Kia Sportage VS Nissan Qashqai
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Impressive rear legroom
- Big boot
- Good to drive
- A bit pricey
- Acceleration feels sluggish
- Small display screen
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 lucky cars aren’t as bad as the names they’re given because the Qashqai would be a shocker. Fortunately, the Qashqai is a good small SUV and this latest update has made it even better... and safer.
So, what’s so new about the 2020 Qashqai? What’s good about it and what could still be improved. Finally, there’s something else you should know, and it might make you want to wait longer before you do buy a Qashqai.
|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 Qashqai is one of Nissan’s best SUVs for the space it offers in such a small package. A good driving experience is short of being great thanks to the CVT auto, and the value could be better.
Now, here’s a spanner in the works for you. A new generation Qashqai isn’t far away, it’s probably about 12 months off and it will have a new look inside and out, have the latest technology, plus we’ll almost certainly see a hybrid version.
If you can hold on, do it, because what’s likely to be an even better Qashqai should be worth the wait. But if you are in market right now, the ST+ is definitely the pick of the bunch. The update has seen it pick up an excellent array of advanced safety equipment.
Note: CarsGuide attended this event as a guest of the manufacturer, with travel and meals provided.
The Sportage isn’t as conservatively styled as its sensible spec would suggest. Clearly influenced by the likes of the Porsche Cayenne, with the bonnet-mounted light fittings, curvaceous edges and strip-light across the tailgate, the overall look aims to put the “sport” in “Sportage”.
It has enough of its almost insectoid personality to be criticised as a straight rip-off though, for better or worse, and its most recent facelift in 2018 accentuated its best features. At least one criticism that can’t be leveled at the Sportage is that it looks boring.
The more aggressive look certainly sets it apart from the conservatively styled Hyundai Tucson with which it shares a chassis, and that’s even more evident on the inside where there’s a sportier asymmetrical dash with a raised centre-console and slick, three-spoke steering wheel.
While everything is ergonomic in here – with an added bonus of dials and shortcut buttons for the climate controls - the screen-in-dash look is getting a bit dated. The same could be said for the interior plastics, which are finished largely in the same drab grey colour, no matter which grade you pick. The design of them is nice, but anything under the soft dash-topper is hard to the touch.
Thankfully, everything is superbly put together with not a squeak or rattle to be heard on any of the test cars I sampled, and the pared-back application of silver highlights in the dash is tasteful. The quad-dial instrument cluster is a classic layout. There’s no option for a digital dash in the Sportage range.
The two-tone alloys look great, no matter which grade you pick, and aside from the flared bits and LED light fittings on the GT-Line, it’s genuinely hard to tell the grades apart from each other, which is good for low-spec buyers.
Overall, the Sportage presents a design which has aged well, thanks to a more risqué approach being taken when this generation first launched in 2016.
Another strength of the Qashqai is its good looks – tough, yet pretty, with a rounded snub nose and muscular rear haunches.
No changes to the styling for this 2020 update inside or out, which is a shame because the cabin is beginning to date with the small screen and dash design. Still the interior is stylish with well laid out controls.
As you’d expect, the Ti’s interior is the plushest, with quilted leather seats and the huge sunroof, but even the entry grade ST with the leather clad steering wheel has a premium feel.
How big is the Qashqai? It’s a big-small SUV in that at 4394mm end-to-end it’s 10cm longer than a Honda HR-V and about 2.0cm longer that a Kia Seltos, but about the same width and height as both at 1806mm across and 1595mm tall.
All Qashqai’s come standard with alloy wheels, so no hubcaps here like you’ll see on the entry-grade Seltos.
Telling each Qashqai grade apart is easy once you know the ST doesn’t have foglights, while the ST+ does but doesn’t get the roof rails you’ll see on the ST-L or its 18-inch alloys. The TI can be spotted in the wild by its big 19-inch rims and the sunroof. See? Easy… sort of.
There are seven colours to choose from including 'Magnetic Red' and 'Pearl Black', but only the 'Vivid Blue' (the colour of my car in the video) is the only no-cost hue. The other premium paint colours are $595.
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 and usability are two of the Qashqai’s strengths. For an SUV that is only 4.4m long, and for me at 191cm tall to be able to sit behind my driving position with room to spare is excellent. Headroom back there is good, too, even in the Ti which has a sunroof which eats into the ceiling.
Cabin storage up front is pretty darn good with a large and deep centre console bin, big door pockets and two cup holders; while the rear seats have door bottle holders and a tray in the rear of the front console. The ST-L and Ti come with a fold-down centre armrest in the back with two cupholders.
