Tuesday, July 30, 2013
2013 Kia Sportage 2.4 DLX AWD vs 2013 Honda CR-V 2.4 SX
Compact crossovers—they’re now pretty much one of the most common forms of transportation. Every car manufacturer’s got one, and in one way or the other, they’ve got their own differentiating factors be it luxury, space, power, or value. Of course, in time these differentiating factors all tend to get mushed up; the effect of an ever-crowded market space. Sometimes, what you get are crossovers that supposedly offer something unique, but offer pretty much a similar driving experience as its most direct competitor. To put this theory to the test, it was necessary to pit the best-selling compact crossover, the Honda CR-V, in its top-of-the-line 2.4 SX guise no less, against the Sportage, Kia’s direct answer to the CR-V, represented here also in its range-topping 2.4 DLX trim. Now, let’s get this fight started!
“Don’t fix what isn’t broken” is the directive given to the Honda CR-V designers. Though the sheet metal is all-new from tip to stern, it looks more like a mere facelift of the previous generation model, albeit cleaner and sleeker. Put the new CR-V and the old one side-by-side, and you’ll immediately notice that they’ve got the same overall look from the proportions, the design cues, and even down to the alloys. Taken strictly be itself though, the CR-V doesn’t look half bad. Granted it doesn’t set the design trail ablaze, it’s clean, dignified, and simple. The lamp details, front and back, are exquisite and the removal of roof rails (a move pioneered by the previous-gen model) make it look sportier and much more parking lot friendly. The best detail though has to be the rear glass which actually curves along with the tail lamps and the rear hatch. And get this, there’s absolutely no distortion from inside the cabin.
While Honda went conservative, Kia went completely the other way with the Sportage. Realizing it needed to inject some styling into their compact crossover; it took the Peter Schreyer design book and doused it onto the Sportage. The end result is a crossover that looks more like a raised hatchback than it does an SUV, which is an absolutely good thing. Designers worked hard to create an illusion that the Sportage is lower and wider than it really is and as a result, it has a tapered front bumper, widened wheel arches, and reduced greenhouse, all to give it a sleeker profile. The overhangs have also been reduced and together with enlarging the standard wheel/tire combination (235/55R18) it increases the sex appeal of this crossover. Like the CR-V, it does away with the traditional roof rails while Kia rightfully added LED daytime running lights to give it more swagger. Plus, there are niftier design cues such as the hidden tailgate button which is located near the license plate lights. All in all, the Kia Sportage is a designer crossover, regardless or price.
Winner: Kia Sportage
Interior and Space
Inside is where things get pretty interesting. At a glance, the Kia Sportage offers the more stylish, more unified interior treatment between the two crossovers. Unfortunately, looks are pretty deceiving in this case. True enough, the Sportage put the “Tiger Grille” motif everywhere it can (even down to the instrument cluster hood), but touch and feel every surface and you’ll realize that the materials of the Sportage’s interior are a great let-down. There’s nice graining just about everywhere, but they’re all hard to the touch. Even the leather used on the steering wheel and the seats aren’t up to par than you’d come to expect in a top-of-the-line crossover. Space is also at a premium inside the Sportage with snug accommodations for all occupants. The luggage room is also fairly small given the large tailgate opening. Ergonomics are generally alright, but it’s odd that the Sportage doesn’t even offer a telescopic steering column; it would have been perfect together with the powered driver’s seat.
Meanwhile, the CR-V goes for a less stylish but more straight-forward cabin that emphasizes practicality and ergonomics above all else. It may not have the same sportiness as the Sportage (despite the same all black treatment), but the CR-V’s cabin is actually much friendlier to use with crisper controls and more logical placement of buttons. The black wood trim may not be as youthful as aluminum or carbon fiber, but it works well to exude a feeling of class and luxury in the CR-V. Perhaps the only messy thing in the CR-V’s interior is the instrument cluster which crams at least six functions into such a small and limited space. The instrument cluster aside, the CR-V feels kingly in terms of space. There’s an abundance of it whether in the front or rear seats. The luggage area is also mighty long, tall, and wide enabling the CR-V to fit things such as bicycles vertically. The rear seats also fold flat in a 60/40 split and they do so almost completely flat, something that can’t be said with the Sportage. The CR-V is also the clear victor when it comes to cubby holes—there are tons of them for cups, bottles, and other knick-knacks.
