Kia Sportage VS BMW X2
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Great styling
- Fun and agile to drive
- Practicality not compromised too much
- Tyre noise
- Less practical than an X1
- No AEB
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|
Every other review of the new BMW X2 will start by telling you that last year SUVs outsold regular cars, not just within the German brand’s own sales department, but for the whole Australian car market, and they’ll go on and on.
But you’re busy and we’re not going to do that. You’re here because you’ve seen one of those billboards or TV ads for the BMW X2, or one on the road. You want to know what it is and whether you need this small SUV in your life rather than an Audi Q2, Mercedes-Benz GLA or Volvo XC40.
You’re in luck, we drove the sDrive20i, which is the most powerful X2, at its Australian launch and there’s so much to tell you.
We’ll answer such questions as: Is it as fast as it looks? Is it possible for a 191cm tall man to sit in the back without having surgery first? We’ll even reveal which of the world’s least attractive BMWs is its twin-under-the-skin.
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Premium Unleaded Petrol|
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.
That BMW can take one of it’s least good looking and docile cars and create something which is not only gorgeous but engaging to drive is impressive. The X2 does lose some of the practicality of its twin-under-the-skin sibling, and if you have a small family, buying the X1 would be the sensible thing to do. But then again, not all practicality is lost in the X2. There’s just enough room in the back for tall people like me and that boot capacity is still good for the class.
Would you pick an X2 over an Audi Q2? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
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.
Oh, heck yes, there’s a lot that’s interesting about the X2’s design. Actually, I reckon it’s one of the most interesting BMWs in years.
For starters, the exterior has stayed pretty true to the adventurous look of X2 Concept we glimpsed for the first time back in 2016 at the Paris Motor Show.
There’s that short-for-a-BMW beak; that grille which is unique for the brand in that it's wider at the base than at the top; there’s that wedged profile and the short rear overhang; the dual exhaust tips and then there’s BMW badge placed on the C-Pillar just like beautiful Bimmers of the past such as the 1973 3.0CS.
BMW could have easily created a mini version of an X4 or X6 models, but didn’t, which in my books is a good thing because this X2 look gorgeous and better than the Mini Countryman, the Audi Q2 and Benz GLA in my eyes.
What makes the X2’s design even more impressive is that under its metal skin this car is almost identical to one of the ugliest (well, I think so) BMWs ever made - the X1. They share the same platform, even the same structure, but the only exterior parts the two have in common are the door handles and the shark fin antenna.
The X2's dimensions show it to be 79mm shorter in length end-to-end that the X1, but just 3mm wider at 1824mm and 70mm shorter in height. So it's smaller in size, but not by much.
Inside the similarities are obvious, actually the interior of the X2 is almost identical to the X1 – there’s the ‘carved out’ centre console area and the large, flat dash which will be familiar to all BMW owners.
The sDrive20i has that premium cabin feel, and doesn’t even hint of having been done on the cheap to bring the price down.
I reckon the X2 sDrive20i looks better with the M-Sport package, that super-sharp front splitter is the business, and also I’m not a fan of yellow stitching.
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.
The X2 shares the same platform as the super practical X1. So, did the X2 gain good looks and lose practicality? After all, isn’t it a law of nature that you can’t be good looking and practical at the same time?
Well, the X2 is shorter in length than the X1 and its boot space is 23 litres smaller, too, with a capacity of 470 litres. The wheelbase of a car often determines cabin space and the X2’s 2670mm is the same as the X1, but legroom behind my driving position in the X2 was less than the in the X1.
I’m 191cm tall and had about 20mm of air between my knees and the seat back in the X2 – you can add another 15mm for the X1.
Headroom in the X2 is also limited due to the sloping roofline, with my hair just skimming the ceiling. That coupe styling also affects visibility for rear passengers through the side windows which are high and small. The X1 has large, rear window with low sills – great for kids in the back.
Up front, the cockpit is roomy with good storage space including two cupholders, and a large tray under the folding centre armrest. There are two more cupholders for the rear seats and all doors have large pockets with bottles holders.
Price and features
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.
How much is a BMW X2? Well BMW has brought one version of the X2 to Australia, for now – it’s the sDrive20i, a petrol powered, front-wheel drive, and it lists (RRP) for $55,900 (before on-road costs). Just to be clear, this isnt' a 'launch edition', but the first variant of the X2 to arrive in Australia.
Later in 2018 an sDrive18i will take its place at the entry-point of the range, and the xDrive20d diesel all-wheel drive will slip into the top spot in the X2 line-up, with price lists and specs to be announced closer to their launch.
The sDrive20i does sit high in the X2 range and that means it’s not short on features. Coming standard is a 6.5-inch touchscreen with sat nav and a reversing camera, there’s a 100W stereo with digital radio, Bluetooth connectivity, Alcantara and cloth upholstery, sports front seats, M-Sport steering wheel, air-conditioning, auto parking system, front and rear parking sensors, LED headlights, and a power tailgate.
When you buy the sDrive20i it will come fitted with the 'M-Sport X' package as standard and that adds tough looking ‘Frozen Grey’ cladding to the front and rear bumpers, aas well as the door sills and wheelarches.
BMW has banked on not everybody being a fan of the grey bits and as a no-cost option you can have the X2 with the 'M-Sport' package. This adds an M-Sport aero kit with a more motorsport inspired front splitter and diffuser, and inserts in a hue BMW calls 'Dark Shadow'. Both packages come with 19-inch light alloy wheels in slightly different styles.
The interiors of both M-Sport X and M-Sport cars are identical save for the contrasting yellow stitching on the former's upholstery, whereas the latter has blue stitching and an aluminium interior trim.
An optional 'Innovations Package' ($2600) adds a more sophisticated sat nav system, head-up display and adaptive cruise control.
The 'Comfort Package' ($2700) brings a proximity key, plus heated and power-adjusted driver and front passenger seats.
The 'Style Plus Package' ($3300) and will see your X2 rolling on 20-inch wheels, with a panoramic sunroof and metallic paintwork.
Talking of paint colours, only 'Alpine White' is free. Well, it doesn’t cost extra. If you want any other colour it will be a metallic one and it will cost you $1547. But that opens up 'Sunset Orange', 'Galvanic Gold', 'Misano Blue', 'Mediterranean Blue', 'Sparkling Storm', 'Mineral Grey' and 'Black Sapphire'.
At $55,900 the sDrive20i is pricey compared to its Audi Q2 rival – the 2.0TFSI Quattro sport is $48,500.
Also keep in mind that an X1 with the same engine lists for $53,600 and it shares so much of the same DNA. How much? Prepare to have your mind blown in the section below.
Engine & trans
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.
The sDrive20i has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol four-cylinder engine with 141kW of power and 280Nm of torque.
The ‘s’ in sDrive means this is a front-wheel drive car. Same goes for the sDrive18i which has a 103kW/220Nm three-cylinder, turbo-petrol engine.
BMW has told us little about the other X2 variants but has given us the engine specifications. The xDrive20d is, you guessed it, all-wheel drive (awd) and has a 2.0-litre four cylinder turbo-diesel engine which is good for 140kW/400Nm. That's less horsepower but more torque than the 20i.
Both petrol variants use a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, while the diesel uses a traditional eight-speed automatic.
BMW says the 20i and 20d accelerate from 0-100km/h in 7.7 seconds, which isn’t slow (but isn’t super faster, either) while the 18i will get there, eventually, at 9.6sec.
The braked towing capacity for the sDrive18i, sDrive 20i and xDrive20d is 1700kg, 1800kg and 2000kg respectively.
There is no rear-wheel drive X2, although such a thing that would be great. And yes, no manual transmission.
The X2 weighs 1415kg in sDrive18i form, 1460kg for the sDrive20i and 1555kg for the xDrive20d.
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.
BMW says the sDrive20i should use 6.0L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads, which is good mileage. Our test car’s on-board computer told us it was averaging 7.2L/100km for fuel economy and that was on mainly country roads.
Official fuel consumption claims for the yet to be released sDrive18i and xDrive20d haven't been confirmed, but we’ll let you know just how thirsty they are as soon as we have the chance to drive them locally later in the year.
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.
The X2 and X1 share the same platform, structure and engines but feel entirely different to drive.
You can feel the difference from the moment you drop behind the X2’s wheel. You sit so much lower in this car – 20mm lower than the X1. That driving position makes you feel part of the car rather than riding on top of it as you do in the X1.
The X2’s ride height is also 10mm lower than the X1’s and this lowers the car’s centre of mass and improves handling. Ground clearance is 182mm.
BMW’s engineers wanted to give the X2 more agility than the X1, and did this by adding about 10 minutes of negative camber to the front wheels for better cornering ability. The addition of a swaybar with pre-loaded bushes to control body roll earlier meant softer dampers could be used for a more comfortable ride but still good handling.
The X2’s body is also 10 per cent stiffer than the X1’s, and this extra rigidity improves its agility, too.
It’s not the most powerful or quickest, not by a long shot, but it feels far more like a sedan because of that lack of the heaving body roll (common on bigger SUVs) and that low driving position.
Steering feel is superb, the larger SUVs feel like cruise ships with steering wheels that need to be spun endlessly to navigate through a corner, but the X2’s linear steering is sharp, consistent and turn-in is excellent.
Only the sDrive20i was available to drive at the launch and I can say the 2.0-litre engine is a good thing – good for overtaking, good for power up hills and good for country roads and darting through urban traffic.
We did all of this and the dual-clutch auto performed smoothly even in bumper-to-bumper traffic which can expose this type of transmission's jerky behaviour.
It’s not all perfect – there was a plenty of road noise from the large, low-profile run flat-tyres filtering into the cabin and the ride on them is a bit ‘gritty’ and hard.
I’m secretly hoping BMW will give the X2 something a bit more potent later on – maybe the straight six from the M140i hatch. An X2 M – a proper performance X2, now I’d want to drive that.
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.
The X2 has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating but be aware that it was given this score based on how the X1 performed when it was crash tested in 2015.
EuroNCAP and ANCAP felt that because both cars share the same platform and structure then only additional testing to the X2 was needed.
Safety technology has also come a long way since 2015 and the bar has been raised for achieving five star with AEB coming standard on many cars.
The X2 does not have AEB, nor is it available as an option, because the car uses cameras for vehicle and pedestrian detection, not radar which is needed for AEB.
There is a light braking function which slows the vehicle if a pedestrian is detected in the car's path or a collision is imminent with another car, but the system won’t bring the vehicle to a complete stop to avoid an impact. BMW said it felt certain that the X2 would meet five-star standards today.
You will find traction and stability control, plus run flat tyres.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX mounts and three top-tether anchor points across the rear row.
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.