Neck-Turning Looks. While the majority of automakers are looking toward more rugged and upscale designs for their compact SUVs, the 2023 Kia Sportage heads in another direction. For the Sportage, it's all about shock and awe with a design that will turn heads. Unfortunately, some of those heads will turn because they think an alien invasion is happening.

While the Sportage’s exterior design is polarizing, the cabin shines with a high-tech, upscale look. Higher trims have large screens, minimal physical buttons, and a two-tone color scheme. The result is a compact SUV that looks far nicer than its predecessor. If you’re not a fan of the outside, the interior more than makes up for it.

Electrified Powertrains Shine. The 2023 Sportage is available with three engines. The base 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine is the only one available at the time of launch, which is a shame because the four-cylinder engine is down on power. It’s rated at 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. The engine feels underpowered and the sluggish eight-speed automatic transmission doesn’t help things.

The available electrified powertrains are far better options. The hybrid comes with a turbocharged 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine and an electric motor, while the plug-in hybrid features a more powerful electric motor and a 13.8-kWh battery pack. The hybrid is rated at 226 hp and the plug-in hybrid makes 261 hp. Thanks to the electric motors, the electrified powertrains add some much-needed low-end grunt and feel far quicker off the line.

In addition to having more power, the electrified Sportages bring better fuel economy, too. The gas-only Sportage can get up to 28 mpg combined, while the Sportage Hybrid can get up to 43 mpg combined. Official fuel economy figures for the Sportage PHEV aren’t available yet, but Kia claims the SUV has 32 miles of all-electric range.

Consider Upgrading. While there’s nothing wrong with the Sportage’s standard combination of an eight-inch touchscreen, a 12.2-inch digital instrument cluster, as well as wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, moving up to a higher trim nets two 12.3-inch screens that are integrated into a single curved panel. It’s a striking look with screens that feature sharp graphics and more digital real estate.

Pair the Sportage’s high-tech equipment with the SUV’s available premium features, and the compact SUV rises close to the top of the class for how well-equipped a compact SUV can be. Available features with the Sportage include a Harman Kardon audio system, a Wi-Fi hot spot, LED interior lighting, wood trim, heated and ventilated front seats, and synthetic leather upholstery.

You’ll also want to upgrade to a higher trim to get more advanced safety features. The compact SUV's optional list of safety features includes navigation-based adaptive cruise control, a blind-spot view monitor, a surround-view parking camera, rear cross-traffic alert, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist, Kia’s Highway Driving Assist system, and parking sensors. Other noteworthy optional safety features include Junction Turning and Remote Smart Parking Assist.

Growing In The Right Places. The 2023 Sportage moves to sharing a platform with the larger seven-passenger Sorento. Compared to its predecessor, the new Sportage is 7.1 inches longer and half an inch wider. The increase in size results in a cabin that has plenty of space for five people. And the fifth person won’t even feel like they have to squeeze into the back. There’s 41.3 inches of rear legroom in the Sportage, which is a generous amount for the compact class.

Cargo capacity has also grown immensely for 2023. While last year’s Sportage ranked near the bottom of the class for cargo space, the 2023 Sportage ranks close to the top. The Sportage has 39.6 cubic feet of cargo space behind the rear seats and 74.1 cubic feet of total cargo space with the rear seats folded. Because of the extra components that are included with the hybrid, that model loses 0.4 cubic feet of cargo space to the gas-only model.

Final Thoughts. While the old Kia Sportage floundered behind segment leaders and mostly stood out because of its strong value, the 2023 model is in contention as being one of the best in the class. The Sportage is more than just an SUV with a striking design. Its lineup of engines, list of tech features, and roomy cabin mean it’s ready to compete with the best.

The Mazda CX-5 isn’t available with any electrified powertrains, but it’s enjoyable to drive, has an upscale interior, is available with a 250-hp engine, and comes with standard all-wheel drive. The CX-5’s design is far more appealing than the Sportage’s.

Need seating for up to seven? Check out the Volkswagen Tiguan. It’s far more conservative than the Sportage and isn’t available with an electrified engine, but it has athletic handling, optional high-tech features, a roomy interior, up to 73.4 cubic feet of cargo space, and available seating for up to seven.

Check prices for the 2023 Kia Sportage »