Kia Sportage VS Haval H2
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Good looking
- Spacious cabin
- Full-size spare
- 'Busy' ride
- Turbo lag
- Lack of cabin refinement
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 H2 is the littlest vehicle made by the biggest Chinese SUV company, Haval, and it competes against the likes of Honda’s HR-V, the Hyundai Kona, and Mazda's CX-3. Being Chinese, the H2 is more affordable than its rivals, but is it more than just a good price?
That's how big the brand could become in Australia. The company is owned by Great Wall Motors, which is China’s largest maker of SUVs, and anything that's big in Chinese terms is truly massive (have you seen their Wall?).
If you’ve done a bit of research you’ll have noticed that the H2 is more affordable than those rivals, but is it more than just a good price? Do you get what you pay for, and if so what is it you’re getting, and what are you missing?
I drove the H2 Premium 4x2 to find out.
Oh, and you pronounce 'Haval' the same way you say 'travel'. Now you know.
|Engine Type||1.5L 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.
It’s disappointing that a car which looks so damned good can be let down by its interior refinement and driveability issues. In some areas, the H2 is great and goes further than its rivals – tinted windows, a full-sized spare, sunroof and good rear legroom. But the HR-V, Kona, C-HR and CX-3 have set the standard high for build quality and driving experience, and in this regard the H2’s isn’t at the same level.
The H2 is more affordable that its rivals but is that enough to tempt you out of a CX-3 or HR-V? 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.
If you squint, the H2 looks a bit like a BMW SUV and that may be because BMW’s former head of design, Pierre Leclercq, led the H2’s styling team (it's worth pointing out that if you squint hard enough, I look like Robert Downey Jnr).
The H2 is small, at 4335mm long, 1814mm wide and 1695mm tall, but it’s bigger than nearly all of its rivals. The Kona is 4165mm long, the HR-V is 4294mm end-to-end and the CX-3 is 4275. Only the C-HR is longer at 4360mm.
Interior refinement could be better and it’s not on the same level as its Japanese competitors. Still, I like the design of the cockpit with its symmetry, the layout of controls is also considered and easy to reach, the hood over the instrument cluster is cool and I even like the opal-like milky finish on the dashboard trim.
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 H2’s 300-litre boot capacity is small in comparison to its rivals. The Honda HR-V has a 437-litre boot, the C-HR’s is 377 litres and the Kona’s is 361 litres, but it does have more luggage space than the CX-3, which can only manage 264 litres.
That said, only the H2 has a full-sized spare wheel under the boot floor – so what you lose in luggage capacity you gain in being able to drive wherever you like without fear of a puncture and having to hobble to the next town 400km away on a wheel which can only handle 80km/h.
Inside storage is good, with bottle holders in all the doors and two cupholders in the back and two in the front. The tiny hidey hole in dash is more ash tray-sized, which makes sense because of the cigarette lighter next to it, and the centre console bin under the front centre armrest is a reasonable size.
The H2’s cabin is spacious, with good head, shoulder and legroom up front and the same goes for the back row, where I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm to spare between my knees and the seat back.
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.
At the time of writing the H2 Premium 4x2 petrol could be had for a driveaway price of $24,990, which is a $3500 discount on the RRP, according to Haval.
You could, of course, be reading this in the year 2089, having just survived another nuclear winter in your impenetrable mountain compound, so it's best to check the Haval website to see if the offer is still valid.
Ignore the word 'Premium', because this 4x2 is the most affordable H2 you can buy, and $24,990 drive-away sounds amazing, but a quick look reveals that many small SUV rivals are also offering deals.
The Honda HR-V VTi 2WD lists for $24,990, but can currently be had for $26,990 driveway; the Toyota C-HR 2WD is $28,990 and $31,990 drive-away, while the Hyundai Kona Active lists for $24,500, or $26,990 drive-away.
So, buy a H2 Premium and you’ll save about $2000 over a Kona or HR-V, which is an attractive prospect for families where every cent counts.
The features list also ticks most of the typical boxes for this end of the segment. There’s a 7.0-inch touchscreen with reversing camera, four-speaker stereo, rear parking sensors, auto halogen headlights, LED DRLs, sunroof, auto wipers, air-conditioning, fabric seats and 18-inch alloy wheels.
So on paper (or on screen) the H2 stacks up well, but in reality I found the quality of the features wasn’t as high as those in the HR-V, Kona or C-HR.
You should know that the H2’s display screen, while largish, feels and looks cheap, and required several finger stabs to select items. The windscreen wipers were overly noisy, the indicators themselves didn’t ‘blink’ in a regular pattern, and the phone system had a delay when a connection was made, which resulted in me saying 'hello' but not being heard at the other end of the line. This caused a few arguments between my wife and I, and no car is worth that. Oh, and the sound of the stereo isn’t great, but there is a cigarette lighter.
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.
Were you planning to take this off-road? Well, maybe reconsider that because the Haval H2 is only available now in front-wheel drive and comes exclusively with a six-speed automatic transmission, so there's no manual gearbox option.
The engine is a 1.5-litre four-cylinder turbo-petrol (you can’t get a diesel) which makes 110kW/210Nm.
Turbo lag is my biggest issue with the H2. At revs above 2500rpm you’re fine , but below this if you plant your foot if feels as though you could count to five before the grunt appears.
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.
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’s a fair bit to say here but if you don’t have long the upshot is this: the H2’s driving experience falls short of what has now become the norm in this segment.
I can look past a seating position that feels too high even on the lowest setting. I can ignore indicators which don’t ‘blink’ in a regular rhythmn or windscreen wipers that clunk loudly. Or even headlights that aren’t as bright as LED or Xenon, but the turbo lag, uncomfortable ride and less than impressive braking response are a deal breaker for me.
First, the turbo lag at low revs is frustrating. A right turn at a T-intersection needed me to move quickly from a standstill, but planting my right foot saw the H2 dawdling out into the middle of the junction and me waiting frantically for the grunt to arrive as traffic approached.
While handling isn’t bad for a small SUV, the ride is overly busy; a jiggly feeling that suggests the spring and damper set-up is less than great. Other car companies tune their vehicle suspension for Australian roads.
And while emergency braking tests show the H2 had automatic activated hazard lights, I feel the brake response to be weaker than its rivals.
Steep hills are not the H2’s friend, either, and it struggled to climb an incline other SUVs in this class have scampered up easily.
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.
Haval wants you to know its H2 scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating and while it has disc brakes, traction and stability control and airbags galore, I want you to know that it was tested last year and doesn’t come with advanced safety equipment such as AEB.
A full-sized spare wheel is also safety equipment in my eyes – the H2 has one under the boot floor, something its rivals can’t claim.
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.
The H2 is covered by Haval’s five-year/100,000km warranty. There’s also a five-year, 24-hour roadside assistance service, which is covered in the cost of the vehicle.
The first service is recommended at the six-month mark, and then every 12 months thereafter. Prices are capped at $255 for the first, $385 for the next, $415 for the third, $385 for the fourth and $490 for fifth.