Review: 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid grows up and offers all-new efficiency
Kia redesigned the Sportage for the fifth generation of its small crossover. For the first time, a hybrid is available, slotting between the smaller Niro Hybrid and the larger Sorento Hybrid. The result is a not-quite-compact-sized SUV that is extremely fuel efficient and fills an attractive size gap in Kia's SUV lineup. We spent a week with the new model.
Kia, like most of the more pragmatic automakers, realizes that not every buyer is all-in on the battery-electric idea. A full EV is not for everyone. But fuel efficiency certainly is. The 2023 Sportage Hybrid competes with hybrid options like the Toyota RAV4 and the Honda CR-V. Kia recently announced that a plug-in hybrid model of the Sportage will be coming for the 2023 model year.
At a Glance
- Much larger-appearing and feeling Sportage with a more adult vibe.
- Powertrain is very efficient, especially in the front-wheel-drive model.
- Good drive feel and comfort levels.
The most immediate change seen to the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid versus its previous generations is in design. The Sportage now looks much more SUV-like and far less bug-eyed and “cutesy” by comparison. Design language clearly comes from the larger Sorento, pulling similar body shaping and line placements. It’s a more robust and inherently larger-appearing vehicle as a result.
Inside, the 2023 Sportage Hybrid is much roomier, with more head and shoulder room thanks to the squared roofline and a larger cargo area for the same reason. Modern conveniences and amenities are also on showcase in the various trim levels, giving the new Sportage a much more mature interior overall. Yes, gone are the “I’m a hamster car for college kids!” vibes of the previous gen. Welcome to adulthood with its 9-5s and mortgages, Sportage.
The Sportage Hybrid starts with a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that mates to a motor-and-transmission hybrid system for a total output of 227 hp (169 kW). Front-wheel drive is standard in the base trim point, while all-wheel drive is standard in the middle and top trims. This means most buyers are likely to end up with AWD. That is what we had as our test unit for a week.
The differences between FWD and AWD are large when it comes to fuel economy. The FWD model is EPA rated at 43 mpg (5.5 l/100km) in city, highway, and combined estimates, while the AWD is rated at 38 mpg (6.2 l/100km) on all three counts. Driving the Sorento Hybrid AWD model on our highway test loop (42 miles/67 km round trip at high altitude), we saw an average of 38.7 mpg (6.1 l/100km). Our overall average, according to the Kia’s computer and not via fuel topping and measuring, was very close to 39 mpg (6.0 l/100km) for the week. That’s with varying passenger loads and differing mixes of driving speeds and types.
At the base level, the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid comes with a pretty good array of standard features, including dual-zone climate and an 8-inch touchscreen infotainment system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto (via plug-in). Safety items like automatic emergency braking, lane departure warnings, lane-keeping assistance, and a driver attention warning system are also standard. Each trim level adds a little more, with things like rear cross-traffic alerts, a surround-view camera system, and so forth. A couple of things unique to the Hyundai-Kia lineup include the safe exit assist system that prevents door opening when an oncoming vehicle is detected, and blind-spot view cameras when turn signals are activated.
The 2023 Sportage Hybrid drives well for its size and segment, with a sportier feel to its takeoffs and steering, but with an unusually quiet highway presence as well. It’s neither quick nor agile compared to a sedan or sports-oriented model, but it’s more so than most vehicles in the small SUV segments. Kia also boasts best-in-class numbers for the 2023 Sportage Hybrid’s cargo space, passenger space, and rear seat legroom. We noted the latter as especially thoughtful as the author is well over six feet in height.
What the Kia Sportage Hybrid is not, however, is “fun.” Those remembering the days of the hamster-driven Kia commercials with early 2000s party vibe and “clean urban” good times won’t find any of that in this new, more grown up Sportage. Instead, it’s far more boilerplate with a simple ham-and-eggs comfort that will appeal to the more practical and aged up audience that’s matured since the Sportage’s heyday.
The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid has a starting price of about US$28,000 plus delivery. Our test model, a mid-range EX Premium, rang in at $32,700 before delivery fees.
Product Page: 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid