Kia Sportage VS Hyundai Venue
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Ride and handling is lovely
- Big touchscreen in cheapest models
- Looks and drives better than the Accent
- Engine works hard on hills
- So does the automatic gearbox
- Steel wheels are nobody's friend
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|
Hyundai’s Venue is a step up from the Accent. And we mean that both figuratively and literally - not only is the brand's newest SUV a taller vehicle than the entry-level hatchback it's essentially replacing, it is also a better vehicle in almost every way.
It's not all good news, though. With the Accent not long for this world, the Venue will form the new entry point to the Hyundai family. And with a starting price of $20k for this smallest of small SUVs, it's an entry point that is around $5k higher than it has been for years.
Which leaves us with one big question for this small SUV, then; is it worth it?
|Fuel Type||Regular 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.
With small SUVs still selling like high-riding hot cakes, there’s no doubt the Venue is the right car at the right time for Hyundai. It won't make up for all the sales lost by the Accent's demise, but those who do buy one will end up with a much better car for their money.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
Let's start with the obvious; the Venue looks better and more modern than the Accent it essentially replaces, both inside and out.
How much better depends on how much you spend, of course (the steel wheels on the Go grate like a dentist drill in 2019) but it is a sharp-looking SUV no matter what you spend.
More a hatch on stilts than a genuine SUV, Hyundai has done well to hide its light-car credentials behind a wide, strong grille, lightly bulging wheel arches and standard roof rails, even on cheapest Go model. It gives the front-wheel-drive only Venue a kin of ready-for-anything look, even if that anything is unlikely to include anything more challenging than the ramp at your local shopping centre.
Inside, though, does hint more strongly at its position at the beginning of the Hyundai range, with cloth seats and manual air-conditioning (in all but the most expensive model), as well as a key you have to insert and turn to start the engine (remember that?).
As you expect at this price point, there is no shortage of hard plastics, but the design is clean and simple, and the huge touchscreen dials up the wow factor somewhat, as does the moulded dash element that doubles as a kind-of grab handle.
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.
It’s worth remembering that, while the Venue feels more substantial than the Accent it replaces, it is actually slightly shorter, and rides on a smaller wheelbase. So, it’s no behemoth. In fact, at 4040mm in length, 1170 in width and 1592mm in height, it is just 20mm longer than a Mazda2.
Inside, though, you’ll find the space on offer surprisingly generous. Front-seat riders can travel with no awkward shoulder rubbing, while in the back, there’s definitely room for two adults (well, as long as they’re my 175cm, that is), with enough clear air between your knees and the seat in front, and your head and the roof lining, to ensure you don’t feel overly claustrophobic.
That said, there aren’t much in the way of niceties for backseat riders to enjoy. The touchpoint are all trimmed in hard plastics, and there’s nary an air vent, charging point or cupholder to be found, even in the top-spec Elite model.
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 Venue might well start at a touch under twenty grand, but it still represents a sizeable step up from the cheapest Accent, which, as it enters its final months on sale, you can still pick up for around $15 grand.
Happily for Hyundai, the Venue is also a literal step up from the Accent, and so places the brand's newest and smallest SUV into one of Australia’s fastest-growing new vehicle segments. And while that won't make up for the Accent’s soon-to-be-missing sales volume entirely, it will go some way to filling the void.
The Venue arrives in three trim levels; the entry-grade Go, the mid-spec Active and the top-spec Elite.
By Hyundai’s own admission, not many people will land on the Go ($19,990 manual, $21,990 automatic), which does arrives with niceties like an 8.0-inch touchscreen that’s Apple CarPlay and Android Auto equipped, automatic headlights and cruise control, but also makes do with 15-inch steel wheels.
The step to the Active ($21,990 manual, $23,490 auto) is $1500, and it’s one Hyundai thinks most people will happily make. Doing so will earn you 15-inch alloys, LED DRLs, nicer leather interior treatments and a better six-speaker stereo.
Finally, the top-spec Elite ($25,490 auto only) adds navigation and digital radio, single-zone climate control and 17-inch alloy wheels, plus a more funky look courtesy of its contrasting two-tone roof.
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.
It's a pretty straightforward engine line-up on offer in the Venue. And that’s mostly because there’s exactly one engine to choose from, no matter what you spend - a 1.6-litre petrol unit good for 90kW and 151Nm.
The Venue also gets a tricky traction system that, using throttle mapping and ESC settings, can be configures for mud, sand or snow. A true off-roader this front-wheel-drive SUV ain’t, but some light stuff should be possible.
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.
Happily, the Venue accepts cheaper 91RON fuel, and should sip around 7.0 litres per hundred kilometres on the combined cycle, regardless of transmission.
Emissions are pegged at 160g/km with the manual, and 165g/km with the automatic.
The Venue’s fuel tank will hold 45 litres.
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.
What you make of the Venue largely depends on your, erm, venue. And yes, that is the kind of terrible pun that makes a dad joke seem like champagne comedy, but stick with me for a moment.
The Venue, you’d have to think, will be driven almost exclusively in Australia’s urban centres, and it’s here that it seriously shines. The engine is smooth and unobtrusive as you climb to city speeds, and the six-speed automatic shuffles through its gears with minimal fuss, too.
More good stuff? It’s quiet in the cabin, and the centre screen is not only big, clear and easy to use, but also makes the Venue a nicer, more modern-feeling place to spend time than the more basic-feeling Accent.
Some of the shine does start to wear off away from town, though, where the 1.6-litre engine’s 91kW need to be strong-armed into action, with flat-footed acceleration adding an unwelcome harshness to the drive experience.
Steep hills are a natural enemy of cars like these, too, and so expect the usually sorted automatic gearbox to jump from third gear to fourth, then back to third, as it tries to squeeze every last ounce of power from the engine. These are mere foibles, though, and in town you won’t even notice them.
The ride is sublime, even over sudden rough spots or mid-corner bumps. In fact, the steering and handling setup is so surprising that you will genuinely find yourself grinning on a twisting road, and longing for more power from that engine.
Short answer? The Venue is a step up from the Accent in more than just its ride height.
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.
Stepping up to the Active, however, adds rear parking sensors, while shelling out for the Elite buys you blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert.
The Venue is yet to be officially crash tested, but Hyundai says it expects a four-star result, owing to the lack of radar-based safety systems.
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.
It's the full five-year, unlimited-kilometre Hyundai treatment here, with service intervals pegged at 12 months or 15,000 kilometres.
Hyundai’s capped-price servicing program prices the first five services at $259, $259, $339, $459 and $259, for a total $1575 over the warranty period.