2018 Kia Sportage vs Ford Escape

The Kia Sportage’s impressive reputation now means it’s time to up the ante. Let’s compare the Sportage to the very best models in the compact crossover segment–like the Ford Escape. How do they compare when they’re put head to head?

2018 Kia Sportage vs Ford Escape

Which One Looks like a True SUV? Kia Sportage

The exterior styling of the 2018 Kia Sportage isn’t going to please everyone. But if you’re the type of buyer who wants aggressive, unique styling from your new crossover, instead of opting into the vanilla design game that most crossovers seem to play, the Sportage delivers in a big way. The overall silhouette is pretty par for the course, but the front end is unlike any other model in its class.

Although the latest version of the Ford Escape is attractive and sporty, the Escape seems to look less and less like an SUV with each change that Ford makes. Now, the Ford Escape looks more like a tall Focus than a pseudo off-roader. If that’s your thing, you’ll love the Escape–but if that’s your thing, why not opt for a wagon or, for that matter, a Focus? We think that buyers who want a crossover at least want the appearance of toughness and power, not just height.

Which One Performs Like an SUV? Kia Sportage

You’ll get two levels of performance with the current Sportage, best described as really good and even better. Really good comes in the form of a 2.4-liter inline-four with 181 horsepower, while even better looks like a 2.0-liter turbo-four that puts 240 horsepower and 260 lb.-ft. of torque at your disposal.

The Ford Escape offers three engines to buyers, but the base 2.5-liter inline-four and the 1.5-liter turbo-four both fall a little short of the Kia’s standard engine in terms of performance. The 2.0-liter turbo-four is where the fun is, but it’s no better than the Kia’s turbo option. Choices are nice, but only if they’re truly better than the alternative. In this case, they’re just not.

What Do You Get for the Money?: Ford Escape

Buyers won’t find a wide range of Sportage trim levels to choose between, but the three models do all come very well equipped as standard. Base LX models come standard with a 5.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system, a rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels, power features and air conditioning. The EX starts as an LX with the available Popular Package, but then adds the likes of 18-inch alloy wheels, blind-spot monitors, rear-cross traffic alerts, leather upholstery, and an extra USB port. Of course, the Sportage SX Turbo, as a top-of-the-line option, really is a fully-loaded SUV.

The Escape is available in four different trims and, again, every model is well equipped as standard. The base S model gets all the basics of power features, a rearview camera, air conditioning, cruise control, 17-inch wheels, an AM/FM/CD player with six speakers, and the Sync infotainment system with a 4.2-inch center screen. Each trim goes up from there. More options gives buyers more of a chance to get the features they want closest to the price they want to pay, so the Escape wins this round.

Which SUV Combines Efficiency with Performance? Kia Sportage

Instead of making the Sportage extremely frugal, Kia has gone for a balance between performance and economy, with a little more emphasis on the performance side of things. The best EPA figures on offer from the Sportage are 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway and 26 mpg combined from a front-wheel drive LX. All models have an all-wheel drive option, which cuts into fuel economy but can make challenging weather situations more driver-friendly.

And if you’re looking for a seriously fuel-sipping compact crossover, you might want to overlook the Ford Escape too. The 1.5-liter turbo-four engine is the best for fuel economy, with EPA ratings of 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. That’s exactly the same as the best-performing Kia Sportage, but only one of the Escape models has an AWD option. Honestly, these two models are probably neck and neck, but the extra AWD options give the Sportage the nod.

Learn More about the Kia Sportage

Despite the availability of all-wheel drive, the Ford Escape really does live up to the term “soft-roader” in all respects. The Escape is certainly not a bad vehicle, and if car-like driving is what you’re looking for you won’t do much better unless you actually choose a car. While the 2018 Kia Sportage is no serious trail warrior itself, its crossover credentials are far more impressive than those of the Escape–from the design to the performance. The Kia actually costs a little less than the Ford, so this is an easy recommendation. Go with the Kia Sportage!