2013 Fun Compact SUVs Compared
Fun Compact SUVs: 2013 Kia Sportage SX Turbo vs. 2013 GMC Terrain Denali vs. 2013 VW Tiguan SEL
Now we must have gone seriously mad here with this comparison test of these disparate compact SUVs from not only a German and Korean Automaker but a homegrown one here as well. But in this case the homegrown SUV builder is one of America’s best known SUV brands now using one of its high-brow trim levels for the first time with its tiniest suburban offering.
Yes folks, the almighty Denali nameplate which signifies the shiniest chrome accents, the supplest of leather, the richest wood trims and heretofore unseen levels of power from a motor that has finally trickled down into the Terrain line-up of SUVs all the way from the nether reaches of almighty Cadillac. Yes, the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali comes standard with a 3.6 liter 301 horsepower/272 lb. feet of torque V6 as well as safety upgrades like lane departure warning and a forward collision alert system.
After that we have a couple of other odd ducks in the SUV animal kingdom with the 2013 VW Tiguan SEL which is on the narrow side for North America but is still quite fun to drive thanks to the GTI’s donated 2.0 liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine. The 2013 VW Tiguan SEL comes nicely loaded at $36.820 which includes 4Motion all-wheel drive, a six-speed auto, dual zone climate control, in-dash navigation, premium audio system, power everything, full-glass power moonroof, Bluetooth, Bi-Xenon headlamps and 19-inch alloy wheels.Exterior and Interior Analysis
When it comes to exterior designs, the VW is clearly the most restrained of the trio with its very Germanic looking face appearing quite stoic compared to the blinged out GMC grille and the Kia’s over-the-top manic turbo nature. The 2013 Kia Sportage SX what with its blacked out 18=inch wheels always looks ready to do something overtly naughty in front of a Sheriff while the Tiguan and Terrain Denali appear better suited for occasional country club visits.
The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali looked better equipped to handle most anything in upscale suburbia, in fact, thanks in part to things like dual-flow dampers which improve ride/handling performance and the Multi-flex sliding rear seat which allows the owner to adjust how much cargo volume is available even when the kids need to go to soccer practice. Also, despite being the priciest model here, the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali managed to seem worth the sticker price thanks to interior materials that were a class and a half above the Kia in quality feel.
The 2013 Kia Sportage SX felt airy and roomy inside the cabin mainly due to the expansive full length panoramic sunroof. Without it, we fear that the Sportage’s interior might feel just a bit more cramped with less elbow room becoming most obviously apparent right away. Then, of course, you will notice that the Sportage has 26.1 cubic feet of cargo space growing to only 54.6 cubic feet once the second row is folded down flat.
In the VW Tiguan, cargo space, however, is not great at 23.8 cubic feet behind the rear seats with that number growing to 56.1 cubic feet with the seats folded flat. VW’s own Jetta Sportwagen trumps that with 32.8 and 66.9 cubic feet respectively. Honestly, the Kia may be the sportiest looking of this trio but it pays for that trendy rear end when it comes to trips to the dump or IKEA. (1st Place: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali, 2nd Place: 2013 VW Tiguan SEL, 3rd 2013 Kia Sportage SX)Pricing, Value and Fuel Economy
Our test Tiguan was a very well equipped SE variant that came equipped with a full length panoramic glass sunroof, navigation, Bluetooth, heated front seats, 18-inch alloy wheels, air conditioning, power windows, locks and mirrors, a leather wrapped multifunction steering wheel, front wheel drive, iPod connectivity and an excellent 8-speaker AM/FM/CD/Sirius touchscreen audio system all for $30,525. We honestly think that this trim level is the smartest choice for any buyer as it offers you all of the features you want and need without getting into the price range of truly premium offerings.
Over the course of a week with us where we were less than judicious with the throttle thanks to the addictive torque and raspy growl of the Tiguan’s 2.0 liter 200 horsepower/207 lb. feet of torque turbocharged 4-cylinder we averaged 25.8 miles per gallon. That is an excellent reading considering, again, how aggressively we drove this SUV and how powerful the engine feels under any circumstances. The Tiguan comes with a 16.8 gallon fuel tank and premium unleaded is recommended for maximum performance but not required.
Our 2013 Kia Sportage SX came equipped with both the navigation package and the Premium Package which ups the total sticker price to $32,400 with delivery fees and includes heated front seats, a cooled front driver’s seat, a cargo cover, a glass panoramic sunroof and much more. Despite recent rumors about Kia’s fuel economy in the press, our 2013 Kia Sportage SX Turbo returned 22.8 miles per gallon which we thought was excellent considering how often we spooled up the turbo on this SUV rated at 22 city/29 highway.
The 2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD we tested came equipped with 19-inch chrome satin alloy-wheels, color touch in-dash navigation with Intellilink, a trailer/tow package, Bluetooth, a premium 8-speaker audio system, leather and wood accents on the steering wheel, leather seating, automatic climate control, power programmable rear liftgate with height adjustability as well as averaging 17.8 miles per gallon during its time with us. The GMC Terrain Denali runs on regular unleaded gasoline. (1st Place: 2013 Kia Sportage SX, 2nd Place: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali, 3rd Place: 2013 VW Tiguan SEL)Safety and Driving Impressions
The 2013 GMC Terrain, Kia Sportage and VW Tiguan have all been named “Top Safety Picks” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) which performs crash, roof and impact safety tests on all new cars, trucks and SUVs sold today. And since we also tend to like having plenty of power in reserve to help us accelerate away from an accident, all three of these SUVs would be terrific choices with the Terrain Denali and Sportage SX proving the most worthy at accelerating away from danger.
As for emergency handling, braking as well as steering response in an emergency, we felt that the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali AWD was the most solid performer especially during an especially rainy downpour we experienced during testing in usually dry Southern California. The 2013 Kia Sportage SX tenaciously also gripped the road even though it was front wheel drive probably thanks in part to a hill-start system which brakes the SUV even on moist or snowy terrain. The high-performance shock absorbers probably also helped matters in this regard, we also assume.
Lastly, the 2013 VW Tiguan SEL does deserve a special notice for car-like agility, hot hatchback cornering apex control as well as the same said general amount of cargo hauling ability and overall utility. Yes, the 2013 VW Tiguan may pretty much just be a GTI on stilts but we wouldn’t want it any other way. We are sure that the next Tiguan will be softer but just enjoy this one while you can. (1st: 2013 VW Tiguan SEL, 2nd: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali, 3rd: 2013 Kia Sportage SX)And the Winner Is?
The winner, by the hair on the end of its chrome edged front grille, is the 2013 GMC Terrain Denali compact SUV thanks to its smooth and velvety powertrain, top notch interior and its ability to truly feel worth a full $40,000 even if it did sticker a little bit below that magic price ceiling. The Kia, meanwhile, sat in the bargain basement with a $30,900 sticker price and a muscular 260 horsepower which combined to form a highly appealing one two punch for the bargain hunter! In last place then is the 2013 VW Tiguan for not being as inexpensive as the Kia (without feeling cheap) or for being as smooth and classy as the Denali for almost as much. (1st Place: 2013 GMC Terrain Denali, 2nd Place: 2013 VW Tiguan SEL, 3rd:2013 Kia Sportage SX)