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William Maley

Review: 2016 Toyota RAV4 SE vs. 2017 Kia Sportage SX

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Crossovers are big business and this is nowhere more apparent than in the compact realm. Automakers are either introducing new or redesigned models to make their mark and try to a take a nice slice of the growing demand by consumers. Recently, we spent some time with the redesigned 2017 Kia Sportage SX and refreshed Toyota RAV4 SE to see how they would stack up.

Exterior:

Toyota did a refresh to the RAV4’s exterior for 2016 to make it look a bit sleeker. A lot of the changes are up front with a new inset grille similar to the Corolla and reshaped headlights. The back features new taillights. The big news for 2016 is the introduction of the SE trim. This brings a unique bumper and lower grille; LED headlights and taillights, and a set of 18-inch wheels. Finished in a bright blue, I had to admit Toyota has done a pretty decent job with the refresh.

Meanwhile, Kia’s redesign of the Sportage is well, um, polarizing. The front end is where the Sportage’s design will make you love or hate it. A large version of Kia’s ’tiger nose’ is flanked by headlights that protrude upward. Personally, I really don’t like the front and it spoils the rest of the Sportage’s design. The rear comes with a new tailgate design, taillights that extend into the rear fenders, and a set of dual exhaust tips. Our SX tester also featured 19-inch alloy wheels and bi-xenon headlights.
 
Interior:

One of the biggest issues I had with the previous-generation Kia Sportage was the materials used. There were a lot of hard and cheap plastics throughout and it made the work Kia had done for the exterior all for naught. Thankfully, Kia has learned its lesson and has improved the materials. Most of the dash and door panels feature soft-touch plastics. There are still some hard plastics, but in areas where it makes sense such as panels near the floor. A new design for the center stack is angled towards the driver and features large buttons for the climate control and infotainment system.

Seats in our SX tester came wrapped in leather and provided the right amount of support and comfort for a long drive. Those sitting in the back will have nothing to complain about in terms of head and legroom. Even those who are slightly above 6-feet will find more than enough headroom. The Sportage does falter when it comes to cargo space. With 30.7 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats, the Sportage trails competitors by a few cubic feet. It only gets worse when you fold the rear seats and you’re provided 60.1 cubic feet, again trailing competitors.

Toyota hasn’t changed the RAV4’s interior in terms of design which may disappoint some. It still has a very utilitarian look compared to many of its competitors. But Toyota has changed various trim pieces and removed the awful faux carbon-fiber inlays on the dash. The look is more coherent. Material quality has also seen an improvement with more soft-touch materials and thicker hard plastics.

The SE comes with Toyota’s faux leather (Softex) as standard along with power adjustments for the driver. The RAV4’s front seats aren’t quite as comfortable as the Sportage’s due to the lack of thigh support. On a long drive, I found my leg was beginning to fall asleep. The backseat is quite spacious with a large amount of head and legroom. The low placement of the seat may bug some folks. Cargo space is towards the top of the class with 38.4 cubic feet the rear seats up and 73.3 cubic feet with them folded.

Infotainment:

All RAV4 trims get Toyota’s Entune infotainment system as standard. Our SE tester featured the larger 7-inch system through an option package that also brought forth a JBL audio system. Entune’s interface may look somewhat dated and the screen could be a bit brighter, but Toyota has nailed ease of use and performance with this system. Large touch points, simple layout, and redundant buttons around the screen make Entune a breeze to use. Disappointingly, Entune doesn’t offer Apple CarPlay or Android Auto.

Kia’s UVO infotainment system leaves Entune in the dust. The Sportage SX comes with an 8-inch touchscreen system with navigation as standard equipment. Like Entune, UVO offers a simple interface with quick performance. However, the Sportage offers a more vibrant screen and comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility. Using CarPlay with the Sportage was very easy as the system was able to recognize my iPhone and bring up the CarPlay interface within seconds. We didn’t experience any issues of slowdown or apps crashing like in other models we have tested.

Power:

There are two engines on offer for the 2017 Kia Sportage. The LX and EX models feature a 2.4L four-cylinder with 181 horsepower and 174 pound-feet of torque. The SX comes with a turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder with 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque. Both engines come paired with a six-speed automatic and the choice of front or all-wheel drive. The power figures may make you believe the Sportage will fly, but this isn’t true. The engine takes a few moments to wake up when leaving a stop due to a hint of turbo lag and a lazy throttle - something we have been noticing in recent Hyundai and Kia turbo models. The engine also doesn’t feel as powerful as you might think due to an increase in overall curb weight. At least the six-speed automatic is excellent, delivering smart and quick shifts

Toyota also offers two engines for the RAV4. A 2.5L four-cylinder comes standard and a hybrid powertrain is optional on the XLE and Limited models. The 2.5 produces 176 horsepower and 172 pound-feet of torque. Like the Sportage, the RAV4 features a six-speed automatic and either front or all-wheel drive. For most drivers, the 2.5 does an adequate job of moving the vehicle at a reasonable clip. It does feel slightly slower than other compact crossovers thanks in part to the torque arriving at a high 4,100 rpm. The transmission provides smooth shifts when driven normally. But when you need to make a pass, it does take its sweet time to downshift.

