Inside Kia’s All-New Sportage Hybrid
Think of Kia as the Taylor Swift of the automotive world. Much like Ms. Swift, this Korean powerhouse continues to deliver blow after blow after blow.
The last prize list of the car manufacturer? That would be the 2023 Sportage compact SUV and, in particular, the fuel-efficient 38-gallon hybrid version that I just spent a week driving.
This is Kia’s fifth-generation Sportage which, again like Taylor, seems to get better with age.
What’s new and improved? Pretty much everything, starting with the size. Compared to the outgoing model, this newcomer is seven inches longer overall and 3.4 inches longer between the wheels.
This gave the Sportage a huge increase in interior space, especially in the rear seat. Now you look at the difference between the coach and the business. Lie down, cross your legs, relax. The back seat even reclines. Ahhhh.
Those extra inches mean there’s more room for stuff, too. With the folding rear seats in place, you get an impressive 39.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Now head back forward as the 60/40 split rear seat and luggage space expand to an impressive 73 cubic feet. Inflate the air mattress, pin the curtains to the windows and you have a great Airbnb.
For me where the new Sportage really stands out with its cool, head-turning style. Looks like this thing just spent a month in the gym weightlifting with John Cena.
While the previous-generation Sportage was all cute and curvy with that Kia-branded “Tiger Nose” grille with puckered lips, this new version pumped up and worked on its abs.
Cool front design too, with that big, wide blacked-out honeycomb grille and silver highlights. I also love those signature swoosh-like Nike LED daytime running lights.
Our tester was also painted in the coolest shade of dark blue I’ve seen in ages. Called Vesta Blue, it oscillates between navy blue, black and dark green depending on how the light hits it.
Step aboard and the surprise and delights keep on coming. This is the mid-range EX version I drive – it sits between the base LX and the fancy SX – but it’s packed with luxury features. Everything from push-button start to a 12.3-inch touchscreen with navigation and power lumbar support.
And the look, feel and quality of the materials are just great. Our tester came with creamy SynTex padding that feels more like leather than leather. And the off-white of the seats contrasted beautifully with the dark blue dashboard and steering wheel.
Powering this hybrid Sportage is a 1.6-liter turbocharged inline-4 engine combo mated to a 44 kilowatt electric motor powered by a 1.5 kWh lithium-polymer battery.
Together, the trio offers a combined output of 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. The sprint to 60mph takes just over seven seconds, but that off-line electric assist makes it a whole lot quicker.
This impressive powertrain includes a six-speed Teflon automatic transmission and a trio of selectable drive modes: Eco, Normal and Sport. There are also paddle shifters to add to the fun factor.
And this all-new Sportage Hybrid built in West Point, Georgia, is seriously fun to drive. Its steering is precise and well-weighted, its ride smooth with a touch of sporty firmness, and there’s real balance in the curves.
All-wheel drive is standard on the EX Hybrid and adds to the pickup’s agility, while providing peace of mind when you need to pull yourself out of that grassy, waterlogged parking lot.
This hybrid powertrain also does wonders for fuel economy. The EPA estimates city, highway and combined mileage at 38 mpg across the board.
And when it comes to price, that’s where the Sportage Hybrid really shines. Our hybrid EX AWD sticker at just $32,205 including $1,215 at destination. Even with the $1,500 Premium Package, including a panoramic sunroof, LED interior lighting and power liftgate, the total was only $33,705.
As for one of Taylor’s hits that best describes this new hybrid Sportage? I would go with “You belong to me”.