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Compared to metal, the Sportage’s plastic fuel tank can withstand harder, more intrusive impacts without leaking; this decreases the possibility of fire. The Toyota Highlander Hybrid has a metal gas tank.
Both the Sportage and the Highlander Hybrid 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, driver alert monitors, available all wheel drive, blind spot warning systems, front and rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.
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 Highlander Hybrid’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 Toyota covers the Highlander Hybrid. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Highlander Hybrid ends after only 5 years or 60,000 miles.
J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage first among small SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Highlander Hybrid 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 Toyota vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 20 more problems per 100 vehicles, Toyota is ranked 8th.
The Sportage stops much shorter than the Highlander Hybrid:
70 to 0 MPH
Car and Driver
60 to 0 MPH
60 to 0 MPH (Wet)
The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires provide better handling because they have a lower 45 series profile (height to width ratio) that provides a stiffer sidewall than the Highlander Hybrid Limited/Platinum’s 55 series tires.
The Sportage has standard front and rear gas-charged shocks for better control over choppy roads. The Highlander Hybrid’s suspension doesn’t offer gas-charged shocks.
The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the Highlander Hybrid Limited pulls only .77 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.
The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.4 seconds quicker than the Highlander Hybrid Limited (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28.2 seconds @ .62 average G’s).
For better maneuverability, the Sportage’s turning circle is 3.9 feet tighter than the Highlander Hybrid’s (34.8 feet vs. 38.7 feet).
The Kia Sportage may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 1200 to 1500 pounds less than the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
The Sportage is 1 foot, 4.1 inches shorter than the Highlander Hybrid, making the Sportage easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.
The design of the Kia Sportage amounts to more than styling. The Sportage has an aerodynamic coefficient of drag of .33 Cd. That is lower than the Highlander Hybrid (.33 to .34) and many sports cars. A more efficient exterior helps keep the interior quieter and helps the Sportage get better fuel mileage.
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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a hands-free gesture to open its liftgate, forcing you to put cargo down if your hands are full.
The Sportage offers a remote vehicle starting system, so the vehicle can be started from inside the driver's house. This allows the driver to comfortably warm up the engine before going out to the vehicle. The climate system will also automatically heat or cool the interior. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a remote starting system.
The power windows standard on both the Sportage and the Highlander Hybrid 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 Highlander Hybrid prevents the driver from operating the other 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 Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer heated windshield washer nozzles.
The Sportage is available in both front-wheel drive and four-wheel drive configurations. The Highlander Hybrid doesn’t offer a two-wheel drive configuration.
Insurance will cost less for the Sportage owner. The Complete Car Cost Guide estimates that insurance for the Sportage will cost $185 to $1645 less than the Highlander Hybrid over a five-year period.
IntelliChoice estimates that five-year ownership costs (depreciation, financing, insurance, fuel, fees, repairs and maintenance) for the Kia Sportage will be $5765 to $6931 less than for the Toyota Highlander Hybrid.
Consumer Reports® recommends both the Kia Sportage and the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, 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 Highlander Hybrid isn’t in the top three in its category.
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