Comparative Review: Hyundai Tucson vs Kia Sportage vs Renault Kadjar vs Volkswagen Tiguan

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These 4 family cars, which were recently introduced in South Africa, compete in one of the most hotly-contested segments in the South African new vehicle market. We get down to the nitty-gritty to find out which one is the best buy.

At a glance

  Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo 4WD Elite Kia Sportage 1.6T GT-Line AWD Renault Kadjar 81 kW dCi Dynamique Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline R-Line Auto
Price R519 900 R599 995 R414 900 R475 680
We like: Quiet cabin, composed ride, styling Build quality, sure-footed drive, wireless charging bay Value for money, fuel efficiency, infotainment system Interior and exterior style, comfort, practicality
We don't like: Bland cabin, plain infotainment system, thirsty Expensive, thirsty Small boot, interior quality outclassed here Laggy engine

Three of these 4 competitors are re-entrants to the family or compact SUV/crossover segment. The new generation Hyundai Tucson has returned to its original nameplate in the wake of a successful 7-year stint as the ix35. The Kia Sportage, the latest of the contenders to reach the South African market, has been repositioned as a more premium offering...whereas Kia was synonymous with budget-friendly offerings before, it’s now pushing into the premium market. Volkswagen’s Tiguan has always been a good seller on the local market and the new model impressed us with its stylish good looks, but the range is not quite completed yet (with turbodiesel models only joining the fray in 2017). Finally, Renault released the Kadjar as a brand new vehicle in 2016. The French car may be based on the Nissan Qashqai, but Renault has ensured the Kadjar's interior meets the high-tech standards that the firm's renowned for.

What do we have?

What used be "soccer mom" cars have now become sought-after vehicles for everyday use... 

When we plan comparative reviews, it’s not always possible to be granted custody of ideally matched derivatives at the same time, because it's up to the test unit's respective manufacturers/importers to decide which vehicles will go into the media fleets. Nevertheless, each of these contenders is equipped with an automatic 'box, which is the transmission option that the majority of buyers prefer. The 2 Koreans are top-of-the-range models, both featuring all-wheel-drive in tandem with 1.6-litre turbopetrol engines. The Tiguan 1.4 TSI Comfortline with its R-Line equipment package is currently the range-topper (until the 2.0-litre turbopetrol and -diesel models arrive in early 2017), while the Kadjar, in this bunch, offers a value-for-money option with its 1.5-litre turbodiesel.

How do they compare in terms of...


The VW Tiguan has the largest boot, but the Koreans have reclining rear seats which, adds to the overall comfort.

  Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo 4WD Elite Kia Sportage 1.6T GT-Line AWD Renault Kadjar 81kW dCi Dynamique Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline R-Line Auto
Length 4 475 mm 4 480 mm 4 449 mm 4 486 mm
Width 1 850 mm 1 855 mm 1 836 mm 1 839 mm
Height 1 660 mm 1 655 mm 1 607 mm 1 632 mm
Wheelbase 2 670 mm 2 670 mm 2 646 mm 2 677 mm
Boot capacity/seats down 488 L/1 478 L 466 L/1 455 L 370 L/1 478 L 520 L/1 655 L

Sportage boot has a wide opening aperture and a low loading height. Rubber mats are a great addition.

Space and versatility are of paramount importance in modern compact SUVs/crossovers: seats need to fold flat, the luggage bay needs to be capacious, Isofix child-seat mounting points are a must and plenty of room must be availed to front and rear passengers – and these requirements are reflected in these vehicles' exterior dimensions. The Renault Kadjar is the smallest car here, but upon closer inspection, there is little to choose between the rivals. The Kadjar is 37 mm shorter than the longest (Tiguan) and 19 mm narrower than the widest (Sportage). In height and wheelbase dimensions the Kadjar loses out by 53 mm and 31 mm respectively. The Renault does have the most ground clearance at 200 mm, 28 mm more than the lowest vehicle here – the Tucson.

Tucson boot looks identical to that of the Sportage, except it is claimed to be 20-litres bigger!

This results in the Kadjar having the smallest luggage bay of the lot at (a claimed) 370 litres, whereas the others have visibly larger loading bays: Sportage – 466 litres, Tucson – 488 litres and Tiguan – 520 litres. The Sportage and Tucson have very square boot openings that make it easy to load bigger objects and their boot lips are nice and low too. The Sportage and Tiguan have electric tailgates, which take the effort out of closing the rear hatches/assist shorter people that might struggle to reach the handles. The Sportage’s tailgate motion is particularly slow, it needs to be noted.

