Friday, February 3, 2023
News 2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited Review: Killer Catfish

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited Review: Killer Catfish

The 2023 Kia Sportage is an incredibly competent and complete compact SUV


2023 Kia Sportage Pros

– At just under $31,000, the Kia Sportage LX is one of the least expensive AWD compact SUVs in Canada.

– From most angles, the Sportage looks premium.

– The tested $41,595 X-Line Limited trim is one heck of a premium bargain.

– The tester’s interior is superb.


2023 Kia Sportage Cons

– The new Sportage’s front end is comically over-designed.

– Relatedly, Kia’s constant design overhauls date all previous models. Unless you buy in the first model year, your new Sportage will be “old” before you’re done paying it off.


2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The new 2023 Sportage is Kia’s most important and significant global model. It’s also the Korean automaker’s most evolved model. I often use the Sportage as exhibit “A” for Kia’s often unhinged determination to conquer every segment in which they compete.

The latest and 5th-generation Sportage is certainly the company’s most impressive effort that demonstrates how serious they are. It could be argued that the new Sorento and Telluride are bigger showcases but globally, the Sportage outsells both by a considerable margin. In short, the Sportage is a huge compact deal.


Powertrains galore

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The 2023 Kia Sportage can be fitted with one of three powertrains. Two are electrified and will be reviewed at a later date. My tester included the most regular of combos in the naturally-aspirated 2.5L 4-cylinder engine and an 8-speed automatic transmission. There’s little to report when it comes to performance as the near 4,000lb SUV will get up to speed quickly enough thanks to the supplied 187hp and 178 lb.-ft. of torque.

The big advantage, in my opinion, comes from the transmission – aka, it’s not a continuously variable transmission (CVT). I’ve never spoken to an actual driving enthusiast who enjoys how the transmission that Subaru and Honda have selected as their go-to box in their SUVs. It is for this reason mostly that I would describe the Sportage as being entertaining to drive. What’s more, steering is fine with little feedback, and brakes perform admirably well and thanks to the pedal short travel, deliver a comforting sense of safety. Ride quality is focused more on handling than all-out comfort. When considering how Kia’s tuned all driving aspects, the 2023 Sportage is good to drive.

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

The reported fuel consumption numbers indicate that 9.5L/100km is what the 2023 Sportage will consume on average. By the end of my week, I managed just shy of 12.5L/100km in reasonably mixed driving conditions. As well and as you can see in the image gallery, there was no snow on the ground.


A face only a fisherman can love

The elephant in the room, or giant-faced-catfish, is the 2023 Kia Sportage’s front fascia. In fact, even from the side, the first front section looks odd and out of place. I’d go so far as to say that Kia did not learn from Hyundai’s mistake with the Sonata where the LED lights climb too high and too far up the fender and along the hood. And the boomerang daytime lights look silly at night – there’s far too much going on.

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

Be that as it may, the new X-Line trims are the way to go. They get unique wheels, raised roof rails, different bumpers, and side cladding, and an extra dose of attitude. As well, the good news is that, unlike Honda, the base Sportage can be painted in various colours such as red and blue as opposed to only shades of boring. And if you select an X-Line, there’s a green too.


For the interior

The top selling point for the new 2023 Kia Sportage is its interior. Granted, my tester was a $41,595 X-Line Limited complete with dual 12.3-inch screens, quilted pattern synthetic leather seats, and loads more but lower trims still present well. Out of the box and for $28,795, the Sportage LX gets an 8-inch touchscreen, heated front seats, and more or less the same dashboard layout.

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

For about $42,000, I was faced with premium everything, surprising attention to detail, and a sense that I was driving something superior. And this is what ultimately sells the Sportage in my opinion. Compared to a new $43,390 2023 Honda CR-V EX-L, the compact Kia SUV is downright upscale for the price. The 12.3-inch touchscreen, compared to nine inches in the Honda, is responsive and attractive.

The seats all around are supportive and comfortable enough for everyday use while the trunk and its 1,100L of accessible volume will cater to all trips to Costco, the cottage, and other family activities.


Kia is trying HARD

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

I continue to stand by what I’ve been saying for years about Kia and Hyundai products: They’re incredible when new but age rather quickly, and not like a fine wine. Even so, arguing against the Sportage’s value, content, capabilities, and drive are all but useless.

The new CR-V’s abhorrent pricing structure plays into the Kia Sportage’s (and Hyundai Tucson’s) waiting hands. In the segment, other notables include the Subaru Forester, Mazda CX-5, and CX-50, and the leader in the segment for all objective metrics, the Toyota RAV4.

Again, I’ve attempted to sway friends and family away from Kia and Hyundai vehicles over the last 24 months or so and I currently hold a 95% failure rate. I look forward to conversations with these people as early as a year from now. Who knows? I might change my mind…

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

2023 Kia Sportage X-Line Limited | Photo: Matt St-Pierre

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Matt St-Pierre
Trained as an Automotive Technician, Matt has two decades of automotive journalism under his belt. He’s done TV, radio, print and this thing called the internet. He’s an avid collector of many 4-wheeled things, all of them under 1,500 kg, holds a recently expired racing license and is a father of two. Life is beautiful. Send Matt an emai

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