Kia Sportage VS Kia Seltos
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Great interior space
- Amazingly practical
- The right size for a lot of customers
- Optional safety stuff on base grades
- Hard plastic armrests on lower grades
- Steering not terrific
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|
This the probably the most anticipated new car in Kia Australia’s history. It’s the 2020 Kia Seltos, the brand’s first proper go at making a small SUV, and it goes on sale on October 25.
There have been prior forays into this market space before by Kia - the Soul could have been considered a small SUV, though it was a big old flop. The original Sportage was small, too - but it moved up in size over the years.
For years we’ve been wondering when Kia Australia would be able to fill the gap below the Sportage - one that has probably seen customers settling for a Cerato hatch until a new high-riding model arrived.
Can it deliver on expectations? Read on to find out.
|Engine Type||1.6L turbo|
|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.
The Kia Seltos 2020 model range is packed full of surprises - the majority of them very nice, a few of them not so much.
The pick for me is the Sport+ 2WD model, which offers the stuff you want, the safety you should get, and all the drivetrain that most people will need.
We can’t wait to see how the Seltos compares to some of its main rivals in a comparison test later this year. Stay tuned for that.
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.
The beauty of the Seltos isn’t its aggressive but stylish front end, it’s sleek and not too boxy profile, or its “Oh my gosh, that looks a lot like a shrunken Holden Acadia - but heaps better!” rear-end design.
It’s the way the designers have pieced this car together to work so well with the dimensions on offer that is the beautiful bit. It’s a compact SUV, but not as compact as many of the other cars in this part of the market.
At 4370mm long (on a 2630mm wheelbase), 1800mm wide and 1615mm tall, the Seltos is among the biggest small SUVs in the mix. It’s not that much shorter than a Sportage (4485mm), and is markedly larger than its brother-from-another-mother, the Hyundai Kona (4165mm), with which it shares a platform.
The big thing will be if it fits in with your lifestyle - an extra couple of centimetres of nose-to-tail length can be the difference between fitting in that tiny parking spot, or having to search the back streets for another 10 minutes.
But there are big practicality benefits of being just a smidge longer than your rivals. And if you want to get to the big-name competitors, the Mitsubishi ASX is 4365mm, the Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross is 4405mm, and the Nissan Qashqai is 4394mm. So the Seltos isn’t too big, and indeed could be the right size for the vast majority of people looking a compact high-rider.
Now, as for the rest of the design, I think it’s really good. It’s masculine but not macho. Stylish but not blingy. Funky, but not too funky.
Though it’s not all roses. While I can deal with the steel wheels on the base car - there’s a good chance a lot of those versions will be snapped up by fleets, and that’s not such a big issue - my design concern comes down to illumination.
This may matter to you, or it may not. But for me, the biggest letdown of the design is that Kia Australia has specced three of the four variants with halogen headlights and halogen daytime running lights. Yellow. Yuck.
It really cheapens the look of this brand new car, and makes it look old before its time.
As for the interior design? Take a look at the interior pictures below to make up your mind
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.
This is a small SUV that’s going to be the right size for a lot of people because it isn’t so small. Weird, right? But the interior practicality of the Seltos is one of its biggest selling points - it’s among the best, if not the best, in the class for cabin space.
Let’s start at the back - the boot capacity is claimed at 433 litres for models with a full size spare wheel, where the entry-level version has an even bigger boot - 498 litres! - because the floor sits lower due to its space-saver spare. That’s phenomenal room, considering the size of the car - though what’s not so good is that the two lower grade models don’t get a cargo cover/parcel shelf (also known as a tonneau/cargo blind).
That aside, the space is flexible - the rear seat can fold down in a 60:40 fashion to allow 1393L of space. It’s a big, big boot, and will fit the needs of a lot of customers.
The back seat is spacious, too. The room in the second row is beyond what many of its rivals offer, with easily enough knee room, head room and shoulder room for someone my size (182cm, or six foot in the old money) to slot in behind a similarly sized driver. It’s exceptionally good.
There are some issues with the back seat, though. The top spec model is the only one that gets rear air-vents, and the only one with a back seat USB port, too. And lower grade versions don’t get a fold-down armrest, and therefore no cup holders. And there’s only a map pocket on top grade models, too.
