Kia Sportage VS Volkswagen Tiguan
- Great ride
- Good standard safety
- Great standard features
- Rivals offer AWD cheaper
- Full safety suite on GT-Line only
- Petrol engine thirsty
- Spacious cabin
- Big boot
- Feels plush
- Safety pack still optional on base car
- Expensive servicing
- Low speed hesitancy
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 lower grades of the Volkswagen Tiguan range have been removed, with the German brand deciding to focus on high-end customers in the mid-size SUV segment with a petrol-only, all-wheel-drive-only line-up.
The five-seat Tiguan model range was pared back to just two models for 2019 - the 132TSI Comfortline and the 162TSI Highline, which were the best-sellers though 2017 and 2018 anyway. And then there’s the special-edition Wolfsburg version, which we have here.
|Engine Type||2.0L 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 Volkswagen Tiguan 2019 may be more expensive than in previous years, but that better reflects its standing as one of the best mid-sized SUVs in the segment.
If you splurge on the 162TSI you’ll be getting a quicker family hauler, but it may not be essential to your needs. The value on offer in the 132TSI Comfortline is hard to ignore, too. But if you want the best-looking version, you really ought to get in quick to snap up one of the 500 Wolfsburg Edition versions.
Do you think VW has made the right move by dumping base models and diesels? Tell us what you think in the comments section 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.
The 2019 Tiguan range does away with one of the most disappointing elements it had since launch - halogen headlights. Now, with only two grades permanently available, LED headlights and daytime running lights are standard. Thank you, VW.
The exterior design of the Tiguan line-up is largely unchanged compared with when this generation launched in Australia back in 2016, so it’s probably due for a mid-life facelift soon. But even so, it still looks pretty fresh, and in Wolfsburg spec it gets people’s attention.
I’ve always been partial to the R-Line package on the Tiguan, which essentially adds a lower body kit to it. Admittedly there’s no outlandish rear spoiler or rear diffuser, and with ground clearance of 201mm you won’t need side steps. VW Australia has previously offered the more off-road focused Adventure model with underbody protection, if that’s your persuasion.
It manages to look sporty but still be smart, with a big glasshouse that doesn’t taper up like some - meaning better vision for the driver and rear occupants. The piano-black exterior trim highlights look terrific… if you can keep the car clean.
In terms of dimensions, the Tiguan is 4486mm long on a 2681mm wheelbase, 1839mm wide and 1658mm tall. The length extends by 4mm and the width by 20mm for the R-Line pack, because of the body kit, and the track is 10mm wider front and rear, too.
Remember, if you need more size, there’s always the Tiguan Allspace, which has a seven-seat layout but is a bit longer and taller to allow for more generous interior dimensions.
Check out the images to see if you like the R-Line leather trim of the Wolfsburg, or would prefer cloth.
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 VW Tiguan is one of the most practical SUVs in its segment, with tremendous use of the space available.
The cabin is comfortable and considered, with good storage throughout: there are big lined pockets with bottle holders for all four doors, map pockets in the back, a spot for your phone/wallet/keys in front of the gear shifter, and the cup holder count is good: two (plus a bit of extra space) up front, and two in the back in the fold-down armrest.
The media screen in the high-spec model lacks a volume knob, which can be annoying for passengers (the driver has controls on the steering wheel), but otherwise the system is pretty good. Our car had no issues with Bluetooth phone pairing or audio streaming, the nav system was pretty simple to use, and the phone mirroring (Apple CarPlay / Android Auto) worked great. The sound system is pretty good, too.
The presentation of the cabin is classy and simple, with a nice mix of materials across the high part of the dashboard, predictable placement of intuitive controls, and, with that bigger media screen, it looks plush enough.
The seats offer a decent range of adjustment and are reasonably comfortable, if a little flat when it comes to side bolsters. In the back, there is more than enough space for someone my size (182cm) to sit behind a similarly sized occupant up front, with good knee and foot room, while headroom is superb. And yes, you can fit three adults across if you need to.
The boot space is excellent, with up to 615 litres (VDA) of luggage capacity available with five seats up, and 1655L with them folded down.
The boot dimensions are also flexible in size because the second row slides fore and aft, meaning if you have tall backseat occupants you can shrink the boot space a little to improve legroom - and even in that setup the boot is bigger than a Mazda CX-5’s. There’s a cargo cover blind and you can get a boot liner if you need it, and there’s a space-saver spare wheel under the floor, too.
Of course, if all that isn’t enough storage space you can fit roof racks and a cargo box to the roof rails.
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 lack of any entry-grade models means the price list and RRP range for the VW Tiguan 2019 line-up is higher than many competitor SUVs, like the Mazda CX-5, Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. So, how much does it cost?