Tiguan has a floorboard that can be lowered to give the boot more depth

Rear passenger space is excellent in each of these contenders, even the Renault, which appears to have sacrificed a modicum of boot space for improved back seat comfort. However, the Korean pair holds the edge here: they offer reclining rear seats (with multiple levels of adjustability) as well as additional ventilation vents for the aft passengers. If you want to fold the rear seats down, all the SUVs have a one-lever release system to flatten out the utility space.

Kadjar has a narrower boot opening and its's higher off the ground than the others but, the load area is nice and square

Result: Korean cars favour rear passenger comfort due to reclining seats; Tiguan has best luggage space; Kadjar best suited for couples with small kids.

Ride quality?

The Hyundai and Kia ride on the same, new-for-2016 platform; the Tiguan uses the tried and tested MQB platform that forms the base of the Volkswagen Golf and Audi A3 (corrected) – to name just a few; the Kadjar has a 2-year-old Nissan Qashqai platform that we have praised in the past for its comfort and sure-footedness.

The Tucson and Sportage are both vastly improved over their predecessors, especially in the handling department. The Tucson’s ride is excellent as it crests speed bumps with nothing more than a polite squash of the suspension. There is no thudding/jarring and it’s the same when you get it out of the city and into the hills – the suspension remains composed over varying surfaces. The Sportage feels much the same although one can’t help but feel that the Kia's ride quality is a little bit more pliant and resolved than the Hyundai's... it’s a small notch above the Tucson when it comes to absorbing road imperfections.

The Korean manufacturers have vastly improved noise and vibration levels. Very quiet ride from inside the cabin.

The Tiguan is the most car-like to drive: you sit lower in the cabin and it seems to shrink around you, making the car feel more nimble and agile overall. The ride quality can feel a tad crashy over harsher bumps (like potholes or washboard gravel), but on the regular trip to school and work, the VW's wieldiness is welcome. That leaves the Kadjar, which can’t quite match the others for comfort over the bumps. That's not to say it’s horrible to drive, but you can discern that it’s not quite at the same level as the other 3. They all ride on 19-inch wheels, but the Renault suffers the most for it. You could deal with the others' low-profile tyre-shod ride qualities, but you may want to switch back to 17-inch wheels on the Renault and benefit from plumper sidewalls that offer more give.

Result: Sportage slightly pips the Tucson for ride comfort. Tiguan is also very good, but can feel stiffly-sprung on severe bumps. Kadjar's composed but could benefit from the standard 17-inch wheels.

On-road refinement?

The Tucson and Sportage deserve to be commended for their improved cabin refinement. Driving along at city speeds, their cabins are serenely quiet. Both the Hyundai and Kia feel extremely solid and well-built, the latter even more so than the Tiguan, which is of a high standard too. At freeway speeds, you pick up a bit of wind noise emanating from the Sportage’s mirrors. The Tucson remains dead quiet inside – a testament to its excellent build quality and standing out above the rest. The Renault starts to show its "value positioning" here as it emits odd creaks here and there and the cabin isn’t as quiet as the others.

Tiguan is the most car-like to drive but, all the SUVs are capable of holding their own on a mountain pass like this.

Exterior appeal

The school run can now be executed in style, as these fresh-looking contenders demonstrate... The Tiguan’s R-Line kit is a must-have, because without it (R18 000) the Volkswagen looks rather bland. Thankfully our test model came equipped with the option and certainly attracted its fair share of onlookers. The Tucson is a good looker too: it has more rounded looks, but a stylish and poised stance focused around a good looking front grille and headlight layout.

The Sportage is interesting, to put it mildly. The exterior treatment may polarise opinions, but it grew on us the more time we spent with the Kia. The "ice cube" LED lamps, for example, are an "interesting" design cue. The Kadjar makes a statement too – its bold and curvy design catches the eye as it drives past and like the Clio, it has a very attractive colour palette – all the models we have tested have come in this shiny Toffee Apple red that you want to lick.

It's a personal choice as to which car has the best looks. None are going to be laughed at on the school run.

Interior and features?

