2021 Kia Sportage vs. 2020 Subaru Outback

Detailed Review, Specifications & Comparison

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Safety

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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 Subaru Outback has a metal gas tank.

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, rear parking sensors and rear cross-path warning.

Warranty

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

Reliability

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J.D. Power and Associates rated the Sportage second among compact suvs in their 2020 Initial Quality Study. The Outback isn’t in the top three in its category.

J.D. Power and Associates’ 2020 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 first in initial quality, above the industry average. With 51 more problems per 100 vehicles, Subaru is ranked 27th, 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

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

Sportage

Outback

Zero to 60 MPH

8 sec

8.7 sec

Quarter Mile

16.3 sec

16.6 sec

Speed in 1/4 Mile

86.4 MPH

86.1 MPH

Environmental Friendliness

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In its Green Vehicle Guide, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rates the Kia Sportage higher (5 to 7 out of 10) than the Subaru Outback (3 to 7). This means the Sportage produces up to 24.5 pounds less smog-producing pollutants than the Outback every 15,000 miles.

Brakes and Stopping

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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

60 to 0 MPH

118 feet

132 feet

Motor Trend

Tires and Wheels

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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 Base/Premium’s standard 65 series tires. The Sportage SX Turbo’s tires have a lower 45 series profile than the Outback Onyx Edition XT/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

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The Sportage has vehicle speed sensitive variable-assist power steering, for low-effort parking, better control at highway speeds and during hard cornering, and a better feel of the road. The Outback doesn’t offer variable-assist power steering.

For better handling and stability, the average track (width between the wheels) on the Sportage is 1.6 inches wider in the front and 1.1 inches wider in the rear than the track on the Outback.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD handles at .83 G’s, while the Outback Limited XT pulls only .75 G’s of cornering force in a Motor Trend skidpad test.

The Sportage SX Turbo AWD executes Motor Trend’s “Figure Eight” maneuver 1.6 seconds quicker than the Outback Limited (26.8 seconds @ .65 average G’s vs. 28.4 seconds @ .62 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

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The Kia Sportage may be more efficient, handle and accelerate better because it weighs about 150 to 350 pounds less than the Subaru Outback.

The Sportage is 1 foot, 2.9 inches shorter than the Outback, making the Sportage easier to handle, maneuver and park in tight spaces.

Passenger Space

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

Ergonomics

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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 Outback doesn’t offer a remote starting system.

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.

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 doesn’t offer rear air conditioning vents, only heat vents.

Model Availability

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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

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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, $225 less for a starter, $124 less for a fuel pump, $99 less for front struts and $88 less for a timing belt/chain.

Recommendations

© 1999 - 2020 Advanta-STAR Automotive Research. All rights reserved. This vehicle comparison and all of the content in it are provided only by license from Advanta-STAR Automotive Research Corporation of America. If you are not a legally licensed user of this vehicle comparison, it is against federal law to access it, copy it, forward it or use it in any manner whatsoever. Any unauthorized use of this vehicle comparison is a violation of U.S. and international law and is punishable criminally and civilly. 6IUEX-0KENZ 45.55.47.189 2020/10/23

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

Sportage

Outback

Consumer Reports® Recommends

TRUE

TRUE

Car Book “Best Bet”

TRUE

FALSE

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