2023 Kia Sportage First Drive – Looking for Attention

I’ll admit it – I generally neglect Kia’s Sportage exists.

That’s not as a result of the current-generation Sportage is a foul car. No, it’s as a result of it competes in a crowded class and sure stalwarts and newcomers have commanded the market’s consideration in recent times.

Enter the 2023 Kia Sportage. Due to a significant redesign, this five-seat crossover is able to ram its approach again into the highlight, for higher or for worse.

There’s a plethora of selection in the case of this new Sportage – gasoline, hybrid, and plug-in hybrid powertrains can be found, and the Sportage will be had in certainly one of at the least seven obtainable trim ranges.

Kia invited me to the desert east of Los Angeles in order that I might pattern two particular Sportages – the “off-roader” X-Professional trim and the plug-less model of the hybrid.

At the least, that was the plan, anyway. By some means the swap acquired screwed up and my day was X-Professional heavy. Nonetheless, I had an opportunity to at the least get a small sampling of the hybrid.

(Full disclosure: Kia PR flew me to Palm Springs, California, and fed and housed me for 2 nights in a beautiful resort. They supplied a branded throw pillow I left behind, and a pocket book and pen which I saved.)

A portion of the press briefing was given over to an introductory video that showcased the Sportage, and having not but gotten a great have a look at the automobiles parked on-site, I discovered myself a bit alarmed by the design course. I noticed a bit an excessive amount of present Chevy Blazer. Kia people did acknowledge that the design selections, at the least by way of exterior styling, have been a bit contradictory, saying one thing about mixing muscular, angular strains and sleeker curves.

All I knew is that, in pics at the least, the brand new Sportage seemed a bit odd to my eye.

Coloration me shocked, then, that I discovered the styling labored higher in particular person. That’s true of each the X-Professional, which is supposed to look extra “rugged”, and the citified hybrid. We’re not speaking head-turning good-looking, right here, however on the very least I’d not kick both of these Sportages out of my storage. So to talk.

The X-Professional I spent most of my day in is powered by a 2.5-liter four-cylinder that makes 187 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. It’s matched to an eight-speed computerized transmission. Whereas some gasoline Sportages come commonplace with front-wheel drive and provide all-wheel drive as an choice, the X-Line and X-Professional trims come commonplace with AWD.

The X-Line is extra present than go, providing completely different entrance and rear bumpers, a gloss black search for the roof rack, sideview mirrors, and window surrounds; raised roof-rack rails that should higher carry off-road gear; and 19-inch wheels.

The X-Professional will get a bit extra severe, with BF Goodrich all-terrain rubber, 17-inch wheels, LED fog lamps, obtainable LED projector headlights (commonplace on X-Professional Status fashions), heated windshield, off-road-tuned drive modes, two-tone roof, cooled entrance seats (Status), and 8-way energy entrance passenger seat (Status).

Not precisely, as certainly one of our off-road-track instructors stated, “a Rubicon rolling on 35s.” Nonetheless, the X-Professional is able to some light-duty off-road work. Kia arrange an off-road course that confirmed off the off-road options akin to hill-descent management, a forward-facing digicam, and the locking AWD system, and the Sportage did simply wonderful. You gained’t be rock crawling, but when it’s essential traverse a dry creek mattress to get to your favourite tenting spot, you would do so much worse than this rig.

We’ll pause right here to notice that the Sportage’s floor clearance has elevated from 6.4 inches (6.8 with AWD) to 7.1 inches (8.3 with AWD). In the meantime, the Sportage has grown in measurement – the general size is 7.1 inches longer, with the wheelbase rising by 3.4 inches. Peak and width enhance by half an inch. Maybe most notable is the rise in cargo-area capability to 39.6 cubic toes, an almost 9 cubic-foot enhance. The cargo ground is twin stage.

On-road, the X-Professional isn’t too hampered by its all-terrain tires or any particular “off-road” tuning. It’s, nevertheless, hampered by the actual fact it’s a crossover. Nobody expects this stuff to be enjoyable, and the Sportage X-Professional isn’t significantly thrilling, although it’s competent.

The experience high quality on easy California roads was stiff however nice – although, as all the time, I’d prefer to see how this factor behaves on pock-marked pavement.

