Engine: 2.5-liter gas direct injection 4-cylinder
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Torque: 178 lb.-ft.
EPA ratings: 23/city, 28/highway, 25/combined
Base price: $36,780
As tested: $38,555
Overview: There is a lot to like about the fifth-generation, completely redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage. It’s roomy and has a quiet cabin, great fuel economy and comfortable ride quality, plus more passenger room — and more cargo space than most rivals. It’s larger and features more technology than previous models and this is the first Sportage with a hybrid powertrain. Our test driver was the AWD X-Pro Prestige, and this review focuses on that model.
Walkaround: Showcasing Kia’s new “Opposites United” design philosophy, the Sportage’s distinctive appearance makes a statement with its contrasting but unified elements, including sleek, soft surfaces and rugged design cues testifying to off-road prowess. The tiger-nose grille features a floating design with a blacked-out grille that spans the entire front fascia. “Boomerang” daytime running lights push the uniquely shaped headlights to the outer corners. The angular fenders and a shoulder line rising from the hood and running down the side give the Sportage a sharp, aggressive presence. Beefy shoulders at the rear flow into “notch-shaped” taillights connected by a thin, black graphic spanning the tailgate.
Interior: The Sportage boasts an attractive, well-organized interior. The straightforward controls are easy to reach — once you find the switch that swaps the climate controls for the media and navigation controls. The slightly rounded infotainment screen in our X-Pro test driver mirrors the one in Kia’s EV6, but is actually a pair of 12.3-inch displays for both instrumentation and infotainment, giving the impression it’s one large, continuous display. The screen and other controls are angled toward the driver, so everything is within easy reach. Standard features include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto with numerous USB-A and — C ports in both rows. Navigation isn’t difficult to operate. Voice commands will input directions — or change radio stations on the Harman Kardon audio system. There’s an optional surround-view camera system as well. Seating is leather-like Syn-Tex with comfortable, power adjustable heated front seats with power lumbar support. The rear seats offer class-leading legroom. Besides the spacious interior, the rear hatch displays a massive cargo area — 39.5 cubic feet behind the second row and 73.7 with it folded.
Behind the wheel: The Sportage handles well for a crossover — but isn’t sporty — although the steering is quick and accurate. Switching to sport mode helps and sharpens the throttle response, although everything is tuned for comfort, not winding two-lane blacktops. What’s really impressive is the smooth, compliant ride quality. The suspension evens out bumps, and it’s one of the best-riding — and quiet — crossovers we’ve driven.
Bottom line: The Sportage is one of the most affordable crossovers available today, but doesn’t feel or drive cheap. Even our loaded test driver bests most of its rivals when compared feature for feature. Definitely worth a look.