The Kia Sportage
is used to taking down tough opposition. When we last tested it back in Issue 1,187, it went toe-to-toe with Volkswagen’s Tiguan – and won by a slender margin. So the Kia presents a tough challenge to the new Subaru.
Desirability isn’t easy to define, but it can be a key factor in this style-conscious market – and the Sportage has it in abundance. The car in our pictures is a KX-2, but the KX-3 tested has glitzy details like chrome glass surrounds, LED running lights and 18-inch alloys. But while it’s just as extrovert as the XV, the Kia has broader appeal with its more cohesive design.
This isn’t a case of style over substance, though. Open one of the reassuringly heavy doors and you’re greeted by a cabin that’s miles ahead of the Subaru’s. A logical, attractive dash layout, simple stereo and climate control switches plus high-grade plastics all make the Sportage feel like a top-quality product.
What’s more, the KX-3 comes with luxurious extras like heated front and rear seats, a panoramic sunroof, chilled glovebox and leather. Even if you opt for the KX-3 Sat-Nav flagship, with touchscreen sat-nav, it’s still £675 cheaper.
The head-turning looks don’t require any sacrifices to practicality, either. A flatter floor means it’s easier to fit three people across the rear bench than in the Subaru, and well thought-out touches such as the elastic load net in the boot and long straps that release the folding seats give it greater versatility.
It helps that there’s an extra 184 litres of boot space and the wide, low loading lip means it’s easier to slide bulky items on board than in the XV.
The Sportage weighs a huge 185kg more than the XV, at 1,600kg, and you can really feel the difference once you’re on the road. While the Kia’s steering is heavier and takes longer to respond to the driver’s inputs, surprisingly the extra weight gives a planted, secure feel that’s welcome in a big, sturdy SUV. The car seems just as punchy in-gear as the Subaru, and even beat its rival in our braking tests.
It’s handy off-road, too, with gadgets such as hill descent control and a locking diff making up for its lower ground clearance. It also sends most of the power to the front wheels during normal driving to help save fuel, which is why it matched the XV’s 35mpg.
Subaru has countered Kia’s class-leading warranty with its new Everything Taken Care Of aftersales scheme. This three-year package covers minor dent repairs, lost keys, roadside assistance and the first MoT, and even includes a monthly valet.
But Kia’s seven-year deal helps the Sportage’s long-term residuals, making it a more attractive prospect and leaving it odds-on for victory in this test.
Chart position: 1WHY: The stylish Sportage is one of the best crossovers around. It’s smart, comfortable and spacious, and the powerful 4WD version has the best dynamics in the range.