2019 Kia Sportage vs. 2018 Jeep Wrangler JK

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Sportage has standard head airbag curtains for front and rear seats that act as a forgiving barrier between the driver and outboard passenger's upper bodies and the window and pillars. Combined with high-strength steel door beams and lower side airbags this system increases head protection in broadside collisions. Head airbags cost extra in the Wrangler JK and are only available for the front seats.

The Sportage (except LX) offers optional Autonomous Emergency Braking, which use forward mounted sensors to warn the driver of a possible collision ahead. If the driver doesn’t react and the system determines a collision is imminent, it automatically applies the brakes at full-force in order to reduce the force of the crash or avoid it altogether. The Wrangler JK doesn't offer collision warning or crash mitigation brakes.

Full-time four-wheel drive is optional on the Sportage. Full-time four-wheel drive gives added traction for safety in all conditions, not just off-road, like the only system available on the Wrangler JK.

The Kia Sportage has Daytime Running Lights to help keep it more visible under all conditions. Canadian government studies show that driving with lights during the day reduces accidents by 11% by making vehicles more conspicuous. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer Daytime Running Lights.

The Sportage (except LX)’s optional lane departure warning system alerts a temporarily inattentive driver when the vehicle begins to leave its lane. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a lane departure warning system.

The Sportage offers optional Parking Assist to help warn drivers about vehicles, pedestrians or other obstacles behind or, optionally, in front of their vehicle. The Sportage also has a standard backup monitor to help drivers see any and all obstacles behind their vehicle. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer any parking assist system.

The Sportage EX/SX Turbo’s blind spot warning system uses digital cameras monitored by computer to alert the driver to moving objects in the vehicle’s blind spots where the side view mirrors don’t reveal them. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a system to reveal objects in the driver’s blind spots.

To help make backing safer, the Sportage EX/SX Turbo’s cross-path warning system uses wide-angle radar in the rear bumper to alert the driver to vehicles approaching from the side, helping the driver avoid collisions. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a cross-path warning system.

For better protection of the passenger compartment, the Sportage uses safety cell construction with a three-dimensional high-strength frame that surrounds the passenger compartment. It provides extra impact protection and a sturdy mounting location for door hardware and side impact beams. The Wrangler JK uses a body-on-frame design, which has no frame members above the floor of the vehicle.

Both the Sportage and the Wrangler JK have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, plastic fuel tanks, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control and electronic stability systems to prevent skidding.

In a 31 MPH side-impact test, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety crashes a 3300 pound sled into the side of new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Kia Sportage is safer than the Wrangler JK Unlimited without its optional side airbags:

 

Sportage

Wrangler JK

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Structure

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

 

Driver

Head Protection Rating

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Injury Rating

GOOD

GOOD

Torso Injury Rating

GOOD

POOR

Pelvis/Leg Injury Rating

GOOD

GOOD

Shoulder Movement

21 mm

41 mm

 

Rear Passenger

Head Protection Rating

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Injury Rating

GOOD

GOOD

Torso Injury Rating

GOOD

GOOD

Pelvis/Leg Injury Rating

GOOD

GOOD

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the general design of front seat head restraints for their ability to protect front seat occupants from whiplash injuries. The IIHS also performs a dynamic test on those seats with “good” or “acceptable” geometry. In these ratings, the Sportage is safer then the Wrangler JK:

 

Sportage

Wrangler JK

Overall Evaluation

GOOD

MARGINAL

Head Restraint Design

GOOD

ACCEPTABLE

Distance from Back of Head

15 mm

46 mm

Distance Below Top of Head

-7 mm

66 mm

Dynamic Test Rating

GOOD

MARGINAL

Seat Design

Pass

Fail

Torso Acceleration

12 g’s

12 g’s

Neck Force Rating

Low

Medium

Max Neck Shearing Force

0

150

Max Neck Tension

438

947

(Lower numerical results are better in all tests.)

For its top level performance in all IIHS frontal, side, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Sportage the rating of “Top Pick” for 2018, a rating granted to only 91 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Wrangler JK was not even a standard “Top Pick” for 2018.

Warranty

The Sportage comes with a full 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty, which covers the entire truck and includes 24-hour roadside assistance. The Wrangler JK’s 3-year/36,000-mile basic warranty expires 2 years and 24,000 miles sooner.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Sportage 5 years and 40,000 miles longer than Jeep covers the Wrangler JK. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Wrangler JK ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage second among small suvs in their 2018 Initial Quality Study. The Wrangler JK isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Jeep vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 24 more problems per 100 vehicles, Jeep is ranked 17th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2018 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Jeep vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia fifth in reliability, above the industry average. With 66 more problems per 100 vehicles, Jeep is ranked 28th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ April 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Jeep vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia third in reliability. Jeep is ranked 20th.

