Kia Sportage VS Mitsubishi Outlander
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
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|
On the face of it, the Audi Q7 and Mitsubishi Outlander have few things in common. They're both (mostly) seven seat SUVs and that's pretty much where they part company. Except if you have a poke around the spec sheets of both ranges, you'll find something quite interesting.
Both are offered as five seat plug-in hybrids because the batteries take up the space of the third row.
But, once again, here is where they depart because the cheapest PHEV (Plug-In Hybrid Electric Vehicle) starts at an absurdly reasonable (for a PHEV) $45,990.
|Fuel Type||Hybrid with Regular Unleaded|
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.
Like most Mitsubishi models, the base model has all the good stuff of the top-of-the-range, although I'd skip the ES and go for the ES ADAS. For all the extra cash, you don't really get that much more in the Exceed because there's not much in Mitsubishi's grab bag. There's almost nothing to commend the Exceed over the LS.
As a city car, the PHEV is quite good as long as you don't ask too much of it. The electric range is useful for school runs or shortish commutes (if you can park near a power point) and when you're flat, the engine sorts you out.
Like the rest of the Outlander range, it's honest transport and not much else. The PHEV, though, proves that when Mitsubishi puts its mind to something, it can turn out quite alright.
Is the fact it's a plug-in hybrid enough to tempt you out of a conventionally-powered car or does the extra expense make it a weird choice?
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 Outlander's fresh nose from a year or so back is leaps and bounds from when the car first landed in 2012. While there is a bit more chrome than I consider strictly necessary, the PHEV's face is no different to other cars in the range.
What is different is idiotic, over-sized PHEV badges on the car's flanks. They look crooked, too, which is a bit disheartening. But at least onlookers will know you care.
The car is otherwise quite conventional to look at. The dinky wheels have too many spokes and belong on a Toyota Crown and there's little in the way of flair. But this car is not about flair, so that's fine.
Inside is also fairly dull, but does the job. The new touchscreen integrates nicely, though and everything seems to fit. Some of the switches look like they're from Jaycar - the heated seat switches for example - but it all seems solid enough.
Every time I drive an Outlander, I think the interior will take a pretty good hammering, which is reassuring. The flimsy-feeling action on the door handles is less so.
Oddly, the full leather of the Exceed isn't as nice as the leather/micro-suede of the LS.
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.
One of the Outlander's few outstanding features has been its status as a bargain seven-seater. That's out the window with the PHEV, but given it needs a (big) battery, that's fair enough.
The boot is a handy 477 litres with the rear seats in place and if you put them down, you have an impressive 1608 litres. Front and rear rows score a pair of cupholders each and there's a bottle holder in each door.
Passenger space is good for four but given it's slightly narrower than similar cars its size, the middle rear passengers feels the squeeze.
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 $53,990 PHEV Exceed, the car I had for a week, recently came in for a price cut, a very handy $1500. If you don't need or want what the top-of-the-range has to offer, you can start with the ES at $45,990, the ES ADAS (Advanced Driver-Assist Systems) at $47,490 and the LS at $50,490.
Read More: Mitsubishi Outlander 2019 review
Read More: Mitsubishi Outlander PHEV ES 2019 review
The Exceed rolls quietly off the line with 18-inch alloys, a six-speaker sound system, reversing camera, keyless entry and start, dual-zone climate control, active cruise control, auto headlights and wipers, partial leather interior with micro-suede inserts, electric front seats, heated and folding power mirrors and electrochromatic rear vision mirror.
Entertainment comes from Mitsubishi's new 7.0-inch touchscreen from the ASX and, truth be told, it's fairly ordinary. But it does have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, which is very welcome indeed given the absence of sat nav.
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.
The PHEV has a 2.0-litre petrol engine producing 87kW/186Nm and two 30kW electric motors that bring the total combined power outputs to 120kW/332Nm.
A 12kWh/40Ah battery hides under the boot floor and takes around six hours to charge from a domestic circuit and if you get a fast-charger, that comes down to an 80 percent charge from 25 minutes.
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 official combined cycle figures are listed at 1.7L/100km. Some years ago editor Flynn managed something close to this figure but I fear it involved hazard lights and driving slowly down the hard shoulder - hyper-miling, if you will.
My esteemed colleague managed a day's motoring on 7.5L/100km which seems reasonable, but he started the day with a full battery. When I did that, I saw about the same figure, which seems a bit high. You're not necessarily going to save a lot of fuel or carbon unless you're careful on the road and diligent with the charging.
Mitsubishi says a full battery will give you 54km but that's exceedlingly (sorry) unlikely.
What might you expect if you drive it without having charged it up? We gave that a go and the results weren't amazing - 11.3L/100km. So keep it charged or it's just a heavy, quiet Outlander LS.
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.
While the petrol and diesel Outlanders are varying levels of ho-hum, the PHEV is not too bad. The instant response of the electric motors is far preferable to the teenage whining of the petrols and grumbling of the diesel. One of the Outlanders worst features, the CVT, is absent as the engine plays no part in directly driving wheels.
When I first started driving it, I was deeply disappointed that the PHEV doesn't try very hard to recover charge when you lift off the throttle. Drive a BMW i3 and you'll find you barely need the brake. But I discovered if you nudge the nasty plastic shifter down (or pull the lovely alloy paddle), the display told me I was in B3. Lifting off created a much more agreeable drag and the dash graphic showed more enthusiastic recovery. Another nudge or pull and B5 got me closer to what I thought should be the starting point. But I was pleased nonetheless as it helps eke out further electric range.
The model featured below is the 2020 Mitsubishi Outlander LS 2WD
Apart from that, the ride is crashy and bumpy - Mitsubsishi's engineers seem to have 'solved' the extra kerb weight problem by stiffening everything up, meaning the lolling body control of the other cars is firmed up a little. It just isn't all that flash at suburban speeds on suburban roads.
The near-silent whoosh of the electric motor will eventually be replaced by the daggy drone of the petrol engine. It's sharply at odds with the calm refinement of the electric propulsion and is a bit of a shame that it crashes the party so rudely.
In highway running the engine fades into the background and you can get used to the comfortable seats, pleasant cabin ambience and the good view ahead.
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 Exceed has seven airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, reversing camera, reverse parking sensors, forward AEB, lane-departure warning, active cruise, lane-change warning, lane-change assist, around-view camera, reverse cross-traffic alert, blind-spot warning and auto high beam.
Also on offer are two ISOFIX and three top-tether child seat anchor points.
The Outlander range scored five ANCAP stars in 2014.
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.
Mitsubishi offers a five-year/100,000km warranty with four years roadside assist in the form of a motoring organisation membership.
The company also offers capped-price servicing, which amounts to $1095 over the three years of the program. It would be nice for that to extend further, but there you go. The PHEV's servicing is cheaper than the diesel but more expensive than the petrol by about 30 percent.
Your dealer expects a visit every 12 months or 15,000km.