2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+

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Which sub-$40,000 mid-size SUV represents better value: the new Kia Sportage or stalwart Nissan X-Trail?

2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0
2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

In the first four months of 2021, the Nissan X-Trail outsold the Kia Sportage two to one. In 2022 that situation has been reversed, in part because Kia replaced an ageing Sportage with an all-new model in late 2021.

Does that make the Nissan X-Trail a poor choice by today’s standards, or are Australians just attracted to shinier, newer toys?

It’s an interesting question, and one that can only be answered by throwing these two vehicles into a head-to-head comparison. So, let’s get to it.



If the reigning 2022 Drive Car of the Year Best Medium SUV – and Overall Winner – is going to have a chink in its armour, this is it. The 2022 Kia Sportage S is the least-expensive variant in the award-winning range, therefore you’d expect it to be the least impressive, right? 

Let’s find out. 

The Kia Sportage range has 11 variants, beginning with the S FWD petrol manual at $32,445 plus on-road costs and stretching to the GT-Line diesel AWD auto at $52,370 plus on-road costs. 



The variant we’re testing here is the S FWD petrol automatic, which has a six-speed automatic transmission instead of a six-speed manual (plus $2000) and Vesta Blue metallic paint ($520), raising the price to $34,965 plus on-roads

According to Kia’s drive-away calculator, this example will cost $39,446 to park in your driveway, using a metro Melbourne address.

2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

It’ll have passed nine years before the 2022 Nissan X-Trail is replaced by an all-new version. Originally arriving in Australia early in 2014, the outgoing Nissan X-Trail is still standing the test of time. And like any good product, it’s continually being tweaked and upgraded right up until the end.



The version we’re testing today speaks exactly to that point. The 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+ is a new trim level that sits one step above the entry-level X-Trail ST, and was introduced for the final Model Year 22 X-Trail that’s now available in Nissan dealerships.

It’s a clever trim level that plays to value and sandwiches between the entry-level X-Trail ST and mid-spec X-Trail ST-L. Our 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+ test car costs $34,140 before on-roads – just $1475 more than an entry-level X-Trail ST auto at $32,665 – and introduces a decent 360-degree camera with moving object detection, front and rear parking sensors, plus a native navigation system.

For the frugal, it means you’re getting a decently sized family SUV for under $38,000 drive-away from a mainstream manufacturer. It does mean, however you’re looking at a run-out model, with a new-generation X-Trail due to arrive in Australia in the second half of 2022.



Key details2022 Kia Sportage S2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+
Price (MSRP)$34,445 plus on-road costs$34,140 plus on-road costs
Colour of test carVesta BlueRuby Red
OptionsMetallic paint – $520Metallic Paint – $560
Price as tested$35,485 plus on-road costs$34,700 plus on-road costs
Drive-away price$39,466 drive-away (Melbourne)$38,125 drive-away (Melbourne)
2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

The Sportage S’s interior is predominantly black, and the seats are cloth – leather trim is only standard on the SX+ and GT-Line variants.

The base Sportage also misses out on the impressive 12.3-inch touchscreen display (SX up) and 12.3-inch driver instrument display (GT-Line only), which initially makes the interior feel a touch austere, especially if you’re familiar with the more expensive variants. 

That said, there is still plenty here to like, including a lower-spec digital instrument multi-function display flanked by LCD speed and rev dials that adds a splash of colour to the cabin, along with chrome highlights on the wheel, dashboard and doors.



The driver’s seat has manual adjustments, as does the steering wheel, but there’s no need to compromise the driving position because all adjust over a generous range. 

Below the central touchscreen are the air-conditioning controls – non-climate-controlled – and below that again are two USB ports (one USB-A and one USB-C), and a 12V charging port ahead of the PRND automatic gear lever. Five switch blanks next to the gear lever are constant reminders that other Sportages get more gear than your one.

Behind the transmission lever is a drive-mode dial with Eco, Normal, Sport and Smart, which changes powertrain characteristics and the colours on the driver display to match.

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Kia Sportage

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There are cupholders between the front seats, and in each front door they’re big enough to take a water bottle. 

The back seat has plenty of room for adults – leg, foot and head room, and the backrests can be reclined. It also has two air vents but no USB ports, and there ISOFIX mounts in both outboard seats. A fold-down central armrest has two cupholders, and there are seatback map pockets and door pockets on both sides. 

The Sportage’s rear door opens manually to reveal a boot with 543L of space, which can be expanded by folding the rear seats 60/40. All Sportage variants have full-size spare tyres. 