The model comparison is simple enough - it’s the 132TSI Comfortline vs the 162TSI Highline. Well, for the ‘regular' range, anyway.
The 132TSI lists at $42,490, and it has a lengthy standard features list, including 18-inch alloy wheels, LED headlights with LED daytime running lights (yep, no bi-xenon headlights here!), front fog lights, a power tailgate, keyless entry and push-button start, three-zone climate control air conditioning, cruise control, auto headlights and auto wipers, electric folding side mirrors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, cloth seat trim and a tyre-pressure-monitoring system.
Multimedia needs are met through an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen with GPS sat nav, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto - so you can plug your iPhone or other device in to mirror its screen - three USB ports, and of course there’s Bluetooth phone and audio streaming as well. No Tiguan has digital DAB radio capability, nor a DVD player, but there is a CD player to pump the tunes through eight speakers.
If you want, there’s a sort of comfort pack that VW calls the 'Luxury Package', which adds leather trim, electric seat adjustment, heated front seats and a sunroof ($4000).
Stepping up to the 162TSI means a price increase to $49,490, but this improves the standard-gadgets list.
Highlights include 19-inch alloy wheels, LED tail-lights, leather seats, heated front seats with electric adjustment and memory settings, heated outboard rear seats, a bigger screen (9.2-inch) for the navigation system, ambient interior lighting, the convenience of auto high-beam lighting with anti-dazzle function (Dynamic Light Assist), adaptive cruise control and adaptive chassis control.
For a limited time there’s also the Wolfsburg Edition 162TSI, with 500 examples offered. It costs $55,490 and adds plenty of additional desirable equipment.
The Wolfsburg adds the high-tech Sound & Vision Package (with the digital instrument cluster that VW calls Active Info Display, a surround-view camera, Dynaudio sound system with nine speakers and a subwoofer, and ambient interior lighting), the R-Line Package (R-Line body styling and interior trim, 20-inch alloy wheels in black, and VW’s ‘progressive steering’ system), plus further black exterior trim elements, dark window tint, and a head-up display. There’s a Wolfsburg badge at the back, and the choice of Oryx White Pearlescent, Deep Black Pearl or Indium Grey Metallic for your paint colours.
The regular 2019 Tiguan range has six colours to choose from: Pure White, Tungsten Silver Metallic, Indium Grey Metallic, Atlantic Blue Metallic and Ruby Red Metallic. There’s no gold to be seen, and the orange that was offered earlier on has been axed, too.
Both trim levels get floor mats as standard, so there’s no need to look at the accessories list for those - and while there are heat insulating tinted windows, you can get dark tint on the high-grade. Other options include 19-inch rims, a towbar kit, roof bars with a roof box (there are roof rails as stand on both grades). You’ll need to shop around the aftermarket for a light bar, bull bar or nudge bar.
How many seats does a Tiguan have? Five… unless you choose the Tiguan Allspace, which has third-row seating. There’s a space-saver spare with tool kit under the boot floor of all Tiguans.
No model comes with a heated steering wheel, but you can option a panoramic sunroof ($2000).
Safety goes beyond lane assist and ESP - read the section below for the full breakdown.
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.
Engine specs are easily dealt with this time around, because the 2019 Tiguan range has two turbocharged petrol powerplants, both with the same engine size (2.0-litre) but different horsepower tunes.
The entry-grade 132TSI sits at the bottom of the specifications tree, with ratings of 132kW of power an 320Nm of torque, and you don’t need to think about whether to choose a manual transmission or automatic transmission, because it only comes with a seven-speed dual-clutch (DSG) auto.
The next model up is much the same: the 162TSI has a 2.0-litre turbo-petrol, seven-speed DSG auto, AWD. But as the name suggests, it has 162kW of power and 350Nm of torque.
Wondering if each has a timing belt or chain? The answer is a chain.
If you really have a hankering for a 4x2 or front-wheel-drive version of the Tiguan, you’ll need to look for a 2017 or 2018 model, likewise if you have a desire for a turbo diesel or a manual gearbox. Maybe have a look at the seven-seat VW Tiguan Allspace?
At this stage there’s still no plug-in hybrid Tiguan on sale, and there won’t be an LPG version. And while the diesel models were better for consumption, the fuel-tank capacity is a decent size for these petrol models at 60 litres.
The gross vehicle weight isn’t specified by VW, but we can tell you the towing capacity if you plan to fit a towbar: it’s 750kg for an un-braked trailer and 2500kg for a braked trailer - decent pulling power, but this isn’t a towing review.
