Many of my friends and family, like so many other Canadian drivers, continue to stick their noses up at Kia.
I honestly don’t get it. I’ve recommended Kia vehicles to so many people shopping for new wheels because the brand deserves to be recommended. It makes a real effort to not only meet expectations in the segments it competes, but to exceed them. The overhauled 2023 Kia Sportage is proof that if you’re still sleeping on the brand, you need to wake up.
My mom’s response to why she doesn’t like Kia is “Their designs are always copying someone else.” While that might have been true at one point, this qualifies as a misconception today. One look at the totally redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage and it’s immediately obvious that it doesn’t look like anything else – including the rest of the brand’s own lineup. Regardless of whether the crossover’s futuristic, swoopy styling appeals to you or not, you can’t deny that it’s unique and stands out in a crowded segment.
I think it looks cool, and while I know many of you might disagree, its style is sharp from every angle to my eye.
The Sportage is packed with small but clever details that make it work harder for a family. Small features like grocery hooks on the backs of the front seats, retractable cupholders, handles in the trunk to drop the second-row seats, and plenty of space for small items all add up to make practicality one of the Sportage’s many highlights. The door pockets, however, don’t fit my refillable water bottle – ironic since it’s a Kia-branded bottle.
The trunk holds 1,121 L and 2,098 L with the rear seats folded flat. That’s more space than the Canadian-made Toyota RAV4, which has long been the practicality champion in this segment.
The 2023 Sportage is powered by a 2.5L four-cylinder engine with 187 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. All models have an eight-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, except the base trim, which can be had with front-wheel drive. Those output figures might not seem like much in an era where minivans are pushing close to 300 hp, but it’s more than enough power for the Sportage. There’s a fair bit of noise if you’re at full throttle, but that’s not unusual amongst its competitors and the non-turbocharged engine provides decent passing power.
Driving Feel: 9/10
The Sportage doesn’t have a sporty drive, but it feels confident and composed, which is more important to me. The Sportage feels perfectly sized, nimble, and easy to manoeuvre. The steering has an appreciated weight to it, the visibility is clear so there are no major blind spots, and the excellent available 360-degree top-down parking cameras make parking easy. The suspension feels well calibrated so that the ride is comfortable without feeling sloppy. The accessible and predictable way it drives makes it easy to live with.
Fuel Economy: 9/10
The 2023 Sportage is rated to get 10.4 L/100 km in the city, 8.5 on the highway, and 9.5 combined. Over about 700 km of mixed driving but more heavily on highways, the crossover was showing a respectable 8.9 L/100 km. If better efficiency is what you’re seeking, the Sportage is also available as a gas-electric hybrid, and a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) is on the way.
My boyfriend’s kids didn’t complain about comfort after a long drive to a mini-putt place about an hour away. They also loved the USB ports for charging their phones, so maybe that had more to do with it, but even their 6-foot-3 dad was able to sit back there without any discomfort. The front seats feel a bit flat, but it only became obvious after a whole day of driving.
While a T-shaped gear selector might take up extra space and isn’t the hot new trend, it speaks volumes about how intuitive the new Sportage is to operate. It’s immediately obvious how it works and you can use it without having to look down.
The rest of the Sportage is similarly user-friendly, except for the fact that the controls for the media and climate use the same touch panel and you need to toggle between them (both aren’t visible at the same time). This is a frustrating added step that takes away from how frictionless the Sportage feels. Even after a week of driving, I still made the mistake of turning down the temperature when I wanted to turn down the volume.
As the top-of-the-line Sportage model, the X-Line Limited tested here is packed full of Kia’s best features. The twin screens are a big highlight, with some of my passengers saying that the layout looks like one you’d see in a Mercedes-Benz, which is a huge compliment. The only downside is that Android Auto and Apple CarPlay need wired connections, which is odd because there’s a wireless phone charger.
Other highlights include the heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, and heated windshield. The heated windshield is so appreciated in the winter so you don’t have to stand outside scraping ice off, but the filaments inside the glass are a tad distracting at night due to the way they distort lights. It’s a very minor issue but one that reinforces the importance of test driving a vehicle at night if possible.
The blind-spot cameras that show a live feed of either side of the vehicle when the signals are used is my favourite safety feature, and rear cross-traffic alert is also useful and appreciated because reversing out of a parking space can be scary with drivers flying through the lot like it’s a Mad Max scene. The Sportage tested also has a feature to warn you of oncoming traffic that you might not be able to see when making a turn, and front and rear parking sensors.
Adaptive cruise control feels natural to use except when combined with lane-centring or active lane-keep assist, which makes the steering feel like it’s fighting you. It’s not as bad if you loosen your grip, but I still can’t get used to the sensation.
The front-drive Kia Sportage starts at $28,395 plus the $1,900 destination fee, while the fully loaded X-Line Limited model I tested costs $40,995. The only upgrade available at this level is a $250 paint colour upgrade (the excellent Jungle Green on my tester is an upgrade) or a $1,000 upcharge for matte paint.
The Sportage X-Line Limited feels worth the asking price because it’s packed with useful features, the fit and finish is correct, and its price is similar if not cheaper than many of its competitors.
The 2023 Kia Sportage is easily one of the best compact crossovers out there because it’s so well-rounded. It looks great, drives great, has lots of practical features, and is just so easy to live with. If you’re considering a Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V, it would be wise to test drive the Sportage, too, because it truly deserves to be on a busy family’s shopping list.
|Peak Horsepower||187 hp|
|Peak Torque||178 lb-ft|
|Fuel Economy||10.4 / 8.5 / 9.5 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb|
|Cargo Space||1,121 / 2,098 L seats up/down|
|Model Tested||2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited|
|Price as Tested||$43,245|
$250 – Jungle Green paint, $250