Kia Sportage VS Hyundai Tucson
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Exterior styling is aging well
- A conveniently small mid-size SUV
- New safety equipment in 2020 update
- Cabin is a bit plain
- Dual-clutch can be jerky in traffic
- Diesel is a bit noisy
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 Hyundai Tucson is one of the go-to mid-size SUVs in Australia, along with the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Nissan X-Trail. So, what makes it so popular, what do you get for your money, and what extra features have been added in this 2020 update?
Let me be your Tucson tour guide. Having been in and out of a stack of Tucsons, and having clocked up thousands of kilometres in them, I’m familiar with their great points and have discovered a few of their shortcomings, too.
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 changes to the 2020 Tucson are few, but important – the extra safety equipment added to the lower grades is great news.
Despite being a few years old and a new-generation Tucson coming by 2021-ish, the current SUV is a great workhorse that has served my family well in the form of a long-term test car, and more recently in these week-long stints in the updated model.
Parents will like the hard-wearing materials and wipe-clean surfaces, and I reckon everybody will appreciate the city-friendly size while staying fairly spacious on the inside.
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.
There’s a new-generation Tucson on the horizon, but we won’t be able to buy it for a couple of years yet. But rest assured Hyundai is cooking it up in its laboratories as you read this.
Can’t wait until around 2021 (probably)? Well, in the meantime this current generation still looks stylish even if it’s been here since 2015.
There have been some cosmetic upgrades over the years to freshen up the Tucson’s look, with Hyundai giving it a new grille and redesigned headlights in 2018. Same for the cabin which was also given a design revamp.
I’m a fan of the exterior and think it’s aged well, with its tough-looking face and elegant side profile. This sounds super nerdy, but I also like the shape of the tailgate with its little ‘lip edge’ and those taillights.
Even in the ‘government issue’ standard white paint worn by the Active X I tested (see the images), the Tucson still looks mighty fine. And it has to, the competition is a good-looking bunch – as a model comparison there’s the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Kia Sportage all on the rival list.
Talking of paint, the colour palette is limited to Phantom Black, Gemstone Red, Pepper Grey, Platinum Silver, Aqua Blue, Pure White, Sage Brown, Dusk Blue and White Pearl. Yep, no gold, orange, green or purple here I’m afraid.
The Tucson’s insides get fewer design accolades, with its fairly plain styling and there’s not a great deal of difference in look and feel between the cabin of an Active X and that of the Highlander - apart from the electric handbrake and dual-zone climate. Have a look at the interior images to see what I mean.
Spotting the difference between the grades from the outside isn’t easy: if the Tucson has dual exhausts it’s a Highlander, but if it doesn’t and it has chrome around the windows then you’re looking at an Elite, while an Active X has bigger wheels than the Active.
Now the dimensions. The Tucson is 4480mm end to end, 1850mm wide and 1660mm tall. That makes it 120mm shorter than a RAV4 and 70mm shorter than a CX-5. So, the Tucson is a smaller mid-sized SUV but that will suit many families in the city well.
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 Tucson is a five-seat SUV and there’s no option to get a third row to make that seven. If you do need more seats and want to stay with Hyundai then the larger Santa Fe is what you’re looking for.
The Tucson’s size is an advantage in that, at less than 4.5m long, it’s easy to park, but the trade off is that the interior isn’t overly spacious. Still, even at 191cm tall I can fit behind my driving position in the second row with about 20mm to spare between my knees and the seatback. Headroom is also good, even with the sunroof in the Highlander which lowers the ceiling slightly.
Up front there are the big seats and good head, leg and elbow room.
What about boot space? The cargo capacity of the Tucson’s boot with the seats up is 488 litres. That was enough room to fit the CarsGuide pram and Kim Kardashian’s big suitcase (see the video), both at the same time. With the seats folded you’ll have 1478 litres to help you move house or pick up that thing you bought online. Not the biggest boot size in the class, but not the smallest.
Cabin storage is pretty average – there’s a deep, but narrow, centre console storage bin, door pockets, a standard glovebox and four cup holders (two up front and two in the 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.
