Having in mind that the KIA Sportage and Hyundai ix35 are almost identical models that come from the same industrial group, it is logical to consider that is pretty difficult to find a place for each of them in the already over-populated SUV market. However, production of cars in the Hyundai-KIA conglomerate is not a matter of coincidence, but the result of a carefully planned strategy, and since that both models are almost identical in terms of engineering, it is expected that the paths diverge completely in terms of design.
By the way, the chief designer of KIA Europe is Peter Schreyer, while Thomas Burkle does the same job in Hyundai. There is no need to point out that both gentlemen have a strong German accent, and that the first worked for Audi and the latter for BMW. The growth of the two Korean companies is even greater than the “explosion” of the crossover segment, which means that the main principles for success are met.
Similar but nothing alike
The appearance of each model is primarily determined by the dimensions. The difference is minimal speaking of these two cars. The 2.64 wheelbase is identical, while the KIA is longer, lower and wider. The basis for “changing body” is very similar, but there are no common body elements.
At first glance, these two look like they came from two different manufacturers, from two different continents, not from the same factory! Design routes followed by the two cars address to completely different audiences. KIA Sportage looks more robust and somewhat “sharper”, with relatively small glass areas indicating the height difference. Hyundai ix35 is characterized by curved lines, and as we have already said, the style of this model is more in accordance with its predecessor. KIA, on the other hand, has no resemblance to the second generation Sportage – except the name, of course. LEDs are inevitable (daytime running lights) leaving a good impression on the viewer, making it more attractive and safer in a way because of the better visibility.
When all “optical” elements are taken into account, we are dealing with very attractive cars with plenty of characteristic features that make them authentic and original. In a direct comparison of visual appearances, it seems that the KIA Sportage will be more pleasant for the taste of European customers because of its sharp lines, while the Hyundai ix35 will likely enjoy greater popularity in the United States.
Talking about the off-road characteristics, our two models will hardly satisfy an ambitious off-road driver. 17 cm clearance and moderate “approach and departure” angles are generally suitable for occasional picnics and driving through shallow water which can even be accumulated on the boulevards in Serbia, after some heavy rains. If you want to cross high curbs and diggings of urban construction sites, it is necessary to buy the most expensive versions with AWD that come with the most powerful engines. Even then, you won’t find any mechanical or electric apparatus, such as diff-lock or gear reduction.
1.7 CRDi without AWD
KIA Sportage 1.7 CRDi
For this reason, these cars have other qualities, for they behave like conventional cars on the road, but with a certain potential in terms of off-road characteristics. Besides, cars of this type offer a generous amount of interior space, and these are the main advantages and reasons why this segment has recorded the highest sales growth in the European market. In addition, a large share of the sales belongs to FWD models, so the basic diesel unit is the right measure.
As the picture of these models would be completed and fit into what European customers look for, Korean manufacturer has developed a new 1.7 l diesel unit with 115 hp at 4.000 rpm and 260 Nm of torque which is available in a range (be alert!) of 1250 to 2750 rpm! This amount of power for a relatively small engine (the displacement is only 1685 cubic centimeters) has been achieved thanks to the use of variable turbine geometry and the latest generation common-rail fuel injection system.
Development of such a unit was needed primarily because of the relatively low specific fuel consumption and CO2 emission, which were only 5.3 liters and 139 g/km for both of the models.
This engine is available in combination with the manual six-speed transmission with relatively short gear ratios, which exploits the power of the diesel engine quite nicely. Moreover, in addition to low fuel consumption, this unit promises low noise level in the cabin as well. It is therefore common ground on which both models are based. Here’s how it works in reality…
Differences in Sight
Hyundai has declared that it is no longer a “cheap car manufacturer” in accordance with its new business philosophy, and one gets that impression just looking at the ix35’s interior. Given that the test car came in top trim package (Diamond), leather seats and plenty of accessories only reinforce this impression. All you can see and touch seem of good quality, while the “silver” plastic is yet to be proven before the exam of time.
