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
- Looks sharper
- Still good to drive
- Standard safety gear
- Still no CarPlay/Android Auto
- Highway tyre noise on the 19-inch wheels
- CVT could be less flarey
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|
Nissan's Qashqai has achieved something remarkable. After enduring a name change for its second generation (it used to be called Dualis), it has maintained its strong popularity among Australian buyers who are switching en masse to SUVs.
The compact SUV market is becoming increasingly crowded - the Dualis had few competitors on its release but today's Qashqai has 27 of them. The Nissan has seemingly brushed off all-comers, consistently and persistently battling with the Mitsubishi ASX, Mazda CX-3 and Honda HR-V.
It's mid-life update has arrived and as night follows day, MY18 supercedes MY17, with new additions to the safety list, a farewell to diesel power and a detail-focussed update to the range.
|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's MY18 update is subtle but effective. It had a good base to start with, so it was all about detailed improvements. Ride and handling are better, it looks a bit more modern, the safety gear is improved and the exit of the diesel won't upset too many people.
As for which Qashqai is best, it's probably the ST-L - a good mix of spec and price make it our pick. As a range, it's likely the Qashqai will continue to sell as well as it has, despite stiffening competition. It has a solid reputation, well-judged spec and it can carry people and things in comfort and reasonable style.
The Qashqai's mid-life update is upon us - does it keep it in the hunt as pressure builds from Japan, Korea and Germany?
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 exterior design has been left largely alone, with just a small amount of surgery to bring it up to date with current Nissan thinking. There's a new iteration of the 'V Motion' grille, revised headlights and more interesting bumper designs front and rear.
The cabin is largely the same - beautifully built, most of the materials are pleasant to the touch if not exactly an aesthete's delight. Everything is well laid-out, the dash is clear and the switchgear all perfectly pleasant.
The space is well proportioned, too and with the big sunroof, flooded with light, so it doesn't feel the slightest bit tight or claustrophobic, quite a feat in a car this size.
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.
Rear legroom is good, with enough room behind my driving position for folks of up to 185cm. There is tons of headroom front and rear even with the panoramic sunroof of the higher model spec. The interior dimensions mean four adults can cheerfully fit, with its light airy design (evident in the photos) made even brighter if you've got the full-length sunroof open.
Cabin storage includes up to four cupholders (ST and ST-L miss out on a rear armrest, so no vessel holding back there) and four bottle holders. The glove box easily swallows the owners manual.
The Qashaqi's boot space is nearly number one in its class, bettered only by Honda's HR-V. With 430 litres, it has the luggage capacity for a family getaway and the size for every day needs such as shopping or carrying the kids and their gear around.
Drop the 60/40 split fold back seats and you're in dangerous territory if you live near an Ikea - the space almost triples to 1596 litres and somehow people put these two facts together and your weekends are lost - although I guess it depends how much you like helping people.
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 MY18's launch will see four Nissan Qashqai models on the price list: the ST, ST-L, N-TEC and Ti. The N-TEC will be with us throughout early 2018 when the advanced safety technology of the Ti becomes available. The current plan is that the N-TEC will disappear when that happens.
The 2018 Qashqai introduces a number of new features as standard across the range. All of them now have forward collision warning, auto emergency braking and lane departure warning. These are in addition to front and rear parking sensors and the reversing camera carried over from the 2017 models.
Pricing hasn't moved very much, meaning how much you pay for a Qashqai has only changed due to the new spec level and the end of the diesel models. The ST is up by $500, the ST-L and N-TEC don't really have obvious counterparts given the demise of the diesel and the petrol Ti is $1000 more. Having said that, the ST-L is $1000 cheaper than the old TS.
Pricing for the ST range opener kicks off at $26,490 for the manual and $28,990 for the CVT auto. Rolling on 17-inch alloys, the ST has a six-speaker stereo, cruise control, cloth trim, keyless entry and start, air-conditioning and a space saver spare tyre.
The ST's sound system is powered by a 5.0-inch touchscreen and features an AM/FM radio, CD player, MP3 player and you can connect your iPhone or Android device via USB or Bluetooth. Sadly - and this goes for the whole range - there is not yet Apple CarPlay or Android Auto support.
Next up is the ST-L, starting at $32,990. On top of the ST spec you'll get 18-inch alloys, roof rails, fog lights, electric and heated folding mirrors, GPS sat nav, partial leather seats, heated seats, electric drivers seat and around-view cameras (as well as the normal reversing camera).
The infotainment screen is pumped up to 7.0-inches and DAB+ digital radio joins the list.
The gadgets list expands with the N-TEC, which will stick around until the Ti's arrival. Priced from $36,490, this one includes 19-inch alloys with fatter tyres, LED headlights (in addition to the LED daytime running lights), dual-zone climate control to replace the standard AC, auto headlights and wipers, panoramic sunroof, rear centre armrest, auto parking and mood lighting. The safety list expands with blind spot monitoring, high beam assist and reverse cross traffic alert.
The $37,990 top of the range Ti will land sometime before the middle of 2018. Compared with the N-TEC, the Ti is basically the same but adds nappa leather interior, lane keep assist and active cruise control.
Should the N-TEC be wildly successful, would it stick around? We asked, but Nissan wouldn't speculate. The reason for the Ti's late arrival is related to production availabilty of the lane keep assist and active cruise combination.