The Tucson range has four grades: Active, Active X, Elite and Highlander. There used to be a grade called Go, but it’s now gone, replaced by the Active.
The most affordable Tucson is the front-wheel-drive petrol Active with a manual gear box that lists for $29,290 (add $2500 for the auto), but if you want all-wheel drive you’ll need the diesel engine with the auto for $37,090. That escalated quickly, eh?
Next step up is the Active X, which lists for $32,290 in front-wheel drive, manual guise (and $34,790 for the auto), and the diesel auto all-wheel drive in this grade is $40,090.
Now we’re getting into the auto-transmission-only upper echelons of the range, with the Elite coming in three variants. The first variant uses the same petrol engine as the lower grades with front-wheel drive for $37,850, then there’s a turbo-petrol with all-wheel drive for $43,150, and the diesel all-wheel drive for $43,150.
Lording it over the range is the Highlander (which I always read with a Scottish accent in my head). There’s two to pick from and both are all-wheel drive with automatic transmissions. The turbo-petrol Highlander lists for $46,500 and the diesel is $48,800.
So, with almost $20K separating the top and bottom of the range let’s look at what you get for your money.
The Active comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, LED running lights, a seven-inch screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a six-speaker stereo, single-zone air conditioning, rear parking sensors, a leather steering wheel and roof rails.
The Active X has larger 18-inch alloy wheels, sat nav, an eight-inch screen, an Infinity eight-speaker stereo system, digital radio, leather seats and heated and power-folding mirrors.
The Elite is the sweet spot the range and scores proximity unlocking with push-button start, rear privacy glass, a power-adjustable driver’s seat and dual-zone climate control.
The Highlander has all the Elite’s features but adds 19-inch rims, LED headlights and taillights, a panoramic sunroof, ventilated and heated front seats, auto tailgate, wireless charging, a heated steering wheel and a powered front passenger seat.
The Highlander’s tailgate is an automatic one which will open if you stand next to it with the key fob for three seconds. It works a bit too well, and I found myself often opening the boot unintentionally.
The big news for this 2020 model year Tucson, however, is that the lower grades have been given more safety equipment. You can read all about this a bit further on.
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 are three engines in the Tucson range: a 2.0-litre petrol making 122kW and 205Nm; a 1.6-litre turbo petrol making 130kW and 265Nm; and a 2.0-litre diesel with an output of 136kW and 400Nm. All are four-cylinder engines.
A six-speed manual can only be had with the 2.0-litre petrol engine, but for a bit more money you can swap that for a six-speed auto instead. The 1.6-litre petrol engine only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch auto and the diesel is teamed up with an eight-speed auto.
There are pros and cons with each engine: the 2.0-litre petrol feels a bit under powered, but the transmission is smooth; the 1.6-litre petrol is punchy off the line but at low speeds the dual-clutch can make acceleration a bit jerky; while the diesel’s eight-speed is excellent, and so is the torque from the engine, but it sounds a little bit like farm equipment.
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.
If you’re choosing the engine based on fuel efficiency, then don’t. Unless you’re picking the diesel, because it is considerably more fuel efficient than the petrols. Hyundai says that after a combination or open and urban roads the diesel engine will have used 6.4L/100km. My own testing in the Elite with the diesel supported the frugality of the engine with our test car recording 6.9L/100km.
According to Hyundai, the 2.0-litre and 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engines - regardless of transmission or gearbox - will get within 0.2L/100km of each other. So, after a combination of open and urban driving the 2.0-litre with the manual will use 7.8L/100km while the auto needs 7.9L/100km. The 1.6-litre with the dual-clutch is more economical, but only just, at 7.7L/100km.
My own testing saw me use an average of 9.2L/100km in the 1.6-litre Highlander and 10.3L/100km in the 2.0-litre Active with the auto.
More good news is you’ll only have to feed the petrol engines cheaper, 91 RON fuel.
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 lot to like about the way the Tucson drives, but there are some areas where rivals do better.