Again, when it comes to interior build quality, the Koreans have taken things to another level. The Sportage is especially well built inside. The shut lines are tight throughout; hit any piece of trim with your fist or jiggle something about and it just won't budge. It's a level of solidity beyond even Volkswagen’s renowned quality. The Renault can’t quite match up to the solid build quality of the others, but it does match them and, in some cases, beats them on features.

Both the Kadjar's digital display panels are customisable.

The Kadjar has a customisable infotainment touchscreen and a digital instrument cluster as standard. It requires a solid press of the screen to select what you want but it’s a good system that, once you’ve set up to your liking, is very quick to navigate and its swipe functionality (like a Smartphone) is useful for swapping through the screens. Navigation is also standard in the Kadjar and its reverse-view camera was the clearest and sharpest to work with.

Hyundai has a basic instrument and infotainment setup, it could do with a bit more "cool" factor.

The Korean pair, by contrast, have a much simpler setup with analogue dials for the instruments and a basic infotainment screen. Both use touchscreen systems (navigation is optional in the Hyundai), but have to be used in combination with the physical buttons below the screen. It’s not as customisable as the Renault's interface and it doesn’t have as many features as either the Tiguan or Kadjar. All the navigation systems on the SUVs were particularly easy to use and accurate when finding points of Interest. Real-time traffic would be a great next step in future generations of the navigation systems.

Much better steering wheel design from Kia. Wireless charging dock in front of the gear lever is a brilliant addition 

Of all the features and abilities these SUVs have, 2, in particular, stood out. Firstly, the Volkswagen’s digital instrument cluster. We’ve said it before, but it’s the best in the business with its crisp, hi-res display and its adaptability. It is an optional extra, but it brings the cabin to life with its vibrant colours and functionality. The second stand-out feature was the wireless charging bay in the Sportage. Anyone who has a Smartphone that's less than 2 years old probably has this functionality on their phone. Toss your phone into the space in front of the transmission lever and an orange light flicks on to tell you your phone's battery is being charged. Great, that frees up a USB slot and there’s no need for extra charging cables!

Tiguan's optional digital instrument cluster is the best in the business

Result: Tiguan and Kadjar outshine the Koreans for tech and usability but, the build quality of the Koreans, especially that of the Sportage is a cut above the other 2.

Performance vs economy?

  Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo 4WD Elite Kia Sportage 1.6T GT-Line AWD Renault Kadjar 81kW dCi Dynamique Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline R-Line Auto
Power/Torque 130 kW/265 Nm 130 kW/ 265 Nm 81 kW/260 Nm 110 kW/250 Nm
Claimed fuel consumption 8.5L/100 km 7.5L/100 km 4.7L/100 km 6.1L/100 km
Estimated range 729 km 827 km 1383 km 951 km

The 1.6-litre turbo engine in the Tucson and Sportage is identical in terms of power and torque outputs. There’s 130 kW available and 265 Nm of torque. That’s more than enough power to get you up to speed, but the trade-off against economy is debatable. During our test period, the Sportage averaged 9.9 L/100 km and the Tucson 10.2 L/100 km. Compare that with that of the most efficient car here – the Kadjar – and there’s a definite case for turbodiesel automatic compact SUVs/crossovers. The Kadjar (over the same route) averaged 6.1 L/100 km. It has less power at 81 kW from its 1.5-litre turbodiesel but, the all-important peak torque figure is 260 Nm. The Kadjar does feel underpowered when you’re in a big rush, but for everyday use and overtaking, it’s sufficient. And, as you can see you’ll be saving yourself around 4.0 L/100 km on fuel. The Tiguan tries to find the middle-ground with its 1.4-litre turbopetrol with figures of 110 kW and 250 Nm of torque. It didn’t do all that much better than the other petrol cars here, returning 9.1 L/100 km.

Kadjar makes a big statement for diesel auto combination saving around 4L/100 km

The turbopetrol cars all suffer from turbo lag at the bottom end of the rev range, especially if you’re crawling along and then have to accelerate again. They take too long to react and can sometimes cause hesitation that leads to trouble, particularly at intersections. The turbodiesel Kadjar has less of this problem and was most responsive at low speeds. The Renault's automatic 'box feels better matched with the diesel engine than the firm's 1.2-litre turbopetrol motor.

