Many of you don’t know this, but the Kia Sportage was launched in 1995 and has been around us for 27 years now. Just like the brand itself, the Sportage has evolved from being a bottom-feeding econobox to a competitive option in the crossover market. For 2023, Kia has released an all-new model that promises to illustrate not only the latest design but also the direction of the brand. We received an early opportunity to put one to a full evaluation – this is the 2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited.
The fifth generation Sportage has been radically redesigned; it now looks visibly larger and the new fascia draws a fair amount of attention, but the reception was rather mixed. We like that the new model carries a lot more substance than the outgoing one and the Jungle Green is a welcomed change from the usual black, white, or grey crossovers of this era. The X-Line features a special appearance package with unique front bumper, side garnish, black skid plate molding, ladder style black roof rail, and 19-inch wheels that makes it look tougher and more rugged to fit the current fashion trend.
Competing in the red-hot compact crossover segment, the Sportage is a key model for the Korean automaker in order to continue their expansion in the Canadian market. Not taking this important task lightly, Kia has introduced three different powertrains for the Sportage to fit everyone’s preferences – a gasoline, a turbocharged hybrid, as well as a plug-in hybrid (PHEV) option that we figure to be a very popular choice as buyers are increasingly seeking out electrification.
First at bat for our review is the 2.5-litre four-cylinder gasoline engine that produces 187 horsepower and 175 lb-ft. of torque. Power is acceptable with decent get-up-and-go response but patience is required if for lane changes or quick acceleration. The eight-speed automatic that is tasked to deliver power to all four wheels is acceptable in response but drivers who want more oomph should consider the electrified options as they put out 227 and 261 horsepower respectively.
The Sportage is quite easy to drive thanks to the light and nimble steering and excellent visibility that makes navigating in the city a breeze. Its priority is around the passenger comfort so the suppler handling is justified, and the Sportage is quite good in absorbing road imperfections despite the oversized wheels on this X-Line model.
One of the biggest improvements made to the new Sportage is in its overall interior space, made possible by the longer wheelbase. The additional head and legroom is easily felt inside and the large windows and panoramic sunroof created an airy space that is pleasant for everyone on board. Cargo space is also improved to an above-average 1,121 litres, and the 2023 Sportage X-Line can tow up to 2,500 pounds with trailer brakes.
Fuel economy is rated at 10.4L/100km in the city and 8.5L/100km on the highway for a combined average of 9.5/100km. Our observed consumption for our week of city-heavy commute clocked in at about 10.2L/100km, and the Sportage accepts regular grade gasoline into its 65-litre tank.
The interior has also seen a complete overhaul with a clean design and upscale materials throughout. One’s attention immediately goes to the two 12.3-inch screens – one for the digital instrument cluster and the other for the infotainment unit –placed side-by-side to resemble the look of an oversized curved screen found in higher-end cars usually.
In pursuit of a clean looking cabin, Kia had opted to eliminate majority of physical buttons on the centre console. The 2023 Sportage uses a touch sensitive panel below the touchscreen that serves both climate and media control functions. Both of these share the same knobs and touch panel, activated by arrowed indicators to bring up corresponding soft-switches. This process is not as clunky as it sounds, but it does require extra attention to confirm while driving and we often found ourselves clicking more than once to get to the intended function – we liken this unexplainable phenomenon to the need of plugging in a USB needing multiple attempts, every time.
Shortcut panel aside, the infotainment itself is quite easy to use with most functions available within several clicks. Screen resolution is vivid and the graphic design is playful which adds quite a bit of appeal to the younger buyers. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity is supported along with standard wireless phone charging capability. This X-Line Premium trim gets the upgraded Harman-Kardon premium stereo, though the sound quality leaves a bit to be desired for the picky bunch.
Over the past few years, we have seen a big advancement in driver assistance technology hitting across the mainstream segment and Kia has also taken a leap in upgrading the Sportage with their latest Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems. These features include Forward Collision Avoidance, Driver Attention Warning, Lane Following Assist, Rear Occupant Alert, Blind View Monitor, Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist, Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist, Parking Collision Avoidance Assist, Highway Driving Assist, Safe Exit Assist, and Navigation Based Smart Cruise Control-Curve systems.
Base MSRP for the 2023 Kia Sportage is $28,395 for the front-wheel drive LX model (add $2,000 for all-wheel drive), and goes up to $40,995 for the top trim X-Line Limited tested here. That sticker price is a bit of a bargain when you compare the Sportage against the Honda CR-V Touring and the Toyota RAV4 Limited – two of the most popular options in its segment. The Sportage does not give up much to those two in terms of features comfort and technology, if anything at all.
The 2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited is a well-rounded family crossover that shows us a glimpse of what the future holds at Kia. The funky design might not be for everyone, but the Sportage is a showcase of the company’s design and technology, and one that is well executed. The Sportage will be a sales success for Kia, and the move to include a hybrid and a PHEV option will only help the brand grow its popularity even more.