Kia Sportage VS Nissan Juke
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Spacious cabin and large cargo area
- Cool styling
- Advanced safety tech
- Dual-clutch auto isn't the smoothest
- No all-wheel drive variant
- No manual transmission
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|
It's hard not to notice a car which looks like you'd be able to drive it down a boat ramp and then spend the day on the water in it before driving home. But that was the old Nissan Juke, and despite that small SUV's startling amphibious looks, you need to forget all about it. That's because the new Juke has arrived and according to Nissan it's nothing like the old one.
Nissan was so keen on using words like “all-new” about this second generation Juke that we decided to call them on it. We challenged the engineering team to name any features of the new Juke which were on the old one. And they could, but just one, and I'll reveal what they came back with in the review below.
Yes, there have been a lot of changes to the Juke, even though this small SUV may look broadly like the old one. Read on to find out if these are changes for the better.
Please note, do not drive either the old or new Juke into the sea.
|Engine Type||1.0L 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.
The new Juke is not just better than the old one, it's better than many of its rivals for space and practicality, value and safety tech. Yes, the amphibious charm of the old model has been toned down, but this is a completely new model. Ah, that reminds me, just before I wrote this review, I thought I'd call out Nissan on their “completely new” Juke claim. Did anything from the old car find its way onto the new car? What about the windows? Is it totally different glass? Well, the engineering and product teams came back to me and said that nothing had been carried over to the new car, even the glass is different – it's thicker and a different shape. But then they said there was one thing that was on the old car that's been put on the new car – the Juke badge. There you go, not completely new then, is it?
If you're looking for the sweet spot in the range it's the ST-L - it's about $3,000 less than the Ti and has just about the same features, apart from the headrest speakers, but you don't need those, do you? Okay, silly question, every car should have them.
Is the Juke the car that's going to lead Nissan's comeback? Tell us what you 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.
The super quirky looks of the first Juke that arrived in 2010 would have turned off a lot of potential buyers, but the unconventional styling was also part of the small SUV's charm for many who wanted a unique looking car.
The new Juke looks significantly different for a couple of reasons. One is that since the first Juke arrived Hyundai and Toyota have come up with similarly styled Kona and C-HR (imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?) and another is this second-gen Juke's design has been toned down.
At a glance, the new Juke may look a lot like the previous one, but the likeness is really only because of the bulbous face with oversized headlights and a sloping roofline in side profile. The fun, bubble car styling has gone and we've now got a more serious, chiseled and refined looking SUV.
Sure, it's a bit more conservatively styled, especially from the rear, but I like the headlights now with a Y-shape design, and the way the sleek LED running lights plunge down into the large grille.
Longer, wider and taller than the old Juke, the new Juke is 4210mm end to end (75mm more than the previous model), 1800mm across (+35mm) and stands 1595mm tall (+30mm).
Telling the grades apart visually can be tricky, but the ST and ST+ share the same 17-inch alloy wheels, while the ST-L and Ti both have 19-inch rims but with differing styles. The Ti is also the only grade to have a shark fin antenna and privacy glass.
The new Juke's cabin also has a more sophisticated look to it than the previous model. The tech is modern with an 8.0-inch screen and so is the styling.
I'm a fan of the way Alcantara is blended into the Ti's interior from the seats and the dashboard to the centre console and door trims, adding a premium feel. The Ti's quilted leather seats with integrated headrests (including stereo speakers) also feel special.
There are eight colours to choose from including the two no-cost standard hues of 'Fuji Sunset Red' and 'Arctic White.' The premium colours cost $595 and include 'Ivory Pearl', 'Burgundy', 'Platinum', 'Gun Metallic', 'Pearl Black' and 'Vivid Blue.'
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.
Space was the biggest weakness of the old Juke, now the larger size of the cabin and cargo area is the one of the new version's biggest strengths.
Being longer, wider and taller with an increase in wheelbase means space inside is good for the segment. I'm 191cm (6'3") tall and I can sit behind my driving position without my knees touching the seat back (just).
Entry and exit is now easier, thanks to the longer wheelbase, with bigger rear doors and wheelarches that don't eat into the doorway as much as before.
A 422-litre boot is a huge improvement over the previous car's 207-litre cargo capacity and will swallow up the CarsGuide pram easily (see the video). Neither the Kona nor the CX-3 can do that.
Cabin storage is good with a glove box that's nine litres larger than before, door pockets and two cupholders (up front).
For charging, all Jukes have a USB port and a 12V outlet up front, while the ST-L and Ti have a USB port in the second row, too.
All Jukes seat five, although I wouldn't want to sit in the middle of the second row for long.
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 Juke line-up has four grades starting with the ST, which has a list price of $27,990. Above that is the ST+ for $30,740, then the ST-L for $33,940, and at the top-of-the-range is the $36,490 Ti.
