2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid SX Prestige AWD review by Ben Lewis

Sometimes, when we test a vehicle, we find it so nice, we test it twice. Well, sort of. In the beginning of the year, we tested the all-new 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX and were greatly impressed. So, when Kia offered us a chance to have another go, but this time in the more luxurious Hybrid SX Prestige model, we jumped at the chance.

So, is it worth the extra money to add some Prestige in your life? Let’s find out!

Bold Looks

 When the 2023 Sportage bowed in, the looks were controversial. Calling the design “Opposites United” it made some waves. Funny how a little time gives you perspective. As we’ve seen with other Kia and sibling brand Hyundai models, this is now the new look for both brands, and the more we see it, the more we appreciate the futuristic design.

The front end was the biggest change, with a wide horizontal strip that sets the tone. The familiar “Tiger Nose” is still there, but now it floats above the large full width, blacked out grille. Most notable are the “Boomerang” headlights that wrap around the front corners. One step-up you get from EX to the SX Prestige are sharp projector beam headlights and LED fog lights nestled low in the fascia – they add an upscale look that helps sell the redesign.

The profile is less controversial, but you do notice the Sportage has grown – over 7 inches longer with a 3.4-inch longer wheelbase. The stance is also taller and wider by a half inch. Putting more “sport” in “Sportage” we liked the aggressive fender flares, sharp cut-ins to the door panels, and the upswept line from the C-pillar back. Another giveaway for those comparing trim levels, the SX features a unique dark gray finish on the handsome 18-inch alloy wheels.

The rear finishes off the look, with Prestige-unique combination LED taillights, that contrast nicely with the  deep panel hatch that’s familiar on many Kia designs including the stylish EV6. The new KIA design logo is becoming one of our favorites, and it elevates the brand, and makes the Sportage look just that little bit more special.

Speaking of special, we got loads of compliments on our tester’s Shadow Matte Gray paint. The soft satiny finish combined with the rich charcoal color looked like a very expensive aftermarket paint job or wrap. Nope. Factory fresh and frankly at only $595, exclusivity is quite affordable! That said, you can’t run the Matte Gray through an automatic car wash, and special care is needed when you do clean the vehicle.

 Prestige is as Prestige Does

 Opening the door lets you in on the reasons to consider the luxurious Prestige trim. If first impressions matter, the Prestige wins with the unique Carmine Red interior color package. It’s a beautiful contrast to the gray exterior, and feels very Audi-like in presentation, with red on the seats, door panels and center armrest setting off the black and piano black interior trim.

Adding to the Audi-aciousness are the dual 12.3-displays (Lower trims have only a 12.2-inch driver display, so there!), that create a digital display that’s simply breathtaking. You really notice the quality of the display and design, too. Compared to the modern screen we had in our recent Hyundai Santa Cruz; this is another level – even though the Hyundai was actually more expensive!

The large 12.3 touchscreen is equally big and bold, and you get loads of tech, including 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 – of course you get Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but you’ll have to plug in using a chord.

Below that are controls for the audio system and climate control. We think it’s neat that the volume and tuning knobs become climate controls at the push of a button, and the SX Prestige really delivers with the awesome sounding 8-speaker, 400-Watt, Harman Kardon® Premium Surround Sound audio system.  Unfortunately, it’s too easy to mistakenly push one of the haptic controls and get something like full defrost when all you wanted was to turn up the volume. A little fidgety.

There’s no fidgeting with the cool center console that has a large circular knob for gear selection, and a smaller knob for driver and AWD modes.  

Upscale and smart, it’s also spacious. The largest Sportage interior ever is also one of the largest in its class. The quality of materials really shines here, too, the Premium SynTex – a step above the EX’s regular SynTex – gives off leathery goodness without bumping off a cow. Opting for the SX also gets you heated and ventilated front seats, Memory Driver’s Seat, and power passenger front seats.

The front seats also 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 as well as one of the largest cargo spaces in its class. The power rear hatch makes loading easy, and the fold down rear seats give a massive amount of room. All things considered this really is a class above!

Hybrid High Performance

While the exterior and interior get a nice upgrade with the SX Prestige, the driving experience remains the same as our previous EX tester – and that’s a good thing. 

Under hood is the same 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. Another plus, unlike some competitors that opt for a CVT transmission, the Kia features a 6-speed automatic that serves up quick shifts, made even more fun when you use the paddle shifters to toggle through the gears.

Despite the added luxury equipment, the EPA says you’ll get same 38 mpg, highway, city and combined as the EX, which we think is very impressive for a generously sized SUV with standard AWD. And if you’ve seen the high prices for gas around lately, that thriftiness seems even smarter.

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.

We were also pleasantly surprised with the nice blend of comfort and sportiness in the Sportage. While the luxo-goodness, quiet and supple ride makes for an ideal commuter, we liked the excellent steering feel, and the AWD system and low-end power made for entertaining handling. We’d say it’s a win-win-win.

Another reason to go for the SX Prestige are the added Driver Assist features, including Smart Cruise with Stop & Go, Blind-Spot View Monitor, Surround View Monitor, Highway Driving Assist, Remote Smart Parking Assist, Parking Collision Avoidance Assist in Reverse and Parking Distance Warning.

Outstanding Value

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 $27,490, with a load of space, comfort, standard safety and a 10-year warranty, that’s value that’s tough to beat.

Our Recent Hybrid EX AWD totaled out at $33,860. Stepping up to the SX Prestige like our current tester starts you at $36,190.  Adding in Shadow Matt Gray paint ($595), some cargo mats and covers, plus $1,295 for destination, and we rang the bell at $38,530. While that is a significant price step up, we think the combination of luxury, tech and safety gear make it well worth the added cost.

Competitors would include the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid comparably equipped it’s considerably more expensive at $43,420, and the all-new CR-V Hybrid is an excellent choice, but comes in close to the Toyota at $42,835. In the luxury hybrid SUV stakes, we’d have to say the Sportage SX Prestige is an excellent value.

Stunning looks, loads of premium features and upscale tech, the 2023 Kia Sportage SX Prestige Hybrid is our choice for a luxury hybrid SUV!

Ben Lewis grew up in Chicago, and after spending his formative years driving sideways in the winter – often intentionally – moved to sunny Southern California. He now enjoys sunny weather year-round — whether it is autocross driving, aerobatics, and learning to surf.

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