The Kia Sportage is one of the pioneers of the compact crossover SUV segment. Its huge leap forward after each generation has made the Sportage one of the best compact crossovers money could buy, but for the longest time, this fifth generation of the Sportage has not yet arrived in the Philippines. With that in mind, is now the right time for the 2023 Kia Sportage to shine in our market?
In terms of styling, the 2023 Kia Sportage hits an absolute home run. As the pioneer of the brand’s latest Opposites United design language, the radically-styled crossover stands out in a sea of same-same crossover SUVs. The front end is characterized by a wide mesh grille that’s flanked by boomerang-shaped LED daytime running lights surrounding the LED headlights. There’s the right amount of satin silver skid plate effect pieces that give the Sportage a rugged look whilst combining it with a bit of street cred.
Moving towards the sides and rear, the 2023 Kia Sportage simply oozes in style with its rakish roofline, blacked-out pillars, and slim LED taillights. Indeed, this crossover SUV has no shortage of style, whatever the angle. Next to the equally-new Hyundai Tucson, I somehow am leaning towards the Sportage’s more assertive design approach, and against most of its competitors, it’s easily one of the prettiest in my eyes.
Likewise, the interior of the 2023 Kia Sportage is just as edgy as its exterior. There’s plenty of sharp edges and creases that give the interior plenty of visual interest. Additionally, the materials used are diverse and of premium quality. Also noteworthy are the two 12.3-inch displays housed in a single glass. With this being a Korean-spec model, it’s absolutely loaded to the brim with every possible feature, such as heated and cooled front seats, a panoramic sunroof, and a Harman Kardon sound system, just to name a few.
The model that we’re driving today is the hybrid, and it’s a pretty interesting one. Whereas Toyota normally uses a naturally-aspirated engine and an e-CVT to mate to an electric motor, Kia has a sportier setup, at least on paper. That’s because the Sportage combines a 1.6-liter turbo engine and a 6-speed automatic with the electric motor. Combined, the Sportage hybrid produces a stout 227 hp and 350 Nm of torque, which is enough for a responsive 0-100 kph time of just 8.0 seconds.
Granted, this is only a drive within the confines of Seoul, but at least it’s enough for us to get an idea of how the Sportage hybrid would perform in Manila. Toyota usually uses an e-CVT for its hybrids because the lack of actual gears means there’s no gear shifts to monitor when the vehicle is in electric mode. In the case of Kia, the gear changes during electric mode have been dialed out of the system really well. You can feel it change cogs while cruising in silence, but for the most part, the smoothness just blends in the background.
As mentioned, this also has a turbo engine as opposed to a naturally-aspirated one, and as a result, it feels responsive yet smooth off the line. The combination of the engine’s low-end torque and instant electric pull means that power is still delivered linearly, but in a manner that’s more responsive than Toyota RAV4 Hybrid we just drove. As for fuel economy, this is something we weren’t able to measure accurately considering how short the drive was, but we expect it to at least nearly match the RAV4’s figures, especially since Toyota’s e-CVT does such a good job extracting the most mileage out of their hybrid powertrains.
In terms of other aspects, the 2023 Kia Sportage rides well enough and the steering is on the light but responsive side of things. We can’t also comment on its handling but considering our experience with most Kia cars, expect the Sportage to have a bit of sportiness compared to the Tucson.
So, is the Philippines missing out on the 2023 Kia Sportage? We absolutely think so. Considering how extremely popular the new Hyundai Tucson is right now, we think it’s a missed opportunity for Kia Philippines not to compete in the compact crossover SUV segment. Of course, the success of the Sportage will depend on its price and the amount of features it’s bundled with. Assuming this arrives in the Philippines with the right features and price, we are confident that Kia could give the Tucson a bit of a healthy competition in our market.