Engine

As tested in Motor Trend the Kia Sportage 4 cyl. is faster than the Jeep Wrangler JK (automatics tested):

 

Sportage

Wrangler JK

Zero to 60 MPH

8 sec

8.2 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86.4 MPH

82.5 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

On the EPA test cycle the Sportage SX Turbo AWD turbo 4 cyl. gets better fuel mileage than the Wrangler JK Unlimited Auto (20 city/23 hwy vs. 16 city/21 hwy).

Transmission

The Kia Sportage comes standard with an automatic transmission, for driver comfort, especially in the city. Automatic costs extra on the Wrangler JK.

A six-speed automatic is standard on the Kia Sportage, for better acceleration and lower engine speed on the highway. Only a five-speed automatic is available for the Wrangler JK.

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Sportage SX Turbo’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Wrangler JK:

 

Sportage LX/EX

Sportage SX Turbo

Wrangler JK

Front Rotors

12 inches

12.6 inches

11.9 inches

The Sportage stops much shorter than the Wrangler JK:

 

Sportage

Wrangler JK

 

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

217 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

150 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

131 feet

181 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

The Sportage LX’s standard tires provide better handling because they have a lower 60 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Wrangler JK Sport’s standard 75 series tires. The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires have a lower 45 series profile than the Wrangler JK Sahara’s 70 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Sportage LX has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 16-inch wheels are standard on the Wrangler JK Sport. The Sportage SX Turbo’s 19-inch wheels are larger than the 18-inch wheels on the Wrangler JK Sahara.

Suspension and Handling

The Kia Sportage’s independent front suspension is much lighter than the Jeep Wrangler JK’s solid front axle, which allows the Sportage’s wheels to react more quickly and accurately to the road’s surface, improving both ride and handling.

For superior ride and handling, the Kia Sportage has fully independent front and rear suspensions. An independent suspension allows the wheels to follow the road at the best angle for gripping the pavement, without compromising ride comfort. The Jeep Wrangler JK has a solid rear axle, with a non-independent rear suspension.

For much better steering response and tighter handling the Sportage has rack and pinion steering, like Formula race cars, instead of the recirculating-ball type steering of the Wrangler JK.

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Sportage is 1.5 inches wider in the front and 2 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Wrangler JK.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the Wrangler JK Rubicon Unlimited pulls only .61 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 4.3 seconds quicker than the Wrangler JK Rubicon Unlimited (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 31.1 seconds @ .49 average G’s).

Chassis

The Kia Sportage may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 450 to 600 pounds less than the Jeep Wrangler JK.

The Sportage is 8.5 inches shorter than the Wrangler JK Unlimited, making the Sportage easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

The Sportage is 8.1 inches shorter in height than the Wrangler JK, making the Sportage much easier to wash and garage and drive (lower center of gravity).

Unibody construction lowers the Sportage’s center of gravity significantly without reducing ground clearance. This contributes to better on the road handling and better off-road performance and stability. In addition, unibody construction makes the chassis stiffer, improving handling and reducing squeaks and rattles. The Wrangler JK uses body-on-frame design instead.

For excellent aerodynamics, the Sportage LX/EX has standard flush composite headlights. The Wrangler JK has recessed headlights that spoil its aerodynamic shape and create extra drag.

Passenger Space

For enhanced passenger comfort on long trips the Sportage’s rear seats recline. The Wrangler JK’s rear seats don’t recline.

The front step up height for the Sportage is 4.6 inches lower than the Wrangler JK Unlimited (18.5” vs. 23.1”). The Sportage’s rear step up height is 4.1 inches lower than the Wrangler JK Unlimited’s (19.4” vs. 23.5”).

Cargo Capacity

A low lift-over cargo hatch design makes loading and unloading the Sportage easier. The Sportage’s cargo hatch lift-over height is 29.8 inches, while the Wrangler JK Unlimited’s liftover is 31.4 inches.

The Sportage’s standard folding rear seats are split to accommodate bulky cargo. The Wrangler JK 2dr’s standard single piece folding rear seat is not as flexible; long cargo and a passenger can’t share the rear seat.

The Sportage’s liftgate lifts up in one piece, completely out of the way of loading and unloading, while sheltering the cargo loading area. The Wrangler JK’s swing out door blocks loading from the passenger’s side.

To make loading and unloading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, the Sportage’s power cargo door can be opened just by waiting momentarily behind the back bumper, leaving your hands completely free. The Sportage’s power cargo door can also be opened or closed by pressing a button. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a power or hands-free opening cargo door.

Ergonomics

To help each driver find a more comfortable driving position, the Sportage has a telescoping steering wheel. Much better than just a tilt steering wheel or adjustable seat, this allows a short driver to sit further from the steering wheel while maintaining contact with the pedals. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a telescoping steering wheel.

