All-New Sportage Has Funky Styling and Off-Road Pretensions
- Trim Tested: Sportage X-Pro Prestige AWD
- Price as Tested: $38,555 (including destination charge)
- What We Like: Spacious; big dashboard screen
- What We Don’t: Confusing dashboard buttons; rivals are more fun to drive; not sure X-Pro Prestige is worth the premium over base LX trim
The Sportage is all-new for 2023, and Kia is positioning it as a bold choice in its class: Its wide grille and elongated-X headlight pattern are matched by a busy interior design. Kia has added some off-road flavor to the Sportage as well in the form of the X-Pro trims.
I drove the new X-Pro Prestige. “X-Pro” provides a showcase for the Sportage’s adventurous features and “Prestige” adds all of the new options Kia wants shoppers to buy. At almost $39,000, the Sportage X-Pro Prestige is pricey – that’s Mercedes GLA and BMW X1 territory. I tested it for a week to see if it’s worth the money.
How It Drives
The 2023 Sportage is not particularly fun to drive, even in the cool-sounding X-Pro trim. The 187-horsepower engine struggles loudly when pushed and the 8-speed automatic feels like a CVT – imprecise and disconnected from engine revs. There’s enough power here for any maneuver – the Sportage actually has an above-average 2,500-pound tow rating – but it doesn’t feel quick (the 227-horsepower Sportage Hybrid may be a better choice).
Handling in the Sportage is also meh. It won’t dash around corners – a Mazda CX-5 would be better for that. It does ride comfortably, though.
The X-Pro’s off-road features include all-wheel drive (AWD) with a locking center differential, multi-terrain drive modes (Snow, Mud, etc.), hill-descent control, all-terrain tires, and 8.3-inches of ground clearance. It’s an impressive list for a small crossover but not enough to turn the Sportage into a serious off-roader.
Interior Comfort & Quality
The Sportage gained a lot of space for 2023, which is obvious in the comfortable, quilted leather front seats and reclining 3-person rear bench. The Sportage should swallow four people and their luggage with no issues.
The funky exterior styling shows up on the inside, too. There are countless shapes and textures, as well as Kia signatures like the T-handle gear selector and the raised edge next to the window buttons, which serves as a flimsy handle when the door is wide open.
Upscale features, such as a panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, and rear-seat USB-C chargers, make a case for the X-Pro Prestige’s $39,000 price, but I still think that’s steep for a Sportage.
Technology & Usability
High-tech features improve the Sportage’s chances at winning the Best Small SUV title, and the cabin is eye-catching. There’s a wraparound panel on top of the dash that houses the driver’s gauges and the center touchscreen. Together, that’s 25 inches of screen. The effect is impressive for an affordable SUV, and it’s standard in every trim except the base LX.
It might be worth checking the LX out, though, because it is the only trim with regular volume and temperature knobs. The uplevel models with the 25-inch screen have a strange setup where the temperature and volume settings share the same knob: A small, capacitive button toggles between them. The dashboard button labels also change. It’s a cool feature, but it is confusing, too. Was dashboard space really so limited as to require one set of buttons to perform every task? Were the extra knobs too expensive? Luckily, the steering wheel controls are regular old push-buttons.
Read our full 2023 Kia Sportage review for more specs and information about the entire Sportage lineup. Carfax vehicle reviews let shoppers compare a vehicle’s specs against its competitors. However, some aspects of a vehicle – performance, comfort, usability – can only be evaluated through actual driving. That’s why we evaluate as many vehicles as we can, so you’ll know what to expect.
If you have questions about this story, please contact us at Editors@carfax.com