2019 Nissan Qashqai Ti vs Kia Sportage GT Line Urban - Popularity Contest

 

Here we have two popular choices for Kiwi new car buyers, sorry, we mean new SUV buyers, in the Sportage and the Qashqai. Which should you buy in order to join the hatchback-on-high brigade?

Words: Kyle Cassidy   |   Photos Tom Gasnier
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The land of SUVs is a diverse one with all manner of options. Want something with a few bells and whistles, a bit of space but nothing huge to get town and around in? Here we line up two popular choices in the market, the Nissan Qashqai and Kia Sportage, both in top-spec, front-drive guise to see where you should spend your 40-ish thousand dollars.

Qashqai is one of Nissan’s best sellers; only Navara tempts more people. There are three variants offered, starting at $36,270, while the top Ti is $44,990, as tested here. Sportage is Kia’s best mover, and the company has a plethora of variants to lure customers. All up there are nine to choose from with petrol and diesel, front- or all-wheel drive and four model grades. The majority of buyers opt for a 2.0-litre front driver, and the new GT Line Urban is the top 2WD offering, going for $45,990.

So there is just $1000 separating these two, prior to negotiations for those who like to haggle but which is the better buy?

Recently revised

Sportage received a mild makeover last year, the looks polished and safety gear added, with all models gaining autonomous emergency braking and a lane keeping and departure warning system. The grille has undergone yet further evolution, the bumpers front and rear are new and the front light clusters have been reformed with the GT Line gaining LED headlights along with a sports body kit and new 19s.

There are no changes under the bonnet for the 2.0-litre model, the atmo four still coughing up a mild 114kW and 192Nm, rigged to a conventional six-speed auto. Kia has tweaked the suspension tune of the Sportage, each model grade gaining a unique character, with the GT Line given a sportier set-up for ‘agile and athletic handling’.

Qashqai was also tweaked last year with the usual titivation of lights, wheels and bumpers on the outside, while the cabin was treated to new seats, a steering wheel and gear knob, and AEB and collision warning have been added across the range. QQ’s suspenders were also rejigged to shore up the handling. It too uses a 2.0-litre atmo four, with a quota of 106kW and 200Nm, which is manipulated via a CVT.

Without induction assistance, each 2.0-litre four needs to spin its crank to summon any real verve

Similar in concept but not size

While each of these is around the $45k mark, with similar mechanicals and features, Sportage is a little bigger all round and this manifests into better rear accomodations and a larger, more useful boot. The Qashqai is more of a four seater with not much room left over for a fifth body in the middle of the second row, but two adults fit okay with enough leg and head room, despite the lower roofline.

Sportage however offers more legroom and width in the back seat, and a bigger door opening. The GT Line gains a powered tailgate, and opening it reveals a deeper, wider and longer hold. The rear seats fold over easily to lie flat-ish and Sportage offers a full size spare. QQ has a variable floor system in the boot that’s a little fiddly, but the split folding is more straightforward, while beneath is a space saver spare.

Up front Sportage wins the poke test with a better mix of trims and a more robust build quality although the QQ has soft bits where they are most needed. The GT Line gains soft leather trim with perforations for the seat ventilators but bits of muck can infiltrate said holes and are hard to remove. The Qashqai has the better seat however, with superior support and comfort, the fancy Nappa leather softer, and it’s powered and heated, like Sportage’s. Kia adds a Qi charge pad and a few more USB ports, while most of its storage holes are larger and lined.

Although the dash design is getting on, some of its old fashioned buttons make the infotainment system easy to use (as they do in QQ as well) while it’s compatible with both phone types. It also has a bigger, more vibrant screen, the QQ’s on the small side. Both have nav. While Nissan adds it’s handy surround view camera tech to help with parking, the Sportage gets a wide angle reverse camera, plus sensors.

Both companies have added more safety helpers to each model and they come with AEB, high beam assist, blind spot warning and lane keeping tech, while the Qashqai Ti adds a driver alertness system, a self parking feature and it has active cruise, operational at low speeds. It can also bring you to halt in traffic. As fitting for top models, expect extras like dual zone climate air, a smart key, privacy glass and flashy 19s, while the QQ adds a glass roof and adaptive front lighting.

As to practical bits, Kia offers a five-year/100,00km warranty, Nissan with the usual three-year/100,00km deal. Neither has a service plan, both with 15,000km/12 month maintenance intervals.


Town more than country

As the model name of the Kia suggests, these are better suited to urban environs. Each is commuter friendly with light steering, easy-to-park dimensions and good turn arounds. Helpers such as cameras, sensors, and blind spot minders ease daily running further.

Without induction assistance, each 2.0-litre four needs to spin its crank to summon any real verve, peak torque registering at a relatively high 4000rpm in the Kia and 4400rpm in the Nissan. Each needs at least 3000rpm, sometimes 4000 to sneak the gap in traffic, your foot lingering longer on the throttle to get up to pace.

Their autos are smooth on the uptake while the CVT in the Nissan is good at quickly settling the Qashqai to simmer along at 1500rpm at an urban pace. Thanks to this and a slight advantage on the scales, it’s a little better on gas. Nissan quotes fuel use at a rate of 6.9L/100km though we registered closer to nine, while the Sportage’s average is listed at 8.2L/100km whereas we saw ten for the usual mix of city and highway running.

While the Qashqai Ti doesn’t have the creamiest of urban rides, it’s smoother than the GT Line, which detects more of the smaller bumps along your route. The QQ is also a mite more compliant over highway dips and dives.

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On the flip side, the Sportage has a more positive turn in when heading into the bends. It’s steering has a dab more feel at the wheel, it carries a more confident line around the bend and is a little more engaging to drive as a result. Each holds its own in the curves though as the Nissan has decent treads to assist further, although they generate more of a din on coarse chip.

The Kia’s engine is more vocal, particularly when pressed. There are no drive modes to fiddle with in the Qashqai (apart from an Eco one which went untouched) and the CVT will ‘change up’ around 4000rpm on a middling throttle to keep it in the torque zone. It responds well enough to a liberal amount of right foot pressure to kick things along when needed and performs faux upshifts around 6000rpm to reduce excess engine noise.

In its Sport mode, the Kia’s auto is more enthusiastic if you want to get moving and, like the QQ, keeps the engine spinning up above 3500rpm. Neither is a greyhound however; passing manoeuvres are best reserved for dedicated lanes (if one ever appears on your route travelled) and the 2.0-litres need to be whipped along to get it done.

Nissan or Kia?

It’s hard to pick a standout winner here, though if you’re after more space in your small SUV, the Sportage would do nicely.

However, the Qashqai is the better town car, smoother riding, a touch more economical with more convenient features at a slightly reduced price.

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