Check our Volkswagen Tiguan problems page for any historical diesel problems (including diesel particulate filter), automatic gearbox problems/4x4 transmission issues, or any well-known concerns with the turbo, battery, clutch, suspension, engine (even injector issues!). You will even find concerns relating to the existing model’s engine with a turbo and supercharger. And be sure to check your owner’s manual for info like oil type and capacity . If you think there’s excessive oil consumption, consult your VW dealership.
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.
Neither of these two petrol models can quite match the existing diesel fuel economy and mileage, but both offer good fuel consumption.
The 132TSI has a claimed consumption figure of 7.5 litres per 100 kilometres, while the higher-output 162TSI uses 8.1L/100km (claimed). Both require 95RON premium unleaded. There’s no eco-mode button, but there are different drive modes - we’ll get to that in a sec.
On test in the 162TSI Wolfsburg model, we saw 8.4L/100km over a week of mixed driving. I’d be very happy with that if I bought one.
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.
Having driven the 132TSI model previously, I can tell you that it has enough go to get the job done for the vast majority of families. It has strong response in-gear, although there’s some low-speed hesitation from the transmission.
That might mean you find it hard to justify the extra expense to get into the 162TSI model. If you forget the extra spec, the additional 30kW/30Nm probably isn’t worth $6500 to most people.
But if money isn’t that big of a concern for you, the 162TSI Highline - or, better yet, the Wolfsburg Edition - is worth spending up on.
It’s not just the power and torque from the 2.0-litre engine, which revs a little more freely and has noticeably more gusto when you push it hard - you also get adaptive dampers, which allow you to tailor the drive experience a little more, including a Sport mode that stiffens things up for twisty sections.
In most situations the ride is well sorted - even in the most aggressive setting it doesn’t feel crashy or harsh, but don’t expect it to be too cushy, either. I spent the majority of my time in Normal mode, but there’s also Eco, Comfort, Sport and Individual.
In Comfort there’s a marked softness to things, even on the 20-inch wheels around city streets, although the front suspension is a little more prone to thumping into bumps than the rear suspension.
There’s also Snow and Ice mode - great for the cooler months, as it adapts the throttle response and transmission behaviour to ensure better traction. Plus there’s Off-Road and Off-Road Individual, and the off-road capability in the 2018 Tiguan 132TSI Adventure model I tested was pretty good - even with a ground-clearance figure (201mm) that is less than some of its competitors.
But an off-road review wasn’t the focus this time around. If I were interested in using a Tiguan for more extending driving off the beaten track, I’d be fitting some smaller wheels (maybe 17 inch alloys), some off-road tyres and wheel-arch extensions. Maybe even a lift kit?
And in Wolfsburg guise, you also get the progressive steering system, which is both more involving at higher speeds and easier at lower speeds.
For the geeks out there, this variable-ratio system allows you to apply 101 degrees less lock for the same outcome as a car without it. It is super easy to pivot the car when parking, and because it has a bit more assistance than a regular Tiguan at speed, it feels more direct in the bends. The steering weight is hefty in Sport mode, but easier to manipulate in Eco or Comfort.
There is a cost beyond the initial expense; you’ll use a touch more fuel, and you’ll have to pay a little extra in servicing. But if you value a really nice drive experience, the Wolfsburg could be worth your money.
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 Tiguan safety rating according to ANCAP is five stars. It was tested in September 2016 but that score remains intact for this model year, too.
What about features? The two-tier Tiguan range comes with a standard-fit reversing camera, front and rear parking sensors, and there are seven airbags (dual front, front side, driver's knee and full-length curtain coverage).
Other equipment includes auto emergency braking (AEB), manoeuvre braking (where the car can brake if the rear sensors detect an obstacle), self parking (parallel and perpendicular bay park assist), driver fatigue detection, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assistance (the car will steer you into your lane if it needs to), and multi-collision brake (a system that applies the brakes if you have an accident, lessening the chance of further damage).
For the 132TSI there’s a 'Driver Assistance' pack for $1400, which includes adaptive cruise control, lane-changing assistant, a system called 'Emergency Assist' that can stop the car if the driver is unresponsive, and rear cross-traffic alert. The 162TSI has all of that as standard.
There are dual ISOFIX baby seat anchors and three top-tether points for child seats.
Where is the VW Tiguan built? Germany is the answer.
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.
Volkswagen has joined the mainstream fray in offering five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty for all models - not only is that good for current owners, but because the warranty is transferable, resale value might be a little better, too.
On top of that, the average service cost is high for the Tiguan. We did the maths on maintenance costs, with the 132TSI averaging out at $635.60 per visit over the first five years, and the 162TSI a little dearer again, at $646.80. Intervals are every 12 months/15,000km.
Concerned about common problems, faults, issues, waiting time, complaints, reliability issues? It could be of value to read out VW Tiguan problems page before you sign on the dotted line.