The floor has two setting heights, which means there can be room to store items out of sight beneath, or you can prioritise load height above. The Sportage S has a retractable cargo blind rather than a hard shelf. 

The interior is presentable, but there’s no hiding its age or the fact it’s an entry-level trim either.

A tell-tale sign is the polyurethane steering wheel, thankfully a passing trend in even Australia’s cheapest cars. Another is the tiny 7.0-inch touchscreen that just looks old-fashioned compared to others in the segment.



But this is a $38,000 medium SUV from a mainstream brand, so what’s more important is quality. Despite some rather basic and shallow-grained plastics letting down the material selection, it’s honestly a well-built and rattle-free cabin.

At first glance it also looks nice enough, with glittery and glossy plastics, and some faux-stitching elements breaking up the usual sea of black plastic and fabric.

After spending time with it, you realise it’s well thought out, too, with the engine start button located logically next to the steering wheel, a pair of cupholders placed away from where you interact with the dashboard, and plenty of buttons ensuring interaction with in-car technology remains uncompromised.

Even the small things count, like a smart open-air storage tray – next to power outlets and connectivity – that’s deep enough to safely hold a phone, wallet, and keys, plus a well-sized armrest that’s perfect for someone’s clutch or small bag.

The seats are really comfy, too, despite not offering key adjustments like lumbar and squab tilt. You sit upright, and its tall and traditional glasshouse means it’s easy to see out of, if you’re tall enough.

My vertically challenged wife (160cm) added that the driver’s seat doesn’t go quite high enough for small people, and after viewing it from her perspective, I got the point. However, as the more horizontally challenged one (180cm), I found the adjustment and position to be right on.



The seats are trimmed in a boring-looking black cloth, but hey, at least it’s child-proof and appears to be hard-wearing. I say child-proof because over in the second row, don’t be surprised if your kids get carried away.

Opening the door reveals a light, airy and easily accessible second row, with its almost-flat floor doing the heavy lifting in terms of perceived space. In my case, it encouraged my three-year-old to climb in and muck about in the rear foot well given how spacious it is.

However, the good side is that it encourages children to climb into their support seat themselves, both making the buckle-up easier and giving them some independence. If you’re loading kids yourself, you’ll find acres of room to swing by with either a forward- or rearward-facing baby seat.

As an adult, you’ll still have a good time. The hip height is okay, but once you’re in, you benefit more from the great vantage point you’ll discover. Its slightly elevated second row means you can see what everyone is doing, including the driver. It also means you have great visibility externally as a passenger, so the space feels open and light.

In terms of comfort, adult-sized occupants in the back still benefit from stacks of knee, foot and head room. In a quest to find the breaking point, I was able to fit two slimline child seats alongside one adult in the back comfortably, which speaks volumes about its size.

Other than some small storage in the doors, a pair of rear air vents are all you have to play with. In the boot, there’s 565L of storage with five seats in play or 945L with the second row folded.



What that means in real life is the boot is fantastic and well-proportioned for family life. A stroller will fit both longways and lengthways with ease alongside a weekly shop after the nine-to-five.

During the school holidays, you could easily pack a week away for a family of five in the back, if not with some organisation and planning. The only issue with the second row is an odd-mounted cargo blind that just makes the space awkward when using the sun shade.

Another golden oldie – the 2022 Jeep Grand Cherokee – suffers from the same issue, which I put down to old bones. Under the boot floor lies a surprisingly large storage area, as well as a space-saving spare wheel.

2022 Kia Sportage S2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+
SeatsFiveFive
Boot volume543L seats up / 1829L seats folded565L seats up / 945L seats folded
Length4660mm4690mm
Width1865mm1820mm
Height1665mm1740mm
Wheelbase2755mm2705mm

Infotainment and Connectivity

The one area where the most affordable Sportage betrays its budget price is the infotainment set-up. Whereas more expensive variants have two 12.3-inch, very colourful and feature-packed screens covering two-thirds of the dashboard, the Sportage S makes do with an 8.0-inch central touchscreen and a second digital/LCD combo unit in front of the driver. 

The one in front of the driver houses digital dials for speed and engine speed, plus a fairly basic four-screen trip computer.

The 8.0-inch central touchscreen houses sound system controls and smartphone mirroring. It claims to have voice recognition, but that’s only if you have your smartphone hooked up. There is no digital radio or satellite navigation.



Nothing shows a car’s age better than infotainment.

The Nissan X-Trail’s 7.0-inch infotainment display is small by today’s standards, especially compared to others in the same segment that offer one or sometimes two displays larger than 10.0 inches each.

