Should I Buy Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35 or Mazda CX-5?

This is one of the longest questions and most detailed in the universe, from a reader named Mark, who seems set on buying a Kia Sportage Platinum.
For convenience, I've cut it up and answered the bits in Q&A-style, as a running chat.
Mark's questions and comments are on the left, in italic. Mine are on the right as you read.

Found your web page online whilst heavily investigating the above three vehicles.  Have read and watched nearly every review and video of yours in respect to these 3 vehicles - not to mention the hideous failures of Holden, tips for buying news cars, 0% finance, salespersons and all their tricks and everything else.  Thank you so much. I have already learnt so much from you, and a couple of new skills as well.


You're welcome, Mark. Those references, for anyone else, include: How to beat a car dealer >> as well as the zero per cent finance trap >> and my report on Holden's current atrociously poor health >>. You could also look at this 'don't buy' report on the Holden Captiva >>

Very first and simplest question is - I think you stated that the Hyundai 2.0-litre turbodiesel did Not have a 'particle filter' (which you suggest is a very good thing).  I also know that the Hyundai and Kia 2.0-litre diesel motors are shared and are identical.  My specs that I have bought up online state that the MY14 Sportage diesel has in fact a 'particle filter'.  I am in fact only wanting a MY15 version of the Sportage Platinum Diesel. Could you please clarify this point for me?


Certainly. At the time I produced the report you read, the Sportage and ix35 did not have a particle filter. It has, as I understand it, been added subsequently. I don't hear any reports of poor reliability as a result of the filter being in place. (This was done to accommodate stricter exhaust emissions laws in other markets - mainly western Europe.)

The new vehicle would mostly be used by my wife for work from Sunshine to Coburg and return on some freeways, Monday to Friday, with various weekend short to medium journeys, and 'frequent' journeys down to the Bellarine Peninsular (Pt. Lonsdale).  Would this type of travel alleviate any perceived problems with the 'particle filter'?


A small amount of highway driving is all that's really required for the filter to regenerate automatically. It sounds like you'll be doing more than enough of that for it not to be of concern. Interestingly, I've been driving a long-term test Hyundai Santa Fe >> for several months now, and for the past three I've specifically tried to give the particle filter hell by not doing any freeway or highway driving. It hasn't missed a beat, and seems not to care in the slightest. (Still performs like new, too - so perhaps the regeneration management process is growing ever more advanced and accommodating our increasingly urbanised motoring...)

Next, a larger summary for your knowledgeable opinion.  My wife Kerri currently drives a still nice and very clean 2009 Ford Fiesta Zetec 5 speed manual with about 88,000 k's on the clock.  If we buy a new car for her, we will most probably try to sell in privately, as I already know that a Dealer will give us stuff all for it!  My old car is hardly worth anything as a trade-in. My car (which I am currently very happy to keep, and I still believe is quite a good car) is a 2003 Mitsubishi Verada wagon.  The most impressive thing I can say about this car is it's reliability and quite amazing smoothness and quietness on the road.  Compared to Kerri's somewhat newer (and a little bit Sporty) Fiesta Zetec - which is a great car to drive - we both agree that mine is so much smoother and quieter on the road.  I can't believe that my old car still drives this way - albeit I remember when critics of the day were saying that the Verada was a bench mark car in it's market!  Okay. So now you know about my wife's zippy little fun car, and my old smooth quiet one!


I remember driving Veradas new - they were always great for ride quality. The long wheelbase really helped.

Let's get to the major points.  I am 6'2" (188 cm) tall and there are not any people of that height that I actually know who are ever going to be travelling with us in Kerri's new chosen car.  We don't know any Victorian or Australian footballers or basketballers! I have adjusted the front driver's seat for good comfort in the Kia Sportage, Hyundai ix35 and the Mazda CX5 Maxx Sport and then jumped into the back seat immediately behind to test for comfort and space. All are very close, there appears to be very little difference between the three of them - all reasonably good.  Rear headroom for a tall guy like me is very good in the Mazda, but it does not come with the rear 'moon roof' sun roof of the Kia or Hyundai.  With the Kia, my head can bang against the edge of the roof lining where it comes down from the sun roof.  With the Hyundai, my head just brushes it!  But how many people my height are ever likely to be sitting in the back?


Rearward-converging roof lines are a concession to styling (making cars look cool). The obvious trade-off is headroom. 

I know that I am either going to be driving or at worst in the front passenger seat, and the front head clearance for me is fine in all three vehicles.  So, cabin space, front and rear in all three vehicles in quite acceptable and adequate for a very tall guy like me.  Shorter people would never have any problem whatsoever. The Kia (which I love) is only marginally worse off in the back for head room than the other two.

Kia Sportage / Hyundai ix35

2015 Kia Sportage.jpg

Length: 4440 mm
Width: 1855 mm
Height: 1630 mm
Wheelbase: 2640 mm

Mazda CX-5

2015 Mazda CX-5.jpg

Length: 4540 mm
Width: 1840 mm
Height: 1710 mm
Wheelbase: 2700 mm

Hyundai Tucson

2015 Hyundai Tucson.jpg

Length: 4475 mm
Width: 1850 mm
Height: 1660 mm
Wheelbase: 2670 mm


When you look at the dimensions above, you can see how close these vehicles really are. If you landed here from Alpha Centauri tomorrow, it's doubtful you could tell them apart.

