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Feature Set Side By Side: Kia Sportage Hybrid Vs. Honda CRV Hybrid

Over the weekend, a dear friend of the family asked me whether she should buy an EV or some kind of hybrid. She’s a recently widowed older woman that lives alone and does mostly short to medium distance drives around the greater Seattle and Puget Sound region. She lives in a rural part of the county Seattle is in (down a dirt road) and strongly prefers to avoid the gas station as much as possible (if not completely). She is looking at SUVs or crossovers.

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It is important to me to provide objective, practical, and useful advice to her (useful meaning that it actually helps her make an important decision). She is on a limited income and has an upper limit of about $40k (well under the average price of a new car these days), but would prefer to stay below that as much as possible. Assuming it is a long lasting, reliable vehicle, this may be the last vehicle she ever owns. I am writing two articles meant to help her, or other car shoppers like her, decide whether an EV or hybrid vehicle might make the most sense over a 10 year period of ownership in terms of up front and long term costs (especially fuel).

But first a little more information about this woman’s preferences and why I’ve started out with two hybrid models. She lives in a place that gets snow occasionally, and definitely gets lots of rain (and muddy dirt roads) and an SUV or crossover is a more comfortable choice given the higher seating position and easier entry. She’d prefer AWD, but technically would be OK with front wheel drive too. She really wants a vehicle with all the latest safety features, and as many convenience features as possible. She favors certain brands because of her previous experience and or the recommendations of her adult children.

Since her daughter drives a Honda CR-V Hybrid I am using it as a baseline. She isn’t fond of Toyota’s Rav4, she is coming from a 12 year old Acura compact SUV, and really likes the looks of Kia’s model line. This is why I am comparing the Kia Sportage HEV to the Honda first.

The Honda CR-V Hybrid starts at $32,950 MSRP for the base Sport Hybrid model, and goes up to $39,100 for the top trim Sport Touring Hybrid. The AWD version of the hybrid gets the most powerful CR-V engine, a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder with 204-hp (14 more than the non-hybrid version), and is rated for 40 MPG in the city and 34 MPG on the highway. The CR-V has a 14 gallon tank and should offer well over 500 miles of range on the more efficient city cycle using regular unleaded (and around 600 in the FWD Sport model). All safety features are standard on both trims, save for two: front and rear rear parking sensors are only available on the Sport Touring model and the Sport model AWD as optional.

Otherwise, the CR-V hybrid has a long list of standard safety features including: adaptive cruise control, collision mitigation (automatic braking before collision), lane keeping and road departure assist (which can only “apply mild steering torque” or braking), lane departure and forward collision warnings, blind spot monitoring and warning, traffic sign recognition, auto high beams, hill descent and hill start assists, and low speed braking control among all the other usual features like stability control, airbags, anti lock brakes, etc.

Standard convenience feature differences in the CR-V trims worth pointing out include: the Real Time AWD with Intelligent Control System is optional on the Sport trim (because it isn’t available on the FWD base model of course), and standard on the more expensive Sport Touring model; wired Car Play and Android Auto is standard on the Sport model while the Sport Touring model gets the wireless version standard; the Sport Touring gets a hands free powered tailgate (with programmable height), larger 19” wheels (the Sport gets 18” wheels) and perhaps most importantly, the Sport model can get better fuel efficiency at 43 city and 36 highway MPG with a lower price point to boot (if opting for FWD instead of AWD).

The Sport Touring model also gets a better stereo, Qi wireless phone charging and a few other internal niceties (like leather seats). Note that neither hybrid CR-V comes with a (compact) spare tire, like their non-hybrid versions do (likely because they needed the space for the hybrid battery).

The Kia Sportage Hybrid starts at $27,490 for the LX base model and goes up to $36,390 for the SX Prestige model (with the EX model slotted in between). Kia packs a lot of value in their vehicles and that may be especially true in the Sportage. The Sportage has best in class: cargo capacity, 2nd row legroom, horsepower (at 227-hp), and fuel efficiency (at up to 44 MPG combined).

It also has a more advanced, and more complete, suite of safety features than the Honda CR-V (by advanced I mean it has more capabilities than Honda’s systems). Since I already listed safety features for the CR-V above, I will only call out those the Kia has that the Honda is missing, or that the Kia does differently and will note that not all safety features are standard on the Sportage Hybrid.

Thus I am focused on the top trim SX-P which has all the options. The Kia (also) has: a frontal collision avoidance system that can recognize more obstacles (cyclists and pedestrians) and in the top trim the ability to automatically brake when turning left through intersections if an oncoming vehicle is detected; a more active/less mild lane keeping assist; the capability to fully accelerate, steer, and brake the vehicle on highways (where information is available); driver attention monitoring (which warns the driver to take a break if, for example, the driver repeatedly crosses over lane markers without using the turn signal); a “smarter” rear cross traffic assist feature that can also apply the brakes when pulling out of blind parking spots; the ability to remotely park or pull out of a parking spot (using the key fob); 3-D surround view (for parking); and a safe exit warning (which sounds if the car detects another vehicle approaching from the rear when one is exiting the vehicle).

In addition to the safety features, the Kia also bests the Honda by 1-8 MPG depending on drive cycle and whether or not you are comparing the AWD or FWD models (or about 4 MPG better in AWD and 8 MPG better in FWD, for their combined figures), has a much longer warranty, slightly smaller wheels (which mean smaller, less expensive tires), higher towing capacity, and ventilated seats (in the SX Prestige model). Of course, as my linked story above points out, dealer markups have been particularly egregious for Kia’s unfortunately, but it only takes calling around to find a dealer offering better prices (or grit and determination to talk the opportunistic dealers down). Otherwise, the Kia clearly offers more for the money than Honda.

My dear friend also cares a lot about what it will cost to drive her next vehicle. She drives about 6,000 - 7,000 miles per year, and at the current average price for regular gas in the Seattle area at $4.39, the Kia would cost about $600 to $800 per year in fuel. The Honda would cost about $730 - $900 per year.

Of course maintenance costs also might differ between the two (they are probably close over the life of their warranties though and include annual oil changes, filter and fuel line cleanings, etc. over 10 years of her use). The Kia might cost slightly less to insure with its better safety feature set. Both will incur an additional $75 dollar annual fee at registration in Washington state (a hybrid vehicle fee meant to offset losses of gas tax revenue). Which might you buy? Does the reputation or your experience with either brand cause you to favor one over the other? Please leave your comments and questions below and stay tuned for my follow up piece that will consider plug-in vehicle options that meet her criteria.

Images courtesy of Kia and Honda.

Justin Hart has owned and driven electric vehicles for over 15 years, including a first generation Nissan LEAF, second generation Chevy Volt, Tesla Model 3, an electric bicycle and most recently a Kia Sorento PHEV. He is also an avid SUP rider, poet, photographer and wine lover. He enjoys taking long EV and PHEV road trips to beautiful and serene places with the people he loves. Follow Justin on Twitter for daily KIA EV news coverage.

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