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Car Reviews
2023 Review: Kia Sportage Hybrid

    
When Kia unleashed its small Sportage SUV on an unsuspecting world in 1995, it was an undeniably crude piece of work. Fast-forward a few decades, and the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid has been completely transformed into one of the top choices in a crowded category.
  
Now built on the same underpinnings as the automaker’s larger seven-passenger Sorrento crossover, the fifth-generation Sportage is bigger than the outgoing model in almost every dimension. Stretched to the point that its “compact” label scarcely applies, this Sportage is a whopping 7.1 inches longer overall than the previous version.
  
The result is category-leading space in the back seat with a generous three inches of additional legroom. A pair of adults or a couple of kids’ car seats fit equally comfortably. Fold those 60/40-split rear seatbacks down, and you’ll find 74.1 cubic feet of space, making it the largest cargo hold in the segment. A two-level loading floor makes it easy to separate suitcases from snacks, toys and other things you might need on the road.
  
The Sportage’s suspension delivers a decent ride and acceptable handling, but it’s not as “sporty “as the name implies. Its overall driving character, though, suits everyday motoring.
 
If you get your kicks off the pavement, the new ruggedized X-Pro model is designed to travel graded fire roads and the like to get you and your crew to the mountain bike trailhead. Upgrades include 1.5 inches of added height suspension for a healthy 8.3 inches of ground clearance, all-terrain tires and an all-wheel-drive system with selectable “drive modes” for a variety of terrain.
 
From behind the steering wheel, the quiet interior has received as dramatic a makeover as the exterior. The look is upscale, with neat tech details such as a 12.3-inch center touch-screen that blends into the driver’s gauge cluster for an unbroken expanse of digital display.
 
Underneath the center screen is a row of touch-sensitive tabs that toggle back and forth to control audio, climate and navigation systems. Unfortunately, the interface is unnecessarily complicated, which may have you pining for old-fashioned straightforward knobs and buttons.
 
Power for the Sportage Hybrid I drove came from a 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine paired with an electric motor to produce a total of 227 horsepower. While the 187 horsepower, 2.5-liter engine on base models is underwhelming, the hybrid powertrain with all-wheel drive returned lively performance and impressive EPA fuel economy estimates of 38 miles per gallon.

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STRENGTHS

  • Roomy interior
  • Off-pavement-capable X-Pro models

 
WEAKNESSES

  • Multifunction buttons for audio/climate/navigation
  • Front-end styling is not to everyone’s liking.

 
BOTTOM LINE

  • A small crossover that everyone should add to their test-drive list

 
SAFETY

  • NHTSA overall: 5 Stars (out of 5)

 
FUEL ECONOMY (MPG)

  • 38/38
     

PRICE

  • Base Price: $27,290
  • Price As Tested: $38,155