Car Compare: 2010 Hyundai Tucson Vs. 2011 Kia Sportage

August 2, 2010
2010 Hyundai Tucson

2010 Hyundai Tucson

2011 Kia Sportage

2011 Kia Sportage

With the 2011 Sportage, Kia's placed its bets in all the right places. The Sportage has grown up into real-world dimensions, with more cargo space than ever. It's still among the smaller vehicles in its class but it fits adults better in all situations.

And though it's a mechanical twin of the 2010 Hyundai Tucson underneath, there's plenty to distinguish the two, from radically different sheetmetal to the future of Bluetooth hands-free entertainment. Hyundai and Kia make it easy to choose which one you'd prefer...or do they?

Normally at this point we'd call for a "Car Compare," but for a couple of reasons, we're going to do this a little differently. The first reason being, we haven't driven the coming turbo version of the Sportage and it's not even in dealers yet. Second: the Feds haven't laid out crash scores that could boost the Sportage's rating.

We've driven both enough to know which one we'd choose, though. Just so you know, this comparison ends in a numeric winner, but we're ruling by executive fiat to name the by-the-numbers loser the winner--and we'll explain why.

So before we get too far into the details, we'll recap our runner-up:

The Runner-Up: 2010 Hyundai Tucson

TheCarConnection Rating: 8.2 out of 10

The 2010 Hyundai Tucson is the beneficiary of an extreme makeover that works. The frumpy old Tucson couldn't manage anything nearly as compelling as this new version--which also bridges the gap between the ravishing new Sonata sedan and the lineup of car-like crossovers (not to mention the coming 2011 Hyundai Elantra.) The Tucson has good interior space, a much more flavorful look outside and in--and though it's not overtly quick and a good deal more expensive than before, it's a Top Safety Pick with plenty of standard features. And that's more than enough for the first-time crossover buyer to feel like they've been made complete.

We like:

  • Smoothed-over four-cylinder engine
  • Still offers a manual transmission
  • Spacious interior
  • Fuel economy

We don't like:

  • Sluggish performance
  • Leather seat comfort
  • Steering feel
  • Braking feel

The Winner: 2011 Kia Sportage

TheCarConnection Rating: 8.0 out of 10

"Can't you people count?" We know what you're thinking, but hear us out. For 2011, TheCarConnection is adopting a new green rating that's factored into the 2011 Sportage's rating and not in that of the 2010 Tucson. Stay tuned for more on that feature soon. Also, the Sportage hasn't passed any crash tests yet, though we suspect its close structural relationship to the Tucson will help it turn in identical scores. Lastly, we came close to giving the Sportage a 9 for styling; the whole urban-backpack theme just plain works here. It's what the Jeep Compass could have been--and it's a little more authentically SUV than the fancy Tucson.

We like:

  • Rakish new shape
  • Better build quality all around
  • UVO’s hands-free audio
  • SX’s 270-hp turbo

We don't like:

  • Rides a little stiffly
  • Steering feels heavy
  • Cabin is on the smaller side
  • Skimpy rear-seat head room

The Bottom Line? Both Hyundai and Kia have hit game reset at just the right moment--and while the Tucson scores the win on paper, we're picking the Sportage as our favorite pending more facts and figures to come--and pending our first drive of the 270-hp Sportage SX.

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