Then there are the plastics: hard plastic backs to the front seats (good as it’ll stop your kids from kicking the fabric to threads), but a similar hard plastic is all over the doors in lower grade models, meaning you miss out on padded elbow rests front and rear unless you spend up on the dearer models. It may seem like nitpicking, but rest your elbow on a hard bit of plastic for a while and see if you come away thinking, “Yeah, that was nice!”.
Up front it’s the same - top models get padded elbow rests, the others don’t. The plastic on the dash is mostly hard, too, which is less of an issue unless you have a thing for touching the dashboard a lot.
There are cup holders between the seats, bottle holders in the doors, a decent storage area in front of the shifter for your phone and wallet, and the presentation is nice even if the materials could be nicer.
The big tick (for all but the base model) is that there’s a nice, big 10.25-inch touchscreen media system on top of the dash. It looks great and works really well, and even the base car (with the smaller 8.0-inch screen) gets Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming and USB connectivity (1x USB in the base car, 2xUSB in the others, plus wireless phone charging in the top grade).
All models get a digital driver information screen with trip computer and digital speedometer, and the instrumentation and ergonomics of the cabin are all spot on.
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 Kia Seltos model line-up consists of four variants: the entry-level S grade (priced at $25,990 drive-away), the Sport variant ($29,490 drive-away), the Sport+ (from $32,990 drive-away) and the range-topping GT Line ($41,990 drive-away).
That's right - all models on the Seltos price list are drive-away deals. That means the national RRP or MSRP is the same, and you can be assured that you won't be stung by additional delivery and on-road costs.
Let’s run through them model by model.
The $25,990 S variant has an 8.0-inch touchscreen media unit with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, USB input, a six-speaker sound system, auto headlights, halogen headlights and daytime running lights, cruise control, a reversing camera and rear parking sensors. It rides on 16-inch steel wheels with covers, and has a space-saver spare and roof rails.
The $29,490 Sport adds a number of desirable features, including 17-inch alloy wheels, a larger 10.25-inch touchscreen with sat nav (including SUNA live traffic and 10 years of map updates), a second USB port, single-zone climate control, folding side mirrors, halogen front fog-lights, a full-size spare, and auto up/down driver’s window, auto window defogging, and ‘solar windows’.
The Sport+ is available with front-wheel drive ($32,990) or with an up-rated engine and all-wheel drive ($36,490). This variant takes what’s in the Sport model and adds smart key entry and push-button start, heated side mirrors, cloth and faux-leather seating, LED interior lighting, auto-dimming rear-view mirror, front parking sensors, a cargo cover. It also adds safety spec - read the section below for more info.
The top-end model is the $41,990 GT Line, which can be had with two-tone paint or a sunroof (but not both!), 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights, LED front fog lights, LED tail-lights, LED daytime running lights, interior mood lighting, an eight-speaker Bose stereo, wireless phone charging, a 7.0-inch driver info display, head-up display, fake-leather seats, power adjustable front seats with heating and cooling, a heated steering wheel, auto wipers - and again, there’s additional safety spec.
There are some likeable elements to the pricing and spec equation of the Seltos, but there are some rudimentary shortfalls, such as a cargo blind and LED daytime running lights on lower models.
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 two engines available in the Seltos - both are petrol, and both are teamed to automatic transmissions. That’s right - there is no manual gearbox option, and there is no hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric or diesel Seltos available. Not yet, anyway.
The entry level engine in the 2020 Seltos range is a 2.0-litre four-cylinder ‘Atkinson cycle’ petrol engine producing 110kW of power (at 6200rpm) and 180Nm of torque (at 4500rpm).
This engine is paired to a CVT (continuously variable transmission) automatic, and is exclusively offered in front-wheel drive.
The top engine is fitted to the all-wheel drive versions of the Seltos. It’s a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder with 130kW of power (at 6000rpm) and 265Nm of torque (from 1500-4500rpm), and is paired exclusively to a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic.
Towing capacity for the Seltos is 600 kilograms for an unbraked trailer for both 2WD and AWD models, while braked trailer capacity is 1100kg for the 2WD and 1250kg for the AWD.
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 combined cycle fuel consumption claim for the 2.0-litre CVT FWD Seltos model is 6.8 litres per 100 kilometres, which is okay for the segment. For what it’s worth, on test at the launch in Noosa over a mix of driving, we saw an indicated 7.3L/100km for this powertrain.
The 1.6-litre DCT AWD model claims 7.6L/100km, which is - again - okay, but not class-leading. On test, we saw 8.4L/100km indicated on the dash.
