Kia Sportage VS Renault Captur
- 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|
The Renault Captur is stupendously, ridiculously popular… in Europe.
So popular, in fact, that it’s not quite enough to have just one Renault Captur, to they sell another one - a de-specified, Dacia-based Renault Kaptur – that looks exactly the same.
Bizarre. But then, the Captur is a bit bizarre. It’s as if it comes from an alternate dimension where style trumps practicality, and vibrant colours and tight dimensions are more important than, say, a cupholder.
The point is, in Australia at least, buying a French car tends to be a deliberate and not necessarily value-based choice. With so many keenly priced and well-specified Japanese and Korean competitors, a car like this requires a buyer who wants something genuinely different.
So, can the recently updated Captur appeal to buyers wanting something a little left of centre in one of Australia’s most hotly contested market segments, or does it play second-fiddle to the small SUV market leaders? I spent a week in one to find out.
|Engine Type||1.2L 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 Captur might be one of Europe’s strongest-selling small SUVs, but what it offers doesn’t translate well into Australia’s market, where the sheer number of highly specified and keenly priced competitors puts a strain on its value.
The powerful new engine is welcome, and it continues to serve up plenty of that unique French style, it’s just a shame to see those things come first over today’s advanced safety items and a truly slick drive experience.
Do you think the Captur still has what it takes to duke it out with the small SUV segment leaders in Australia? Share your thoughts 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.
This is one of the Captur’s strong suits. At least, on the outside. It comes with oodles of euro charm. I like its same-but-different approach to the Clio’s styling formula. The light fittings and grille insert are familiar but toughened up a little with SUV-specific flair. LED light fittings look the business, with their blue tinge contrasting the car’s orange and black, and the way the DRLs clasp the lower vents and echo into the bodywork is oh-so satisfying.
The black bumpers that ride over the wheelarches and expand around the sides of the car are a nice touch. Contrast chrome and silver plastics are applied tastefully. I’m not as keen on the rear of this car as I am on the front, but everything remains proportional, and the little spoiler that runs off the roof rounds the package out nicely.
Inside, things aren’t as great. It looks okay from a distance, as you’re hopping in, but once you’re there its easy to see this car’s flaws.
You’re confronted with this huge expanse of dashboard reaching out to the front of the car, void of any particular aesthetic treatment, and a swathe of boring, grey, hollow plastics off-set by chromes and silvers that look okay, but are not great to touch.
The dash cluster has a big chunky look, the same as the Clio, but it's still on an off-putting angle, with old-school, chunky red dials. The leather trim on the steering wheel is nice but doesn’t make up for the switchgear, which all feels a little more Fisher-Price than Fisher&Paykel.
Is there really an excuse for dials, switches and even a gearknob that have far too much movement in them, even when locked in position? It feels lazy. Those who have driven this car’s Korean and Japanese rivals will be accustomed to superior interior finishes by now.
I have to say, this criticism does not apply to the Captur’s seats, which are finished in a lovely, plush leather trim. They have good side-bolstering and a commanding position with great visibility. The same applies to the second row.
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.
Those front seats are comfortable and offer plenty of room, but what’s up with the French and neglecting cabin storage? The Captur is a bit better in this regard compared to the Peugeot 208 I had the week before – which had poor excuses for cupholders and next to nothing in the doorcards – but still, it trails behind its rivals.
Front passengers get small cupholders in each door, a trench under the climate controls, a glovebox and a centre top-box tethered to the driver’s seat, which has possibly the smallest storage area inside it I’ve ever seen. You can fit maybe a slim wallet in there. I was a little frustrated by the clunky manual front-seat controls, which were hard to reach and operate. The Intens is a top-spec model, at least give the driver electric sliding adjust.
In the back you’ll get the same great seats as you do in the front, but rear passengers get even less useful bottle holders in the doors, some netting on the back of the front seats, and a neat trench in the middle that even has a 12V power supply, at the cost of legroom for the middle passenger.
There are no air vents back there, either. Legroom is okay for an SUV this size, but nothing impressive, while headroom was more than ample for my 182cm tall frame, despite the sunroof eating some of the ceiling.
Boot space comes in at a fairly decent 377L – comparing well to the 350L of the Fiat 500X, but not so well to the 410L boot of the Peugeot 2008. The Captur’s rear load space has a removable floor, so you can either boost the space to 455L, or a have flat floor with the second row folded flat, your choice.
In that second-row-down configuration, the Captur grants 1235L of space.
While Renault has made some significant improvements to its multimedia offering in the last few years, I found the Intens’ native system a bit clunky to use, and without the option for Apple CarPlay I was stuck with it.
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 Captur comes with some great features, some not-so great features, and a few notable omissions. Let’s have a look.
Our Intens is the top of a two-variant range. Coming in at $29,990 (MSRP), you’ll get 17-inch alloy wheels, a 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (with Android Auto, but oddly no Apple CarPlay…), built-in sat-nav, auto LED lights front and rear with cornering fog lights, a fixed panoramic sunroof, leather-trimmed seats, with heated front ones, leather-trimmed steering wheel, 360-degree parking sensors, a reversing camera, ‘park assist’ auto parking, keyless entry with push-start, single-zone climate control and an auto-dimming rear view mirror.
Not a bad set of equipment, but it’s also hardly a top-spec CX-3 or Hyundai Kona, which come with much more, albeit at a marginally higher price. It would be nice to at least see the inclusion of power-adjustable front seats.
