Kia Sportage VS Infiniti QX30
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Attractive, unusual crossover
- Rides and handles well
- Comfortable interior
- Really? No rear view camera at nearly $50,000?
- Not a big back seat
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
Tim Robson road tests and reviews the 2016 Infiniti QX30 at its Australian launch with specs, fuel consumption and verdict.
There’s no doubt that the compact crossover segment is a vitally important place for any carmaker to be. Nissan’s luxury arm, Infiniti, is no different, and thanks to a decision from its Japanese masters, the diminutive premium brand will go from having no players on the field to having two marquee players in a matter of just a few months.
But is there enough of a difference between the two to actually consider them different cars? Is it adding a layer of complexity for the prospective Infiniti customer? As it turns out, the differences run more than skin deep.
|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.
Even though it’s almost identical to the Q30, the QX30 manages to feel sufficiently different in suspension tune and cabin ambiance to be considered different.
It’s a disappointing oversight, though, by Infiniti to deny the base GT such basic safety fundamentals as a rear view camera (which Infiniti assures us is being worked on).
Would you consider the QX30 over similar rivals? Tell us what yout 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.
In a sign of how worldly the car industry is becoming, the QX30 is built in Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK, using the German Mercedes-Benz A-Class platform and powertrains, all under Sino-French ownership via the Nissan-Renault Alliance.
On the outside, the design that first aired on the Q30 is pretty unique. It’s not a subtle car, with deep crease lines along its sides that, according to Infiniti, is an industry first in terms of manufacturing complexity.
When it comes to differences between the two vehicles, it’s minimal at best. There is a 35mm increase in height (30mm from taller springs and 5mm from roof rails), an extra 10mm in width, and extra trims affixed to the front and rear bumpers. Aside from the all-wheel-drive underpinnings, that is pretty much it for the exterior.
The same black plastic overfenders that are fitted to the Q30 are present on the QX30, with 18-inch rims on both the base model GT and the other variant, the Premium.
The dimensions of the QX30 are also an exact match for those on the Mercedes-Benz GLA, with the long front overhang acting as the main visual connection between the two cars.
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 QX30 is obviously very similar to the Q30 in many respects, but the interior is slightly different, with larger, less cosseting seats up front and slightly higher seats in the rear.
The cabin is also lighter in overall appearance, thanks to a paler colour palette.
There are plenty of neat inclusions, including a pair of USB ports, plenty of door storage, a space for six bottles and a sizable glove box.
A pair of cupholders resides up front, along with a pair in the fold-down armrest in the rear.
There is no particularly logical location for the storage of smartphones, though, and the lack of Apple CarPlay or Android Auto is down to Infiniti opting for its own phone connectivity suite.
A decent 430 litres of luggage space behind the rear seats is contrasted by a cramped rear area for all but the smallest of passengers, while sharply shaped rear door apertures making getting in and out a bit of an ask.
There are two ISOFIX baby seat points and a 12-volt socket in the rear, as well.
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 QX30 will be offered in two variants; the base model GT at $48,900 plus on-road costs, while the Premium will cost $56,900.
Both come equipped with the same engine; a 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged petrol engine that’s sourced from Mercedes-Benz and also used on the Q30 and Merc GLA.
Eighteen-inch rims are standard on both cars, while an electronic handbrake, 10-speaker Bose audio, 7.0-inch multimedia screen and a full set of LED lamps all round are fitted across both variants as well.
Unfortunately, the QX30 GT misses out on a reversing camera all together, a fate it shares with the Q30 GT.
Infiniti Cars Australia told us that this was an oversight at the time the cars were being specced for Australia, particularly in light of the other technologies that the car would receive, like automatic emergency braking.
The company says it’s working hard to bring a reversing camera to the GT.
The top-spec Premium gets leather trim, a powered driver’s seat, and additional safety equipment like a 360-degree camera and radar cruise with brake assist.
The only optional extra on each car is metallic paint.
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.
Just the one engine is used across both cars; the 155kW/350Nm single-turbo 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol engine from the Q30 and A-Class.
It’s backed by a seven-speed transmission and wired into an all-wheel-drive system that is biased towards a front-drive configuration.
Sourced from Mercedes-Benz, up to 50 per cent of drive can be sent to the rear wheels, according to Infiniti.
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.
Again, it would be easy to think that the QX30 would feel almost identical to its lower-riding sibling – but that would be incorrect. We criticised the Q30 for being a bit too buttoned down and unresponsive, but the QX30 feels more lively and involving, thanks to its unique spring and damper set-up.
Even though it’s 30mm higher than the Q, the QX doesn’t feel it at all, with a benign, pleasant ride with good body roll control and competent steering.
Our front-seat passenger complained of feeling a little ‘hemmed in’, which is a valid point. The sides of the car are very high, and the roofline is quite low, exacerbated by the steeply raked windscreen.
The 2.0-litre four-potter is smooth and punchy, and the gearbox well suited to it, but it’s lacking in aural character. Luckily the QX30 does a terrific job of suppressing noise before it gets into the cabin, then…
Even just last year, the Sportage’s standard active-safety equipment would have been considered pretty good, even a whole point better than what I’ve given it here. The thing is, though, thanks largely to ANCAP and EuroNCAP’s far more stringent analysis of active technology in the last year, the game has been raised by many of the Sportage’s competitors.
It would be nice, for example, to see active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring available on the SX Plus grade, or, better still, available as an option pack across the range, a-la-Hyundai’s approach.
And now, with the introduction of high-tier active-safety suites on low-spec variants of the Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5 and Subaru Forester, it’s hard to give the Sportage flying colours in this department.
Still, the fact that auto emergency braking (AEB), lane-keep assist (LKAS) and driver-attention alert (DAA) ship on the base-model S is reasonably impressive.
Outside of that, all Sportage grades get six airbags, the expected stability and brake controls, as well as three top-tether and two ISOFIX child-seat mounting points.
The Sportage carries a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating as of this-generation’s launch in 2016.
The QX30 gets seven airbags, auto emergency braking, forward collision warning and a pop-up bonnet as standard across the line.
The base GT does, however, miss out on a reversing camera.
The Premium model also offers a 360-degree camera, blind spot warning, radar cruise control and brake assist, traffic sign detection, reverse motion detection and lane departure warning.
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 Q30 is offered with a four-year, 100,000km warranty, and servicing is suggested every 12 months or 25,000km.
Infiniti offers a fixed three-year service schedule, with the GT and the Premium both costing an average of $541 over the three services provided.