The sports utility vehicle or SUV has been a heavy hitter in recent years, crowding up the family lineups of nearly every automaker from Ford to Toyota. With so many options to choose from out there, shopping for a new SUV can be something of a dizzying experience. Should you purchase an off-road centric SUV, or one that sports a hybrid powertrain? Do you prefer easy access to active safety features or an engine that is more fitting in a vehicle twice its size? These are just some of the questions that plenty of drivers ask themselves, and for the most part, it can be rather overwhelming. Fortunately, we’ll hopefully narrow down some of those top picks by comparing the 2020 Kia Sportage vs 2020 Jeep Cherokee. Here stands two SUVs that attempt to blend everything you could ever expect into a nice cohesive package. Although, we’ll dig a little bit deeper to determine whether or not they hit the nail on the head.
Keeping Up With Appearances
When spotted on the road, in a parking lot, or in a dealership showroom, both the 2020 Jeep Cherokee and the 2020 Kia Sportage are obvious lookers. The Jeep Cherokee with its high-set 8.6-inches of ground clearance, and the Kia Sportage with its wheelbase measurement of 105.1-inches, no matter which model you pick, you’re in for a stylish looking ride.
The 2020 Jeep Cherokee, however, misses some marks in overall appearance. While styled after its older brother, the Jeep Grand Cherokee, the Jeep Cherokee can be closely associated with a minivan if you give it a passing glance. Sure, the iconic front grille and the angular headlights do add to the rugged styling of the Jeep Cherokee; however, overall, the look is rather uninspired. Although, at a starting price of $25,935 MSRP, and with a few different trims (not including special editions) including the Latitude, Altitude, Limited, Trailhawk, High Altitude, and Overland, you have an SUV that is easy to jump into, and gives you plenty of configurations to craft the specific model of your dreams.
The 2020 KIA Sportage, on the other hand, opts for a more unique design, albeit, looking closely similar to the 2020 Ford Escape. Look-a-likes aside, the 2020 Ford Escape is a peculiar looking SUV, with its low set grille, and bug-like headlights. You shouldn’t let the unassuming appearance fool you, though, as the 2020 Ford Escape does offer 6.4 inches of ground clearance and an AWD optional drivetrain, making it an SUV that could do some light trail running if desired. The 2020 Kia Sportage finds solid ground above the Jeep Cherokee with its lower MSRP of $23,990. And with four trims in the lineup, including the LX, S, EX, and SX, the 2020 Kia Sportage is a rather well-varied SUV.
A Challenge of Engines
When it comes to comparing two different SUVs, one of the main things to take note of is the kind of engine humming beneath the hood. Sure, driving something with plenty of cargo and passenger room is fun, but being able to enjoy a zippy and nimble ride is all the better. The 2020 Kia Sportage comes as standard with a 181 horsepower 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 175 lb-ft of torque with the kindly assistance of a 6-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. This entry-level powertrain can lug up to 2,000 pounds behind it too, which isn’t half bad. Although, that is far from the top-tier for the Kia Sportage as you can take advantage of all-wheel-drive and a bigger engine that takes the shape of a 2.0-liter turbo-4 that delivers 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft worth of torque. This turbocharged four-cylinder is a beast when put to the task, and surprisingly enough has some decent off-roading chops as well.
So, how does the 2020 Jeep Cherokee match up in terms of performance? Well, if you’re looking for a capable off-roading SUV, you’ll certainly find it in the Jeep Cherokee. The base model starts with a simple 2.4-liter inline-4 engine, which doesn’t skip a beat in offering 180 horsepower with the help of a 9-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive. This base engine can haul up to 2,000 pounds, much like the Kia Sportage. Although, things take a dramatic turn for the better when you consider the turbocharged option in this rugged midsize SUV. This turbocharged engine is a 2.0-liter four-cylinder, which puts out 270 horsepower and 295 lb-ft of torque, something that not even the turbo-4 of the Kia Sportage can promise.
On top of that, a V6 is available, making the Jeep Cherokee a true powerhouse of performance. And, if you’d like to drive an SUV that is pretty competent when it comes to handling itself when off the pavement, the Trailhawk model is certainly the right fit for you. The 2020 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk gets that bigger 3.2-liter V6, which is responsible for 271 horsepower and 239 lb-ft worth of torque, as well as a rather nimble 4×4 drivetrain that gives you the capability to handle anything the trail can throw at you.
So, as you can tell, the performance of the 2020 Jeep Cherokee is much more robust, and while the Kia Sportage has some pretty capable engine options, it’s nothing compared to what the Jeep Cherokee brings to the table.
A Battle of Technology
Automotive technology is important now more than ever. While some vehicles can get away with a small offering of features, it can be a serious downfall in terms of overall value. Unfortunately, the Jeep Cherokee, in some ways, falls victim to this trope of low-tech SUVs. The Jeep Cherokee does offer a pretty substantial infotainment system that’s equipped with Jeep’s intuitive Uconnect software, but it fails to provide much else in base-level models. For instance, if you take a look at driver assistance features, a must-have in many new SUVs, the entry-model has none as standard. This is a huge pitfall for the Jeep Cherokee, as other competitors offer a full suite even at the economic level.
The 2020 Kia Sportage, on the other hand, seems to have gotten the memo. In the center dash is an 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen that comes with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. And even the base model of the Kia Sportage comes well equipped with active safety features. Things like a rearview camera, lane-departure warnings, rear-cross traffic alerts, automatic emergency braking, and active lane control all arrive in the entry-level model at no extra cost. And with a lower price tag than the entry-level KIA Sportage, this standard package of safety features is hard to ignore.
While the Jeep Cherokee does offer the kind of rugged no-nonsense appeal that we have come to expect from the Jeep brand, the value just isn’t there. While you can pay a bit more to get a bigger engine and more safety features, it comes with no extra fuss in the 2020 Kia Sportage. While we’d have liked to see a Kia Sportage with a bigger engine, the turbocharged four-cylinder is plenty efficient and does an excellent job of handling its own when put to the test. And thanks to a varied range of driver assist features, you’ll never have to feel alone on the road. Although, you shouldn’t just take our conclusion as a hard ‘either-or,’ we highly suggest you rush down to your local dealership and see these two SUVs for yourself.