But unless you’re going off-road, the best choice is the Sportage Hybrid, powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged four mated to a single electric motor and a 1.5 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It delivers more power than the base engine — 227 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque — while delivering superior fuel economy. Paired to a six-speed automatic with either front- or all-wheel drive, the hybrid returns a combined 43 mpg with the former, 38 mpg with the latter.
Kia will also offer a plug-in hybrid, which pairs the same powertrain and a larger lithium-ion battery pack. This not only provides even more power — 261 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque — it also provides 32 miles of pure electric driving.
Sampling both the normally aspirated X-Pro and the Hybrid models, the more fuel-efficient powertrain proved worth the minimal extra cost. Kia expects some 70% of buyers to pick the base 2.5-liter model, and certainly power is adequate, but it’s no more impressive than its many competitors. Fuel efficiency is decent, at 25 mpg city, 32 mpg highway with front-wheel drive and 23/28 with all-wheel drive.
For a small premium, the Hybrid is the far better option. The electric motor provides low-end punch and the driveline feels livelier at all speeds, making for a far more enjoyable driving experience. Add in the superior fuel economy, and it makes for the Sportage’s most enticing model. There’s more than enough power, although at passing speeds, you may wish for a somewhat quicker response.
The Sportage’s dynamics are good, but don’t expect the enticing sportiness of a Mazda CX-5. The Sportage delivers a more equalized driving experience, balancing agility with comfort without extracting the ride penalty of some compact SUVs. Steering is precise, and you’ll find modest body roll when tackling the twisties, despite its height and added mass. If you’re opting for the Sportage X-Pro, you’ll find it has the requisite cameras that make off-roading far easier. Its tires and driveline are capable enough for most off-road situations, but don’t expect the lively responsiveness of the hybrid.
The Sportage has matured into a larger, more lavish vehicle, one that delivers great fuel economy and a pleasing driving experience. With prices starting at less than $26,000, it will have you wondering why you’d ever pay more for another SUV that delivers the Sporatge’s virtues.
2023 Kia Sportage
Base price: $25,990-$36,190
Engine: 1.6-liter turbocharged hybrid powertrain
Horsepower/Torque: 227/258 pound-feet of torque
EPA fuel economy (city/highway): 38/38 mpg
Fuel required: 87 Octane
Length/Width/Height: 183.5/73.4/66.3 inches
Ground clearance: 8.3 inches
Payload: 1,053 pounds
Cargo capacity: 00 cubic feet
Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds©2022 Tribune Content Agency, LLC