Kia Sportage VS Skoda Kodiaq
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Plentiful power
- Super-supportive front seats
- Plenty of practicality perks
- Not as sporty as RS badge implies
- Suspension can feel firm
- Expensive compared to rest of lineup
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|
You don't hear the words 'performance' and 'diesel-powered, seven-seat SUV' together often, do you? Like Marvel and DC, the two things just feel like they're from completely different universes, one of which is filled with prams and groceries and weekend sport, and the other with twisting roads, plentiful fuel and burbling exhausts.
But Skoda is now attempting to merge these two distant worlds together with the launch of the new Kodiaq RS, blending the impressive practicality of the Czech car maker's (occasional) seven-seat SUV with the sporting promise of its performance sub-brand.
It's a delicate tightrope to walk, though. Too hard and sporty, and the Kodiaq RS will fail at its primary task of moving people and stuff. Too family focused, and it becomes an RS in badge only.
The question now, then, is has Skoda got the balance right?
|Engine Type||2.0L turbo|
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.
It might not be the sportiest SUV on the market, but it balances its extra performance with its core family carrying duties with aplomb.
Seven seats, plenty of equipment, practicality for days and with enough grunt to keep you smiling, the Kodiaq RS ticks plenty of boxes.
The only question mark really remaining is does it justify the extra spend over 132TSI model?
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.
A lot like a Skoda Kodiaq, just with more sportiness. It never screams "look at me", but in our humble opinion, that's no bad thing.
You do get a bespoke front bumper arrangement, and the grill, under bonnet meshing, roof rails and and side skirting are blacked out. The wheel arches are filled by those jumbo 20-inch alloys, and, stepping around to the back, you'll find two squared-off exhaust outlets.
Inside, I'm a big fan of the super-supportive front seats, finished in leather and Alcantara, but for mine, the carbon-look trimming is less effective, and feels thin and hard to the touch.
That said, Koda deserves props for sending the best front-seat design elements into the second row, and if you forget the RS stuff completely for a moment, you'll find the cabin to be a clean, comfortable and tech-focussed space, with the the big central screen especially giving the cabin a modern feel, and the switch gear all emitting a commendable sense of quality.
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.
The Kodiaq RS pulls of an incredible party trick in managing to not look like a cruise ship from outside the car, while also serving up a big and spacious-feeling cabin.
To be clear, the Kodiaq isn't small, stretching 4699mm in length, 1882 in width and 1685mm in height, but its crisp design ensures it never looks slab-sided, looking more like a five-seat SUV than it does a full-time seven-seater, like the Mazda CX-9.
Those riding up front have plenty of space to stretch out, with the two seats separated by a wide centre console toped by an armrest that slides backwards to reveal a really usable storage space below. There are pockets in each door and two cupholders between the seats, too.
The front seats are electronically adjustable, and there's wireless charging, a USB connection and everything else you might need to make your life a little easier (including umbrellas hidden in the front doors).
Space in the backseat is genuinely impressive, even for taller passengers. I'm 175cm (so no giant) and there was so much room between my knees and the seats in front I could cross my legs comfortably, and more than enough headroom, too.
Yes, space will get considerably tighter should you attempt to squeeze three adults in the second row, but should you instead deploy the seat divider (itself home to 2.5 tiny cupholders), you'll find the back seat a pleasant place to spend time.
For a start, the nicer cabin materials from the front make their way to the second row, and you'll also find air vents with their own temp controls, a 12-volt charge point, bottle holders in the doors and two ISOFIX attachment points, one in each window seat.
The third row is tighter, of course, but these are intended more as occasional jump seats rather than a permanent solution, and because the second row is on rails, there can be a surprising amount of leg room, provided the seats in front are pushed as far forward as they go.
Step around to the auto-opening boot and you'll 270 litres of space with the third row in place, 630 litres with the Skoda in five-seat mode, and a huge 2005 litres (to the roof) with the second row folded flat, too.
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 go-fast Kodiaq will set you back a not-insignificant $65,990(+$770 for metallic paint) - or about $12k more than the second most-expensive model in the lineup, the 132TSI Sportline - but Skoda's first RS-badged SUV does at least arrive with enough kit to ensure you won't be troubling the limited options list.
