The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid and X Models: Premium, Capable SUVs That Will Rock Your World

Scotty And Teia Kia Sportage Featured Image

Plus, these seat backs!

Let me just start here: I like luxury. And I hate buying gas, which affords me more luxury. I also appreciate smart design and engineering built on a set of ideals that, when done right, add up to more than the sum of its parts. 

That’s the idea behind the new 2023 Kia Sportage, redesigned and priced from about $25K to $36K. It takes a few style cues from the K5 sedan. The headlights are angled, and the rear end is elegant but distinct. It’s larger than the last Kia Sportage: about 7” longer, just slightly taller, has more rear seat leg room, and 20% more cargo space. The standard gas engine generates 187 HP and is rated for 28 MPG.

For the first time, there’s a Kia Sportage hybrid with 227 HP (up to 43 MPG!). Additionally, Kia has introduced a plug-in hybrid version with 261 HP and up to 83 MPGe.

Off-Roading in… a Kia Sportage?

The Sportage also comes in 3 new models that take some cues from its bigger sibling, the Kia Telluride. The X-Line, X-Pro and X-Pro Prestige are all designed for off-road adventures and are capable despite not being outfitted with the more powerful hybrid engine. The X models are so capable that Kia even entered the 2023 Sportage in last fall’s Rebelle Rally. Facing rocky trails and sand dunes, the modified 2023 Sportage actually made it across the finish line.

I drove the hybrid and the X-Pro editions myself and found a lot to like.

Related: Why After Four Months of Driving a Kia SUV, I Bought the 2019 Sportage EX

We created this video about our experience in the 2023 Kia Sportage, but keep reading for the highlights.

The Front Seat Of The Ex Edition We Drove

The front seat of the EX edition we drove. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Kia: Transitioning to a Premium Adventure Brand, For the Win

Kia took some DNA from the super-popular Telluride. However, the company also took a cue from buyers asking for more luxury. They rose to the challenge. The interior of the Sportage doesn’t look ‘budget.’ It doesn’t signal that you may have saved money on the purchase, even in the hybrid, which carries only a $900-$1,300 premium depending on the model. This is what we love about hybrid engines; there’s no shame in paying less for gas and upgrading other purchases in life. 

The Sportage’s interior is elegant and responsible. The leatherette upholstery feels like leather but is more sustainable. It’s beautiful and contains some post-consumer plastics. There are soft-touch materials that quiet the cabin and add subtle elegance. Also, the two single-panel media screen options are sublime. The top trims have a curved TFT screen, and the other models have a wide LCD screen. Honestly though, it’s hard to tell the difference. 

The overall feel of the cabin is light and airy, especially if you opt for the panoramic sunroof. It comes standard in all trims other than the base LX and EX. Still, you can opt to add it in the EX. Please, give the Navy and Misty Gray interior a second look. I was smitten, and it looked stunning with the metallic Vesta Blue paint. I would liken it to a sapphire blue, though Kia actually calls its brighter, less glittery blue ‘Sapphire.’

Related: 2020 Kia Telluride SX 3-Row SUV: Bespoke Details at an Off-the-Rack Price

The Panoramic Sunroof In Our Test Model

The panoramic sunroof in our test model. Photo: Scotty Reiss

This Cabin is Designed to Spoil You

Front seat amenities start with the redesigned multimedia system, renamed Kia Connect. It’s really easy and intuitive to use. Just swipe to find what you need. Plug in your phone for Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, or connect your phone to use it wirelessly. Also, in top trim models, pop your phone into the cubby under the center console to charge it wirelessly. 

Under the media screen is a dual-use panel that is super smart. However, it takes some getting used to. At its center are two icons: A fan and an arrow. Tap the fan for climate controls; tap the arrow for favorites and radio. Even the radio volume dial becomes a temperature dial for the climate control system. It’s a great way to reduce all the clutter of buttons and dials. 

Related: For 2021, the Kia Sorento 3-Row SUV Gives You the Choice of Electric, Hybrid Or Turbo Driving

Clever Cupholders Retract For More Room And Flexibilty

Clever cupholders retract for more room and flexibility. Photo: Scotty Reiss

A Super Smart Center Console and These Cupholders!

Between the front seats is a console with all the standard stuff. Nicely designed and topped in gloss black, it looks wonderful except for when it’s dirty with dust or fingerprints. There, you’ll find the dial gear selector, drive mode selector, off-road settings for the AWD versions and heated and/or cooling seat settings. Just under the dashboard is a cubby with USB ports (one conventional and one USB-C) and a 12V cigarette adapter-style outlet. In the EX and above trims there is also a wireless phone charge pad. 

Tucked into the center console is a flexible cup holder adapted from the Hyundai Palisade, and it’s brilliant. I hope this cup holder makes its way into every Kia and Hyundai SUV. It’s a bit oversized and has a bit of extra space around it. Retractable curved arms flip out to create a cupholder with the push of a button. Push them back to retract them and create a space to hold a tablet, phone and other items that won’t fit in the cupholders. 

I really liked the contrasting look and feel of the cabin. The white upholstery and navy accents, including the navy steering wheel in our test model, made this interior feel crisp and classic. The upholstery and overall look is premium, though the surrounding details such as dash and door panels don’t feel as premium. 