Also, despite the software having been kept somewhat up-to-date – with wired Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, and digital radio on offer – the hardware hasn’t.

When using smartphone mirroring, I found touchscreen input sometimes taking a whole second to register, which can lead to frustration and mindless tapping. It’s clear the hardware needs a boost.

The standard six-speaker stereo does a fair job considering the price tag, and the quality of its microphone for handsfree calling is also still cutting the mustard.

This is arguably the Kia Sportage S’s strong point. Kia has loaded the Sportage with active safety features right from the bottom of the range to the top. Standard features include the latest-generation autonomous emergency braking, blind-spot avoidance assist, rear cross-traffic alert and assist, lane-keeping assist, active cruise control with intelligent speed limit assist, driver attention alert, plus safe exit assist.



Rear parking sensors are standard, as is a rear-view camera with moving guidelines, high-beam assist and dusk-sensing headlights. 

Rain-sensing wipers are not available on the base model, but are standard from the SX up.

The only other driver-assist safety features missing from the S are blind-spot-view monitors, a surround-view monitor and park collision avoidance assist, all of which are GT-Line only. While all of those are nice to have, they’re not must-haves.

The Kia Sportage has not yet been crash-tested by the ANCAP independent safety body.

2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

The 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+ benefits from a five-star ANCAP safety rating having been scored under 2017’s testing regime.

Disappointingly, the only forms of active safety offered by the X-Trail ST+ are forward collision warning and autonomous emergency braking. Good to have, but off the pace as the market quickly moves to rear cross traffic alert, junction-detecting AEB, lane-keep assist. blind-spot assist and more.



Sadly, you have to step up to the ST-L for blind-spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert, and to the top-spec Ti for adaptive cruise control and any form of lane-keeping assist.

At a glance2022 Kia Sportage S2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+
ANCAP rating & year testedUntestedFive stars (tested 2017)
Safety reportN/AANCAP report
2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

All Kia models come with a seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty, which includes eight years of roadside assist if you service it at a Kia dealership.

Servicing costs on the Sportage S auto are capped at $1280 for three years and $2395 over five years, which is marginally cheaper than the more powerful turbocharged petrol ($2465) and diesel ($2512) variants. 

During our test drive with the Kia Sportage S auto, we recorded a fuel consumption of 10.0L/100km, which is a fair bit more than the official claim of 8.1L/100km. If fuel consumption is a concern for you, the turbo diesel is a much better choice – you can expect 20 per cent less fuel consumption, and you get a more powerful engine – but the diesel option is a costly one (+$5400).

Kia offers one year complimentary road-side assistance, which seems miserly but can stretch up to eight years for free if you conduct your annual service at a Kia dealer.

Lastly, insurance costs. Using a 35yo male living in Chatswood with a clean driving record, NRMA quotes $886.49 per year for the Kia.



The Nissan X-Trail ST+ requires a trip to a service centre every 10,000km or 12 months, whichever comes first.

The first three services cost $245, $379 and $256 respectively, or $880 in total. Years four and five cost $497 and $265 respectively, making the warranty-covering five-year servicing cost a $1642 affair. But bear in mind that only covers the first 50,000km, and most other cars offer a 15,000km service interval, which means you’ll only need three services to get to 50K, not five.

Considering the type of vehicle, its maintenance prices are fair. A 2022 Hyundai Tucson costs $957 over three years and $1595 over five, but will go 15,000km between intervals.

The Nissan X-Trail comes with five years of complimentary roadside assistance, and it doesn’t matter if you service with a Nissan dealer or not, as long as services are conducted on time.

As for insurance costs, we were quoted a very affordable $850 per year for comprehensive insurance for a 35yo Sydney male with a clean record.

At a glance2022 Kia Sportage S2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+
WarrantySeven years, unlimited kmFive years, unlimited km
Service intervals12 months or 15,000km12 months or 10,000km
Servicing costs$1280 (3 years), $2395 (5 years)$880 (3 years), $1642 (5 years)
Fuel cons. (claimed)8.1L/100km7.9L/100km
Fuel cons. (on test)10.0L/100km8.9L/100km
Fuel type91-octane regular unleaded91-octane regular unleaded
Fuel tank size54L60L

The base-variant Kia Sportage S is powered by a familiar 2.0-litre non-turbocharged petrol engine that sends 115kW and 192Nm to the front wheels via a six-speed automatic transmission. 



These are not stunning figures, and so the 1538kg Sportage S’s accelerative performance is not stunning either. Instead, let’s call it serviceable. 