The ST is also good value. Not only does it have the same powertrain as the rest (see the engine section below) and almost all the same safety equipment (yep, see the safety section), but the standard features list is pretty darn good.
Coming standard on the ST is an 8.0-inch touchscreen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, four-speaker stereo, Bluetooth connectivity, 4.2-inch TFT instrument display, rear view camera, cruise control, air conditioning, cloth seats, hill start assist, rear spoiler, LED headlights, power-folding mirrors, rear parking sensors, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The ST+ adds LED fog lights, sat nav, digital radio, heated front seats and front parking sensors.
If you can afford it, the ST-L is definitely the sweet spot of the range and takes the ST+'s features and adds 19-inch alloy wheels, ambient lighting, 7.0-inch driver display, six-speaker stereo, drive modes, rain sensing wipers, push button start, proximity key, climate control, a centre arm rest up front, electric park brake, leather and cloth seats and adaptive cruise control.
The Ti sits at the top of the range and adds rear privacy glass, quilted leather seats, 19-inch alloy wheels and an eight-speaker Bose stereo, including speakers in the front head rests. Yes, the head rests.
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.
In Australia, our Jukes have a 1.0-litre, three-cylinder turbo-petrol engine making 84kW/180Nm with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission sending drive to the front wheels. That's right, no manual gearbox and no all-wheel drive.
While the three-cylinder is plucky and provides enough grunt, the dual-clutch auto isn't the best I've used and results in a prominent lurching sensation as it changes gears. Don't let this put you off, this is sometimes a characteristic of these transmissions.
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.
Nissan says over an open and urban road cycle the Juke will use 5.8L/100km. That's impressively fuel efficient.
I didn't have a chance to fuel test the Juke at the launch, but you can bet we will when the car arrives in the CarsGuide garage soon.
Also, the Juke will need a minimum of 95 RON premium unleaded.
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.
This second-generation Juke is built on a brand-new platform, which not only accounts for the car's increase in size but also for the way it drives.
This new Juke feels completely different to the previous model with ride comfort and handling being so much better.
I test drove the top-of-the-range Ti only, but all Jukes have the same engine and transmission. My test route was city- and suburban-based as well, but that's the natural habitat for a car like this, anyway.
Everything about the driving set-up feels right - a great seating position with a low hip point, light and accurate steering, good pedal feel, and great visibility all round.
Driving in peak hour traffic I had to make three-point turns, I did parallel parks with the pressure on, I also had to gun it at the traffic lights because my lane ran out and I wanted to merge ahead of a tradie who was dead-set-keen to get home.
There's probably not a better baptism of fire for a city road test. What I like is that it took no time to feel at home in the cockpit and familiar steering the car.
The new Juke has an adequate turning circle (11.0m), is easy to park and acceleration is surprisingly good. It's a light car at 1274kg and the little 1.0-litre engine had no issues pulling its own weight along, plus me and the videographer inside. If you want to see my first drive impressions video, it's at the top of this review.
Okay, things to know. You're going to notice the engine's 'thumpy' sound and also the 'lurchy' way the transmission changes gears, but neither of those are bad things. Well, they're not deal breakers.
See, the engine is a three-cylinder and they have a characteristic purr to them which can be louder than you might expect, and the transmission is a dual-clutch automatic.
While brands such as Volkswagen can make these shift almost seamlessly, other dual-clutches, like this one, shift a little slower, causing a loss of momentum and a slight lurch, as you get with a manual gearbox.
These aren't deal breakers and you're going to find transmission shortcomings in the Toyota C-HR with its droning CVT auto which saps acceleration and the Hyundai Kona which also has a jerky dual-clutch.
Even so, the lurching from the dual-clutch means the Juke misses out on getting an eight out of 10 in my books which is for an outstanding driving experience. Volkswagen has mastered this type of transmission over many years and Nissan's version doesn't appear as good, yet.
That said, the Juke is still fun and easy to drive.
The Ti I drove and the ST-L have disc brakes front and back, while the ST and ST+ have drum brakes at the rear. That would surely be to keep the prices low on those grades, but under normal driving conditions you won't notice any difference in braking performance.
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 new-gen Juke scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2019 achieving a 94 per cent mark for adult occupant protection and 87 per cent for child occupant protection. That's better than many prestige European cars tested in the same year.
Another great thing is that all Jukes come standard with the same armoury of advanced safety technology including AEB (with pedestrian and cyclist detection), rear cross-traffic alert, lane departure warning and blind-spot warning.
For child seats you'll find three top tether anchor points and two ISOFIX mounts across the second row.
There's a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
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 Juke is covered by Nissan's five-year/unlimited-kilometre warranty which is transferable to the new owner if you sell it. You also get five years' roadside assistance.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 20,000km and the first five services are set at $287 for the first service, $419 for the second, $477 for the third, $419 for the fourth, $407 for the fifth, and $287 for the sixth.