Kia Sportage VS Haval H6
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- A good looker
- Nice space inside
- Good equipment for expenditure
- Disappointing to drive
- Expensive servicing
- 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|
If you’ve not heard of the Haval H6, you’re probably not alone. In fact, if you didn’t even know that Haval was a thing, you’re still probably in the majority.
The Chinese maker and its medium-sized H6 SUV are here to compete with the big players. The H6 fights in the largest segment of the SUV market, against the likes of the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail and all of those other very impressive, family friendly offerings.
With two trim levels available, and aggressive pricing on both the entry-grade Premium and top-spec Lux tested here, the Haval H6 seemingly has something to make it stand out in the Australian market, offering customers who want a lot of car for their cash an alternative to the entry-level grades of the mainstream Korean and Japanese players.
But in the midst of fierce competition, ever-sharpening prices and the continually expanding equipment lists of base model SUVs, is there really a place for this Chinese model? Let’s see…
|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.
This is a hard sell. I mean, you could look at the Haval H6 and think to yourself, “that’s quite a handsome thing - I think that’d look good in my driveway”. I’d understand that, especially when it comes to the high-spec Lux.
But buying one of these over a Hyundai Tucson, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-5, Nissan X-Trail or Toyota RAV4 - even in base model trim - would arguably be a mistake. It simply isn’t as good as any of those vehicles, despite its best intentions, and no matter how good it might look.
Would you roll the dice and choose a Chinese SUV like the Haval H6 over a mainstream competitor? Let us know in the comments section 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.
It doesn’t look very much like the other models in Haval’s range, and that’s a good thing. The H2, H8 and H9 all have the rounded edges of yesteryear, where the H6 is sharper, smarter, more sophisticated. It looks more European than Chinese, to my eye.
The proportions of the Haval H6 are quite fetching - the brand, cheekily, labels it the H6 Coupe in its home market. It has lines in the right places, a shapely silhouette and a pert backside, all of which combine to give it a certain presence on the road. It is more stylish than a few of its class compatriots, that’s for sure. And the Lux model rolls on 19-inch wheels, which certainly help in that regard.
The interior, though, isn’t as amazing, despite looking inviting. There’s a lot of fake wood and hard plastic, and it doesn’t have the ergonomic intelligence of the better SUVs in the class. The swooping roofline makes for difficult rearward vision, too, with a letterbox rear windscreen and thick D-pillars.
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 Haval H6 doesn’t set any new standards in terms of cabin space and comfort, but nor is it a bottom-feeder in the segment - there are some older cars from better-known brands that assume that mantle.
The good bits include decent storage - four door pockets that are big enough for water bottles, a pair of cupholders between the front seats and two in the back in the flip-down arm-rest, and the boot is decent, too. Plus you’ll easily be able to fit a stroller in the back if you have kids, or pushbikes if you’re that way inclined, and the opening is wide, if a little high when you’re placing heavy items in. There is a space-saver spare wheel under the boot floor, a 12-volt outlet in the boot and a pair of netted cubbies. The rear seats fold down almost flat in a 60:40 fashion.
The rear seat is comfortable, with a long seat squab making for good under-thigh support, and plenty of space - even for taller adults there is plentiful legroom and decent headroom. Because it is a front-wheel-drive vehicle, it doesn’t have a big transmission tunnel eating into floor space, making sidewards slides pretty simple. The back seats recline, too.
Up front, the button placement isn’t as logical as you might find in some of the other SUVs. The large volume wheel between the seats, for instance, and the array of buttons that reside down there, are out of your line of sight.
The digital information screen between the dials in front of the driver is bright and has a fair few things to look at, but crucially - and annoyingly - misses out on a digital speedometer. It will show you the set speed on cruise control, but not your actual speed.
And the chimes. Oh, the dings and dongs, the bings and bongs. I don’t need the cruise control to do a warning beep every time I adjust the speed by 1km/h… But hey, at least there are six mood light colours to choose from, using a rather innocuous button between the seats (the colours are: red, blue, yellow, green, pinkish purple and orange).
If the tech were more user-friendly and the plastics a little more special, the H6’s cabin would be a much nicer place to be. For roominess, it ain't bad.
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.
Until recently, the Haval H6 definitely offered truly good value for money. At launch it arrived with a base price of $31,990 drive-away for the entry-level Premium and $34,990 drive-away for this Lux version. But since then, there has been a lot of new model activity in the medium-SUV segment, and some hallmark players have added kit and dropped prices to boost sales and maintain relevance.