I tested the Highlander grade with the 1.6-litre turbo-petrol engine and seven-speed dual-clutch, followed by the Active X with the 2.0-litre engine and six-speed automatic, and then I drove the Elite with the diesel engine and an eight-speed auto.
In one week I put more than 500km on the clock of the Active X, using it as a family car for the preschool drop-offs and grocery shopping in Sydney, with a trip away to see the grandparents on the weekend up in Newcastle. That gave me a combination of inner-city grind and open motorways.
I put about 300 kilometres on the Highlander and most of those were suburban and city kays, with some motorways thrown in, too.
Both have their merits. For the city I preferred the six-speed automatic in the Active far more than the seven-speed dual-clutch in the Highlander, especially in hilly areas. Traffic and intersections are the enemy of that dual-clutch which cause a lurching motion as you come off the brake and onto the throttle. Yes, there is a hill-hold button but activating it adds a ‘sticking’ sensation that does stop roll-back but does nothing for smoothness.
The six-speed auto meant smooth motion in low speed traffic and assured no roll back on hills.
As for the engines, the 2.0-litre is fine. You’re not going to break any land speed records, or maybe not even any speed limits because acceleration is definitely not rapid, but it's more than adequate.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is peppy at lower speed, but as you start to push it harder it does feel like it runs out of puff. Being a turbocharged engine, the delivery of the grunt feels different to the naturally aspirated 2.0-litre. If you’ve driven turbo cars before you’ll know the ‘whooshy’ feel they have as the turbo winds up and you’re catapulted away.
On the open road, the dual-clutch is magnificent, changing fast and smoothly. Whereas the six-speed auto doesn’t seem to be enjoying itself anywhere near as much as it DCT sibling.
So, if you’re a passionate driver, then go the dual-clutch which, combined with the 1.6-litre engine, provides a more engaging drive. But if this SUV is just to get you around town then I reckon you’ll be happier with the 2.0-litre. Forget fuel economy - there’s nothing in it between them.
Read More:Hyundai Tucson 2019 review.
But wait, there’s something you should know. The diesel is my pick of all the variants as the best to drive both in the city and country. I tested the Tucson Elite with the diesel engine and eight-speed automatic and while it does sound like a delivery truck, that 400Nm of torque is fantastic for being able to move quickly when you need to, without much in the way of turbo lag.
As for ride and handling all Tucsons have the same suspension set-up: MacPherson struts at the front and a multilink in the rear, which provides comfort and good cornering for the class.
Hyundai has tuned the suspension in the Tucson for Australian roads – a lot of car companies don’t do this.
The Tucson isn’t a large SUV (it’s only 140mm longer than an i30 hatch back) and that makes piloting it into parking spaces and in narrow streets easy. Visibility is hindered by thick A-pillars either side of the windscreen and seeing out the back small windows is tricky, but the reversing camera helps here.
If you’re planning to tow, you’ll need to know the braked towing capacity of all Tucsons is 1600kg.
And while all-wheel drive isn’t four-wheel drive, the Tucson’s ground clearance of 172mm is higher than a normal car and will mean you can go a little bit further off the bitumen.
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.
While the Tucson’s styling hasn’t changed in this 2020 update, the safety equipment list has in that the lower grades now come with more life-saving tech as standard.
New safety tech on the Active and Active X grades includes AEB that operates at city and urban speeds and lane keeping assistance. That’s in addition to rear parking sensors, rear view camera, and six airbags.
The Elite and Highlander have even more safety equipment such as blind spot warning, AEB which works at higher speeds and can detect pedestrians, rear cross-traffic alert and adaptive cruise control.
For child seats, all Tucsons have three tether points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row. A full-sized alloy wheel is located under the boot floor.
The Tucson scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2016.
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 Tucson is covered by Hyundai’s five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. Servicing is recommended every 12 months/15,000km. For the 2.0-litre petrol Tucson you can expect to pay $280 for each of the first three services, while the 1.6-litre is a smidge more at $295.
The diesel is more expensive to service – you can expect to pay $390 for each of the first three services, and also at 12 month/15,000km intervals.