Winner: Honda CR-V
With both of these crossovers employing 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engines, with 175+ horsepower (the Sportage has 177, while the CR-V has 180 horsepower); it’s not surprising that they behave rather similarly. Both of these crossovers offer ample torque from a standstill and they both go up to comfortable cruising speeds quickly and effortlessly. The Sportage has the advantage of a 6-speed automatic gearbox as well as a manual override function, while the CR-V’s stuck with its old 5-speed box. But they both return remarkably similar fuel economy figures: 7.6 km/L for the CR-V and 7.46 km/L for the Sportage (the CR-V though has the advantage of a larger fuel tank). Both the Sportage and CR-V also have whisper quiet interiors at any speed. The only audible distraction perhaps is a slight degree of tire noise (at past 100 km/h). Credit this perhaps to their respective slippery exteriors which are designed for improved aerodynamics, but whatever the reason, these two are the quietest in the compact crossover genre.
So what makes these two different? It’s down to the suspension tuning. Again, both of these crossovers use independent suspension on all four corners (both have MacPherson Struts in front with the CR-V using Double Wishbones at the back and the Sportage using Multi-Links), but the CR-V balances the handling/ride equation much better than the Sportage. The CR-V easily lives up to its “Comfortable Runabout Vehicle” namesake by managing to glide through any road imperfection with considerable ease. Ruts and road joints are rarely transmitted into the cabin, and when they do, they don’t shudder the occupants. The steering is also nicely weighted; despite using an electric power assisted steering system and the brakes offer better modulation. On tighter corners, the CR-V is betrayed by its size, but the solidly-built body means it feels much more planted than the Sportage. On the other hand, the Sportage is all over the place with a crashy and jiggly ride, shuddering the occupants at even the littlest of road imperfections. The steering is also too light and devoid of any feedback, while the brakes are grabby. The suspension may have been tuned more for a sportier experience, but the large panoramic sunroof does reduce body rigidity somewhat meaning the Sportage actually flexes about through corners. Finally, the Sportage suffers from poor visibility, especially in the three-quarters front and direct rear. The CR-V fares much better with excellent visibility all around.
Winner: Honda CR-V
Value for Money
Once again, both the Honda CR-V and the Kia Sportage offer similar levels of luxury and convenience features. Both crossovers offer keyless push-button engine starting, cruise control, leather seats, dual-zone climate control, steering wheel controls, full multimedia capability, and six speakers. They also offer the same prerequisite safety features such as airbags (the Sportage has 6, the CR-V has 4), anti-lock brakes with electronic brakeforce distribution, stability control and even rear parking cameras. But look closer and you do notice that neither crossover offers the “complete experience”.
Priced at P 1,698,000, the Sportage offers a lot more stuff for your money: power adjustable driver’s seat, automatic headlamps, rain-sensing wipers, and get this, a panoramic sunroof. Oddly enough though, despite all these toys, Kia left out Bluetooth hands-free (which the Kia Rio has) and HID headlights. And you got to remember, this crossover doesn’t even have a telescopic steering column. On the other hand, the P 1,525,000 Thailand-sourced CR-V removes some key features found in the Japan model including the sunroof, Bluetooth hands-free and even the front arm rests; but adds rear air conditioning vents for what it’s worth. So, it’s a give or take then; neither comes out convincingly on top as both are lacking one way or the other. At this point, it comes down to personal preference on which features are simply must haves for your compact crossover.
Taken side-by-side, the P 173,000 spread isn’t that much. The Kia Sportage has given the Honda CR-V a good fight until the very end. However, let down by the poor interior materials, small interior space, and crashy ride, the Sportage has to settle for second in this battle. It may have the upper hand when it comes to design, but it doesn’t offer the same complete package that’s expected of a compact crossover. Nonethess, the Sportage does have one distinct advantage over the CR-V: a diesel engine option.
Still, between these two, the Honda CR-V manages to come out of this one on top. Well, just barely. It’s the best choice if you want a practical, well-rounded compact crossover, but it’s clear that Honda designers have been caught napping. The closeness of this battle is an indicator how much the competition has caught up to Honda and how much Honda designers and engineers have to push to maintain the lead.
Winner: Honda CR-V