Kia Sportage VS Toyota C-HR
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Cool styling
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto added
- Bigger touchscreen now standard across range
- Visibility not great in the second row
- 1.2-litre petrol engine lacks oomph
- Manual transmission dropped from line-up
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.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
You know the Distracted Boyfriend internet meme? The one where the guy is checking out another lady while his disgusted girlfriend glares at him?
Now, if me actually attempting to translate a meme (and purely a visual gag at that) hasn’t put you off then chances are you’re likely to read this review about the updated C-HR which has just landed, looking like nothing has changed except for the price.
Well, there are changes – some are big such as the addition of a hybrid to the range and a new media system, and some aren’t as noticeable, like the tweaks to the C-HR’s face.
This review will take you through the new prices, reveal the features and safety tech, and tell you what it’s like to drive. And, I promise, no more meme explanations.
|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.
Not making huge design changes is very Toyota – look at the LandCruiser and the 86 – and if anything, keeping the same styling could improve the resale vale of you C-HR if you decide to part with it down the track. The changes that have been made are good ones: the new, bigger screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto; and a hybrid.
The sweet spot in the C-HR range is the FWD petrol entry grade, but if money had nothing to do with it, I’d pick the hybrid Koba for sure.
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.
Absolutely – just look at it. Toyota could have easily just done an SUV version of the Corolla and kept it conservative looking, but they’ve gone all out and risked creating something that might not be to everybody’s tastes, and the company should be commended for the bravery.
The C-HR’s styling is adventurous with that big, fat face, pumped-up wheel guards and protruding tail-lights. Tweaks in this update really are limited to redesigned front and rear bumpers.
I’m a fan of two-tone roofs on all cars and the option to get it on the C-HR enhances the puffed-up body.
I’d say the C-HR has the most interesting cabin of all current Toyotas. Take a close look at the images of the interior with its textured materials and diamond patterns. The new bigger screen really is the only change to the cabin in this update.
You can spot a top-of-the-range Koba from the entry grade C-HR by the privacy glass and larger 18-inch alloy wheels.
The C-HR isn’t a big SUV. Want the dimensions? The C-HR is 4309mm long, 1795mm wide and 1565mm tall. Ah, but is it practical? Let’s talk about that below.
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 answer varies between “oh, wow” and “oh, dear”. Oh, wow in terms of rear legroom, because even at 191cm tall I can sit behind my driving position with space to spare (even headroom is good); also, in terms of boot space – because there’s 377 litres.
Oh, dear in terms of the cool-looking rear door handles being so high (small children might not be able to reach them) and the how visibility is reduced for those sitting in the second row by the way the window line kicks up.
That said, cabin storage is good with four cupholders (two in the back and two up front), decent-sized door pockets, a deep centre console bin and a large hidey hole in front of the shifter.
What’s missing? Not much. Wireless charging would be good, but still there’s a 12-volt outlet and a USB port.
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 updated C-HR comes with a small price increase. The update also sees the manual variant dropped from the C-HR line-up. This leaves the front-wheel drive (FWD) base-spec C-HR with the auto transmission as the entry point into the model and the price of this has increased by $550 to $29,540, while the all-wheel drive (AWD) costs another $2000.
The Koba grade with FWD now starts at $33,940 (a $650 increase), with the AWD commanding that $2000 price premium.
New to the range and now the priciest C-HR is the FWD Koba Hybrid at $36,440.
Coming standard on the entry-level C-HR is an 8.0-inch touchscreen (which replaced the previous 6.1-inch display), sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, dual-zone climate control, six-speaker stereo, fabric seats, LED headlights and running lights, and 17-inch alloy wheels.
Stepping up to the Koba adds 18-inch alloys, privacy glass, leather upholstery, heated front seats, panoramic camera and proximity unlocking.
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 C-HR comes with a choice of petrol engine and, new with this update, a hybrid system.
The petrol variant has a 1.2-litre turbo four-cylinder engine making 85kW/185Nm. Unfortunately, a manual gearbox isn’t offered any more, but there is a CVT auto and you can choose between a two-wheel drive or AWD.
The hybrid combines a 1.8-litre four-cylinder petrol engine (72kW/142Nm) and an electric motor (53kW/163Nm). Toyota says the combined power output of the engine and motor is 90kW. A CVT auto does the honours here, too.
The C-HR is screaming out for a powertrain that offers more grunt – imagine a Gazoo Racing variant?
Until that happens my pick is the hybrid, the little nudges of torque the electric motor provides while cruising along are great and you’ll save fuel, too. Read about that next.
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.
Let’s start with the petrol C-HR. Toyota says the FWD car should use 6.4L/100km over a combination of open and urban roads while the AWD uses a smidge more at 6.5L/100km. The petrol engine requires 95 RON premium unleaded.
The hybrid (which is FWD only) is the mileage hero with Toyota saying the combined fuel economy is 4.3L/100km. Urban fuel economy is even better at 3.8L/100km. The petrol engine used in the hybrid system requires 91 RON unleaded.
The Australian launch of the C-HR was on country roads – the hilly, winding, fast sort which should really use up lots of petrol, but after 50km the trip computer said the hybrid C-HR was using an average of 4.9L/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.
Don’t dismiss the C-HR as being all about the way it looks. This is one of the best driving small SUVs at this price point. There are more popular ones which don’t ride, steer or handle anywhere near as well as the C-HR, and that’s down to the new-generation platform which also underpins the new-gen Corolla.
Until this update only the 1.2-litre turbo petrol was available in Australia and now the hybrid variant has arrived to join it.
I drove them back-to-back at the Australian launch and was reminded how the 1.2-litre with the CVT just seemed to lack the oomph that this SUV could easily handle.
There’s a 2.0-litre version of the car in the United States and I can’t help but feel we’ve been shortchanged in missing out on that gruntier car.
The hybrid became my pick of the two and not just because it’s way more fuel efficient - it was more fun to drive. I enjoyed the little nudges the electric motor gave when I dabbed accelerator while cruising.
Dab the accelerator in the petrol-only C-HR and as with most turbocharged cars there’s a lag or delay and with a CVT there’s a lot of noise before anything happens. The responsiveness from the hybrid won me over.
The suspension in the hybrid C-HR is different to the petrol, too. The hybrid car’s ride felt softer and more comfortable while the petrol sibling was firmer and a bit sportier feeling.
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 Toyota C-HR scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2017. Coming standard across the range is advanced safety equipment such as AEB with pedestrian detection, active cruise control, lane departure alert with steering assistance, auto high beam, and blind spot monitor with rear cross traffic alert.
All C-HRs also come with seven airbags, a reversing camera and front and rear parking sensors.
For child seats there are three top tether points and two ISOFIX points across the second row.
Both grades come with a space saver spare wheel under the boot floor.
Kia continues to lead the pack with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which is two years more than the acceptable segment standard. That’s also backed by eight years of roadside assist if you service at an authorised dealer.
There’s also a comprehensive capped-price-servicing program for the life of the warranty, averaging out to a not-particularly-cheap $391.71 per year for the 2.0L petrol, $408.14 for the 2.4L petrol, or $511.43 for the diesel.
The Sportage will have a battle on its hands in the coming years, with fellow Korean competitor, Ssangyong, looking to launch its new-generation Korando with a highly competitive seven-year ownership program.
The C-HR is covered by Toyota’s five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty. Hybrid versions are also covered by the same warranty including the battery.
Servicing of the petrol and hybrid variants is recommended annually or every 15,000km with the first four services capped at $195.