2020 Kia Sportage vs. 2019 Subaru Outback

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

The Sportage’s driver alert monitor detects an inattentive driver then sounds a warning and suggests a break. According to the NHTSA, drivers who fall asleep cause about 100,000 crashes and 1500 deaths a year. The Outback doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

Both the Sportage and the Outback have standard driver and passenger frontal airbags, front side-impact airbags, side-impact head airbags, front seatbelt pretensioners, height adjustable front shoulder belts, four-wheel antilock brakes, traction control, electronic stability systems to prevent skidding, crash mitigating brakes, daytime running lights, lane departure warning systems, rearview cameras, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, front and rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

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 Outback’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 Subaru covers the Outback. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Outback ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.

There are over 22 percent more Kia dealers than there are Subaru dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Sportage’s warranty.

Reliability

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage first among small SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Outback isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 Initial Quality Study of new car owners surveyed provide the statistics that show that Kia vehicles are better in initial quality than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 43 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 25th, below the industry average.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2019 survey of the owners of three-year-old vehicles provides the long-term dependability statistics that show that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Subaru vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 10 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 14th.

Engine

The Sportage has more powerful engines than the Outback:

Horsepower

Torque

Sportage 2.4 DOHC 4-cyl.

181 HP

175 lbs.-ft.

Sportage SX Turbo AWD 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

237 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

Sportage SX Turbo FWD 2.0 turbo 4-cyl.

240 HP

260 lbs.-ft.

Outback 2.5i 2.5 DOHC 4-cyl.

175 HP

174 lbs.-ft.

Outback 3.6R 3.6 DOHC 6 cyl.

256 HP

247 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Motor Trend the Kia Sportage 2.4 4-cylinder is faster than the Outback 2.5i:

Sportage

Outback

Zero to 60 MPH

8 sec

9.5 sec

Quarter Mile

16.3 sec

17.4 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86.4 MPH

82.1 MPH

Brakes and Stopping

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

Sportage SX Turbo

Outback

Front Rotors

12.6 inches

12.4 inches

Rear Rotors

11.9 inches

11.8 inches

The Sportage stops much shorter than the Outback:

Sportage

Outback

70 to 0 MPH

174 feet

180 feet

Car and Driver

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

129 feet

Motor Trend

60 to 0 MPH (Wet)

131 feet

147 feet

Consumer Reports

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Sportage SX Turbo’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Outback (245/45R19 vs. 225/65R17).

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 Outback 2.5i/2.5i Premium’s standard 65 series tires. The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires have a lower 45 series profile than the Outback Limited/Touring’s 60 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Sportage SX Turbo has standard 19-inch wheels. The Outback’s largest wheels are only 18-inches.

Suspension and Handling

The Sportage has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Outback’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Sportage is 1.6 inches wider in the front and 1.7 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Outback.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the Outback 3.6R Limited pulls only .79 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.6 seconds quicker than the Outback 2.5i Limited (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28.4 seconds @ .57 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Sportage’s turning circle is 1.3 feet tighter than the Outback’s (34.8 feet vs. 36.1 feet).

Chassis

The Kia Sportage may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 150 to 300 pounds less than the Subaru Outback.

The Sportage is 1 foot, 1.5 inches shorter than the Outback, making the Sportage easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The Sportage has .2 inches more rear headroom and .1 inches more rear legroom than the Outback.

Cargo Capacity

To make loading groceries and cargo easier when your hands are full, just waiting momentarily behind the back bumper can open the Sportage’s liftgate, leaving your hands completely free. The Outback doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.

Servicing Ease

The Sportage has a maintenance free battery for long life without checking the battery’s water level. The Outback doesn’t have a maintenance free battery, so the water level in the battery’s cells must be checked often to prevent damage.

Ergonomics

The power windows standard on both the Sportage and the Outback have locks to prevent small children from operating them. When the lock on the Sportage is engaged the driver can still operate all of the windows, for instance to close one opened by a child. The Outback prevents the driver from operating the rear windows just as it does the other passengers.

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 Outback doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.

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

Both the Sportage and the Outback offer rear vents. For greater rear passenger comfort, the Sportage has standard rear air conditioning vents to keep rear occupants cool in summer or warm in winter. The Outback Base/Premium doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Model Availability

The Sportage is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Outback 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 Outback because it costs $264 less to do the manufacturer’s suggested maintenance for 50,000 miles. Typical repairs cost much less on the Sportage than the Outback, including $20 less for a water pump, $11 less for front brake pads, $223 less for a starter, $123 less for a fuel pump, $98 less for front struts and $88 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

Consumer Reports® recommends both the Kia Sportage and the Subaru Outback, based on reliability, safety and performance.

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 Outback isn’t in the top three in its category.

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

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