More than a dozen hybrid compact crossover sport utility vehicles vie for the expanding number of consumers seeking improved efficiency without transitioning into fully electric vehicles. Welcome the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid.
Kia, the South Korean manufacturer partially owned by Hyundai, introduced the Sportage in 1993. It was originally classified as a compact SUV, but since 2004 the Sport has been labeled as a crossover. It’s built on a unibody chassis as opposed to the body-on-frame option used by most pickup trucks.
The new Kia is part of the manufacturer’s trio of SUVs, and it’s positioned between the Seltos or Niro and the three-row Sorento.
Kia and its vehicle relative Hyundai, have made quantum improvements in the past decade. Several of both manufacturers’ choices have climbed industry rating lists, notably from J.D. Power & Associates, the Michigan-based consumer research, data and analytics firm.
Debuting as the fifth generation, the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid was unveiled in early 2022 in three trims, LX, EX, and SX-Prestige. All-wheel drive is optional in the LX and standard in the two higher trims.
The turbocharged Sportage Hybrid is equipped with a 1.6-liter engine with 227 horsepower (40 more horsepower than the non-hybrid). With front-wheel drive, fuel mileage is superior with 43 miles per gallon combined. The all-wheel-drive option increases the vehicle’s driving dynamics, but the combined overall gas mileage is reduced to 38 mpg. A six-speed automatic transmission is standard.
With several driving modes available, all with option shifting via paddles on the steering wheel, the Kia advances adequately. It’s at its best performance in sport mode.
The top-line SX-Prestige defines value. Included are LED projection headlights, LED fog lights, tinted/heated windshield, heated wiper nozzles, 12.3-inch panoramic curved driver information display and 12.3-inch infotainment touchscreen.
Further, there’s an eight-way power-adjustable front passenger seat, ambient cabin lighting, Harman Kardon audio system, junction assistance, highway driving assist, navigation-based smart cruise control, front parking sensors, reverse automatic braking, blind-spot view monitor, a self-parking feature and a 360-degree camera system.
Eighteen-inch alloy wheels, integrated LED turn signals in the side mirrors, gloss black grille, roof rack and a panoramic sunroof are add the expansive list of standard stuff in the high trim levels.
The ride quality is superior, adding to a keen overall driving experience. The interior is spacious for front-and-rear seat passengers and the cargo area is surprisingly large for a compact SUV.
Two issues: the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid engine has a high-pitched tone similar to high-pressure steam. In reverse, a backup alarm is reminiscent of a commercial truck’s characteristics.
In recent years, Kia has improved in exterior styling throughout its lineup, offering a more sport-oriented, edgy look with sharp angles and unusual-shaped lights. The carmaker also changed its logo in 2022 to the brand’s polarizing futuristic lettering. Does the three-letter insignia really spell Kia? It’s hard to tell.
But the new Kia badge works well with the new Sportage Hybrid, the best of it in the exterior Shadow Matte Gray paint. With its complementary black interior, several onlookers remarked on the car’s good looks and guessed its price as twice as much as the SUV’s $38,000 cost.
The new Kia selection is unofficially categorized in a small fraternity. It’s valued priced while offering a vast selection of safety and technology features. It mimics a luxury vehicle without an inflated cost.