Compact SUVs are among the most popular types of vehicles on sale today. It takes a lot to stand out in this very crowded segment of the automotive market. Which is why the 2023 Kia Sportage doesn’t hold back on with its dramatic styling, feature rich cabin, and plethora of powertrain options.
Engine – Starting with the base engine that’s under the hood of the Sportage X-Line, it is a 2.5L naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. It produces 187 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque (139 kW / 241 Nm). Those are decent numbers and it gets the Sportage’s 1,739 kg (3,834 lbs) body going from a stop at a reasonable pace. However, the engine doesn’t feel particularly punchy for those that have a bit of a heavier foot. The rpm needle has to climb beyond the 3,000 mark before the engine really gets into its stride. It’s almost as though it has “turbo lag”, even though it’s not a turbocharged engine. But that’s how it feels from behind the steering wheel.
For a much “punchy” feeling, it’s the Kia Sportage hybrid that you should be looking at. This version uses a 1.6L turbocharged 4-cylinder that can produce a total system output of 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque (169 kW / 350 Nm). Thanks to the instant torque of the electric motor, there’s much more immediacy from the engine. This is much more noticeable when the car is in Sport mode with a more responsive throttle response, slightly faster transmission shifts, and heavier steering.
The hybrid powertrain is a very efficient one. It has a tendency to let the engine bring the CUV up to speed before letting the engine shut off and providing electric only propulsion. Under harder acceleration, the electric motor aids the little 1.6L engine. On highways, so long as you’re gentle with the accelerator pedal and there’s more than half a battery charge, the car will drive for very brief periods on electricity alone.
Fuel Economy – With the extra power of the hybrid powertrain, fuel economy is not sacrificed. It is possible to get better than advertised fuel economy numbers. Officially, the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is rated for 6.1 L/100km (38.5 MPG) in a city and 6.3 L/100km (37.3 MPG) on a highway. I managed to get 5.5 L/100km (42.7 MPG) during my time with the car, and that was over a 500 km total drive.
The non-hybrid engine on the other hand, is not as efficient. The Sportage 2.5L with AWD is rated for 10.4 L/100km (22.6 MPG) in a city and 8.5 L/100km (27.7 MPG) on a highway. During my time with that car, I averaged 9.5 L/100km (24.7 MPG) which is a little bit worse than some of its competitors such as the Mazda CX-5 or Honda CR-V.
Transmission – The base 2.5L engine is paired with an 8-speed automatic while the 1.6L hybrid engine is paired with a 6-speed automatic. Both of these transmissions operate in the same manner. As in, it’s best to just leave them in “D”. The transmissions are slow to react to an input from the driver through the steering wheel mounted paddle shifters. They’re better to react of a stab of the throttle pedal but don’t expect any lighting fast changes.
Braking – The brakes are a highlight in both CUVs. Brake pedal actuation is smooth with not much effort required in bringing the cars to a stop. The hybrid version has regenerative braking that is purely controlled by your foot. There are no different regen braking modes. The transition from regen braking to using the physical brakes is seamless.
Handling – This new generation 2023 Kia Sportage has a longer wheelbase which gives it a planted ride at highway speeds. The steering is on the light side but responsive. However, there is quite a bit of body roll if you drive too quickly through corners.
The X-Line Sportage is more of an appearance package than anything else. It has 8.3” of ground clearance which is exactly the same as the Sportage Hybrid AWD. Plus, 19” wheels with all-season tires are not exactly ideal for off-road driving. In the United States, there is an X-Pro package available for the Sportage which adds 17” wheels and all-terrain tires. But ground clearance remains at 8.3”.
Ride Comfort – Thanks to the longer wheelbase, the 2023 Kia Sportage has a smooth and comfortable ride for a CUV. Potholes do not feel as harsh as they do in some other compact SUVs. The seats are also superbly padded. They’re not too soft, not too hard, just right. There aren’t a whole lot of adjustments for the seats but at least on these higher trim models of the Sportage, both the driver and the passenger have power operated seats… for the Canadian market.
Interior Space – The longer wheelbase also allows for more interior space. Legroom in the front and back seats is more than in other compact SUVs such as the Mazda CX-5. Headroom is ok as well so long as you lower the seat. The great thing is, the hybrid version of the Sportage has the exact same amount of cabin space as the non-hybrid.