I wasn’t pushing tremendous exhausting, as a result of crossover, however on the one or two events I got here right into a nook a bit too sizzling I skilled simply managed understeer. I’ll give kudos to the steering – it was properly weighted, although nonetheless synthetic in really feel. Flicking the drive-mode selector into Sport mode improved the proceedings – the beforehand sluggish throttle response livened up. General, this Sportage’s acceleration was wonderful for around-town driving and acceptable for the mountains, nevertheless it needs to be famous that the hybrid affords extra guts, as we’ll see later.

The cabin will look acquainted to those that’ve frolicked in Kia and Hyundai merchandise lately – there’s the sweeping sprint that integrates the infotainment system properly, and there are familiar-looking digital gauges and even a few precise knobs.

A ha, however there’s some trickery afoot. The knobs seem like for local weather management temperature changes, however wait! Press a button and now they management radio quantity and tuning. And the HVAC show disappears, citing the house menu for the infotainment.

It’s a sublime answer nevertheless it takes some getting used to – neglect to modify the system over, and you will discover your self cranking the warmth once you meant to crank “The Warmth is On”.


You would possibly must crank the Glenn Frey at greater speeds – whereas the cabin is usually quiet, some wind noise from across the A-pillar flares up throughout freeway driving.

Whereas the plug-in hybrid isn’t but obtainable, the “common” hybrid is, and I did handle to get my grubby mitts on one for a couple of minutes of drive time. The hybrid system appeared easy and quiet in operation, at the least round city, and the hybrid rode a bit higher than the X-Professional, due to the change to extra street-friendly rubber. Though, once more, California roads are a bit like a cheat code.

I can’t converse a lot in regards to the hybrid’s dealing with, since my drive route was totally on the city grid, however the one curve I encountered – and took pretty aggressively – induced the tires to sing at round 20-25 mph. For reference, the hybrid rides on 17s.

I risked an encounter with native legislation enforcement to offer the hybrid a heavy dose of my proper foot, and I discovered that the powertrain has some guts, although there’s a slight delay earlier than the facility comes on. The hybrid system right here makes use of a 1.6-liter turbo-four mated to a 44-kilowatt electrical motor, and the full system output is 277 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. The transmission is a six-speed computerized.

Variations behind the powertrain embody a round shift knob as a substitute of a T-handle, completely different layouts for the digital gauges, a unique grille, completely different daytime working lights, and minor styling variations.

Hybrids are supplied in three trims (LX, EX, and SX-Status), with base pricing beginning at $27,290 earlier than the $1,255 vacation spot charge. A loaded SX-Status hybrid with AWD will value you $36,190 earlier than vacation spot.

Normal or obtainable options on fashions with both powertrain embody Apple CarPlay, Android Auto, 360-degree digicam, premium audio, Bluetooth with multi-device functionality, wi-fi system charging, Wi-Fi hotspot, navigation, satellite tv for pc radio, heated entrance seats, heated steering wheel, cooled entrance seats, and cupholders that may be adjusted to accommodate bigger gadgets, akin to tablets.

Accessible driver-aid tech contains: Driver-attention warning, lane-keep help, lane-following help, high-beam help, forward-collision avoidance with bike owner detection, rear-occupant alert, blind-spot monitoring, blind-spot collision-avoidance help, rear cross-traffic avoidance help, speed-limit warning help, and sensible cruise management.

Base Sportages begin at $25,990 and a top-trim car will value you $36,790, once more earlier than vacation spot. An X-Professional Status AWD I examined value $38,555 with choices and vacation spot.

Gas financial system is listed by the EPA at 25/32/28 for FWD gasoline fashions, 23/28/25 for AWD gasoline fashions, 38/38/38 for AWD hybrids, and 42/44/43 for FWD hybrids.

General, the bundle right here is stable and priced pretty consistent with the competitors. The outside styling is extra enticing in particular person than in footage, the inside is well-done, and the driving expertise, whereas unremarkable, gained’t allow you to down.

That’s the excellent news – and the dangerous information. The 2023 Kia Sportage does numerous issues nicely, and it’s a wonderfully competent car. However excluding its appears to be like, it doesn’t actually stand out over the competitors.

Sportage patrons will doubtless be comfortable. And I gained’t neglect this one exists, so at the least there’s that.

[Images © 2022 Tim Healey/TTAC, Kia]

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