2023 Kia Sportage HEV SX

The new Sportage has what it takes to be a segment leader.
The new Sportage has what it takes to be a segment leader.

by Zack Zeraldo | October 6, 2022


There is no doubt that the hybrid SUV segment is the hottest market there is right now in these times of gas price inflation and economic uncertainty. The Toyota RAV4 Hybrid has been the choice to beat, resulting in ridiculously long lead-times and available vehicles selling well above MSRP. Kia has decided to get in on the action, albeit slightly late, with the redesigned Sportage now available as a hybrid (HEV) and with a plug-in-hybrid (PHEV). We had a 1,000km round trip from Toronto to Ohio planned for the week, so what better way to put the brand new 2023 Kia Sportage HEV SX to the test.

The all new Sportage has grown significantly; now longer wider and taller than the previous model, the new version has a lot more heft to its appearance. It’s a polarizing look from the front with a huge grille flanked by massive single piece headlamps which wrap around the front corners incorporating Kia’s boomerang style LED running lamps. The side profile and rear end are much more traditionally styled and quite sleek, so it’s not all bad news. Our top of the line SX tester came finished in Gravity Grey which complimented the standard charcoal grey 18-inch alloys well.

Inside Kia has made great use of the Sportage’s new larger dimensions. The interior of this latest Sportage is everything a compact SUV should be; it’s spacious and airy for both front and rear passengers, offers plenty of rear cargo room even with the second row in place, and even more with the second row folded. More importantly though, it’s well thought out, offering plenty of convenient storage for all the items a busy family would need.

Most notable is the center console which has a large cubby towards the front that incorporate a wireless charging pad, but rather than stick two cupholders in the console, there’s a large irregularly shaped bin that really maximizes storage. The bin has buttons which release spring loaded cup holders when needed, and when not needed they can be retracted for other items. The bin easily holds two cups and my wallet and keys right next to my right hand for easy access. Fantastic design.

From a comfort standpoint the interior also scores well, thanks to its spaciousness and well designed heated and cooled leather seats. I spent five non-stop hours in it and got out without any sore points. Material are what you would expect in a top trim mainstream compact SUV; the leather is on the cheap side, and there are plenty of plastics cleverly disguised as fancier materials. The dual 12.3-inch curved displays that dominate the dashboard are akin to the latest Mercedes-Benz products and serve to give the space a high-tech premium feel.

While good looking, the screens and controls are not terribly practical. For example, the touch-based switch gear below the center vents can control audio and climate, and you must push an on-screen button in order to toggle between the two. This is unnecessarily cumbersome and easy to forget about, so going to change the volume easily results in changing the temperature instead. The menus are also overly complicated and difficult to navigate without having intimate knowledge of the vehicle.

The hybrid drivetrain consists of a 1.6-liter turbocharged four cylinder mated to a 44-kW electric motor to deliver 227 horsepower and 258 lb-ft of torque. In Canada, only EX and SX trims are available, both of which flow that power to all four wheels through a six-speed automatic. Despite rather impressive output numbers, the Sportage HEV’s nearly 4,000-pound weight does, slow things down a bit. That said, acceleration from a stop is rather impressive thanks to the electric support and there’s more than enough power at the top end for highway passing and merging. More importantly, the driveline is very smooth with confident shifts and the system’s switches between full EV mode and gas motor is nearly seamless, which makes the driving experience much more like a traditional ICE vehicle.

Of course, compact SUVs are not known for their sportiness, nor are hybrids, so as expected the Sportage HEV isn’t really a driver’s SUV. Steering is extremely light and feels very disconnected from the road, and the soft suspension does little for body control under braking or aggressive cornering. That said, it does a good job isolating the cabin from most road vibrations, and only starts to get a little twitchy on rough surfaces. Noise levels in the cabin are quiet, which helps deliver a serene highway driving experience. Overall, that makes the Sportage HEV a competent highway cruiser.

Conveniently, that’s exactly what I did, and the Sportage performed amicably, melting away highway miles while keeping me comfortable and relaxed. I was especially appreciative of the adaptative cruise control which I found significantly smoother in its adjustments than many of the other systems I’ve used.

Road tripping is pretty thrifty too, averaging 6.8L/100km over the course of the trip, and it’ll happily take regular 87 octane fuel. This is a number that, without hybrid technology, would’ve only been achievable in a front-drive economy penalty box, and now you can have it in a reasonably sized SUV, pretty impressive. That said, my results do fall short of the 6.1L/100km city and 6.3L/100km highway ratings, but I wasn’t exactly light footed and was running the A/C constantly.

Safety is obviously an important factor when considering a new family hauler and Kia really knocks it out of the park. The SX includes just about every electronic safety feature in the industry, all designed to give you peace of mind. Features include Advanced Forward Collision Avoidance Assist, Lane Keep Assist, Lane Follow Assist, Blind Spot Avoidance Assist, Rear Collision Avoidance Assist, a surround view camera and even a remote parking assist system. If desired, the Sportage HEV SX can cruise down the highway, with adaptive cruise control and Lane Follow Assist doing 90% of the work. When you get to you destination, the remote parking system can pull into tight spots with ease.

Pricing on the Sportage HEV is pretty simple; you can have the EX for $35,999 or the fully loaded SX for $42,695. Both are well equipped with niceties such as leather seats, but the SX offers a lot of additional content like the dual displays, cooled seats, power liftgate and the additional advanced safety systems. This pricing is right in line with the Toyota RAV4 hybrid, but the Kia offers significantly more content, and even offers a couple thousand in savings at the top trim levels.

If you’re in the market for a compact SUV, and consider hybrids, the new 2023 Sportage HEV should be at the top of your list. It does everything that a good compact SUV should, cruises surprisingly comfortably for a compact, and offers levels of content and features typically reserved for much more luxurious segments. If the market can get past its polarizing face, the new Sportage has what it takes to be a segment leader.

See Also:

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited

2022 Hyundai Tucson Ultimate Hybrid

2022 Mazda CX-5 Signature

Vehicle Specs
Compact Hybrid Crossover
Engine Size
1.6L turbocharged inline-four hybrid
Horsepower (at RPM)
227 at 5,500
Torque (lb-ft.)
258 at 1,500
Fuel Efficiency (L/100km, City/Highway/Combined)
Observed Fuel Efficiency (L/100km)
Cargo Capacity (in L)
Base Price (CAD)
As-Tested Price (CAD)
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About Zack Zeraldo

Staff Writer

Despite his relatively young age, Zack has owned more cars than most people will own in their lifetimes. From F-Bodies to pickups and Corvettes, he is a GM enthusiast through and through. When not writing about cars, Zack can be found in his garage messing with one of his eight vehicles.

Current Toys: ’11 XKR, ’85 Trans Am, ’07 DTS Luxury, ’84 Camaro, ’01 Sonoma, ’06 Escalade, ’96 Firebird, ’78 MGB