Fuel tank capacity is 50 litres, and the Seltos can run on 91RON regular unleaded petrol.
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.
The Seltos is one of the better compact SUVs to drive, all things considered. But let’s go through it in a bit of detail.
First off, let’s talk about the 2WD models, which have that 2.0-litre engine and CVT auto. Now, those three letters - CVT, which stands for continuously variable transmission - is often enough for some buyers to turn and run, but trust me, these transmissions are so much better than they used to be.
The engine is powerful enough for the vast majority of people’s needs - it revs nicely and gets moving from a standstill without fuss. The CVT is partly to thank for that, as it helps keep the engine in its sweet spot. And thankfully, it’s not too noisy or buzzy as it works.
Being front-wheel drive, it’s not going to be for everyone - but as Kia Australia predicts 80 per cent of sales to be this 2.0-litre FWD model, it’s going to be fine for almost everyone.
I found the steering to be sweetest in the 2WD model - lighter, more agile feeling than the AWD model, but still not quite perfect. It’s a touch heavy, especially when parking or negotiating roundabouts. The steering is a new system that includes a form of feedback and resistance when you return the steering wheel to the centre position, but it still doesn’t feel as natural or easy as some rivals.
The ride is mostly good, though still a bit firmer than some people might like at higher speeds on relatively smooth surfaces (smaller ripples on an otherwise smooth freeway upset the suspension more than they should have).
The 2WD model is definitely the more comfort-focused on the road, and that comes down the fact it is available either with the 16-inch steel wheels with 205/60 rubber or the 17-inch alloys, which have 215/55 low profile tyres, but not as low-pro as the 18s (235/45) on the top-spec GT Line.
Speaking of, that model suffers more road noise as a result of the more aggressive tyres, and the ride is adversely affected. It can feel a little too hard at times, and Kia Australia admits it “maxed out the hard points” of the chassis to achieve the character the company wanted for the Seltos.
Don’t get me wrong - it’s not harsh or firm to the point of being uncomfortable, but it could be softened off, I reckon. To me, it seems Kia Australia’s chassis and steering tuning team is placing too much emphasis on making cars to please reviewers and rev heads - a lighter touch wouldn’t have gone astray here.
The 1.6-litre turbo engine is certainly peppier than the non-turbo engine, especially in the mid-range. And while the transmission shifts smoothly and quickly at higher speeds, and will apparently learn your driving style - but I think it might take some human learning too, as it can be sluggish from a standstill.
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 Kia Seltos 2020 model range hasn’t yet been crash test rated by ANCAP - but based on the current stipulations around safety tech, you can expect a four-star rating on S and Sport models, and a five-star score for the Sport+ and GT Line variants.
It’s a similar thing to what happened with the Cerato. The entry level models come with a form of camera-based low-speed auto emergency braking (AEB) with car and pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, and driver attention warning.
Kia has once again chosen to offer optional safety equipment on the entry S and Sport grades, priced at $1000. It consists of upgraded AEB (high speed with car, pedestrian and cyclist detection), as well as adaptive cruise control, Driver Attention Alert+, an electronic parking brake, electric folding mirrors, auto up and down driver’s window and 15-inch rear disc brakes (to accommodate the electronic park brake).
The Sport+ variant also includes blind-spot monitoring with intervention to stop you from merging into someone if you don’t heed the warning, as well as rear cross-traffic alert with auto braking.
And the top-end GT Line further adds “Safe Exit Alert” (warns occupants if they’re about to open their door onto a hazard) and “Lane Following Assist” (which centres the car in the lane more actively than the standard lane-keep system).
All models have dual ISOFIX child seat anchors and three top-tether points for baby seats. It comes with six airbags - dual front, front side, and full length curtain.
Where is the Kia Seltos built? For Australia, it’s made in Korea. China has its own domestic market version, and so does India.
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.
As with all Kia models, the ownership program is hard to beat.
There’s a seven-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which remains the best in the business. That plan is bolstered by a seven-year capped-price service plan with service intervals every 12 months (10,000km for the turbo, 15,000km for the non-turbo).
At the time of writing, Kia Australia hasn’t locked down its servicing costs yet. However, estimate about $380 per year on average for the 2.0-litre model, and $470 per year for the 1.6 turbo. That’s pretty high compared to other brands out there.
But you do get seven years of roadside assist included in the ownership plan, plus for models with sat nav there is 10 years of map updates, too.