Compared to the KIA’s model, the ix35 seems slightly more refined, not only because of the trim level and materials but the very organization of space and design of the controls on the dashboard. For example, the ix35 has cleaner and bigger gauge panel, while the Sportage’s seems more discrete with smaller digits considering the most important parameters.
Also, the extra centimeters regarding the height of the ix35 can be noted in the amount of interior space, because the cabin seems more spacious and one gets the impression of more “upright” sitting. Besides, the larger glass surfaces affect the subjective impression of spaciousness. The glass surfaces in the Sportage are noticeably smaller, so the driver and passengers have the impression of sitting “deep” in the car. Converted into figures, boot capacity of the ix35 ranges from 465 liters up to 1436 liters. In case of Sportage, it also begins with 465 l but goes up to 1353 liters.
Size does (not) Matter
The new diesel unit that is installed into both models is an example of truly excellent value for money ratio, as well as the excellent relationship between smoothness, consumption and performance. The engine starts easily, without excessive vibration. It works smoothly even when cold. The use of this engine in the SUVs is also a real test for it since the mass of the vehicles starts at 1490 kg and easily surpasses 1.6 t with the driver, fuel etc. But even so, the Sportage and ix35 appear sufficiently strong and dynamic in urban driving conditions and the great credit for that goes to aforementioned six-speed manual gearbox.
The restrictions of this drivetrain can be noticed only on the highway when the driver intends to break the speed limit. In any other case, this unit deserves only compliments, especially in terms of fuel consumption that ranged between 6.5 and 8.5 liters of diesel with identical performance no matter the model.
Hyundai ix35 1.7 CRDi
The differences regarding driving are minimal. The Sportage, in accordance with its name, acts more agile. The ix35 is calmer and more comfortable. It is similar with the commands as well – it seems that the KIA’s gear lever has slightly heavier and shorter move compared to Hyundai’s, which is pretty softer and smoother. That is why the driving experience differs, which was the main goal as a matter of fact.
Top Trim Level… Almost
Base price for the Hyundai ix35 starts from 18.990 euros for the version with 2.0 l gasoline engine (163 hp), while the diesel version in the lowest available “Gold” trim starts at 21,290 euros. KIA Sportage also starts at 18.990 euros, but with the new 1.6 GDI engine (135 hp), if there is one in stock. Otherwise, its price starts at 20.490 euros. As the 1.4 diesel version is concerned, its base price (the stock) is 20.690 euros or 22.190 respectively, which means that the difference in the “regular procedure” is about 900 euros in favor of the Hyundai model. However, it is pretty higher in reality (about 1200 euros) because the entry Gold trim is richer in a few extras such as Bluetooth device and steering wheel cruise control.
Therefore, the ix35 represents somewhat better offer if KIA does not have required car in stock. That is why there is no need of pointing out that both models are very well equipped in the entry trim levels. Both models offer radio CD/MP3 with speakers and USB connection, and even “trifles” like leather steering wheel and gear lever.
Variations on a theme?
Finally, has the South Korean manufacturer succeeded in its intention to make two good but different cars on the same basis? The market has already given the answer on this issue, since the both models can be seen on our streets more often than other models in this class. The new diesel engine proved to be quite adequate in both cases, with affordable price and more than satisfactory supporting characteristics.
The ix35 has already made a slight advantage on paper in direct comparison, because it offers more choices to its customers and in addition to lower prices and richer basic trim level, it offers a wider range of drivetrains, so the excellent and advanced KIA’s Dynamax is available only in combination with two-liter engines. Hyundai has a version with the new 1.7 diesel engine and AWD and KIA does not!
On the other, emotional side, the Sportage appears to be “nicer” car, and that is a common opinion of some members of our editorial board, on a condition that the ix35 seems more mature and complete, especially considering interior.
Some will be guided by this, some by that, and everybody will drive accordingly, just as in life. But, in this case, the most important thing is that neither car has an error. They maybe share the same technical basis, but the impressions they leave are completely different.
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