds of dated petrol powertrains are par-for-the course in the Australian mid-size SUV landscape.
A benefit to many drivers will be the torque-converter automatic transmissions, rather than their lacklustre CVT counterparts, which appear in most of this car’s Japanese rivals.
A downside to old engines with rigid transmission ratios pulling heavy SUV bodies is a notable cost in the fuel-consumption department.
The 2.0-litre front-drive variants carry claimed combined fuel-consumption figures of 7.9L/100km, but the figure most people will experience is in the rather more honest official “urban” figure of 10.9L/100km.
In my back-to-back tests of the 2.0-litre petrol versions of the SX and SX Plus I produced figures on either side of that number, scoring 10.5L/100km and 11L/100km in the real world, over about 350km of testing respectively.
Not great, then, and those figures are easily bested by CVT rivals – even the 2.5-litre all-wheel-drive Forester – according to real-world figures put on the board in recent CarsGuide reviews.
Mercifully, the Sportage is capable of drinking base-grade 91RON petrol to fill its 62-litre tank.
This will either make you laugh or scratch you head. Driving the Venue Go reminded me of our (now written-off) Volkswagen Up, a car you can't buy anymore for reasons that are too silly to recount.
Adherents of that car will tell you that it is one of the most over-engineered small cars ever made. It had a great ride and handling compromise, characterful engine and made you smile.
While the Venue's buzzy 1.6 may not match the VW's 1.0-litre triple (or its colossal service costs), everything else about the way the Go drives is very Uppity. If that makes sense.
The plastic steering wheel may not feel all that nice in your hand, but it responds well to your inputs, despite doughy 185/65 tyres on steel wheels, hilariously cartoonish in 2020. This kind of response is unexpected as is the excellent ride for such a small car.
For city-dwellers, the only times these tyres will trouble you will be on greasy roads or if you head out of town on a long trip.
The Venue is perfectly fine when it's one or two up, but start loading in people and the engine starts to complain. Ignore the Sport mode, it just makes the engine buzz unpleasantly and doesn't offer anything the normal mode does. Eco is also a waste of time. Just don't touch that dial and all will be well.
The light steering is always going to be great for parking but is oddly communicative when you're shooting about the back streets. Again, the tyres don't do the change of direction any favours, but it's not a hot hatch, is it? And tyres are easily replaced, the suspension not so much.
The Sportage’s engine choices don’t offer the most modern drive experience on the mid-size SUV market, but its locally tuned suspension really makes it stand apart from the pack. This means it’s at its best in most driving scenarios you’ll experience in Australia. I’ve driven Sportage variants on long-distance freeway drives, across the worst, most potholed streets Sydney’s CBD has to offer, as well as rutted gravel tracks on the other side of NSW’s Blue Mountains, and all of them behaved admirably, everywhere.
On the axis of sport-to-comfort I’d say the Sportage’s ride sits slightly to the sportier end of the equation. It’s a stiffer ride than the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, or the new Toyota RAV4, for example. Yet it seems to strike a more comfortable balance than the sporty CX-5.
The handling is really nice for an SUV this size, as I’ve said in previous reviews – it’s nimble and feels almost like you’re piloting a giant hatchback. For reasons I can’t seem to pin down, I vastly prefer the Sportage’s ride and handling to that of the Tucson. It just feels more balanced all round than its Hyundai cousin.
The engines are a bit of a letdown, however. While all are adequate for city-commuting duty, on the open road and up hills the petrol drivetrains get thrashy and noisy quickly – and at higher revs the limitations of these engines' outputs become apparent.
That having been said, both automatic transmissions are slick and predictable. When power is needed they also lock into gear nicely, unlike their CVT competition. We are yet to sample the re-introduced manual variants.
There are also three top-tether anchor points and two ISOFIX points.
The Venue scored four out of a possible five ANCAP stars in December 2019, the fifth star eluding it due to the type of AEB.
Even just last year, the Sportage’s standard active-safety equipment would have been considered pretty good, even a whole point better than what I’ve given it here. The thing is, though, thanks largely to ANCAP and EuroNCAP’s far more stringent analysis of active technology in the last year, the game has been raised by many of the Sportage’s competitors.
It would be nice, for example, to see active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring available on the SX Plus grade, or, better still, available as an option pack across the range, a-la-Hyundai’s approach.
And now, with the introduction of high-tier active-safety suites on low-spec variants of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, it’s hard to give the Sportage flying colours in this department.
Still, the fact that auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist (LKAS) and driver-attention alert (DAA) ship on the base-model S is reasonably impressive.
Outside of that, all Sportage grades get six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The Sportage carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of this-generation’s launch in 2016.
You need to service the Venue every 12 months or 15,000km and all Hyundais carry a lifetime service plan, so you know how much a service is going to cost you for the life of the vehicle.
The first five years costs $1575, for an average of $315 a year, which isn't bad at all.
Kia continues to lead the pack with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years more than the acceptable segment standard. That’s also backed by eight years of roadside assist if you service at an authorised dealer.
There’s also a comprehensive capped-price-servicing program for the life of the warranty, averaging out to a not-particularly-cheap $391.71 per year for the 2.0L petrol, $408.14 for the 2.4L petrol, or $511.43 for the diesel.
The Sportage will have a battle on its hands in the coming years, with fellow Korean competitor, Ssangyong, looking to launch its new-generation Korando with a highly competitive seven-year ownership program.