The Sportage’s standard power windows allow the driver or passenger to lower and raise the windows without leaning over or being distracted. Power windows cost extra on the Wrangler JK.

The Sportage EX/SX Turbo’s driver’s power window opens or closes with one touch of the window control. The Wrangler JK ’s driver’s power window switch has to be held the entire time to close it fully.

The Sportage’s standard power window controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Wrangler JK’s optional power window controls are spread out on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

The Sportage’s standard power locks allow the driver or passenger to lock or unlock all the doors at a touch without leaning over, or reaching to the back seat. Power locks cost extra on the Wrangler JK.

The Smart Key standard on the Sportage EX/SX Turbo allows you to unlock the driver’s door, cargo door and start the engine all without removing a key from pocket or purse. This eliminates searching for keys before loading groceries, getting in the vehicle in bad weather or making a hurried start to your trip. The Jeep Wrangler JK doesn’t offer an advanced key system.

Heated windshield washer nozzles are optional on the Sportage to prevent washer fluid and nozzles from freezing and help continue to keep the windshield clear in sub-freezing temperatures. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Sportage has a standard rear wiper. A rear wiper costs extra on the Wrangler JK.

Consumer Reports rated the Sportage’s headlight performance “Very Good,” a higher rating than the Wrangler JK’s headlights, which were rated “Fair.”

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) conducts detailed tests on headlights for their range both straight ahead and in curves and to be certain they don’t exceed acceptable amounts of glare to oncoming drivers. The Sportage’s available headlights were rated “Acceptable” by the IIHS, while the Wrangler JK’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

The Sportage has a standard automatic headlight on/off feature. When the ignition is on, the headlights automatically turn on at dusk and off after dawn. The Wrangler JK has an automatic headlight on/off feature standard only on the Sahara/Rubicon.

While driving with high beams on, sensitive light sensors available for the Sportage (except LX) detect other vehicles which could be blinded and automatically switch to low beams. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer automatic dimming high beams.

To help drivers see further while navigating curves, the Sportage SX Turbo has standard adaptive headlights to illuminate around corners automatically by reading vehicle speed and steering wheel angle. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer cornering lights.

The Sportage has standard power remote mirrors. The Wrangler JK only comes with remote mirrors at extra cost. Without them the driver will have to roll down the windows and reach across the car to adjust the mirrors.

The Sportage’s power mirror controls are mounted on the armrest for easy access. The Wrangler JK’s optional power mirror controls are on the center console where they can’t be seen without the driver completely removing his eyes from the road.

Optional air-conditioned seats in the Sportage (except LX) keep the driver and front passenger comfortable and take the sting out of hot seats in summer. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

On extremely cold winter days, the Sportage’s optional (except LX) heated steering wheel provides comfort, allowing the driver to steer safely and comfortably before the vehicle heater warms up. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a heated steering wheel.

The Sportage has a standard center folding armrest for the rear passengers. A center armrest helps make rear passengers more comfortable. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a rear seat center armrest.

The Sportage’s optional dual zone air conditioning allows the driver and front passenger to choose two completely different temperatures so people with different temperature preferences won’t have to compromise. This makes both the driver and front passenger as comfortable as possible. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

For greater rear passenger comfort, the Sportage has standard rear a/c vents to keep rear occupants more comfortable. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer rear vents.

Optional UVO for the Sportage allows the driver and passengers access to select programs on their smartphones, including playing internet radio stations, searching the internet and other connected activities without taking their eyes off the road or their hands from the wheel. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer factory integrated smartphone program access.

Bluetooth wireless connectivity is standard on the Sportage, connecting the driver and passenger’s cell phones to the vehicle systems. This allows them to use the vehicle’s stereo and hand controls to place calls safely and easily. Bluetooth costs extra on the Wrangler JK.

Model Availability

The Sportage is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Wrangler JK doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.

Economic Advantages

According to The Car Book by Jack Gillis, the Sportage is less expensive to operate than the Wrangler JK because typical repairs cost much less on the Sportage than the Wrangler JK, including $33 less for a water pump, $59 less for front brake pads, $6 less for a starter, $54 less for fuel injection, $240 less for a fuel pump and $216 less for a timing belt/chain.

The headlight lenses on the Sportage are made of plastic to be lighter, more resistant to damage and less expensive to replace than the glass headlight lenses on the Wrangler JK.

Recommendations

The Kia Sportage has won recognition from these important consumer publications:

 

Sportage

Wrangler JK

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

FALSE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage third among small suvs in owner reported satisfaction. This includes how well the vehicle performs and satisfies its owner’s expectations. The Wrangler JK isn’t in the top three in its category.

© 1991-2018 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved.

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