Kia Sportage VS Toyota Fortuner
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Sturdy, unusual looking 4x4 wagon
- Price cuts make it better value
- Quiet and comfy on-road
- No driver aids anywhere in lineup
- Engine works hard up the rev range
- Third row seating compromises practicality
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|
If you remember the Toyota 4Runner from the 1980s, then you’ll totally get the Fortuner.
For those of you born before the advent of the mobile phone, the Fortuner wagon is based on the same platform as the HiLux ute, save for its coil-spring rear suspension.
The cost of a Toyota Fortuner has taken a huge cut for the 2018 model year, and it’s gained a couple of tweaks along the way. Let’s do a model comparison of the range in more detail.
|Engine Type||2.8L 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.
Toyota Fortuner 7.4/10
Dropping the price of the Fortuner range will improve its fortunes – but it will no doubt upset customers who bought them at first blush.
The Fortuner is an interesting device; it’s civil enough around town but its skillset really lies in the bush or the snow. While the entry grade GX is the pick if you’re intending to use it in the dirt a lot, we’d probably favour the mid-grade GXL if we were staying on the tarmac for the most part. The Crusade is nice, but its spec level over and above the GXL isn’t that compelling – although the LED headlights are brilliant.
Is Toyota's Fortuner on your seven seat 4WD SUV short-list? Tell us 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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The exterior design of modern 4x4 wagons runs the gamut from the straight-bat Isuzu MU-X all the way through to the radical and unorthodox Mitsubishi Pajero Sport.
The Fortuner sits somewhere between those two extremes. It's certainly not something that you'd miss in a car park, but it's not quite as… erm, challenging as something like the Pajero Sport.
The LED headlight array and extra chrome on the Crusade may not appeal to some, but as a package, the Fortuner looks futuristic and quite resolved, without the need for a bodykit (except side steps).
Inside, it manages to hide its commercial origins quite well across all three grades. However, there are still some hard plastics within view, including on top of the door cards and centre console bin, which can be irritating should you rest your elbow there on longer trips.
Thankfully, we can report, that the centre console bin lid is padded in the Crusade. Cheaper versions of the Fortuner have seen us actually tape pieces of foam mat on top of the lid in the search for extra comfort.
It's a bit early to talk second hand price, but the Fortuner will take a hit in resale thanks to the cut.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
In terms of dimensions and size, the 4795mm-long Fortuner is a centimetre longer and 30mm wider than the Pajero Sport, but it’s almost 100mm shorter than the big Everest.
It’s sold as a seven-seater, with two fold-down seats in the rear (folding up and into the sides of the cargo area).
It’s not a very practical way to carry them when stowed, though, as the folded seats intrude into the rear interior dimensions significantly. A flimsy hook arrangement secures them in the locked position, and you even need to fold down the inside seat rail before locking them into place.
Boot space drops to 200 litres when the third-row seats are in use, as well, but boot dimensions grow to 1080 litres with the seats stowed. Still, they are a luggage capacity killer. No cargo barrier is fitted.
Once locked in place, the third row can be accessed by tumbling second-row seats forward, but given how low they’re mounted, are only suitable for smaller people.
The second row gets roof vents and a fan control, but there’s no such joy for third rowers. All three rows are covered with the curtain airbag, though.
Row two gets a 12-volt power socket (as well as a proper 220-volt socket in the Crusade) while a pair of fold-up hooks in the front seat backs can handle up to four kilos of shopping bags each.
Legroom is adequate, though the seat base is mounted quite high which intrudes on headroom for taller passengers.
There’s a pair of ISOFIX mounts for a baby car seat and three top-tether points, as well as two cupholders in the centre armrest and bottle holders in each rear door.
Up front, meanwhile, reside a pair of manually operated seats in GX and GXL, and a powered driver’s seat in the Crusade, while an oddly half-wrapped steering wheel on GXL and Fortuner wasn’t a favourite with testers; the shiny veneer finish at the top of the wheel rim was decidedly slippery if grabbed during a parking manoeuvre.
Bottles can be stashed in all doors, while a pair of cupholders graces our auto-equipped tester’s centre console. However, manual-equipped cars miss out on front cupholders all together.
A USB and 12-volt socket are covered by rubber flaps, which along with the heavy duty rubberised floor mats are a hint to the car’s rugged aspirations.