I have not test driven the Hyundai or Mazda yet (I know that Mazda is the apparent benchmark), as I have only just started to look around - but my research has been fairly extensive - much thanks to you and 'Google'.  My first drive of any today was the Kia Sportage Platinum diesel - 6 speed auto. Before taking off, with the driver's door open, the sound of the diesel 'clatter' was very minimal, and then once driving, almost totally inaudible.  The car was near amazing.  Effortless and very quiet acceleration to 100km/h without knowing it at all.  Would be very easy to go over the speed limit and think you were still going slow!  A bit of a weird feeling.  Very smooth, particularly quiet, and very comfortable.  Quite impressed indeed.  


They've done amazing things with diesel over the past 10 years. One of the critical things to get ordinary people onboard is to attenuate the vibration and also the noise - which they've done a spectacular job of. Diesels are noisier because of the direct injection (petrols with direct injection are noisy too). And they vibrate more because of the greater compression. I've got a complete report on petrol versus diesel >> This report might also help: How to test-drive like a pro >> 

Everything was good.  60 minutes of test driving in highway / freeway, 'B' grade bitumen, even a good section of roughish gravel road, and suburban roads.  A good try out!  Included were a couple of semi-'emergency' stops, and a fast take off from the side of the road with looses gravel, mud and slippery grass.  It just 'grabbed' and took off fine.  I was fairly much impressed with the Sportage.  Also just love the look of the front and the new 'grouse' LED tail light assemblies.

'Quoted' Dealer prices (Drive Away) for the three are:-  Kia Sportage Platinum $41,000 (after the $1000 discount voucher card); Hyundai ix35 Highlander at $43,500 and the Mazda CX5 Maxx Sport at $43,000.


OK - so based on this, price is not a factor in this decision. We can probably save you a bit of cash on any of them. Just fill in the form here >>

The Mazda appears to have the most 'up class' sophisticated interior (dash and trim), but I think the Kia is not very much behind that.  Visually, I would put the Hyundai in a close third.  The Mazda has 17" alloys, the other two have 18s.  The Kia also has marginally wider tyres than the other two makes.  To it's credit, the Mazda is the only one with Blind Spot Monitoring and Rear Cross Traffic Alert - pretty new features.


I wouldn't get too worked up over the trivialities of the specs - 17-inch or 18-inch alloys aren't a deal breaker, and the width of the tyres is irrelevant. What matters is ride quality and handling, and more factors (such as suspension tuning overall) make more of a difference here - one which can't be divined by looking at the spec sheet. Also, rear cross traffic alert sounds like a nice idea, but it's really not that useful - especially if you reverse in to spots that are likely to be vision-compromised on exit. Same story with blind spot monitoring: there are no blind spots if you adjust the mirrors properly. One of the earliest videos I ever did was on that (apols for the crappy quality):

The Kia has both Front and rear parking sensors (with reverse camera the same as all three), but the Hyundai and Mazda only have rear sensors. The Kia has headlight washes - the other two do not.  The Kia and Hyundai both have twin 'panoramic' sun roofs, the Mazda only has a front one.


Front parking sensors are a joke - the front is just there, a metre in front of your feet. When was the last time you hit anything at low speed at the front? (If the answer is 'ever' then you're doing something wrong.) Reversing cameras, however are a critical safety feature. The Kia has headlight washers because of the lighting technology - high-intensity headlamps require washers by regulation in some markets. I guess the value of a rear sunroof is in the eye of the beholder.

All three have electrically adjustable driver seats (the Mazda with passenger seat also, and memory on the driver's seat).  The Mazda and Hyundia have a standard six speaker stereo system. The Kia has an upgraded 'Infinity' sound system with six speakers, external amplifier and Sub Woofer. The Kia has seat warmers both front and Back.  Mazda and Hyundia only on the front seats.  Kia now has quite impressive looking LED rear tail lights (look fantastic at night), the others still have standard bulb illumination.


These things are all nice to have.

Kia now has 7 year unlimited kilometer warranty with 7 year capped servicing and roadside assistance.  Hyundai has 5 years of the same.  Mazda (the so called benchmark) has just a 3 year unlimited kilometer warranty.  You can pay for more years at the Dealer's price!


Extended warranties are a joke - my full report on extended warranties >> But the longer warranties on both Hyundai and Kia vehicles are a real advantage to most consumers because most people retain the car for more than three years.

So John, you can see I have done a lot of homework on these three SUV's, albeit only driving the very impressive Sportage Platinum diesel earlier today.  I apologise for the extra lengthy email to you, but I have only done so out of complete respect of your knowledge and experience. Any comments on these three possible purchases would be greatly appreciated.  I have my value for money opinion, but I wouldn't mind yours as a professional.


You certainly have done the research. I hope these answers above help, Mark. For what it's worth, about five years ago I found myself always recommending Kia Sportages and Hyundai ix35s to all and sundry SUV callers on Radio 2UE. So I decided I would be a hypocrite unless I bit the bullet on a Kia Sportage. In 2011, I bought the top-spec Sportage diesel and it has been superb. Hasn't missed a beat, goes very well. We generally just drive it around town, but it has also done upmteem trips to and from Canberra (ex-Sydney). It's been great.

Best of Regards to you.  I am so impressed with everything on your website.  By the way, you have put me in touch with Dylan at the car brokerage, and it is quite likely from initial conversations that he could save me a few thousand dollars on my eventual purchase as opposed to any scheming car dealer salesman.


Thanks for the question Mark, and best of luck with the purchase. I'm sure Dylan will help you save some cash.