The Seatbacks In The 2023 Kia Sportage Carry A Lot Of Features For Passengers

The seatbacks in the 2023 Kia Sportage carry a lot of features for passengers. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Is this the Smartest Seatback—and Back Seat—in the Car Biz?

The sheer thought that went into the seatbacks nearly brought me to tears of joy. There’s nothing over the top here, no complicated electronics or over-engineered details, just some super-simple solutions that make the seat backs simply brilliant. 

Here’s why: 

  • Each seat back is molded from a hard plastic that will be easy to clean
  • Each has a hook molded into the panel, so you can hang a handbag, trash bag or backpack 
  • There are two USB-C ports, one tucked into the side of each seat back
  • There are tablet holders on the back of the headrests. These are lined with rubber to keep tablets from sliding off while you’re driving 
  • Each seat back has a pocket— not always the case in every car (of course, so gummy bears have someplace to go to die)

Additionally, the rear seat has vents for climate control, a small cubby just under the vents, a fold-down armrest with cupholders in the middle seat and bottle holders in the door panels. Oh, and there’s more legroom than prior Sportage models, so everyone will be comfy.

Yes, We Drove Over This Hill; It'S Wild When You Can Feel Your Wheels Off The Ground

Yes, we drove over this hill; it’s wild when you can feel your wheels off the ground. Photo: Scotty Reiss

We Went Off-Roading, So You Don’t Have To (But We Hope You’re Inspired!)

Going off-road, traversing rutted trails, climbing small hills and driving along steep banks has become de rigueur for any SUV with AWD that you might take off the pavement at a campsite, beach or mountain trail. Therefore, Kia planned an off-road demonstration for us in the X-Pro. This model is outfitted for better off-road capability and competence despite carrying the smaller, less powerful fuel engine. 

While some of the exercises didn’t surprise me, I was completely impressed by certain capabilities. The car’s ability to power two wheels while the other two were off the ground to get up a very dusty, sandy hill and across a dry creek was amazing. If you didn’t watch the video, do; we shared our experience. 

A Side View Of The 2023 Kia Sportage

A side view of the 2023 Kia Sportage. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Luxurious and Capable, but Priced Right

The 2023 Kia Sportage has a very approachable starting price, and even a reasonable top-end price. Plus, there are so many choices!

The gas models come with a 2.5L 4-cylinder engine that generates 187 horsepower and 178 torque and is estimated to get 28 MPG combined. The hybrid version has a 1.6L 4-cylinder turbo engine that generates 227 HP and 258 torque and is estimated to get 43 MPG (we averaged about 32MPG on our short drive). Here’s how the pricing shakes out:

LX base model — $25,990

Kia’s new look has cloth seats, driver assist and safety systems including forward crash mitigation, lane keep assist and warning, and automatic high beam headlights. Starts at $25,990

EX — $27,990

The EX adds a 12.3” touchscreen multimedia system, safe exit warning, seat back USB chargers, wireless charge pad, smart key, SynTex leatherette upholstery, and leather-wrapped steering wheel. Starts at $27,990

SX — $31,490

SX adds the new TFT curved display screen, driver profile functions, adaptive cruise control, navigation and premium Harman Kardon sound system. Starts at $31,490

SX Prestige adds 3-D surround view camera, additional driver assist and safety systems and premium interior with heated and vented seats and  Smart Park remote park assist. Starts at $33,490

X-Line — $30,790

The X-Line has AWD, higher ground clearance, a raised roof rack, all-terrain tires, a 12.3” touchscreen, wireless phone charge pad, smart key and SynTex leatherette seating. Starts at $30,790

  • X-Pro: adds BFGoodrich all-terrain tires, heated windshield, and curved TFT display screen. Starts at $34,990
  • X-Pro Prestige: adds a surround-view monitor, Smart Park and premium leatherette seating. Starts at $36,790
  • Hybrid: available in the LX (+$1,300 in FWD or AWD), EX AWD (+ $1,200) and SX Prestige  AWD (+$900) models 
  • All-wheel drive adds about $1,800 depending on the model (though X models have AWD standard) 

Destination charge: $1,255

The Rear Cargo Area Which Has A Spare Tire Under The Cargo Floor

The rear cargo area has a spare tire under the cargo floor. Photo: Scotty Reiss

Kia Has a Big Win in the 2023 Sportage

The 2023 Sportage redesign is a huge win. This is especially true for families that don’t need a third row but want the capability, style and luxe details that the Telluride delivers. It’s disappointing that the X models are not available with the hybrid motor. However, if and when they are, this SUV will be truly over the top. Even so, from the off-road capable X models, the hybrid and the plug-in hybrid, the Sportage delivers everything that small families, parents of fur babies, and those looking for a bit of adventure want and need, all in premium surroundings. And that’s the goal: to take you over the top in an SUV that can do it all. 

Disclosure: I was Kia’s guest for this test drive; travel and accommodations were provided, but all opinions are my own.

The Top Of The Line X-Pro Prestige With A Flat Multimedia Screen

The top-of-the-line X-Pro Prestige with a flat multimedia screen. Photo: Scotty Reiss

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Journalist, entrepreneur and mom. Expertise includes new cars, family cars, 3-row SUVs, child passenger car seats and automotive careers... More about Scotty Reiss