2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD Review

The Sportage we've been waiting for


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: Hits the design nail on the head, huge amounts of room in both rows, Kia's best hybrid powertrain, excellent efficiency even in AWD.
Negatives: Quirky swappable climate and audio touch controls take some getting used to.
Bottom Line: The Sportage is finally what it should be with great styling, an impressive hybrid setup, and ample amounts of space.
The last Sportage was in need of both increased size, better performance, and more efficiency. It also couldn't figure out what it wanted to look like against handsome offerings from Mazda and Honda, especially. The 2023 Kia Sportage addresses all of that and more with a total redesign and more powertrain options than ever before, including a gas engine, a hybrid setup, and even a PHEV. It also upsizes the infotainment, interior space, and overall refinement. What stands out the most are the exterior and cabin styling that make it more than competitive in the segment. We drove the hybrid model to see how much of an improvement it is over the old Sportage that we drove back in 2018. Read our full review below.
 

Driving Experience

7.3

 

The hybrid version of the Sportage doesn't have as much power as the old turbo four from the last generation, but the overall driving experience is better. The Sportage feels better sorted out thanks to a great ride, good handling, and improved high-speed stability.

Ride Quality: The ride is very comfortable but not totally isolated. Road surfaces are met with good dampening.

Acceleration: The Kia Sportage Hybrid will run to 60 mph in just over 7 seconds. The transmission shifts well and contributes to the Sportage Hybrid's solid driving experience.

Braking: The regenerative brakes exhibit no grabbiness or mushy spots in the pedal travel. We had no problems bringing the vehicle to a stop effectively, and it's a better regen system than most.

Steering: Steering has mild effort but not much feedback. It is, however, responsive and accurate and has good on-centeredness on the highway.

Handling: Handling is respectable, but there is palpable body roll and some nose dive when entering corners.

Technology

7.8

 

The old 8" touchscreen was fine for the last-gen Sportage, but it's a new day and even affordable crossovers are getting their in-car tech upsized. The Sportage gets a big 12.3" infotainment touchscreen mated with a same-sized configurable instrument cluster/driver information display. The system looks good, and there's no problem seeing either in bright sunlight. The touch-sensitive climate and infotainment controls swap out with a single touch, which is cool but a bit unorthodox.

Infotainment System: The 12.3" screen is clear and the menu icons are easily legible. Responsiveness could be better, but overall the system works well. We still can't figure out why we have trouble advancing music with our paired iPhone. This seems to be an issue with all current Kias and Hyundais.

Controls: Steering wheel controls and the rotary shifter are very easy to use. It's the touch climate and audio controls that take some getting used to. You switch them out on the same screen by touching a button. It's easy to mix them up when you're driving, which is an unfortunate outcome for what looks like a very cool setup.

Styling

8.6

 

The Sportage evolves to something more refined, cohesive and attractive while remaining sporty. It's also much bigger than the last generation crossover which means it looks less smushed and compact. The attractive and airy interior is also consistent with other Kia models like the EV6 and the redesigned Niro.

Front: Gone is the puckered fish mouth from the old Sportage, replaced by a huge front grille and V-shaped DRLs. The front end is a little busy for our liking, and it looks better from an angle than it does head-on.

Rear: The slender taillights have great character and give the back end a refined and unique look. It's the lower valence we don't like with its overdone silver trim that matches the one on the front lower fascia.

Profile: Chrome trim around the base of windows and the rocker panel look great. The pyramidal textured trim on the C-pillar is a nice addition, as well, carried over from the Carnival minivan. The sloping roofline adds sportiness to the side view.

Cabin: Everything inside the cabin looks fantastic, including the blue and cream colorway, the shapely vents from big bro Sorento, the layered dash, and the sloping center console. It's one of the best interiors in the compact crossover segment.

Comfort

9

 

\The interior of the Sportage grows and noticeably so. The additional of better materials and a more airy atmosphere make sitting in the Sportage much better than the previous Sportage. It's one of the best in the segment in terms of overall occupant comfort.

Front Seats: The synthetic leather seats might as well be the real thing. They're soft, supple, and supportive. They could use more bolstering for our liking, but the position and adjustability are very good.

Rear Seats: Rear legroom grows by just over three inches from a decent 38.2 inches up to an impressive 41.3 inches. The seats in all positions are good, even the middle one.

Visibility: Visibility is very good overall with minor issues out the rear sides due to the angled C-pillars.

Climate: The climate system is very good with good amount of airflow and a quick-responding thermostat.

Safety

9

 

The Kia Sportage earns top marks from one testing bod in crash testing and safety tech. In terms of standard equipment, there's a lot to love. It comes with plenty of features that should provide peace of mind to owners and their families.

IIHS Rating: It earned a Top Safety Pick for 2022. It has not yet been tested under the more stringent 2023 criteria. Its demerits come in the form of "acceptable" and "poor" headlights depending on trim level and "acceptable" LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: Not tested.

Standard Tech: The Sportage Hybrid comes with Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, Lane Departure Warning & Lane Keeping Assist, Driver Attention Warning w/ Leading Vehicle Departure Alert, Parking Distance Warning Reverse, Downhill Brake Control, Hill Start Assist Control, and a rear camera display.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.9

 

The Sportage is bigger than ever, and that translates to more cargo space that competes well in the segment. The interior is also rife with great small-item storage choices. Overall, it's a very easy interior to live with.

Storage Space: Door pockets are big, and the center cubby with retractable cupholders is an ingenious use of center console storage.

Cargo Room: The cargo space is 9 cubes bigger behind row two (39.6) and 14 larger (74.1) than the old model. It's a noticeable difference, and it's very close to the huge Honda CR-V.

Fuel Economy

9.1

 

Even in AWD configuration, the Sportage crushes the efficiency equation. 38 mpg across the board is very impressive for a vehicle that's almost 4,000 pounds. We drove it pretty far and came back with numbers that were very close with a slight ding due to some local driving in Sport mode.

Observed: 36.6 mpg.

Distance Driven: 662 miles.

Audio

7

 

The stock audio system in our EX tester worked well and had no issues. If you want a premium sound experience, this isn't it because the bass and the clarity were just a bit better than average. Only the pricier SX trim level gets the upgraded Harman Kardon premium sound system.



Final Thoughts

We were really impressed by just about everything the Kia Sportage Hybrid EX has to offer. Improved performance, more space, excellent comfort, better tech, better efficiency, and high style equate to a great compact crossover for a family of five. It holds its own against the competition and offers great safety, as well. You should definitely cross-shop it against Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, and Mazda.
Shopping for a used
Kia Sportage Hybrid?