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Altezza nissan qashqai 2014

The revised Kia Sportage is looking to steal back the compact SUV crossover crown from Nissan’s Qashqai

There’s healthy competition in the compact SUV crossover class, so cars at the front of the pack only 18 months ago have to raise their game to keep up with newer arrivals.

One such model is the Kia Sportage. When it was introduced in 2010, it caused quite a stir thanks to its cutting-edge styling, practical interior and decent amount of standard kit. Yet Kia has now decided the Sportage needs an update, and has introduced a subtly revised version.

But is it enough to keep Kia in class contention? To find out, we’ve lined up the new model against the new Nissan Qashqai, which was launched at the start of the year and has already beaten the pre-facelifted predecessor (Issue 1,301). We try both cars in efficient front-wheel-drive guise.

So can the Sportage hold its own against the newer Qashqai?

Click the links below for the full verdict on each car.

Now read our head-to-head group test results below.

The Acenta Premium-spec Nissan Qashqai and above get a fixed glass roof that stretches uninterrupted from the top of the windscreen to just above the C-pillars. It gives the interior a bright, airy feel, while a powered blind keeps the cabin cool when the car is parked in sunlight. However, the Kia Sportage goes one better: the front section of its roof slides back, creating a big opening above the driver and passenger.

BOTH cars have LED lighting tech, but the Nissan’s set-up is more sophisticated. It uses the energy-saving bulbs for the headlamps and daytime running lights (DRLs). The Sportage has distinctive LEDs in the indicator side repeaters and DRLs, but uses xenons for the dipped and main beam.

The Kia Sportage features an efficiency-boosting ecoDynamics kit which includes stop-start, and helps to peg the Sportage’s CO2 output at 143g/km – or 135g/km with 17-inch alloys. That’s still much higher than the Qashqai, which emits a supermini-rivalling 99g/km.

The Nissan Qashqai maintains its advantage over the revised Kia Sportage. It’s more refined and comfortable than its rival, while low emissions and better fuel economy mean more affordable running costs. Add decent equipment and a versatile interior, and it’s the smart choice here.

The Kia Sportage is a decent crossover – it looks good and the updates have definitely improved the cabin. But the rest of the revisions aren’t enough to put it back to the front of the class, and Kia needs to do more work on emissions to make it competitive.