The 430L boot is one of the largest in the class (Seltos has a 433L cargo capacity). There’s also another large storage level under the boot floor in the Ti.
Getting in and out of the Qashqai is helped by a raised ride height and large doors that open wide.
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 entry-point into the Qashqai range is now $27,990 (an increase of $500 over the previous car) and that will get you into the ST with a manual gearbox, while the auto (CVT) is $29,990.
That ST is the only grade which comes with a manual, the rest are all autos with the ST+ listing for $31,990, then the ST-L for $34,000 and at the top-of-the-range is the Ti for $38,490.
A limited-edition N-Sport version sits between the ST-L and Ti and lists for $35,000, but there are only 600 being made.
As for what’s new, that’s simple – Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility is now standard across the range. The ST+ also now has rain sensing wipers and auto headlights. The rest of the new features are safety items which we’ll cover in that section below.
Along with the Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, standard features on the ST include a 7.0-inch screen with rear view camera, front and rear parking sensors, six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth seats, push-button start, LED running lights, halogen headlights and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Step up to the ST+ and you’ll gain all the ST’s features plus sat nav, privacy glass, fog lights, and power- folding heated wing mirrors.
The ST-L has all of this, but adds leather and cloth seats, heated front seats, roof rails, and 18-inch alloy wheels.
At the top-of-the-range is the Ti and this grade unlocks more features on top of the ST-L’s including 19-inch alloys, adaptive LED headlights, panoramic sunroof, dual-zone climate control, power adjustable driver and front passenger seat, adaptive cruise control, and leather seats.
The 2020 update also saw a special edition N Sport Qashqai released for a list price of $35,000. The N Sport has all the ST-L's features and adds 19-inch alloys, body-coloured front and rear bumpers with a matt silver trim, side skirts, body-coloured wheelarches, silver mirror caps, black headliner and an N-Sport badge to make sure everybody knows.
Is it good value? Well you can get into an entry-grade Kia Seltos with all the advanced safety features in the Ti for $25,990 drive-away. A Honda HR-V is also more affordable with a start price of $24,990.
I’m afraid the answer to that initial question then is, no. The Qashqai is not good value in comparison to the Seltos or Honda HR-V.
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.
All Qashqais have the same engine – it’s a 2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol which makes a reasonable 106kW of power and 200Nm of torque.
As I mentioned in the driving section the engine isn’t at all gutless, I’ve driven SUVs and cars with the same torque and less power with better acceleration. It’s the continuously variable transmission (CVT) in the Qashqai which causes the lackluster acceleration.
You’ll notice this lack of oomph particularly on hills and when you need to overtake. Some carmakers are now producing CVTs which do provide better acceleration, but Nissan’s isn’t one of them.
On the plus side CVTs are good for fuel economy, which is what we’re about to discuss.
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 the Qashqai with its four-cylinder petrol engine and CVT auto will use 6.9L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads. That’s pretty good and better than the ST with its manual gearbox which officially does a best of 7.7L/100km.
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.
Here’s why. The ride is comfortable and composed, the steering is accurate and has good feel to it and the handling (for a small affordable SUV) is great.
You’ll like the extra security the height gives you along with the good visibility, and you’ll like the size in terms of ease of parking, too.
What you might notice is that acceleration feels a bit disappointing and you might think the engine is ‘gutless’ for want of a better word. It’s not the engine, it’s something else. Read on to find out.
All Qashqais are front-wheel drive, but a decent 188mm ground clearance means they’ll handle gravel roads without fear of damaging the underside.
The launch of this updated version had us driving on about 50km of gravel and dirt roads, and sure, if the Qashqai had all-wheel drive it would have kept the car from sliding around on the loose rocky surface a bit, but we had no problems with clearance.
The Qashqai's braked towing capacity is 1200kg.
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 Qashqai was awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017.
The ST+ has come out well in this update, not only did it score Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but the amount of standard advanced safety equipment increased, including blind spot warning and rear cross-traffic alert.
While all Qashqais come with AEB as standard the top-of-the-range Ti ALSO picked up AEB with pedestrian detection in the update.
Forward collision warning and lane departure warning ARE also standard on all Qashqais.
For child seats you’ll find two ISOFIX points and three top tether anchor mounts.
A space saver spare wheel in 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 Qashqai is covered by Nissan’s five-year,/unlimited-kilometre warranty.
Servicing is recommended annually or every 10,000km and is capped at $226 for the first service, $309 for the second, $236 for the third, $435 for the fourth and $245 for the fifth.