The Sportage S’s powertrain has sufficient oomph to keep up with commuter traffic, and does a decent job accelerating when needed. But because of its meagre outputs and the Sportage’s body weight, if you demand a lot from the engine you will use a lot of fuel.  

The Sportage S rides on Nexen Roadian GTX SUV tyres, which do a good job providing grip without sending too much tyre noise into the otherwise quiet cabin. 

One bonus of this not-so powerful powertrain is that you are never in danger of the engine overpowering the front wheels, making you wish you had all-wheel drive underneath.

The automatic transmission generally works well with this engine, although it is at times too quick to upshift, which hampers acceleration on moderate throttle inputs. By the same token, it’s also slow at times to downshift – for example, to maintain speed on hills. It feels like Kia has tuned it for tall-gear efficiency over response.

Typical of Kia models, the Sportage S rides rough Australian roads very well, and has the dynamics to respond quickly when called on to do so. That is partly down to Kia’s commitment to tune suspension settings for Australian conditions, and that’s something not all brands do. 

The soft initial tune helps it soak up harder hits, but there’s an underlying firmness that keeps excessive wheel travel and body roll to a minimum. 

The Sportage’s steering is light and relatively quick, which makes low-speed manoeuvres less taxing. Its 11.4m turning circle is good, but not class-leading.

The Nissan X-Trail is still the comfy and honest family car it always was.

Its suspension is refreshingly soft, meaning it’s fantastic in low-speed suburban areas. Our particular ST+ model wears the same 17-inch wheel as the entry-level model, so both cars use the same 225-section 65-profile tyre.

There’s no doubt the chunky tyre works hand-in-hand with the supple suspension tune to offer a pleasant experience. As expected, the only downfall from the combo is some body roll and movement in more dynamic situations.

On a typical, fast and flowing 80km/h zone in rural NSW, you’ll feel the movement first through the tyre, then the body itself. This odd sensation of wallowing around is a tiny trade-off considering the excellent ride quality you’ll benefit from 95 per cent of time behind the wheel.

Our test car is the two-wheel-drive automatic version, meaning it receives a 2.5-litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder petrol engine with 126kW/233Nm and a constantly variable automatic transmission (CVT). Weighing in at 1500kg means the X-Trail’s wee atmospheric engine requires you to use most, if not all, of the throttle pedal frequently.

Luckily the CVT auto doesn’t mind sharp and sudden inputs, then, as power is fed in graciously and calmly regardless of the urgency. You’ll hear the engine flare and work hard, but instead build power without any harsh kickdown.

CVTs are not for everyone, but you can’t deny the alignment of serenity and wittiness as positive attributes for a family car. With the vehicle fully loaded it can feel underpowered up at motorway speeds, but you soon learn to adjust around the engine and accelerate pre-emptively.

Around town with two kids on board, it’ll feel just right. Surprisingly, even with the small motor and the decent amount of throttle it requires to keep up with Sydney traffic, it only used a litre more than the official combined fuel claim, or 8.9L/100km.

Given some cars use two, three or sometimes even four litres over the combined fuel cycle claim, it’s not a bad result considering its power-to-weight ratio and transmission.

Key details2022 Kia Sportage S2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+
Engine2.0-litre four-cylinder petrol2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol
Power115kW @ 6000rpm126kW @ 6000rpm
Torque192Nm @ 4500rpm233Nm @ 4400rpm
Drive typeFront-wheel driveFront-wheel drive
TransmissionSix-speed torque convertor automaticConstantly variable transmission (CVT)
Power to weight ratio75kW/t84kW/t
Weight1538kg1503kg
Tow rating1650kg braked, 750kg unbraked1500kg braked, 750kg unbraked
Turning circle11.4m11.3m

In years gone by, the fact that this third-generation Nissan X-Trail is in the latter stages of its life – the next-generation X-Trail is due here before the end of the year – would have meant that canny buyers could snag a sharply priced runout deal as Nissan pushed the old model out the door to make room for the new one. 

In this post-Covid world, all the rules are being rewritten, and severe stock shortages mean that runout deals are few and far between, particularly in the popular mid-size SUV market segment.

So, we have a nine-year-old Nissan X-Trail competing with a freshly launched Kia Sportage. That may seem unfair, but it’s not because that same decision is confronting buyers. One look at the Nissan website reveals there are no runout deals or special offers on the X-Trail right now. In fact, the only area dealers are willing to negotiate is with finance. 

