Columnists

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is the ‘Tweener for Aspiring EV Fans

When I recently drove the Kia EV6 electric crossover, I suggested it was a car from 2030 available today.  But I realize not all of you are ready to make the full journey to the future and still worry a lot about driving range.  I get it, and may have a better choice that takes you to say, 2027, but not all of the way to the next decade.  It’s the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid.

Judging by all of the looks from other drivers and my dog-walking neighbors, the Sportage’s new suit hints at electric and gets attention.  It is distinctive with boomerang driving lamps, small LED headlamps, and wide satin silver accent beneath the hood edge.  Curvaceous fenders and detailed satin window trim over 18” wheels beautify side glances.  Around back, the EV6’ futuristic curved rump with arching lamps remain.  It is quite a looker.

More of that EV6 style is found inside with twin angled screens for gauges and infotainment that includes navigation plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto connectivity.  A wireless phone charger keeps everything humming.  I enjoy details like the rotary gear selector, panoramic sunroof, heated front seats, and heated leather-wrapped steering wheel.

Details impress.  I could drink the contrasting blue trim that adds a classy touch.  When did cars quit having colors other than gray, beige, and black anyway?  Check the touch pad and knobs for the audio system.  Press a spot and they convert to climate (volume/tuning become temp adjustments).  It seems a bit much, but most people set and forget temperature, so it works better than imagined.

Being a Kia, safety was a priority.  Automatic emergency braking, lane centering steering, lane departure warning, and rear occupant detection are on the menu – as are rear cross path detection and safe exit assist that uses the blind spot system to prevent passengers from stepping into traffic.  I only wish adaptive cruise and a head-up display had been included to fully match the EV6 I enjoyed so much.

It’s not just about looks as the Sportage Hybrid is at least partly an electric car.  The powertrain mates a 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gas engine with batteries and motors to generate a combined 227 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft. of torque.  Unlike most hybrids with their annoying revving continuously variable transmissions, the Sportage uses a traditional 6-speed automatic for a more normal driving feel.  It feels peppy at almost any speed, carried on a wave of turbo and electric torque, while delivering an impressive 38/38-MPG city/highway.

As complicated as all that sounds, it’s a very peaceful vehicle to drive.  The steering and suspension are the right balance between firm handling and a compliant ride.  With weight down low in the chassis, you can toss it into a corner, but is also happy soaking up long miles of Interstate or rough city streets too.  The Drive Mode Selector adjusts performance on a continuum from spirited Sport to efficient Eco.

Given the Sportage spends a significant part of its existence routing power from batteries to motors, it is the perfect ‘tweener for aspiring EV fans.  It’s not an EV6, but it is a joy to drive, artful to operate, and a good choice for many families headed for the future. 

It’s also an incredible value.  A base Sportage costs $25,990, but this one came to just $33,860 loaded for bear.  Competition includes the Ford Escape Hybrid, Toyota Corolla Cross Hybrid, Honda CR-V Hybrid, and similar Hyundai Tucson Hybrid.

Storm Forward!

Send comments to Casey at AutoCasey@aol.com.

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

5-passengers, AWD Crossover

Powertrain: 1.6-L T4, hybrid

Output: 227 hp/258 lb.-ft. 

Suspension f/r: Ind/Ind

Wheels f/r: 18”/18” alloy

Brakes f/r: Regen disc/disc

Must-have features: Style, MPGs

Fuel economy city/hwy: 38/38-MPG

Assembly: Gwangju, Korea

Base/as-tested price: $25,990/33,860