The self-shifting transmission in the Sportage is eager to kick down, which is a good thing in the corners because it’s ready to press on sooner than the others in this group. The Tiguan’s DSG has the occasional problem of holding onto gears for too long, which can be annoying, but it’s still the smoothest shifting ‘box of the lot. The Tucson has a sports mode that livens the whole experience up incredibly. The shifts become quicker and the throttle responds better to being poked. When not in sports mode, it’s a bit of a dulled experience, but one that’s quite refined and acceptable for an everyday run-around.

GT-Line Kia Sportage sits at the top of the range but it seems particularly expensive in this company

Result: Buy a diesel auto, you'll save a lot of money on fuel

Value for money

The prices of these cars vary (to say the least!). The Renault, at R414 000, is the cheapest, compared with the Kia, which is the most expensive at R599 995. Despite the Sportage's fashionable packaging and superior overall execution, it's difficult to recommend it over the Korean's more soberly-specced and conservative Tucson cousin. The Sportage has a few nice touches like the wireless charging bay, but it doesn’t do enough to warrant such a lofty price tag. You can get a R475 680 Tiguan and spec it with R75 000 worth of options, which is actually quite easy to do, and you will end up with a better infotainment system, adaptive cruise control and a very fancy instrument cluster. That takes it above the spec of the Sportage and still R50k cheaper.

Kadjar offers the most in terms of value for money but can't match the others for quality or refinement

The Tucson isn’t exactly cheap at R519 900 either, but, for essentially the same product as the Sportage bar a few niceties such as heated front and rear seats, LED foglights and front parking sensors, it’s a more sensible option. Then there’s the Kadjar, which is substantially cheaper than every other car in this group and it is still comparatively well-specced. You won’t find it lacking for anything tech-wise, but it can’t match the others for luggage capacity, refinement and build quality. You would make a massive saving on initial purchase and then more savings at the pumps, the latter of which equates to nearly R50 per 100 km driven. Only the Sportage has a diesel auto in its range (Tiguan diesels arrive in 2017) and it still commands a R70k premium on the Renault.

Result: Renault wins on outright value. The Sportage is particularly expensive even with all its bells and whistles. Tiguan and Tucson find a decent middle ground.


Taking everything into account, it may seem like the Renault is outclassed by its opposition but, it’s a lot cheaper and the diesel/auto combination is a better fit for a family car/compact SUV/crossover. It’s got all the gadgets you'd want inside and passenger space is the equal of the others, but it lacks outright luggage capacity. The French car's interior build quality isn’t a match for the others and despite riding on an excellent platform, the Kadjar's eclipsed by its more expensive rivals in terms of overall ride refinement. For best value-for-money, it’s the default choice.

The Hyundai flies under the radar in this company, it’s outshone by its stablemate in virtually every department apart from price. It’s refined and quiet to drive and offers a spacious and practical cabin. The Tucson's infotainment system is devoid of frills and the overall interior design is a bit boring/uninspired. You won’t be disappointed with the Tucson, but it represents a head-over-heart purchasing proposition, the other options here are more enticing.

Choices choices. Weigh up the pros and cons of each and decide which features are more important to you

That leaves the Tiguan and the Sportage slugging it out for the spoils. The Sportage has the best build quality of any of the cars, feeling solid inside and out but, the interior materials, especially the dashboard could do with a more premium look. It has plenty of standard features and the wireless charging console is a major bonus. It drives well on all surfaces, retaining its solid and "together" feel, it’s only real fault is its hefty price.

The Tiguan also has its faults; the Volkswagen's ride can feel overly firm and there’s more turbo lag at pull-off, which is something you need to get used to. However, the Tiguan has notable pluses, such as its dashing exterior looks and stylish interior. Passengers are well catered for in terms of space and comfort and the boot is the biggest on offer here. You do need to spec up the Tiguan a little to get the best out of the package, but you would get the best overall combination of practicality, tech, style and ride comfort. When the turbodiesel version arrives in 2017, it could be the best buy in the segment.

  Hyundai Tucson 1.6 Turbo 4WD Elite Kia Sportage 1.6T GT-Line AWD Renault Kadjar 81kW dCi Dynamique Volkswagen Tiguan 1.4TSI Comfortline R-Line Auto
Warranty years/mileage 5yr/150 000 km 5yr/Unlimited km 5yr/150 000 km 3yr/120 000 km
Service plan years/mileage 5yr/90 000 km 5yr/90 000 km 5yr/90 000 km 5yr/90 000 km
Service intervals 15 000 km 15 000 km 15 000 km 15 000 km

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