On the negative side, the middle belt on the second row is mounted in the roof, and is a pain to access. It’s a long way up into the cabin from the ground for shorter folks, too, while the folded-up third row seats completely obscure the rear three-quarter windows when stashed.
The centre console bin, too, isn’t padded in the GX and GXL, and as mentioned, gets VERY annoying under your elbow after a couple of hours.
The bonnet, too, is ridiculously heavy. In fact, many people may struggle to lift it high enough to lock the support stay into place.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
The Fortuner comes in three grades, all with the same engine and four-wheel drive (4WD) set-up. How many seats, you ask? Seven, all told.
At the bottom of the price range, the GX costs $42,590 in six-speed manual guise or $44,590 with a six-speed auto. That’s a hefty $5400 cut in price, and it’s been slightly improved for 2018, with 17-inch alloy rims instead of steel wheels, and a set of rear parking sensors to complement the reversing camera.
LED taillights, air con, a cloth interior, cruise control, a chilled bin, a 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system and seven seats are all standard. A polyurethane steering wheel, basic multimedia system with Bluetooth (but no nav or Apple Carplay/Android Auto) and rubber mats round out the spec. The old-school radio CD player is a thing of the past, and there's no DVD player.
The $47,490 Fortuner GXL is the beneficiary of a $5500 price cut; it’s now as cheap as the GX was at launch.
Toyota has added a new multimedia touchscreen system, incorporating satellite navigation, to the 2.8-litre turbo-diesel powered GXL, which comes stock with a six-speed manual gearbox. Also on the standard equipment list are, LED tail-lights, air conditioning, cloth interior, a chilled centre console bin, the aforementioned 7.0-inch touchscreen multimedia system with a GPS-based navigation system and Bluetooth, as well as seven seats.
It also has push-button start with automatic door lock and keyless entry, roof racks, a colour TFT display for the dash, hill descent control, roof rails and fog lights over the GX. A half-leather wrapped steering wheel and old-fashioned rubber mats round out the spec.
A six-speed auto is $2000, while an all-leather interior with powered front seats is available for an additional $2500, if you're looking to know how much.
The list price of the Crusade is $5000 cheaper at $56,990, and only comes in auto. It offers a few extras on top of the GXL, including leather seats with heated fronts, padded centre console bin lid and a powered driver’s pew, a JBL-branded multimedia system with 11 speakers, daytime running lights, smart key and more satin-touch interior finishes including around the gearshift.
As with all the Fortuners, it comes with a locking rear diff and high-low range 4WD. Other niceties in the Crusade include a powered tailgate, but no sunroof is offered from the factory.
When it comes to picking one of the three, we’d lean towards the auto-equipped GXL. It has all the essentials with a few nice touches, and really only misses out on a padded centre console bin lid in terms of comfort.
When it comes to colours, the Fortuner comes in black, white, blue, brown, red, grey and silver.
Toyota offers a factory-approved accessories, including a bullbar, snorkel and nudge bar for the Fortuner. Floor mats are rubber, and rims are alloy. You'll need to source your own dual battery system if you want one.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
The (1GD-FTV) 2.8-litre turbo four-cylinder diesel, sourced from the HiLux, offers the same engine specifications, with maximum power of 130kW at 3400rpm and peak torque of 420Nm between 1400 and 2600rpm in manual guise. The automatic version loses 30Nm of that torque value.
If you're wondering if the engine uses a timing belt or chain, it uses the latter. Oil capacity is 7.5 litres. Toyota doesn't offer a 0-100km/h acceleration speed figure for the car.
Linked to an Aisin-built six-speed manual with a well-weighted clutch, it’s a relatively quiet and pleasingly smooth, tractable engine. The six-speed (conventional, torque converter) auto, too, is well matched to the engine's horsepower, and the steering wheel-mounted gearshift paddles were rarely, if ever, employed.
If it came to a question of manual vs automatic, we'd plump for the self-shifter every time.
The Fortuner range comes with a high range 2WD/4WD and low-range 4WD system activated by a dial on the centre console, while a locking rear diff is also standard. As mentioned, suspension is steel springs and dampers, with MacPherson struts up front and a beam set-up at the rear. There is no rear air suspension.
The manual variant also offers a slightly higher braked towing capacity of 3000kg, versus the auto’s 2800kg.
Weights for the car vary between 2110kg and 2135kg, and the gross vehicle mass (car plus payload, including people) is 2750kg – with four average people on board, you’ve got about 400kg of payload to play with.
