2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX Review – Urban Crossover, Right Price

Tim Healey
by Tim Healey

Fast Facts

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid EX AWD Fast Facts

1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (177 horsepower @ 5,500 RPM; 195 lb-ft of torque 1,500-4,500 RPM) paired with permanent magnet synchronous electric motor (59.3 horsepower @ 1,600-2,000 RPM; 195 lb-ft of torque 0-2,100 RPM) and hybrid starter gen
Transmission/Drive Wheel Layout
Eight-speed automatic, all-wheel drive
Fuel Economy, MPG
38 city / 38 highway / 38 combined (EPA Rating)
Fuel Economy, L/100km
6.1 city / 6.3 highway / 6.2 combined. (NRCan Rating)
Base Price
$30,990 US / $45,895 CAN
As-Tested Price
$33,860 US / $48,833 CAN
Prices include $1,215 destination charge in the United States and $2,649 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.
2023 kia sportage hybrid ex review urban crossover right price

You might remember that when yours truly flew to California last year to drive the 2023 Kia Sportage, I didn’t get to spend more than five minutes in the hybrid version. I spent most of my day in the X-Pro, which I was lukewarm about.

A full week with the hybrid showed me I was, indeed, missing out.

The X-Pro Sportage is for “light” off-roading while the hybrid is for urban and suburban commuters, and it’s well-suited to that role. So well-suited, in fact, that I put it on my list of “if I needed a brand-new crossover, I’d consider buying this”.

The hybrid pairs a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder (177 horsepower, 195 lb-ft of torque) with a permanent synchronous electric motor that makes 59.3 horsepower and 195 lb-ft of torque. There's also a starter/generator motor that makes 17.3 hp and 31.9 lb-ft of torque. The resulting 277 system horsepower and 258 system lb-ft of torque (remember, the numbers from the gas engine and electric motor(s) ARE NOT simply added together for system power, it’s more complicated than that) are plenty to give the Sportage a sprightly feel around town – and you don’t even need to engage Sport mode to get some grins, though it helps immensely.

The juice is supplied by a 1.49 kWh lithium-ion battery. An eight-speed automatic transmission gets the power to the all-wheel drive system.

Acceleration is one thing, ride and handling are another. The Sportage is engaging, despite a bit too much artificialness in its steering feel, and it’s sporty enough to stave off crossover-induced depression. Ride is not sacrificed. If you need a crossover and don’t want to be fighting the boredom that these ‘utes so often bring about, the Sportage Hybrid is worth a look.

Of course, sportiness only gets you so far in crossover land. Even the enthusiast is looking for other positive traits that have little to do with cornering prowess. The Kia delivers here, too, thanks to a comfy cabin that blends functionality and design nicely. Even the sloping rear roofline doesn’t eat too much into rear headroom.

Kia manages to make an all-digital display work – though as is the case with any of these screen-heavy interiors, I wonder about repair costs. It helps that Kia’s infotainment system is simple and intuitive to use.

There is a disturbing lack of knobs and buttons, but the setup works well enough that once you’ve gotten the hang of things – and it doesn’t take long – you can do what you need/want to do while minimizing distraction from the duty of driving. Kia’s neat little swap system – swap between audio and HVAC controls at the touch of a button – helps here, though it does occasionally confound. Do you want the cabin to be cold, or Foreigner’s “Cold as Ice” to play? A certain percentage of the time, you’ll get it wrong, though with time that improves.

At least the heated seats are button controlled. On the disappointing side, my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there – I am guessing cooled seats. No one likes being trim-shamed, and it’s obvious that EX buyers couldn’t or wouldn’t pony up more cash for the upper-trim Sportage. Some materials felt a bit cheap, though.

If it looks like I am struggling to pick nits, well, I am. TTAC made its name on calling out the bad, and there’s just not a lot to work with here when it comes to that. The entire package is well put together, balancing fun-to-drive, functionality, and fuel economy. All at a reasonable price.

That’s where I thought this review might turn south – perhaps Kia was shortchanging EX buyers and forcing those who wanted comfort and convenience to shell out too much coin for an SX-Prestige top-trim model. But a quick glance at the spec sheets shows that unless I missed something, the only major features one would want that force you to pony up for an SX-Prestige are cooled seats, real leather seats instead of artificial leather ones, and more advanced driver-aid systems.

This means that for $30K you get standard features like forward-collision assist, lane-departure warning, lane-keep assist, driver-attention warning, dual-zone climate control, Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, and keyless entry. Opting for an EX over the LX adds 18-inch wheels (instead of 17s), LED turn signals, UVO infotainment, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist, navigation, push-button start, satellite radio, heated steering wheel, and rear USB ports.

The only options on my tester were a package that added a sunroof and hands-free liftgate, and carpeted floor mats.

Total price? $33,860 with destination.

Kia’s biggest problem here isn’t anything related to the Sportage per se – it’s that most of the competitive set is strong. Most of the alternatives on offer are also well-rounded, though some are going to cost more when similarly equipped. There are a lot of good choices at this size and price point.

That said, the Sportage Hybrid is fun-to-drive, fuel-efficient (38 mpg combined -- though I was seeing lower numbers. Perhaps we've found another flaw), and put together well. Those who want to go off-road and overland will look elsewhere – and will likely be let down by the X-Pro version – but the city-dwellers and suburbanites will be well served to give this a long look.

What’s New for 2023

The 2023 Kia Sportage is completely redesigned.

Who Should Buy It

Those seeking a well-rounded city crossover at a reasonable price.

[Images © 2023 Tim Healey/TTAC]

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2 of 31 comments
  • Brandon Brandon on Jun 07, 2023

    What is a "city crossover"?

  • Mebgardner Mebgardner on Jul 12, 2023

    I have not been shopping the H/K gas models because of what I read was a problem with their motors failing too quickly. I think partially due to engine block reaming shavings not being completely removed by an american castings manufacturer. Is the "all clear" being sounded? Their gas motor problems are behind them?

  • SCE to AUX A question nobody asks is how Tesla sells so many EVs without charge-at-home incentives.Here are some options for you:[list][*]Tesla drivers don't charge at home; they just squat at Superchargers.[/*][*]Tesla drivers are rich, so they just pay for a $2000 charger installation with the loose change in their pocket.[/*][*]Tesla drivers don't actually drive their cars much; they plug into 110V and only manage about 32 miles/day.[/*][/list]
  • SCE to AUX "Despite the EV segment having enjoyed steady growth over the past several years, sales volumes have remained flatter through 2023."Not so. How can EV sales be increasing and flatter at the same time?https://insideevs.com/news/667516/us-electric-car-sales-2023q1/Tesla and H/K/G are all up for EV sales, as are several other brands.
  • ToolGuy Here is an interesting graphic, if you're into that sort of thing.
  • ToolGuy Nice website you got there (even the glitches have glitches)
  • Namesakeone Actually, per the IIHS ratings, "Acceptable" is second best, not second worst. The ratings are "Good," "Acceptable," "Marginal" and "Poor."