As for the colour choices, there are now eight colours for the Qashqai. As before, 'Ivory Pearl' (white) and 'Pearl Black' are no extra cost. The remaining colours - 'Platinum' (a light grey silver), 'Gun Metallic' (dark grey), 'Night Shade' (a sort of purple blue) and 'Magnetic Red' all cost $495. The new 'Vivid Blue', which is exactly what it sounds like, is new to the range and is also $495.
Those looking for more exotic colours like orange or gold will sadly miss out and the earthy tones of brown are also unavailable.
For a more detailed comparison, see our model snapshots.
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 petrol vs diesel decision is no longer part of the equation - as President Trump might say, diesel's ratings were low, with just under 10 percent of cars sold drinking the DERV.
Despite its availability in overseas markets, all-wheel drive is not available in Australia, perhaps because of the X-Trail's popularity (and close relationship to the Qashqai).
The only available engine is Nissan's 2.0-litre naturally-aspirated petrol developing 106kW/200Nm. This neatly side-steps any turbo problems as it's a fairly straightforward sort of engine. As far as engine size goes, it is consistent with its Mazda rival, the CX-3 which also runs a 2.0-litre petrol.
The manual gearbox is a six-speed (just three percent of buyers choose to change their own gears) and mated to the same (MR20DD) engine. For those interested, this engine employs a chain rather than timing belt.
For CVT-equipped cars, the towing capacity is 1200kg for a braked trailer and a very specific 729kg for unbraked, so you can haul a decent load.
As with 4 wheel drive, an LP gas fuelled Qashqai is also a non-starter from the factory.
Engine specs across the segment aren't remarkably different - some are smaller turbo engines, but most around the 1.8 to 2.0-litre mark. The Qashqai's acceleration performance figures for the 0-100km/h dash are around ten seconds (CVT). Kerb weight ranges from 1343kg for the manual ST to 1429kg for the Ti.
Oil capacity is 3.8 litres and the recommended oil type is 5W-30.
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 offical combined cycle fuel economy figure for the 2.0-litre are 7.7L/100km for the manual and 6.9L/100km for the CVT. On test, which was partly highway and a good chunk of Victorian back roads, our fuel consumption figure was a neat 8.0L/100km.
Fuel tank capacity is 65 litres.
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 Qashqai has always been near the top of the class when it comes to ride and handling if not quite there for off-road ability - front-wheel drive and the absence of hill descent control pretty much nixes any muddy fun ambitions. Nissan doesn't quote a wading depth, so that should also tell you it's not for rock-hopping.
Front suspension is by McPherson struts while the rear is a multi-link set-up, something you expect from the next segment up. The MY18 features firmer springs, retuned damping and stiffer anti-roll bars. Out on the flowing country roads outside Daylesford, the new set-up wasn't remarkably different to the old, but the body felt slightly better-controlled without ruining the excellent ride.
On 18-inch wheels, road noise seems lower. Part of that comes from additional sound-deadening and some thicker glass in the rear. The wing mirrors still whistle faintly, but it's nothing the stereo can't handle, and you'll really only hear it at speed.
Switch to the 19s as fitted to the N-TEC (and Ti), and all those efforts seem defeated - there's some tyre roar at highway speeds, attributable to both the lower profile of the tyres and their extra width. The ride doesn't seem to suffer though, and it's a pleasant place to be in suburban and city traffic, soaking up the bumps quietly and smoothly.
Unladen ground clearance measures 186mm, which is among the higher-riders in the class and it was quite at home on a deeply-potholed back road. It was perhaps a little firmer than expected over the gravel, but the surface was very poorly-maintained and resembled the Ypres battlefield. Despite only driving the front wheels, it felt secure, the torque vectoring system helping keep it on the straight and narrow. The turning circle is usable if not tight at 10.7 metres.
It rides well, but what's the engine like? I won't lie, I'd like a bit more horsepower, but in a drag race, the Qashqai is going to be pretty much neck and neck with most of the cars in the segment.
In the cruise it's a quiet engine and the CVT keeps the revs low until you floor it for an overtake, which you will need to do. Then the engine winds up with the CVT keeping it on the boil to make the most of engine specs. Around town both engine and gearbox are unobtrusive.
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.
All Qashqais leave the Sunderland UK factory with at least six SRS airbags, ABS, stability and traction controls, forward collision warning, reversing camera, forward auto emergency braking, front and rear parking sensors and lane departure warning.
You can fit a baby car seat for your child using either one of the three top-tether anchor points or two ISOFIX points.
ST-L buyers pick up around-view cameras with moving object detection.
The N-TEC adds to the safety list with rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, park assist and drowsiness detection. Finally, the Ti's specifications include 'Intelligent Lane Intervention', which helps keep you in your lane if you drift towards the edge.
The safety rating is five ANCAP stars, regardless of model. It was last tested 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.
Nissan offers a three year/100,000km warranty and your dealer will almost certainly try and flog you an extended warranty.
Those worried about service costs will be pleased to note that the MY18 Qasqhai capped price servicing regime is the same price as the previous year's. Service intervals remain at 12 months or 10,000km, with service prices bouncing around from $224 to $532 and averaging $307 over 12 services.
The Qashqai's resale value appears to be performing well and is as good as any in the compact SUV class. A good guide is to expect around 60 percent of the car's value to be retained over three years.
Owners seem to score it well for reliability, with few common faults reported. Searching for gearbox problems, clutch problems, cruise control problems or injector problems produce few results. As there is no longer a diesel option, searching for diesel problems is redundant.