The Premium comes with 17-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights, auto headlights and wipers, laser puddle lights, heated auto-folding side mirrors, tinted glass, roof-rails, cruise control, mood lighting, stainless-steel scuff plates, electric driver’s seat adjustment, fabric seat trim, dual-zone climate control, keyless entry and push-button start, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen multimedia unit with Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB input.
The Lux adds a panoramic sunroof, heated front and rear seats, power-adjustable passenger seat, fake leather trim, its sound system gains a sub-woofer, and it has better headlights - xenon units with auto levelling - plus 19-inch wheels.
There are seven colours to choose from, six of which are metallics that attract a $495 premium. Buyers can even choose between a range of different coloured interiors; the Premium has the choice of black or grey/black, while the Lux has black, grey/black or brown/black, as you see here.
And there are deals to be had. The H6 Premium can now be had at $29,990 drive-away with free sat nav (usually $990 more) and a $500 gift card. You’ll get the Lux for $33,990 drive-away.
The H6 doesn’t have sat nav fitted as standard in any spec, and Apple CarPlay/Android Auto phone mirroring technology isn’t available at all.
Safety kit is respectable, if not class-leading, with a reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, six airbags, dual ISOFIX child-seat attachment points (and three top-tether hooks), and blind-spot monitoring included in both variants.
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.
There is only one engine available in the Haval H6 line-up - a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol four-cylinder with 145kW of power and 315Nm of torque. Those figures are good for its competitive set - not as strong as a Subaru Forester XT (177kW/350Nm), but more than, say, a Mazda CX-5 2.5-litre (140kW/251Nm).
It has a dual-clutch automatic transmission from Getrag, but unlike plenty of its competitors, the H6 only comes in front-wheel drive.
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.
Haval claims fuel use of 9.8L/100km, which is high for the segment - in fact, it’s about 20 per cent more than most of its rivals’ stickers suggest.
In our testing, we saw even higher than that - 11.1L/100km over a mix of urban, highway and commuting. Turbocharged engines in some rival models find a better balance of performance and frugality, which the Haval just doesn’t quite have yet.
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.
I could just leave this review at that. But here's the justification.
The engine is decent, with a nice amount of zing once you’re off and running - particularly in the Sport mode, which ekes the most out of the turbocharged mill.
But getting away from the line is sometimes a stumble, with a bit of hesitation from the transmission, coupled with mild turbo lag, making for frustrating motoring at times. Cold starts aren’t its friend, either - at times it feels as though there's something wrong with the drivetrain, such is the chug factor. The refinement on offer just isn't what it should be.
That’s not the worst part, though, I also found the steering to be very hard to judge. At times the electric power steering system would load up, almost for no apparent reason, making roundabouts and intersections a bit of a guessing game. On the straight-ahead it is lacking meaningful feel, too, but it is easy enough to keep in its lane. When you're getting around back alleys and the like, the slow steering rack makes for plenty of arm-work - at least at really low speeds the steering is light enough.
It's hard to get a comfortable driving position for six-foot-ish tall adults, too: the reach adjustment doesn't quite reach far enough towards the driver.
The front-drive underpinnings struggle to harness the torque of the engine at times, with notable slip and squeal in wet conditions and some torque-steer under hard throttle.
The brakes lack the progressive pedal travel we’ve come to expect of a modern-day family SUV, with a woodenness at the top of the pedal, and they don’t pull up as strongly as you might hope, either.
The 19-inch wheels and confounding suspension setup makes for unsettled progress in many situations - on the freeway the suspension can rebound a little abruptly, while around town it isn't as comfortable as it could be. It isn't harsh or uncomfortable, but nor is it plush or well resolved.
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.
As for safety items, the bare essentials are there, such as six airbags, a reversing camera, parking sensors and electronic stability control with brake assist. Daytime running lights are standard, as is blind-spot monitoring.
It also has hill-start assist, hill-descent control, tyre-pressure monitoring and a seatbelt warning system - in our early build test car, the rear-seat warning lights (housed in the bottom of the auto-dimming rear-view mirror) stayed illuminated at all times, which was really annoying at night. Apparently that has been fixed as part of a running change.
Haval says further safety tech is on its way, with an update due in the third quarter of 2018 set to bring the addition of forward-collision warning and auto emergency braking. Until then, it’s a bit behind the times for its segment.
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.
Haval hit the market with a five-year/100,000km warranty, which didn't redefine the class, and it backs its buyers with the same duration of roadside-assist cover.
Your first service is due after six months/5000km, and from then on the regular interval is every 12 months/10,000km. The brand’s Service Price Menu runs out to 114 months/95,000km, and the company’s average cost per service over that entire period works out to be $526.50 - which is expensive. I mean, it’s more than what a Volkswagen Tiguan costs to maintain (on average).