Fuel Economy:

The RAV4 AWD is rated by the EPA at 22 City/29 Highway/25 Combined. These numbers put the RAV4 in the middle of the pack the compact crossover class. Our average for the week landed around 24 mpg in mixed driving

The Kia Sorento equipped with the turbo and front-wheel drive is towards the bottom with EPA figures of 21 City/26 Highway/23 Combined. We could only get 21 mpg during our week of mixed driving. Add all-wheel drive and numbers drop even further to 20/23/21.

Ride & Handling:

We had a number of complaints with the last-generation Sportage’s suspension and steering tuning. The ride was too stiff and the suspension would transmit most bumps into the cabin. The steering felt disconnected and very light. Kia has addressed these complaints in the 2017 and it has made the Sportage more well-rounded. Most bumps are now absorbed by the suspension, making for a more comfortable ride. Some bumps do make their way inside, but that is more of a case of the 19-inch wheels fitted to the SX. Road and wind noise are kept to very acceptable levels. Handling is still one of the strongest parts of the Sorento. There is little body roll when cornering. The steering feels heavy and directly connected to the road. 

The SE trim is new for the 2016 RAV4 and it features a retuned suspension that is said to make the model fun to drive. Sadly, the changes made to the RAV4’s suspension doesn’t make a dent in improving the overall handling. Yes, the changes do reduce body motion when cornering. But the steering still feels somewhat rubbery and the set of Bridgestone Ecopia low-rolling resistance tires will make you think twice about pushing the RAV4 in a corner. What the SE does well is giving the RAV4 a harsh ride. Compared to the last RAV4 we drove back in 2014, the SE let more bumps and imperfections inside the cabin. The RAV4 also could use a bit more time in finishing school as there is a fair amount of road and wind noise coming inside.

Pricing & Value:

Out of the two models, the 2017 Kia Sportage SX is possibly the better value. With an as-tested price of $33,395, the Sportage SX comes very well equipped with an 8-inch color touchscreen, navigation, Harman/Kardon audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, panoramic sunroof, blind spot monitoring with rear cross traffic alert, and autonomous emergency braking. This, by the way, is all standard. There are no options available on the SX.

The RAV4 SE is cheaper than the Sportage SX in terms of base price ($30,665 vs. $32,500). But it does feature a higher as-tested price of $34,595. This is due to our tester featuring the $3,030 Advanced Technology Package that adds the 7-inch screen with navigation, the JBL audio system, parking sensors, and the Toyota Safety Sense Package (adds Pre-Collision system with pedestrian detection, steering assist, radar cruise control, and automatic high beams).

Final Thoughts:

This was a tough decision to make since for every positive point both models have, there are two negatives to go with them. Out of these two, the 2017 Kia Sportage narrowly takes the win here. The styling will divide folks and turbo engine isn’t worth the extra cost in terms of performance and fuel economy. But Kia has fixed a number of issues with previous Sportage such as poor interior materials and overall ride quality. It doesn’t hurt the Kia is the slightly better value, although we would go with the EX and the regular four-cylinder.

If the RAV4 was the XLE or Limited, it might have taken the win as it would have provided a smoother ride and cost a fair amount less. But the SE comprises a decent crossover with a harsher ride and negating the improvements in handling with a set of eco tires. Still, the RAV4 does offer more cargo space and some safety features not seen on the Sportage.

Both of these crossovers are in the middle of the road, but the Sportage is closer to reaching the top.

Disclaimer: Kia and Toyota Provided the vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas

2016 Toyota RAV4 SE
Cheers: Cargo Space, Improved Interior, Interesting design
Jeers: Engine could use some more oomph, SE trim compromises ride, Expensive

Year: 2016
Make: Toyota
Model: RAV4
Trim: SE
Engine: 2.5L DOHC Dual VVT-i Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 176 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 172 @ 4,100
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 22/29/25
Curb Weight: 3,630 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Woodstock, Ontario
Base Price: $30,665
As Tested Price: $34,595 (Includes $900.00 Destination Charge)

Options:
Advanced Technology Package - $3,030.00

2017 Kia Sportage SX
Cheers: Better ride quality, Noticeable interior improvements, Value
Jeers: Turbo engine isn't worth the extra cost, Exterior design may turn some people off, Fuel Economy

Year: 2017
Make: Kia
Model: Sportage
Trim: SX
Engine: Turbocharged 2.0L GDI Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450-3,500 
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 21/26/23
Curb Weight: 3,666 lbs
Location of Manufacture: Gwangju, South Korea
Base Price: $32,500
As Tested Price: $33,395 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)

Options: N/A


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I'll take a Rav Limited Hybrid here. 

