2020 Kia Sportage vs. 2019 Volkswagen Golf SportWagen

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tests front crash prevention systems. With a score of 6 points, IIHS rates the Forward Collision Assist optional in the Sportage as “Superior.” The Golf SportWagen scores only 3 points and is rated only “Advanced.”

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 Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a driver alert monitor.

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

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration does 35 MPH front crash tests on new vehicles. In this test, results indicate that the Kia Sportage is safer than the Volkswagen Golf SportWagen:


Golf SportWagen



5 Stars

4 Stars

New test not comparable to pre-2011 test results. More stars = Better. Lower test results = Better.

For its top level performance in IIHS driver-side small overlap frontal, moderate overlap frontal, side impact, rear impact and roof-crush tests, with its optional front crash prevention system, its “Good” rating in the new passenger-side small overlap crash test, and its available headlight’s “Acceptable” rating, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety grants the Sportage the rating of “Top Pick” for 2019, a rating granted to only 88 vehicles tested by the IIHS. The Golf SportWagen was last qualified as a “Top Pick” in 2017.


The Sportage comes with free roadside assistance for 5 years 60,000 miles. Kia will send help if you run out of gas, need a jump-start, lock your keys in or need any assistance on the road. Volkswagen doesn’t give free roadside assistance for the Golf SportWagen.

Kia’s powertrain warranty covers the Sportage 4 years and 28000 miles longer than Volkswagen covers the Golf SportWagen. Any repair needed on the engine, transmission, axles, joints or driveshafts is fully covered for 10 years or 100,000 miles. Coverage on the Golf SportWagen ends after only 6 years or 72000 miles.

There are over 18 percent more Kia dealers than there are Volkswagen dealers, which makes it easier should you ever need service under the Sportage’s warranty.


To reliably start during all conditions and help handle large electrical loads, the Sportage has a standard 600-amp battery. The Golf SportWagen’s 480-amp battery isn’t as powerful.

J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage first among small SUVs in their 2019 Initial Quality Study. The Golf SportWagen 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia second in initial quality, above the industry average. With 43 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen 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 Volkswagen vehicles. J.D. Power ranks Kia 10th in reliability, above the industry average. With 5 more problems per 100 vehicles, Volkswagen is ranked 12th.

From surveys of all its subscribers, Consumer Reports’ December 2018 Auto Issue reports that Kia vehicles are more reliable than Volkswagen vehicles. Consumer Reports ranks Kia 11 places higher in reliability than Volkswagen.


The Sportage has more powerful engines than the Golf SportWagen:



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.

Golf SportWagen 1.4 turbo 4-cyl.

147 HP

184 lbs.-ft.

Golf SportWagen S 4MOTION 1.8 turbo 4-cyl.

168 HP

199 lbs.-ft.

As tested in Car and Driver the Sportage SX Turbo is faster than the Golf SportWagen S 1.8 turbo (automatics tested):


Golf SportWagen

Zero to 60 MPH

6.9 sec

7.8 sec

Zero to 100 MPH

18.9 sec

21.1 sec

5 to 60 MPH Rolling Start

7.5 sec

8.1 sec

Quarter Mile

15.4 sec

15.9 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

91 MPH

89 MPH

Top Speed

130 MPH

126 MPH

Fuel Economy and Range

The Sportage has 3.2 gallons more fuel capacity than the Golf SportWagen FWD’s standard fuel tank (16.4 vs. 13.2 gallons), for longer range between fill-ups. The Sportage has 1.9 gallons more fuel capacity than the Golf SportWagen 4Motion’s standard fuel tank (16.4 vs. 14.5 gallons).


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

Brakes and Stopping

For better stopping power the Sportage’s brake rotors are larger than those on the Golf SportWagen:

Sportage LX/S/EX

Sportage SX Turbo

Golf SportWagen

Front Rotors

12 inches

12.6 inches

11.3 inches

Rear Rotors

11.9 inches

11.9 inches

10.7 inches

Tires and Wheels

For better traction, the Sportage has larger standard tires than the Golf SportWagen (225/60R17 vs. 195/65R15). The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires are larger than the largest tires available on the Golf SportWagen (245/45R19 vs. 225/45R17).

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 Golf SportWagen S’ standard 65 series tires.

For better ride, handling and brake cooling the Sportage LX has standard 17-inch wheels. Smaller 15-inch wheels are standard on the Golf SportWagen S. The Sportage SX Turbo’s 19-inch wheels are larger than the 17-inch wheels on the Golf SportWagen SE.

Suspension and Handling

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

For a smoother ride and more stable handling, the Sportage’s wheelbase is 1.6 inches longer than on the Golf SportWagen (105.1 inches vs. 103.5 inches).

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Sportage is 2.4 inches wider in the front and 4.1 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Golf SportWagen.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the Golf SportWagen SE pulls only .82 G’s of cornering force in a Car and Driver skidpad test.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver quicker than the Golf SportWagen S (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 27.3 seconds @ .63 average G’s).

For better maneuverability, the Sportage’s turning circle is 1 foot tighter than the Golf SportWagen’s (34.8 feet vs. 35.8 feet).


The Sportage is 3.2 inches shorter than the Golf SportWagen, making the Sportage easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

The Sportage has 4.3 cubic feet more passenger volume than the Golf SportWagen (98.6 vs. 94.3).

The Sportage has .7 inches more front headroom, .3 inches more front legroom, 1.2 inches more front shoulder room, .5 inches more rear headroom, 2.6 inches more rear legroom and 1.2 inches more rear shoulder room than the Golf SportWagen.

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

Cargo Capacity

The Sportage has a larger cargo volume than the Golf SportWagen with its rear seat up (30.7 vs. 30.4 cubic feet).

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


The Sportage has a 2000 lbs. towing capacity. The Golf SportWagen has no towing capacity.


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 Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

To improve rear visibility by keeping the rear window clear, the Sportage has a standard rear fixed intermittent wiper with a full on position. The rear wiper standard on the Golf SportWagen only has an intermittent setting, so in a hard rain visibility isn’t as good.

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 Golf SportWagen’s headlights are rated “Poor.”

To shield the driver and front passenger’s vision over a larger portion of the windshield and side windows, the Sportage has standard extendable sun visors. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer extendable visors.

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 Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer air-conditioned seats.

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

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 Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer dual zone air conditioning.

The Sportage’s optional automatic temperature control maintains the temperature you set, automatically controlling fan speed, vents and temperature to maintain a consistent, comfortable environment. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer automatic air conditioning.

The Sportage (except S/LX)’s available GPS navigation system has a real-time traffic update feature that plots alternative routes to automatically bypass traffic problems. (Service not available in all areas.) The Golf SportWagen’s available navigation system doesn’t offer real-time traffic updates.

To quickly and conveniently keep personal devices charged without cables tangling and wearing out, the Kia Sportage (except LX) offers an optional wireless phone charging system (Qi) for the front seat. The Golf SportWagen doesn’t offer wireless personal charging.


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

The Kia Sportage outsold the Volkswagen Golf/GTI by almost two to one during 2018.

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

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