Even so, the X-Trail ST+ carries a $1300 advantage into battle thanks to a sharper drive-away price (including premium paint for both it and the Sportage).

That advantage is whittled down by Nissan’s shorter 10,000km service intervals, which means you’ll spend $1642 by 50,000km compared to $1280 for the Sportage. And let’s not forget the value of Kia’s seven-year warranty that outdoes Nissan’s five-year warranty.   

As for running costs, the Nissan is marginally cheaper to insure according to our research above, and cheaper to run because it consumes 10 per cent less fuel per 100km. That’s despite – or maybe because of – the Nissan’s larger and more powerful 2.5-litre petrol engine, which has an easier time moving the lighter X-Trail.

For what it’s worth, the Sportage’s suspension handles Australia’s often lumpy road conditions with more comfort and competence than the Nissan. That’s a quality often overlooked at purchase time, but if you end up with the lesser of two, it will haunt you every day you drive. 

What about internal space? Both alternatives are at the roomier end of the mid-size SUV market with generous room in the rear for adults and big 500L+ boots. That X-Trail’s back seat is a touch bigger than the Sportage’s, as is the X-Trail’s boot, although that’s partly thanks to a slimmer space-saver spare tyre under the floor, whereas the Sportage comes with a full-size spare.

So if you tally all that up, the X-Trail is clearly the accountants’ choice. But none of that takes into account the features and equipment our two contenders come loaded with. For example, would you buy a flatscreen TV today that is lower-resolution and doesn’t have the streaming apps built-in just because it was cheaper to buy and cheaper to run? 

To get a true sense of the ‘value’ inherent in these two cars, we need to understand what they have, not just what they do. 

For starters, the Kia comes with eight airbags to the Nissan’s six, and has a car alarm. It also has an electric park brake, whereas the X-Trail has a foot-stomper. 

The Kia’s active safety suite comprehensively betters the Nissan’s, which is to be expected given the T32 X-Trail’s age. But the added safety alone more than wipes out any price advantage the Nissan held and puts the Sportage way ahead on value. 

That said, the ST+ does come with 360-degree cameras and parking sensors front and rear, which the Sportage cannot match. The Sportage sees better in the dark thanks to more modern LED headlights equipped with high-beam auto dipping. 

Inside, the more modern Sportage again has the advantage, particularly in practicality, presentation and useability – although only the Nissan offers a CD player, if that’s important. In terms of nice-to-haves, only the Sportage has driver’s lumbar adjust, ambient lighting, active cruise control with speed sign recognition and tyre pressure monitoring. 

So, if your criteria align with ours, the Sportage is the better choice and by a fair margin. It has a sizeable advantage in value, safety and dynamics, and trails only marginally in other less important areas.

That said, we wonder how much of a runout discount it would take to make the Nissan more attractive. Or can a few thousand extra dollars ever make up for the lack of important safety features?

2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

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Doors & Seats

EngineIcon

Engine

EnginePowerIcon

Power & Torque

TransmissionIcon

Transmission

DrivetrainIcon

Drivetrain

FuelIcon

Fuel

WarrantyIcon

Warranty

AncapSafetyIcon

Safety

2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon

Doors & Seats

5 Doors, 5 Seats

Power & Torque

115 kW, 192 Nm

Transmission

6 Speed, Auto

Fuel

Petrol (91), 8.1L/100KM

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2022 Kia Sportage S v 2022 Nissan X-Trail ST+-0

Overall Ratings

Drive’s Pick

2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon

7.9/ 10

7.9/ 10

2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon

7.6/ 10

7.6/ 10

Ratings Breakdown

Performance
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Ride Quality
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Handling & Dynamics
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Driver Technology
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Interior Comfort + Packaging
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Safety
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Infotainment & Connectivity
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Fuel Efficiency
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Value
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon
Fit for Purpose
2022 Kia Sportage S Wagon
2022 Nissan X-TRAIL ST+ Wagon

Glenn Butler

Glenn Butler is one of Australia’s best-known motoring journalists having spent the last 25 years reporting on cars on radio, TV, web and print. He’s a former editor of Wheels, Australia’s most respected car magazine, and was deputy editor of Drive.com.au before that. Glenn’s also worked at an executive level for two of Australia’s most prominent car companies, so he understands how much care and consideration goes into designing and developing new cars. As a journalist, he’s driven everything from Ferraris to Fiats on all continents except Antarctica (which he one day hopes to achieve) and loves discovering each car’s unique personality and strengths. Glenn knows a car’s price isn’t indicative of its competence, and even the cheapest car can enhance your life and expand your horizons. 

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