Otherwise, besides maybe a V6 Cherokee Trailhawk, I'm going straight to the premium segment, or a size up.

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9 minutes ago, Frisky Dingo said:

I'll take a Rav Limited Hybrid here. 

Otherwise, besides maybe a V6 Cherokee Trailhawk, I'm going straight to the premium segment, or a size up.

Cherokee trailhawk all day and into the night here.  Of the two choices I like the Toyota much better. Premium segment has some nice choices also.

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      Sonata offers one of the widest range of powertrains in the segment with three gas engines, a hybrid, and plug-in hybrid. Our Sonata Limited came with the base 2.4L inline-four producing 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. This is paired with a six-speed automatic routing power to the front wheels. The engine provides adequate power for around town and rural driving. You will need to step on it when making a pass or merging onto a freeway as torque resides higher in the rev band. The six-speed automatic goes about its business smoothly and always knows what gear it needs to be in. Hyundai does offer an eight-speed automatic, but only if you opt for the turbocharged 2.0L.
      EPA fuel economy figures for the 2018 Sonata Limited are 25 City/35 Highway/28 Combined (SE models see a one mpg increase in highway and combined figures). My average for the week landed around 28.5 mpg.
      Hyundai did make some tweaks to the 2018 Sonata’s suspension including a revised rear suspension setup with thicker trailing arms and revised steering system. The end result is a Sonata that handles much better than the previous car. Body motion has noticeably decreased and the steering provides decent weight when turning. Thankfully, the tweaks made to the suspension haven’t affected the Sonata’s ride quality. Bumps and other road imperfections are soaked up before reaching passengers. Some of the credit has to go to Hyundai not going crazy on offering large wheels - the Limited seen here rides on 17-inch wheels. Road and wind noise are kept to near silent levels.
      My first impression seeing the 2018 Sonata was that Hyundai had improved it, but was still a bit short when compared to the work done by other automakers. Spending a week with the Sonata caused me to change my train of thought; It surprised me how much work Hyundai put into this mid-cycle refresh and brings the Sonata up to the point where I would say it is fighting for best-in-class honors. 
      While the 2018 Sonata may lack most of the pizzazz found in the sixth-generation model, it does show that Hyundai has learned from its mistake and worked to reclaim some of the magic.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonata, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.4L GDI DOHC D-CVVT Four-Cylinder
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic. Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 185 @ 6,000
      Torque @ RPM: 178 @ 4,000 
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 25/35/28
      Curb Weight: N/A
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $27,400
      As Tested Price: $31,310 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Ultimate Package - $2,900.00
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $125.00
    • By William Maley
      I found myself in a bit of quandary when it came to writing the review for the 2018 Hyundai Accent and Kia Rio. Both of these models have been redesigned recently and despite the different exteriors, under the skin they share a number of key parts such as the engine and suspension. As I was going through my notes, I realized the answer was right in front of me; talk about the differences between the two and see which one does it better. 
      Exterior
      Between the two vehicles, the Rio stands out considerably. Like the previous model, the new Rio has a fair amount of European influence with neatly proportioned body and clean lines. The front end is quite low and features a narrow top grille and deep slits in the bumper for a set of fog lights. 15-inch alloy wheels come standard on EX. Unlike the Accent, the Rio is still available in as a hatchback.
      The Accent goes for the safe approach with a simple three-box sedan design. This isn’t helped by the silver color on my test vehicle which makes it become somewhat anonymous. The only real design traits are in the front with a new grille shape that is appearing on new Hyundai models and cutouts in the bumper for accent trim on our base SE tester or foglights on higher trims. One way the Accent SE stands out from the Rio LX is painted door handles and mirror caps.
      Interior
      There are no frills to be found in the Accent’s interior. Like the outside, Hyundai went for a simple and honest design. Material quality is what you expect in the class - hard plastics on most surfaces. But the plastics have a solid feel. All Accents feature basic front seat adjustments - fore/aft, height (driver only), and recline. I was able to find a position that worked for me quite quickly. One item to be aware of is the SE doesn’t come with a telescoping adjustment for the steering wheel; SEL models and above get that feature. Space in the back is average for the class with a decent amount of headroom, but a limited amount of legroom.
      Kia added some style to the Rio’s interior with a sculpted dash featuring two-tone plastics. Hard plastics make up the majority of interior surfaces with a grain texture pattern. Like the Accent, the plastics have a very solid feel. The layout is simple with most controls in easy reach. Finding a comfortable position took no time with a basic set of seat adjustments and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel. However, I found the seats in the Rio to not be as supportive on long trips. The back seat mirrors the Accent; ok headroom and a small amount of legroom.
