by Karl Furlong
The Kia Sportage is not only one of the brand's best-selling models in the US but also its longest-running nameplate. The 2023 model arrives with bolder styling and it's undergone quite a growth spurt as well, being over seven inches longer than the previous model. Now, the Sportage Hybrid is here. It will offer shoppers in this segment a particularly efficient option and an alternative to the Toyota RAV4 Hybrid and the Hyundai Tucson Hybrid. The Sportage Hybrid is also more powerful than the gas-only model revealed previously. As far as sensible purchases go, the Sportage Hybrid ranks up there with the best.
See trim levels and configurations:
1.6L Turbo Inline-4 Hybrid
By now, we're used to Kia churning out boldly styled SUVs. But perhaps what's most impressive when comparing the new Sportage Hybrid to the brand's other SUVs is that none of them look the same. Yes, elements like the Tiger nose grille are shared, yet the Sportage has an identity of its own with those boomerang daytime running lights, angular fenders, and crisp shoulder line. Special hybrid badging and unique 17- and 18-inch alloy wheels set apart the hybrid from its gas-only sibling. At the back, there are "notch-shaped" taillights connected by a slim black graphic.
The new Kia logo has grown in size, as has the entire vehicle. The Sportage is 7.1 inches longer than the previous model and its wheelbase length has increased by 3.4 inches. This has resulted in an even more spacious cabin.
The conventionally-powered Sportage is a bit disappointing with its 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine producing just 187 horsepower. However, the Sportage Hybrid generates a stronger targeted output of 226 hp thanks to a 1.6-liter turbocharged GDI engine and a 44-kW permanent magnet electric motor. A 1.49 kWh lithium-ion battery and a six-speed automatic transmission are standard.
On the base trim, the Sportage Hybrid directs its power to the front wheels exclusively, although all-wheel drive is offered on this model. The upper two trims get an active AWD system as standard. For the FWD model, Kia claims a targeted 39 mpg and a range of over 500 miles. That's nearly identical gas mileage to what's achieved by the similarly powerful Toyota RAV4 Hybrid. Paddle shifters are standard in the Kia and drivers can choose between ECO, Sport, Smart, and Snow modes.
If you need to tow anything, the Sportage Hybrid has a maximum towing capacity of 2,000 pounds.
Kia has struck a good balance between style and practicality inside the new Sportage Hybrid. Apparently inspired by high-end furniture and modern architecture, the interior certainly looks the part, especially when equipped with the available dual panoramic curved display that spans nearly 25 inches. This consists of a 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster and a 12.3-inch touchscreen for infotainment duties.
For the driver, controls are within easy reach thanks to an asymmetrical console. The new touchpad below the infotainment screen is a nice touch, combining both climate and audio controls in a compact strip. All models get wireless Android Auto/Apple CarPlay, rear parking sensors, and lane following assist. For the first time on the Sportage, a 360-degree surround-view monitor with 3D view is available. Advanced Kia Connect services that are available include over-the-air updates and a Wi-Fi hotspot. On upper trims, animal-free leather creates a suitably luxurious environment.
The cabin is more spacious than ever before. Along with a generous 41.3 inches of rear legroom, the cargo capacity has grown to 39.5 cubic feet. That's one of the best in the segment.
We mentioned a few standard safety features already, but the Kia Sportage Hybrid can be equipped with a spread of driver-assistance features that were the preserve of high-end luxury models just a few years ago. The blind-spot collision avoidance system includes parallel exit, the first application in a Kia. It can help avoid a collision when exiting a parallel parking spot. The SUV can also be equipped with highway driving assistance which works with navigation assistance and maintains a specific speed under certain conditions. Safe exit warning, remote parking collision avoidance, forward parking distance warning, smart cruise control with a curve function, and a blind-spot view monitor are all also on offer.
The Kia Sportage Hybrid's price has not yet been revealed by the automaker, although we should have this information soon since the SUV is slated to arrive early in 2022. For reference, the regular 2022 Sportage begins at just over $24,000. Therefore, we expect the newer and more powerful 2023 Sportage Hybrid to start at around $27,000. That said, the 2022 Hyundai Tucson - with the same powertrain but standard AWD - begins at $29,020, so the Sportage Hybrid isn't likely to be far off from that model. Choosing between these two will likely come down to brand affiliation as they're so closely matched.
Toyota's stalwart, the RAV4 Hybrid, begins at $28,900 for the 2021 model although it does suddenly look a little dated alongside the Korean twins. Either way, Kia looks to have another winning SUV on its hands.