~ A DriveWays Review ~
by Frank A. Aukofer
Now in its 30th year, the 2023 Kia Sportage presents an all-new face and physique to the motoring public, ready to build on a burgeoning reputation for quality and dependability.
The J.D. Power Vehicle Dependability Study, which measures vehicle quality issues over three years of ownership, ranked the Sportage in first place for the second consecutive year. It also earlier had been recognized by the firm as having the best initial vehicle quality among compact sport utility vehicles.
That’s the informal designation of how to classify the Sportage. The Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees fuel economy information, calls it a “small SUV.” It doesn’t make much sense because the agency classifies both the Sportage and larger crossovers as “small sport utility vehicle.”
In classifying cars but not SUVs, the EPA uses total interior volume, consisting of passenger room plus cargo space. Any car with 120 cubic feet of interior volume is rated as a large car. Both the Sportage and Sorento are above that mark, as are many crossover SUVs of different sizes. The Sportage’s total is 147 cubic feet; the Sorento’s 156.
The all-new Sportage is a close cousin to the Hyundai Tucson, also a crossover. Hyundai and Kia, both of South Korea, are sister companies, with Hyundai owning about a third of Kia. The two manufacturers share engines and drive trains, though they do their own styling, tuning and other components.
Styling is a hallmark of the 2023 Sportage, especially with the attention-getting sculpture and LED accents of of the tested top-of-the-line X-Pro Prestige AWD model, enhanced by “Jungle Green” paint with a black top and 17-inch black alloy wheels with all-terrain tires.
There’s also 8.3 inches of ground clearance to help facilitate off-roading, though the Sportage is more of a slick urban runabout and highway cruiser than a boondocks basher.
Power gets to all four wheels through an eight-speed automatic transmission with a manual shift mode, controlled by the shift lever. There are no steering-wheel shift paddles. Lurking under the hood is a 187-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that makes 178 pound-feet of torque. On regular gasoline, its city/highway/combined fuel consumption is rated at 23/28/25 miles to the gallon.
A base front-drive Sportage, without many of the tester’s embellishments, costs $27,295, including the destination charge. The tested all-wheel drive X-Pro Prestige started at $38,005 and, with the Jungle Green paint and carpeted floor mats, had a bottom-line sticker of $38,555.
That included a host of safety items: Automatic emergency braking with pedestrian detection, surround-view camera, blind-spot monitor, lane departure warning and lane-keeping assist, lane following assist, parking collision avoidance front and rear, driver attention warning, LED automatic high beam headlights, and combination LED taillights.
The equipment included the unique Kia/Hyundai blind-spot monitoring system which uses cameras to display rear outside areas on the instrument panel. They substitute for the speedometer or tachometer when the directional signals are activated. It’s a great system for drivers who won’t, or don’t know how to, adjust the outside mirrors.
Inside, the tester delivered comfortable front and outboard back seats with good space and support, upholstered in perforated black leather. Even the center-rear seat was OK, sort of.
On the road, the tested X-Pro Prestige acquitted itself well in urban and freeway traffic. It’s not the quickest sprinter—zero to 60 acceleration is in the seven-second range—but it never feels out of breath.
Handling on curves is a strong point, and straight-line cruising is mostly relaxing with few steering corrections needed. Ride comfort, except on the many rough surfaces of the nation’s highways, is decent for long distances. The cabin is mostly quiet except at higher speeds when the knobby all-terrain tires announce themselves.
There’s a large, 12.3-inch center screen for infotainment and other functions, including Apple Car Play and Android Auto. It also controls such functions as radio tuning and volume, and can be switched to adjust climate controls. But it can be confusing so should not be used while driving.
The 2023 Sportage, even in the tested X-Pro Prestige AWD trim, is not the biggest bruiser on the block. It competes against its garage-mate, the Hyundai Tucson, as well as such stalwarts as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4, Nissan Rogue and Ford Escape. All of those had higher U.S. sales in 2022.
With its new duds and features, it’s worth a look from anyone considering a compact crossover.
- Model: 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige AWD four-door crossover sport utility vehicle.
- Engine: 2.5-liter four-cylinder; 187 hp, 178 lb-ft torque.
- Transmission: Eight-speed automatic with manual shift mode and all-wheel drive.
- Overall length: 15 feet 5 inches.
- Height: 5 feet 5 inches.
- Weight: 3,835 pounds.
- Towing capability: 2,500 pounds.
- EPA/SAE passenger/cargo volume: 107/40 cubic feet.
- EPA city/highway/combined fuel consumption: 23/28/25 mpg.
- Base price, including destination charge: $38,005.
- Price as tested: $38,555.
Disclaimer: The manufacturer provided the vehicle used to conduct this test drive and review. Photos ©Kia
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