2023 Kia Sportage

MIAMI — After “earning” a reputation as a producer of cheap economy cars of say questionable quality after its arrival in the U.S in the early 1990s, Kia has established itself in the 21st Century as the manufacturer of top quality products New vehicles such as the Telluride full-size SUV, playful Soul, and performance-driven  Stinger sedan are responsible for some of that growth.

But bold new models aren’t the only reason for the success — some might say “survival” —of  the South Korean automaker in this country.

The Sportage subcompact SUV, the second model Kia introduced to the U.S. following the 1994 Sephia sedan, not only is surviving but thriving as the company’s top seller for both the month of July and in year-to-date numbers.

Kia reported that the Sportage accounted for 11,985 in sales of the brand total of 62,449 for July, the fourth consecutive month the Sportage has topped the 10,000-mark.

For the year, the Sportage’s sales total is 64,341, meaning that about one of every six vehicles rolling out of a Kia showroom is a Sportage. That is out of over a dozen models.

It’s easy to see why. The Kia Sportage has grown up considerably as it enters its fifth generation as a 2023 model. The bold exterior stands out in a very competitive — and crowded — segment and the roomy interior is packed with all kinds of features sure to appeal to today’s tech-minded shoppers. Win-win all-around.

Photo by Paul Borden

The 2023 Kia Sportage comes in seven trim levels with X-Pro and X-Pro Prestige new for this year for those and offering more off-roading capability. Returning trims are LX, EX, SX, SX Prestige, and X-Line.

Pricing ranges from $27,285 (including freight charges) for the base LX to $38,085 for the top-of-the-line X-Pro Prestige, which this review is based on.

A 2.5-liter 4-cylinder engine mated to an 8-speed automatic transmission is the common powertrain for conventional Sportages. It gets a slight boost to 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, which are not neck-snapping numbers but provide fuel economy numbers of 23 miles-per-gallon city, 28 highway, and 25 combined.

Turbo hybrid and turbo plug-in hybrid versions also are available and boost power and fuel economy numbers, and an electric version is in the works for later this year.

The 2023 Kia Sportage boasts a best-in-class interior space of 168 cubic feet and best-in-class storage space of 39.5 cubic feet behind the second row. Second-row riders also get 41.3 inches of legroom, which is just a tick less than those up front.

All-wheel drive models also ride an inch higher than front wheel versions with a ground clearance of 8.3 inches, the better to accommodate off-pavement trails.

As the top trim, the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige comes with a long list of standard features. Among them are a new 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation, a Harman Kardon premium sound system, hands-free power liftgate, automatic dual climate control, push-button start, wireless charger up front and USB ports in the rear, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, a heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and SynTex artificial leather seating surfaces.

Safety systems include blind-spot collision avoidance assist, lane departure and keeping assist, rear cross-traffic collision avoidance, smart cruise control, forward collision warning, and parking distance warning.

LED headlights, taillights, and daytime running lights are standard as well as LED fog lights. A panoramic sunroof with a power shade, roof rack, and rear spoiler also are standard.

Finally, included with no charge on my test 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige were a surround view monitor, ventilated front seats, and power front passenger seat.

The only extras were $395 for the jungle green exterior paint (an interesting shade) and $155 for the carpeted floor mats. That ran the final bottom line to $38,555.

What I liked about the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige AWD: The spacious cabin provides good room for both passengers and cargo. There is good legroom in the second row as well as good storage space in the back. The exterior design is eye-catching.

What I didn’t like about the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige AWD: The wide-ranging infotainment system is pretty user-friendly overall but responses to touches are sometimes slow. It’s kind of odd that knobs to adjust climate control temps also share the function with the radio. The engine provides enough power for getting comfortably around town, but those wanting a sporty performance from their SUV will have to look elsewhere.
Would I buy the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro Prestige AWD? Yes. Everything you might want in a compact SUV is here in a very attractive package.

— Paul Borden