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Hyundai Tucson vs Kia Sportage: 5 Key Differences

Chris Kaiser

Similar yet distinct, the Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are two compact crossovers with a lot in common. Here are 5 key differences.

Alliterative Autos

The 2021 Hyundai Tucson and Kia Sportage are compact crossover corporate cousins. That’s the silly way of saying they both share most of their automotive DNA while differing slightly in their character and capabilities. From the Soul and Telluride to the Veloster and Palisade, Hyundai/Kia have made huge strides up the quality ladder with many of their offerings now blurring the line between mass-market and luxury. If you’re looking for a crossover, both the Tucson and Sportage should be under your consideration. But given that they are so similarly practical, economical, and capable, we wanted to see that sets these two crossovers apart.

Looks – Originality vs Refinement

Perhaps the most obvious, and for some the most salient, of differences between the Sportage and Tucson is their look. Though they share chassis, powertrains, and many other important components, their stylistic executions lend each a distinct personality. Both are well executed with the Tucson taking a more traditional approach of a typical crossover while this current generation of Sportage has been doing a pretty good impression of a Porsche Macan going on five years.

2021 Kia Sportage - kia.com

2021 Kia Sportage – kia.com  |  Shop new Kia Sportage on Carsforsale.com

Your mileage may vary on the luxury allusions and a “tiger nose” grille of the Sportage, but we liked the added flair of the smoothed-over body lines, sloping roof and high, rounded LED headlights. The inside of the Sportage is equally modern with a driver skewed dash that again shows Kia wanting this crossover to look as sporty as its name implies.

2021 Hyundai Tucson - hyundaiusa.com

2021 Hyundai Tucson – hyundaiusa.com  |  Shop new Hyundai Tucson on Carsforsale.com

The Tucson is a more refined, buttoned-up affair. The grille design provides continuity between Hyundai sedans like the Elantra and SUVs like the Palisade. Overall, the Tucson offers a straightforward approach to crossover design, seeking to merely do it better than the competition. The interior of the Tucson mirrors the exterior in this regard with quality materials and a function-forward design.

The Tucson and Sportage both look great in their own way, and which you choose will probably come down to individual taste.

Powertrains – One Turbo Too Few

2021 Kia Sportage 2.0L Turbo I4 - kia.com
2021 Kia Sportage 2.0L Turbo I4 - kia.com

When it comes to powertrains, the Kia Sportage has a clear leg up over its stablemate, the Hyundai Tucson. That’s because Kia graces it with a turbocharged 2.0L I-4 that makes a peppy 240hp and 260lb.-ft. of torque. While not scorching fast, that’s the best you’ll get from this pair. The Kia’s base engine option is a 2.4L working up 181hp and 175lb.-ft. of torque. Both engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

2021 Hyundai Tucson 2.4L I4 - hyundaiusa.com
2021 Hyundai Tucson 2.4L I4 - hyundaiusa.com

The Hyundai Tucson also gets the option of that very same 2.4L I-4 making the same 181hp and 175lb.-ft. of torque. But in case of the Tucson, this is the upgraded engine. The base is a 2.0L I-4 making 164hp and 150lb.-ft. of torque. Here again, these engines are paired with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 2.4L in either produces adequate power, but if you want something resembling, well, sporty acceleration, you’ll want to go with the Sportage and its turbo 2.0L.

Space – The Costs of Looking So Good

As much as we like the faux-Porsche looks of the Sportage it comes at a cost, albeit a slight one, to the interior space. The more conventional Tucson offers cargo room of 31 cu. ft. behind the rear seats and 61.9 cu. ft. in total. The Sportage offers 30.7 cu. ft. of space in back and 60.1 cu. ft. in total with the reduction owning mostly to that rakish slope to the roofline.

Passenger space is a bit of a wash between the two. The Sportage has a little more leg room up front, with 41.5 cu. ft. compared to the Tucson’s 39.6 cu. ft. But that low roofline reduces the Sportage’s front seat headroom to 39.3 cu. ft. versus the Tucson’s 39.6 cu. ft. Dimensions between the two are nearly identical for back seat passengers.

Tech – A Game of Inches

2021 Hyundai Tucson dash - hyundaiusa.com
2021 Hyundai Tucson dash - hyundaiusa.com

Just like the interior, when it comes to tech in the Sportage and Tucson the differences are minor but telling. For standard features both are decently equipped and offer Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, Bluetooth, a six-speaker stereo, and a USB port. The Tucson comes with a seven-inch touchscreen while the Sportage starts with an eight-inch screen (in the Tucson you need to go all the way up to the top Ultimate trim for the larger screen). Both gain tech options as you climb the trim ladder adding features like navigation, an eight-speaker Harmon Kardon stereo system, satellite and HD radio, and wireless phone charging.

2021 Kia Sportage dash - kia.com
2021 Kia Sportage dash - kia.com

Standard safety tech is also fairly similar with some exceptions. The Sportage and Tucson both come with lane departure warning, lane keep assist, rearview camera, automatic emergency braking, forward collision warning, and a driver’s attention warning. That’s where the list ends for the Tucson, but the Sportage also adds automatic high-beam assistance and pedestrian detection warning.

When it comes to tech, these two crossovers are closely matched with only a few items extra items available standard on the Sportage that aren’t on the Tucson without paying extra.

Price – A Little Extra for A Little Extra

Speaking of paying extra for those additional options, the more basic base Tucson comes in a little under the base Sportage. The same holds at the top end, too. Here’s a breakdown.

Tucson

2021 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate - hyundaiusa.com
2021 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate - hyundaiusa.com

SE – $23,700

Value – $25,150

SEL – $26,100

Sport – $28, 250

Limited – $29,400

Ultimate – $32,050

Sportage

2021 Kia Sportage SX Turbo - kia.com
2021 Kia Sportage SX Turbo - kia.com

LX – $23,990

S – $26,490

EX – $27,290

SX Turbo – $33,650

You’ll notice the Tucson gets more trim levels than the Sportage and comes in cheaper at both the bottom and top of the trim ladder. The benefit for Tucson buyers is they have greater options to find the right trim with the right options at the right price. The Tucson’s Value and Limited trims bridge gaps in price that a Sportage buyer will just have to live with. At $33,650, the additional cost of the Sportage’s SX Turbo trim above that of the Tucson is almost totally a function of the former getting the more powerful 2.0L turbocharged engine.

Takeaways – Style and Substance

2021 Hyundai Tucson - hyundaiusa.com

2021 Hyundai Tucson – hyundaiusa.com  |  Shop new Hyundai Tucson on Carsforsale.com

Overall, the biggest differences between the Kia Sportage and the Hyundai Tucson are how they look and the Sportage’s optional 2.0L turbocharged engine. Since we like the Sportage’s unconventional style and the more powerful engine, we’d lean toward the Kia. However, the Tucson offers a greater array of trims to best suit your specific needs and wants. Both crossovers deliver where it counts: value, practicality, and modern convenience.

WINNER: 2021 Kia Sportage

2021 Kia Sportage - kia.com

2021 Kia Sportage – kia.com  |  Shop new Kia Sportage on Carsforsale.com

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Chris Kaiser
Chris Kaiser

Chris’ greatest passions include topiary, spelunking, and pushing aging compact cars well past 200,000 miles on cross-country road trips. His taste in cars runs from the classic and esoteric to the deeply practical with an abiding affection for VW Things, old Studebakers, and all things hybrid-crossover.

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