The gross combined mass (car, trailer, gear and people) for the two transmissions is 5745kg (manual) and 5545kg (auto), meaning the Fortuner can legally tow 2995kg or 2795kg of trailer respectively when it’s fully loaded.
Downball weight (the weight pushing down on the towbar ball hitch) is 250kg, and Toyota recommends the fitting of a weight distribution hitch if you’re hooking up something biggish. Watch this space for a tow test review.
There have been reported problems with the automatic transmission, with fixes in place to improve oil flow via changing a lock ball pin for fifth and sixth gears. As well, the tailshaft in some Fortuners has needed aligning to fix a gear selection problem.
There is no evidence of engine problems with the turbo powered Fortuner at this stage, though anecdotal evidence of fuel injectors lasting only 100,000km has been called out in various user groups.
There are no other common problems, complaints, defects or issues of note.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Against a claim of 7.8 litres per 100km on the combined fuel economy cycle for all three grades and both transmissions, we used 66 litres of diesel to achieve a real-world figure of 8.9L/100km over 756km of testing in the GXL.
The dash-indicated fuel consumption figures of 8.6 and 8.9 in the GX and Crusade bear out this claim.
There is an 'Eco' mode button on the dash, but it only changes the throttle map and doesn't really do much for economy; we used it for about 200km on a highway stint and mileage didn't improve noticeably.
When it comes to petrol vs diesel or LPG... wait, it doesn't matter. You'll never get a petrol version.
Its 80-litre tank offers a theoretical range of around 1000km between fills. No long range tank is fitted.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All three cars are essentially the same underneath, save for the 17-inch rims on the GX. The Crusade’s 18-inch wheels are fitted with more road-biased tyres, as well.
Instead of load-lugging leaf springs as in the HiLux, the Fortuner uses coil springs and a beam axle to improve ride quality.
We took the GXL for a an extended test, and it was a comfortable and competent alternative to a more car-based SUV.
It’s noisier inside thanks to its dual-purpose tyres, there’s no digital speedo (a strange omission, given there’s a multi-function digital centre screen between the dash gauges), the steering could be more precise at the speed limit, and modern safety aids like adaptive cruise control and blind spot warning would have been nice to have, but we emerged after each leg in good condition.
The long-travel suspension is firm at low speeds, but frees up the faster you go, providing a more comfortable ride over square-edged bumps and rougher roads.
Steering is reasonably direct, though not especially precise, and you need a steady hand to stop it wandering off centre – a trait of most 4WDs of this size, to be fair.
The 2.8-litre turbo-diesel feels strong at part-throttle, and the long travel accelerator pedal is easy to modulate. The engine sounds and feels laboured when it’s put under load, though, and runs out of steam as it nears 3000rpm. Blame the engine size - we're all used to bigger, leggier diesels.
Outside noise is well suppressed inside the cabin, and visibility is largely okay, save for the rear three-quarter view which is completely blocked by those stowed third-row seats.
To test its off-road ability, we ran the Fortuner up and down steep, rutted, gravel-strewn fire roads that would easily defeat a stock SUV. With its locking diff, on-demand low- and high-range 4WD, and a hill-descent switch, the Fortuner was far from troubled, walking down the slope with ease and climbing up again in H4 without drama.
Its ground clearance is 225mm (not 279mm as first stated by Toyota at launch), and has a wading depth of 700mm. Its turning radius is 11.2m.
Its 80-litre tank and approximately 1000km range may not be large enough for remote explorers, though.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 7/10
All grades of Fortuner miss out on AEB, park assist, adaptive cruise control and lane departure warning, but seven airbags, a reverse camera and sensors as well as stability and traction control means it still scores a top five-star ANCAP safety features rating.
It offers trailer sway control as standard across the range, as well as hill descent control on the GXL and Crusade grades.
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.
Toyota Fortuner 8/10
Toyota offers a fixed service cost program for the Fortuner, which costs $240 per service for the first six services over three years or 60,000km.
Service intervals of 12 months or 10,000km are recommended, and a warranty of three years/100,000km is provided as standard. Toyota doesn't offer extended warranty, but the brand is well regarded for reliability. Just make sure your owner's manual is stamped.
A mid-grade GXL auto bought new in 2016 has lost around 20 per cent if you're looking at resale value.