      Infotainment
      The Rio EX comes with a 7-inch infotainment system with Kia’s UVO infotainment system. No navigation system is offered, but you won’t need it as support for Android Auto and Apple CarPlay is standard. It will not take long to familiarize yourself with UVO thanks to a well-thought out interface and dedicated buttons for various features. Performance is impressive with the system responding very quickly to inputs.
      Over at the Accent SE, it comes with a 5-inch touchscreen radio. For the most part, the system was simple to use with redundant buttons for various functions, simple interface, and large touchscreen buttons. I only wished that the screen was slightly larger when I was scrolling through my iPod. One surprise was the SE getting Bluetooth as standard. Kia doesn’t offer Bluetooth on the base Rio LX.
      Powertrain
      Both the Accent and Rio use the same 1.6L inline-four engine producing 130 horsepower and 119 pound-feet of torque. What differs between the two is the transmission; the Accent SE comes with a six-speed manual while the Rio EX makes do with a six-speed automatic. Between the two, the Accent is noticeably quicker. The manual transmission allows the engine to flex what little muscle it has to get the vehicle up to speed. In the Rio, the automatic’s programming smothers the small amount of power to improve fuel economy. There is a Sport mode that holds onto gears longer, but it doesn’t make much of a difference. Neither of the transmissions can help the 1.6L on the freeway as the engine struggles to get up to speed at a decent rate.
      Fuel Economy
      EPA fuel economy figures are almost identical for the two models. Both return 28 mpg in the city and 37 on the highway. The difference is in the combined figure; the Rio returns 32, while the Accent returns 31. I got an average of 34 in the Rio and 33 in the Accent.
      Ride and Handling
      There are more similarities between the Rio and Accent when it comes to the driving experience. Both still employ struts in the front and a torsion-beam rear axle. But the body has been stiffened which helps with ride quality. Both models exhibited excellent isolation of most road imperfections. Handling is another place where the two surprised me. While not exhibiting the sporty characteristics of a Ford Fiesta, both the Accent and Rio show little body roll and feel quite nimble. The steering is light, but provides a decent amount of feedback when pushed. 
      Pricing
      The 2018 Hyundai Accent begins at $14,995 for the base SE with manual transmission and climbs to $18,895 for the Limited. Our test SE with optional floor mats came to an as-tested price of $16,005. While it does cost $1,095 more than the base Rio LX, the Accent SE comes with more features such as Bluetooth, full power accessories, and a rear USB port.
      The 2018 Kia Rio kicks off at $13,900 for the LX sedan and climbs to $18,700 for the EX hatchback. The EX sedan tester came to an as-tested price of $19,425 with carpeted floor mats and destination. It is a bit hard to stomach the price tag when you can into some decently equipped compact sedans such as the Hyundai Elantra and Chevrolet Cruze for similar money. Even after you factor in the EX getting forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking, it’s still a tough sell.
      Verdict
      Trying to decide which of the two subcompacts was the winner in this piece was very difficult as they share so much. Beginning with the Rio EX, it is a very sharp looking subcompact with a fair amount of European influence and it is available as a hatchback. But the automatic transmission suffocates what little performance is on offer from the 1.6L engine. Plus the price tag of the EX is very difficult to swallow when you can step up into a compact for similar money. If it was the midlevel S, this would have been a closer fight.
      This brings us to the Accent SE. It's styling inside and out is a bit plain when pitted against the Rio. The lack of hatchback also makes the Accent a bit of hard sell to some buyers. But the list of standard features on the base model is very surprising. Plus, the manual transmission allows the engine to have some flexibility in most driving situations. 
      Both models are towards the top in the subcompact class. But in this comparison, the base Accent SE nips the top-line Rio EX by a hair.
      Disclaimer: Hyundai and Kia Provided the Vehicles, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2018
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Accent
      Trim: SE
      Engine: 1.6L DOHC 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Manual, Front-wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/31
      Curb Weight: 2,502 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Nuevo Leon, Mexico
      Base Price: $14,995
      As Tested Price: $16,005 (Includes $885.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats: $125.00
      Year: 2018
      Make: Kia
      Model: Rio
      Trim: EX
      Engine: 1.6L 16-valve GDI Inline-Four
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 130 @ 6,300
      Torque @ RPM: 119 @ 4,850
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 28/37/32
      Curb Weight: 2,714 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Pesqueria, NL, Mexico
      Base Price: $18,400
      As Tested Price: $19,425 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $130.00

      View full article
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