However, some of the cargo volume has been sacrificed in the hybrid Sportage. It can accommodate 1,118 L (39.5 cu-ft) with the rear seats up and 2,086 L (73.7 cu-ft) with the seats folded. The non-hybrid Sportage has 1,121 L (39.6 cu-ft) of space with the seats up and 2,098 L (74.1 cu-ft) with the seats folded. So thankfully, it’s not a huge difference.
Noise, Vibration, & Harshness – This new generation Kia Sportage is quieter inside than before. Engine noise isn’t as pronounced, when accelerating aggressively that is, and road noise from tires is not too intrusive. The hybrid version is obviously quieter still when it’s being propelled by electrons. As well, the transition from EV to gasoline is exceptionally smooth.
Odds and Ends
Pricing – The 2023 Kia Sportage starts at $28,595 CAD ($25,990 USD) for the LX FWD. This X-Line Limited trim costs $41,395 CAD and it is not available in the American market. For those in the United States, you have the X-Pro Prestige at $36,790 USD.
The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid starts at $36,495 CAD ($27,290 USD) with this SX trim costing $43,195 CAD ($36,190 USD).
Gadgets – One thing that Kia vehicles have become synonymous with is providing “bang for buck”. This 2023 Sportage is no different with heated seats all-round, ventilated front seats, wireless phone charging, surround view cameras, power liftgate, panoramic sunroof, and a full suite of advanced driver aids.
These two top spec Sportages receive larger 12.3” touchscreens while lower spec trims make due with an 8-inch touchscreen. The infotainment system is one that we’ve all grown accustomed to as it is in every current Kia vehicle. Unfortunately, it does not support wireless Apple CarPlay nor wireless Android Auto. You still need to plug your phones in to use those apps.
Interior Design – This new generation takes a lot of inspiration from other Kia models. Some are good design elements, others not so much. The good thing is the dual screen layout for the driver display and the infotainment touch screen. The interior also works well with the red upholstery of the hybrid model. Unfortunately, Kia likes to use a lot of piano black plastics throughout the cabin. This material attracts dust, scratches, and fingerprints very easily. This material does not look good over a long time. Thankfully, this was not used on the door pulls like in the Kia Carnival.
One item that has been taken straight from the EV6 is the climate / infotainment controls screen. The display can be switched between the two options with a push of a button. Other auto journalists have complained that it’s an extra step or that you could inadvertently turn up the radio sound when you wanted to turn up the heat in the cabin, for example. Personally, I don’t find it such a big bother because I leave it on the climate menu and use the infotainment system itself to make any changes.
Exterior Design – By far the most bold change to the 2023 Sportage is the exterior design. It looks nothing like the previous generation with an almost alien-like design. I think it looks fantastic.
Safety – The 2023 Kia Sportage is equipped with standard automatic emergency braking, lane departure warning with lane keep & lane follow assist, along with a rear occupant alert and backup camera. Moving up to the standard X-Line will add blind spot sensors, rear cross traffic alert and rear parking sensors. In the USA, this is on the EX trim. Moving to the X-Line Limited, for the Canadian market, will add blind view monitor, surround view cameras, highway driving assist, and rear parking collision avoidance. In the United States, these features are on the SX Prestige and X-Pro Prestige. The hybrid version follows the same trim structure but for the Canadian market, there is no LX trim; only EX and SX.
The IIHS awarded the 2023 Kia Sportage with a Top Safety Pick. The car received top marks in crash tests and advanced safety aids. But it received Acceptable and Poor scores for headlight performance, depending on trim level.
Warranty – In Canada, the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Line & Sportage Hybrid have a 5 year / 100,000 km comprehensive & powertrain warranty. The hybrid components warranty is 8 years / 150,000 km. In the United States, the comprehensive portion of the warranty is 5 years / 60,000 miles and the powertrain is 10 years / 100,000 miles. For more information on Kia Canada warranty, click here. For Kia USA warranty information, click here.
Conclusion – To recap, the 2023 Kia Sportage has a drastic new look that will keep it looking fresh for years to come. It is much more spacious and comfortable in the cabin, not to mention quieter too. Plus, it still offers a lot of gadgets and features for a reasonable price depending on the trim level. However, the base 2.5L engine is lacking a bit in performance and it can’t match some of this car’s competitors’ fuel economy numbers. A simple fix is to go for the hybrid option. It has the power and it has an excellent fuel economy rating.
Thank you to Kia Canada for providing the vehicles. www.Kia.ca