Also, it’s incredibly confusing that this car doesn’t come with Apple CarPlay. It’s hardly excusable when it does come with Android Auto and, get this, the base model Zen gets a slightly different media system that does support Apple CarPlay at the cost of ‘enhanced’ built-in sat nav. Weird.
In its favour, the style items that the Captur comes with look fantastic. The two-tone colour scheme is standard on every car, even at Zen level (you can option a solid scheme if you really want) and the 17-inch alloys and little design touches on the exterior really add to this car’s appeal. Our car’s ‘Atacama Orange’ scheme is a $1000 option. The leather seat trim is excellent and well above average for this segment.
For the same money as the Captur Intens you can hop into similarly equipped and style focused euro rivals like the Fiat 500X Pop Star ($29,990) and Peugeot 2008 Allure ($29,990). The Volkswagen T-Roc and T-Cross are on their way to shake up this segment soon, so look out for those.
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 this incarnation, which Renault calls the ‘150 TCe’ – you’ll get 110kW/250Nm. This engine is leagues better than the slightly hopeless 88kW 1.2L engine that came before it and actually boosts the Captur’s outputs way ahead of its euro competition.
The Intens drives the front wheels only via a six-speed ‘EDC’ dual-clutch automatic transmission, which I wasn’t a fan of. Find out why in the driving segment of this review.
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 Captur Intens with its new engine carries a claimed/combined fuel consumption number of 5.4L/100km. Usually I struggle to hit anything below six without hybrid-assistance tech, although it was worth a shot given that this Renault also has stop-start technology and hardly weighs anything.
After a week of driving, though, the best I could muster was 7.2L/100km. The Captur’s on-board computer has a ‘Trip Report’ feature, which gives you an eco-score and analyses your driving behaviour. It’s kind of neat. I’m sure if you made a game out of it you could get this number down closer to 6.0L/100km.
You’ll need to fill the Captur’s 45-litre tank with at least 95RON mid-grade petrol.
The Sportage’s engine choices don’t offer the most modern drive experience on the mid-size SUV market, but its locally tuned suspension really makes it stand apart from the pack. This means it’s at its best in most driving scenarios you’ll experience in Australia. I’ve driven Sportage variants on long-distance freeway drives, across the worst, most potholed streets Sydney’s CBD has to offer, as well as rutted gravel tracks on the other side of NSW’s Blue Mountains, and all of them behaved admirably, everywhere.
On the axis of sport-to-comfort I’d say the Sportage’s ride sits slightly to the sportier end of the equation. It’s a stiffer ride than the Honda CR-V, Nissan X-Trail, or the new Toyota RAV4, for example. Yet it seems to strike a more comfortable balance than the sporty CX-5.
The handling is really nice for an SUV this size, as I’ve said in previous reviews – it’s nimble and feels almost like you’re piloting a giant hatchback. For reasons I can’t seem to pin down, I vastly prefer the Sportage’s ride and handling to that of the Tucson. It just feels more balanced all round than its Hyundai cousin.
The engines are a bit of a letdown, however. While all are adequate for city-commuting duty, on the open road and up hills the petrol drivetrains get thrashy and noisy quickly – and at higher revs the limitations of these engines' outputs become apparent.
That having been said, both automatic transmissions are slick and predictable. When power is needed they also lock into gear nicely, unlike their CVT competition. We are yet to sample the re-introduced manual variants.
Okay, so the new engine is great. The Captur has plenty of punch now, some might say almost too much punch, as stomping on the accelerator will result in wheelspin and aggressive torque steer, thanks to peak torque availability from just 1600rpm. Still, it’s a welcome experience to drive a Captur that doesn’t feel breathless.
What lets down the experience is the transmission. I was genuinely surprised to find that the Captur is now equipped with a six-speed dual-clutch, as for most of my drive week it behaved with the clumsiness of a single-clutch automated manual. I thought these transmissions were a thing of the past, but despite its modern dual-clutch moniker, it was far too easy to catch the Captur in the wrong gear or, worse still, searching for the right one for far too long.
Even when driving in a straight line, shifts seemed slow compared with contemporary VW dual clutches; you could feel the Captur’s frame lurch forward slightly as it worked its way through each gear in a rather mechanical fashion.
Aside from the transmission marring the experience, the rest of the Captur offers a decent drive experience. The suspension feels just right up front, giving the small SUV a compliant ride, although it was a little stiff with its simple torsion-bar rear. It was easy to get the back dancing around over road imperfections.
That being said, driver and passenger comfort were decent, no matter what you heard the rear suspension getting up to, partially thanks to those great seats.
Steering was fast, but almost too light in some situations, and noise intrusion in the cabin was at acceptable levels, with the engine making itself largely unknown.
It’s tough for the little French SUV because there are significantly more popular and very good rivals in Australia’s market compared to Europe’s.
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.
In terms of more advanced features, the Captur Intens gets Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) and… that’s it.
You get the regular suite of electronic stability aids, a reversing camera, and just four airbags.
Despite that, three-cylinder versions of the Captur carried maximum five-star ANCAP safety ratings from 2013. This four-cylinder model has yet to be tested, but it’s hard to see how it can get close to a five-star rating with no additional active safety.
The now-expected auto emergency braking (AEB), Rear-Cross Traffic Alert (RCTA), Lane departure warning (LDW), Lane Keep Assist (LKAS), and active cruise features are all missing, even from the options list.
The Captur has two ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the two outboard rear seats and three top-tether mounts across the second row.
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.
Each of the three years the service cost is set at $349, with the addition of an air filter ($52) and a pollen filter ($60) every 24 months. That service cost is not terribly expensive, but also not cheap. You’re on your own after the three years of fixed pricing is up.