Video: Up Close And Personal With the 2023 Kia Sportage

The Kia Sportage is entering its 5th generation with a bang thanks to a complete, inside-out redesign. Yes, it looks more aggressive than the outgoing generation, especially when you’re looking at it dead on. But what’s even more important than that angry face is that the Sportage now sits on the N3 platform, which is compatible with hybrid powertrains. That’s good, because the main thing we didn’t like about the Sportage is its abnormal thirst for fossil fuels.

That’s probably why the Sportage has rarely been the first to come to mind when thinking about purchasing a compact SUV. The Toyota RAV4 is still king of the hill in this category with its impeccable technical abilities. But availability is still a problem. Also, the Honda CR-V is still on the podium, but it comes with only one gas-only engine choice.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

The Sportage’s Mechanical Overhaul

The Kia Sportage has a brand spankin’ new engine lineup for 2023. Gone are the four-cylinder 2.4-litre, 181-horsepower engine and the more powerful 2.0-litre turbocharged unit. The base engine is now a 2.5 four-cylinder naturally aspirated unit that outputs 187 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. The 6-speed automatic has been traded for an 8-speed unit, which lets the Sportage keep a combined fuel consumption rating of 8.4 L/100 km versus 8.9 L/100 km for the outgoing model, despite the slight power increase.

Next, the new HEV hybrid version uses the Smartstream 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine and mates it to a 44 kilowatt electric motor and a 1.49 kWh lithium-ion battery to output a combined rating of 227 horsepower and 258 ft pounds of torque. It uses a 6-speed automatic to channel the power to the standard AWD system.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

The variant that will make or break the success of the Kia Sportage is the new plug-in PHEV hybrid model. This one uses the similar setup as the HEV version, but with a more potent 66.9 kW electric motor and a more powerful and rechargeable 13.8 kWh lithium-ion battery. Although it outputs more horsepower than the HEV version with 261, the torque stays the same, and so does the transmission and standard AWD.

The official fully electric range figure hasn’t been officially released, but since the 2023 Kia Sportage uses very similar nuts and bolts compared to the Kia Sorento, we can safely assume that it’ll hover around 50 kilometres.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

Interior Improvements

Kia has given the new Sportage the very popular “twin screen” setup, which is taking the automotive industry by storm. The HEV variant we inspected was geared with the optional 12.3-inch combo, but those who choose the base models will have to settle for smaller 8-inch screens. Despite an overwhelming amount of “piano black” plastic, we noticed that KIA has made a genuine effort to make the Sportage’s cabin more premium-looking with better textures and materials.

The new, elongated wheelbase has given 3 inches of supplemental legroom to the rear passengers, and these occupants can also take advantage of the coat hangers integrated in the front seat headrests, as well as new hooks paired with the integrated USB ports in the seats to properly tuck electronic device wiring. The 2023 Kia Sportage also has more cargo space with 1,036 litres instead of 868 litres for the outgoing model.

Photo: Louis-Philippe Dubé

The starting price of the base gas-only version is set at $28,395 and it will be in dealerships at the end of March. Pricing for the other versions is expected to be released closer to their respective release dates, which are set for late spring for the HEV version and late summer for the PHEV model.

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