Getting Sporty

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD

by Isaac Bouchard


2023 Sportage HEV

Kia has undergone a radical transformation as an automaker, not just in the vehicles it builds, but in the way the market perceives it. The Telluride large crossover and EV6 electric car have long wait lists and the former often sell for over sticker price. The question is, does the excellence of their best offerings translate to the rest of the lineup. Based on time in the new Sportage compact crossover, the question is a qualified yes.

2023 Sportage HEV

The Sportage is quite radical in design, with a distinct “face” and sliced n’ diced sheet metal that helps it really stand out. The Kia’s interior design is pleasing and the color palette of the test vehicle, with a navy blue dash and upper door panels, was intriguing compared to the default black, gray or tan of many competitors. But material quality was quiet variable. For instance, the moldings in front of the armrests (and that frames the window switches) was shiny and rock hard, and had an obvious molding seem. And the dash, while soft to the touch, didn’t look expensive. That said, the Sportage cockpit feels very modern and techy, and there is loads of room—40 cubic feet of cargo space behind the back seat, with a dual-level floor to add even more versatility. The tilt/slide back seat is very spacious, with lots of legroom, thanks to an increase in wheelbase on this new model. The front seats are not as supportive as those from Honda or Mazda, though, and there is an over-reliance on shiny black plastic trim that is easily scratched. Big, bright screens make up for that to a large degree; at 12.3-inch, the one in the EX tops most competitors in size. But Kia’s penchant for combing HVAC and audio into one knob is silly; it’s all too easy to raise or lower the temp while trying to change volume, and vice versa.

The Sportage’s ride undermines its otherwise refined nature: it is underdamped, so not only does the Kia slam into potholes and similar road blemishes, but it also lacks body control. And since the steering is so light and free from feel, there is little joy to be gained from hustling the Sportage through a set of corners. On the other hand, the powertrain is excellent; the combination of turbocharged, 1.6-liter four-cylinder, electric motor and small lithium-ion battery nets 227hp and 258lb-ft. Channeled through a smooth 6-speed automatic, the Hybrid is quick and efficient. There is also a plugin hybrid model that claims over 30 miles of pure electric range.

In aggregate, the Sportage is a compelling choice. It shows how accomplished Kia is becoming in electrification, whether strait up battery electrics or hybrids. It is also understandable that money might have been saved on some of the trimmings in order to keep the price in check; there is good value here. The Kia is also roomy and has a confident, modern aesthetic. A final honing of dynamics by the teams that signed-off the EV6 and Telluride would endow the Sportage with the kind of polish that makes those two best-in-show, making it nigh-on unbeatable.

EPA Ratings: 38/38/38mpg
0-60mph: 7.4sec
Price as tested: $33,860
Rating: 4 Stars

Here is what Kia has to say.

Colorado AvidGolfer Magazine is the state’s leading resource for golf and the lifestyle that surrounds it, publishing eight issues annually and proudly delivering daily content via

Follow us on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.