2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD review by Ben Lewis

As long as there’s been Kia in the US, it seems like there’s been a Sportage SUV. It started out small and rugged, and grew into a stylish, strong-performing model that we liked to call the Korean Cayenne. No small praise, giving Porsche props there.

And now we have an all-new 5th generation Sportage, and while we might have expected a further development of the current model, Kia has instead unleashed the designers and engineers to create something completely different. How did they do? Let’s take a look!

Opposites United

No, that isn’t a name for a new English soccer team (although that would be a good one!), it’s Kia’s design philosophy, with smooth, soft surfaces offset by rugged sheer forms.

The front end is bold, but it’s kind of polarizing. The familiar “Tiger Nose” is still there, but now it floats above the large full width, blacked out grille. Instead of a traditional headlamp design, “Boomerang” daytime running lights wrap around the front corners, while a lower fascia echoes that boomerang design as well.

The profile is easier to love, and you immediately see that the new model is over 7 inches longer with a 3.4-inch longer wheelbase than before. It’s taller and wider by a half inch, as well. The lines are aggressive and sporty, with muscular fender flares, a nice scooped-in line on the doors, blacked out fender trim, and swept back rear pillar for an aggressive look. We especially liked our EX-model’s 18-inch Machine Finished alloy wheels with a “throwing star” design that looks visually strong and really pops.

The rear is less controversial than the nose, with angled LED taillights, a deep panel hatch that’s familiar on many Kia designs including the stylish EV6. Finishing it off is a nice contrasting lower garnish that looks off-roady and tough. The new KIA design logo is prominent here, and it looks especially stylish and upscale. Matching that upscale vibe was our tester’s deep Vesta Blue paint, that gave off a rich vibe.

Welcome to the Big Screen

Inside, there’s no question about the Sportage’s luxury trappings. Open the door, and the dual integrated 12.3 screens remind us of our recent BMW M340i. Sweeping across the driver’s gauges and across the center console, it actually looks like a single screen. Futuristic and cool!

Kia always serves up the tech, and the Sportage is brimming with goodies, like a five-device Wi-Fi HotSpot, over-the-air map updates, available access through Apple and Android based smart watches, Cloud-based navigation routing, and wireless charging for your smartphone.

Adding to that hi-tech vibe, the center console has a large circular knob that controls gear selection, while a smaller knob below handles driver modes and AWD modes. The climate control is accessed by a horizontal touch pad that allows multi-function swapping on some models. Well laid-out and logical, the experience shows smart engineering.

Make that smart and spacious. This is easily the largest Sportage interior ever, and now is one of the largest in its class. Up front, the horizontal design reinforces the feeling of width, and the front seats feel large and well-cushioned. In the you-could-have-fooled-me department, the SynTex faux leather looks like the real thing. The front seats show some extra thought, with integrated coat hanger holders in the back of the front headrests, along with USB charging ports on the side of the seatback.

The rear seats feel cavernous, and Kia claims best in class rear legroom, and we believe it! It’s also got one of the largest cargo spaces in its class, and with the easy fold down rear seats you’ve got room that feels like a much larger vehicle.

 Hybrid High Performance

The driving experience has changed as well. Where there used to be a punchy 2.0-liter turbo model, the hot Sportage for now is the hybrid model like our tester.

Tech savvy drivers will love the sound of a turbo 1.6-liter, 4-cylinder combined with two electric motors for a combined 227 horsepower. Combining EV low-end punch with Turbo high end pull, the Sportage feels powerful off the line and pulls smoothly and powerfully all the way up the rev range. The 6-speed automatic offers quick shifts, and you can even have more fun using the paddle shifters to toggle through the gears. The EPA says you’ll get 38 mpg, highway, city and combined, but we found we could beat that around town. Not bad for a big AWD equipped SUV!

The Sportage really shows off where hybrid technology has come. In the day-to-day drive, the switch between EV and gas-powered modes is seamless, and the brake pedal feel is smooth and consistent – regenerative brakes used to feel grabby at times, but not here.

While we love the hybrid goodness, the new Sportage seems tuned for comfort rather than sport. The older model had a playfulness and chuckability that is much less evident here. It’s certainly quiet and confident, and a great everyday driver, but just not much fun. Most buyers probably won’t mind, but if you do, we’d point you to the Mazda CX-5 which is smaller, but more of a driver’s SUV.  

Big is More?

The nicest part of the all-new Sportage is the excellent value it serves up.

You can get into the most basic Sportage for around $26,290, with a load of space, comfort, standard safety and a 10-year warranty, that’s value that’s tough to beat.

Our Hybrid EX AWD tester shows off equally impressive bang for the buck, starting at just $30,990. We had the EX Premium Package ($1,500), that we would endorse, as it brings nice stuff like a panoramic sunroof with power shade, LED interior lighting and a smart, hands-free power liftgate. Throw in carpeted floor mats ($150), and $1,215 for Destination, and we rang the bell at $33,860. Still impressive.

Competitors would include the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid at $37,535, also nice but that’s a significant bump in price. The all-new CR-V Hybrid looks interesting, but it’s even pricier at over $40k. We’d have to say the Sportage Hybrid is an excellent value.

Bold looks, massive interior space and upscale tech, the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is an excellent choice for Hybrid SUV buyers.