The battle in the best-selling compact SUV market segment is intense, as every automaker jockeys to fight for your business. Generally speaking, this is really good news for consumers, as the competition holds prices in check and spurs automakers to deliver on both features and quality.
One of the mainstays of the compact SUV marketplace is the Kia Sportage, though the model has been overshadowed in recent years by other outstanding Kia offerings like the Niro, Soul and Seltos. But the venerable Sportage is still available, and offers a compelling package.
The Sportage is one of Kia’s oldest nameplates, celebrating 30 years of production this year. To celebrate the occasion, Kia brought out the new fifth-generation Sportage for this model year. The new Sportage has big shoes to fill, as prior generations have been awarded top marks in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Survey.
The 2023 Kia Sportage is all-American, being made in Kia’s vast factory in West Point, Georgia. There’s a standard internal combustion version, but the Hybrid we tested starts only about $1,000 higher, and offers 40 more horsepower and 10 more mpg than the gas-powered version. That alone makes the Sportage Hybrid a worthy contender, and there’s also a plug-in hybrid if you want to go even greener.
The new Sportage has pretty standard bodywork for a compact crossover SUV. It’s an attractive vehicle, with bold lines and sculpted sides, as is the fashion for SUVs right now. Like all compact SUVs, the 2023 Sportage is bigger than all its predecessors, gaining 7.1 inches in length and 3.4 inches in the wheelbase. It’s also taller and wider than the outgoing model.
The grille is large and stretches all the way across the front of the vehicle, and boomerang-shaped daytime running lights accent the front, while the same shape is repeated in the taillights.
There’s nothing not to like in the new Sportage exterior, but nothing that particularly stands out, either.
Inside the Sportage, you can see the effect the Niro and other electrified Kias have had on interior design. The shifter is an ultra-modern twist dial, and a single pane of glass holds both the driver information display and the center display.
One feature I particularly liked is that when you actuate the turn signals, a blind spot camera display is shown on the left or ride side of the display, respectively. In general, it’s easy to quibble about a display that requires the driver to take eyes off the road, but you don’t use them much when you’re in motion, but they’re really useful when parking.
Climate controls are located below the display, and the system includes convenient knobs for setting zone temperatures. The seats are comfortable, and in the upper trim levels they include heat and ventilation. One last thing to note is that the Sportage offers best-in-class cargo capacity of 39.5 cubic feet when the rear seats are down.
The Sportage Hybrid comes with a 1.6-liter gas engine with a 44 kW electric motor to create 227 system horsepower through a 6-speed automatic transmission. Unlike many hybrids that add an electric motor to power the rear wheels, the Sportage uses a mechanical AWD system. That works really well, as the system uses an electro-hydraulic coupling to engage the rear wheels when traction is needed, and a locking center differential to distribute torque as needed.
The Sportage Hybrid can tow up to 2,000 pounds, giving you the option to pull a small boat, tent camper or utility trailer.
Safety and Technology
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has not yet rated the 2023 Sportage or the Sportage Hybrid, but the outgoing generation earned five stars in government crash testing, and there’s every reason to expect that the new model will be just as safe. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rates the 2023 Sportage Hybrid as a Top Safety Pick, as it has for many years.
You can’t market a compact SUV without state-of-the-art safety and driver assistance systems, so we’ll note that the Sportage Hybrid has Kia’s Drive Wise system on all trims, including forward collision mitigation, lane assistance, driver attention warning, and rear parking distance warning. Automatic high beam control is also standard. Available upgrades on higher trim levels include blind-spot monitoring, highway driving assistance, blind-spot cameras with dash display, safe exit warning, navigation-based adaptive cruise control, and a 360-degree reversing camera system.
One available feature to note is remote smart parking assistance. If you’re in a tight parking lot, you can get out of the Sportage and use the key fob to pull the vehicle into a parking spot, and then it will turn itself off. You can reverse the process and pull the Sportage out with the fob when you get back. This feature comes only on the top SX-Prestige trim.
The Sportage Hybrid drives very well, and the 227 horsepower with immediate response from the electric motor is well-paired to the size and weight of the vehicle. The suspension makes the Sportage ride like a larger vehicle. Steering is crisp and intuitive. Overall Kia gets a solid A for the Sportage driving experience.
My lone peeve with the Sportage was that the driver assistance in the top trim felt intrusive, specifically the lane-keeping assistance and the highway-driving assistance. My way home involves a winding mountain road, and it’s impossible to drive in the center of the lane at all times. So you’re subjected to a constant beeping and the system tugging on the wheel unless you turn it off through the menu system. A convenient button to defeat that system would have been welcome.
2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid Specifications
DimensionL: 183.5 inches/W: 73.4 inches/H: 66.1 inches/Wheelbase: 108.5 inchesWeight3,896 poundsPowertrain1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder with electric motor; 6-speed transmission and all-wheel driveFuel Economy38 mpg city/38 mpg highway/38 mpg combinedPerformance Specs227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torquePriceBase price: $36,190; As tested: $38,155 including $1,215 destination chargeOn-Sale DateAvailable now
The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid comes in three trim levels, being LX, EX, and SX-Prestige. The LX trim is the most affordable, starting at $28,705 for the front-wheel drive version. When equipped with FWD, the Sportage Hybrid adds 5 mpg, giving you an impressive 43 mpg in combined driving.
Stepping up to the mid-grade EX trim will cost you $32,405, but adds tech features like a larger center display with GPS navigation, blind spot monitoring, and a wireless phone charger. The top SX-Prestige trim starts at $37,405 and adds all the tech and driver assistance features.
For my money, the EX trim is the one to buy. You get the important features like blind-spot monitoring and navigation, and the jump up to SX-Prestige is a bigger one than the additional features really warrant. However, if you’re on a budget and you don’t need all-wheel drive (and really, most of us don’t) then the base LX trim with front-drive can be a really smart choice.
Whatever trim you choose, don’t forget that Kia offers the best warranty in the business at 10 years or 100,000 miles.
The bottom line is this: Don’t overlook the Kia Sportage or take it for granted. The Sportage is sized a bit bigger, so if the Seltos or Niro feels just a little too small, you can still get the hybrid or plug-in hybrid drivetrain in a right-sized vehicle.
2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid — Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main competitors to the Kia Sportage?
Similar-priced vehicles include the Nissan Rogue, Subaru Forester, Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape and Honda CR-V.
Is the Kia Sportage reliable?
No one beats Kia for reliability. Last year Kia ranked first for all vehicles in J.D. Power’s 2022 dependability study, and first in non-luxury vehicles.
How much bigger is the 2023 Kia Sportage?
The 2023 Sportage is 7.1 inches longer than the previous model with a 3.4-inch longer wheelbase, and half an inch wider and taller.