For that spend, you get that punchy diesel engine driving all four wheels, of course (and we'll drill down on that in just a moment), but you also get a host of performance kit, like a Dynamic Sound Boost amplified exhaust, adaptive dampers calibrated for the RS, and several drive modes, including Sport.
Outside, you'll find jumbo 20-inch 'XTREME' alloys, red brake calipers, LED automatic headlights, LED DRLs, rain-sensing wipers and a boot that opens automatically.
Inside, expect super-supportive leather-and-Alcantara sports seats, triple-zone climate control, an awesome 9.2-inch multimedia screen with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, Skoda's digital cockpit, wireless phone charging, heated seats in the first two rows and a solid Canton stereo.
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.
It's pared with a seven-speed DSG automatic, and power is sent to all four wheels.
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.
It's here that the joy of diesel power makes itself clear. The Skoda Kodiaq RS, with its seven seats and half-tonne of torque, will drink a claimed 6.2 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. Emissions are pegged at 167g/C02 per kilometre.
It means you should theoretically get close to 1000kms out of the Kodiaq's 60-litre fuel tank.
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.
When it comes to performance vehicles, we're usually the first to begin waggling our fingers at a car that's not loud enough, angry enough, stirring enough, to wear the hallowed go-fast crown.
Usually the "hot" part of a car's description refers to a booming exhaust, super show-off looks and a suspension tune stiff enough to double as one of those weight-loss vibrating plates. And yet the Skoda Kodiaq RS really does none of those things. And to be honest, it's a better car for it.
The more subtle way the Kodiaq approaches its sportiness perfectly suits the nature of a car like this. This is, after all, a (sometimes) seven-seat SUV, and so it will likely be spending a lot of it's time with a family on board. And having kids in the back is even less fun if they're bouncing off the roof lining every time you hit a bump.
In the Kodiaq, they won't be. In its Normal drive setting (you can also choose between Eco, Comfort, Sport, Snow or Individual), the Kodiaq definitely lingers on the firm side of comfortable, but not so much so that it neuters its worth as a family hauler.
And even when you engage Sport, the Kodiaq remains comfy enough. The exhaust perhaps takes on a more noticeable, artificial timber (thanks to the Dynamic Sound Boost function) and the car tightens, but it's never feels overly aggressive or sharp.
Skoda's engineering team has done a terrific job of minimising body movement here, and you can legitimately throw the Kodiaq up and down a twisting road without ever feeling sea sick when you get to the other end. So much so, in fact, that you can forget you're driving a 1.8-tonne, seven-seat SUV, the predictable steering and composed ride helping convince you you're in something much smaller and more nimble.
It's not lightning-quick, with the bi-turbo diesel propelling you to 100km/h in 7.0 seconds (1.2secs quicker than a 132TSI version), but there's more than enough punch to get you up and moving in a hurry, and the engine has a fine relationship wth the seven-speed gearbox, with shifts largely occurring when you want them to (though it can feel a tough jumpy when you first start it up in the morning).
It's like a performance for responsible adults, then. It won't blow your socks off, but it offers just enough of everything to keep you engaged on the right road.
The only lingering question you need to ask yourself, though, is does that make it worth the extra bucks over a petrol-powered car?
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.
There is a heap of stuff on offer here, with the Kodiaq RS really wanting for little on the safety front.
The regular Kodiaq already wears five-star ANCAP safety rating, which carries over to the RS, and you can expect nine airbags, adaptive cruise control, city AEB, a rear-view camera, Lane Assist, blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert and a driver fatigue monitor.
And if you're a nervous parallel parker, the Kodiaq RS will take care of that for you, too.
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 Kodiaq RS is covered by Skoda's five-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, with servicing required every 12 months or 15,000kms.
You can also pre-pay your servicing at the point of purchase, with five years costing $1700, and three years setting you back $900.
Skoda also offers a nifty guaranteed value program, which allows you to settle on a kilometre window when you purchase your vehicle, then return it to the dealership after three years with no more payments to make.