Both formidable contenders for the "best in class" accolade, the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson are well-established, mid-size, family-orientated SUVs that have both enjoyed a reasonable degree of popularity in the Australian market to date.
Closely matched in many respects, it's the little differences that ultimately tip the scales in favour of one or the other. Here we take an in-depth look at both vehicles, covering the main pros and cons of each, as well as giving our final verdict on the preferred choice.
The Kia Sportage
Benefiting from a sporty restyling and ready to hit the showrooms later on this year, the revitalised Sportage has also had a bit of an interior makeover, as well as the incorporation of fresh safety features and some useful tech.
A key feature of the 2021 Sportage is an updated exterior (including new LED headlights and rear combination lights, an updated grille), and alloy wheels.
Beefed up safety is always a powerful plus, particularly in a vehicle that's aimed at a family audience: Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB), a reinforced chassis design, lane-keeping assist, and an Intelligent Parking Assist System (IPAS) make for a good range of safety improvements that ensure a solid, 5-star ANCAP rating.
Interior and exterior design
As indicated earlier, the most recent version of the Sportage has had a few exterior improvements, most noticeably lighting upgrades. If you like the old-style Sportage, you'll probably like this new version: the differences just aren't that marked.
The interior has been upgraded with some material swaps and a fresh, frameless 20cm screen - again, small improvements that add value, but aren't a major departure from previous incarnations. The cabin layout is designed to optimise space, which is a significant advantage in an SUV.
The Sportage engine comes in three variants: a 114kw 2.0l petrol version (in the S, the SX, and the SX+); a 135kw 2.4l petrol engine (in the 2021 GT version); and a 136kw turbo-diesel option (available in the S, the SX, the GT, and the SX+). All-wheel drive is an option for the Sportages with the 2.4l petrol engine or the turbo-diesel, but not for vehicles with the 2.0l petrol engine, which is a shame.
Fuel efficiency is disappointingly average: around 7.9l/100km for the 2.0l version, then 8.5l/100km for the 2.4l petrol option and 6.4l/100km for the diesel turbo.
Kia do well with their tech, and the Sportive incorporates a good selection of features that ensures the Sportage is in line with other cars in its class.
Bluetooth steering wheel controls, compatibility with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (including voice recognition), a full-colour touchscreen, Satnav, and a JBL Premium Sound System (in the SX, SX+, and GT)all add value to the driving experience. This is all good stuff, but it's not exactly revolutionary - essentially, the tech is little changed from previous versions.
With a 5-star ANCAP rating, there's little doubt that the Sportage is a car that's safe to drive. AES, passenger airbags, a reinforced chassis, side door impact beams, speed sensing auto door lock, lane-keeping assist, electronic stability control, and reverse parking sensors are just a few of the innovations that add security to Sportive travel.
Unfortunately, and unfathomably, the hi-tech safety features contained in the full safety suite are only available in the GT model. Given that safety is always a priority with SUV drivers, it's odd that the more innovative safety features are rationed to the sportier version only.
Compared with 2020, when a new Sportage would set you back somewhere between $28,990 and $40,000, price rises have been minimal. Entry-level 2021 Sportages are still around the $28,990 mark, but the introduction of the GT means that a top-of-the-range Sportage will cost about $48,490.
The Hyundai Tucson
More safety features and a stunning exterior are always plus points, and in both these areas, the 2021 Tucson doesn't disappoint. Throw in the handy size (big enough to be spacious yet with the compact dimensions needed to be manageable in an urban environment), and some competitive fuel efficiency and this is an SUV that really does have a lot to offer.
The Tucson really does stand out from the crowd, with its unmistakably exuberant exterior. It also benefits from different driving settings to suit a range of weather settings (including snow, sand, and mud settings), Ozzie-tuned suspension (that's been adjusted to cope with our driving conditions), and the inclusion of the legendary Hyundai Smart Sense: a comprehensive selection of premium safety features.
Interior and Exterior design
From the confident curve of the front wheel arch through to the auto dusk-sensing headlights and rear privacy glass (how cool is that?), the Hyundai designers have really pushed the boat out when it comes to the Tucson's exterior.
The bold styling makes a powerful visual statement, and, fortunately, the performance and features manage to back up the initial impression of formidable competence.
Inside, options such as a leather interior, a central, colour touchscreen, and even a heated steering wheel, combine to create a cabin that has a high-end vibe, at the same time being extremely practical. Recognising the Tucson's market, plenty of plastic means the interior can be easily wiped down - a must for a family vehicle.
The Tucson is available in four variants: the Active; Active X; Elite; and Highlander. Three engines are on offer: the 2.0 GDi 2wd (2-step variable induction, 205Nm of torque); the 1.6 TGDi AWD - turbocharged variant offering 265Nm torque; and the 2.0 CRDi AWD, an Electronic Control Variable
Geometry Turbocharger (E-VGT) that provides an impressive 400Nm of torque). Fuel consumption is competitive, which is a bonus for a family car. The figures given by Hyundai are: 2.0 GDi 2WD - Manual, 7.8l/100km, Auto, 7.9l/100km; 1.6 T-GDi AWD (DCT)7.7l/100km; and the 2.0 CRDi AWD auto comes in at 6.4l/100km.
A multimedia system with satnav, a full-colour central touchscreen, Apple Car Play and Android Auto
compatibility, and an Infinity premium audio system means that the Tucson has everything you would expect from an SUV in its class. Hyundai has kept pace with tech, but there isn't much there that isn't replicated in other SUVs with a similar price tag.
Lane keep assist, a rear park assist system, a rearview camera and an emergency stop signal (ESS) are available in all models. Passive safety features are well-considered and plentiful. With a 5-star ANCAP rating, this is an SUV that's a good choice for a family vehicle. The Highlander benefits from additional safety features, including forward-collision avoidance assist, smart cruise control, and front park assist.
Entry level Tucsons begin at $30,990, running right up to $54,341 for higher-spec models.
Pros and Cons
The Sportage comes in a good range of colours, and benefits from some great styling, tech, and performance. Similarly, the Tucson's striking exterior, engine features and relative fuel efficiency are all powerful pluses. Neither vehicle is going to look bad parked on your driveway, or let you down on the road.
Ultimately, though, we would suggest that, given the remit an SUV is meant to fulfil (versatile, family-friendly, able to cope with a variety of driving conditions, spacious, safe, and fuel-efficient), it's probably the Tucson that scores more highly on these criteria.