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Auto review: Larger, more lavish, and eco-friendly, the 2023 Kia Sportage proves far more fascinating

Larry Printz, Tribune News Service on

Published in Automotive News

If vehicles like the Kia Telluride, Sorrento and Soul have proven anything, it’s that Kia is hitting its stride. If you are still put off by the brand that once sold its vehicles using rapping hamsters, your image of the brand is more than a decade old.

It’s hard to overstate the transformation that has overtaken the brand in the last few years. You probably didn’t notice until the Telluride debuted, causing consumers to consider Kia for the first time. And with the launch of the all-new redesigned 2023 Kia Sportage, the queues at the Kia stores are about to get longer.

A compact SUV, the 2023 Kia Sportage plays in the heart of the current new vehicle market against a slew of mainstream competitors, including the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V and Mazda CX-5. And with the possible exception of the Mazda, the newest Sportage beats the big boys in this segment.

Offered in three trim levels — LX, EX and SX-Prestige — as well as an off-road X-Pro model, the 2023 Sportage rides on the N3 platform used for the bigger Sorento. While still a compact, it’s 7.1 inches longer and 2 inches taller than before, which makes for a remarkably roomy cabin. There’s more than 41 inches of legroom in both rows, while the cargo area has grown 28% to 39.6 cubic feet, so there’s room for you, your friends and family, and your stuff. So, yeah, it’s practical.

But the 2023 Kia Sportage also proves to be far more stimulating than the demure vehicle it replaces.

Certainly, designers cranked the visual volume, with a graphically dissonant face that lacks the conservative certainty of a Telluride. Designers also added detailing on the roof pillars as well as the rear, which proves visually more cohesive than its face.

 

Inside, you’ll find a mixture of hard and soft surfaces typical in this class. What proves surprising is the Sportage’s two 12.3-inch displays, one for the instrument cluster, the other for infotainment. They’re integrated into a wide horizontal panel similar to those used by many high-end automakers. High-end tech design at a Kia price? Way to go, guys. Cue the dancing hamsters; we’re psyched about that.

And there are other bits of cool tech as well, such as the thin horizontal touchscreen framed by two knobs. Tap it, and you have climate controls. Tap it again, and you’ll have infotainment screen controls. It’s novel, yet it contributes to the cabin’s minimalist interior vibe.

So, what’s it like to drive? Better than before.

Kia offers three different powertrain options, with base models getting a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine that generates 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque through an eight-speed automatic transmission with front- or all-wheel drive. Opt for the off-road ready Sportage X-Pro, and you’ll get this engine and standard all-wheel drive along with B.F. Goodrich tires and an extra 1.5 inches of ground clearance.

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