THE 2023 Kia Sportage has grown up. Moving from a blend of sport utility vehicle (SUV) and hot hatchback, the Kia has gained some mass for its new generation, skewing more towards the SUV side of the scale.
There’s a brand new look to go with the size increase. The previous compact lines are gone. The side profile fits more in line with current SUVs, but the front and rear styling gives the Sportage a unique appearance, especially at night due to the lighting package. The larger body isn’t just for show, it’s packing more features. While you do need to tap the button on the door handle for keyless entry, you are at least aware of the state of unlock of the vehicle by the position of the side mirrors, which fold out upon being opened with lit front door handles for convenience and that bit of premium feel. There’s a remote start as well.
The interior has received just as striking a makeover as the exterior. There’s a nice blend of materials and textures used across the cabin, with soft touch portions at the key contact points. Seating is comfortable as the Sportage makes great use of its newfound extra dimensions to suit both front and rear passengers. Even those in the back can recline a bit. Storage is plentiful and filled with smart solutions throughout like a dual level floor to create a flat load floor or a ridge to halt cargo from sliding around.
Back in the cabin, the Kia impresses with full digital instrumentation plus an eight-inch touch screen from which to operate the infotainment system. Both screens are clear and responsive, one becoming the reversing camera monitor as called upon. Connectivity is typical Kia, with users just making sure they have the current version of Android Auto and Apple CarPlay on their device to maximise the experience. Once connected the low noise floor of the interior enhances the audio indulgence. Several functions can be set to Auto, like lights and wipers, and be forgotten for trouble-free motoring.
What the Sportage has done best to retain are its car-like driving dynamics. Despite the larger frame, the chassis remains composed, doesn’t feel near the weight it should, and handles with precious little body roll, even with the raised ride height for light off-road duty. In town, at low speeds, the body soaks up imperfections without disturbing the occupants.
The biggest change comes in the engine department. The revvy 1.6 litres has been upgraded to two litres, altering the driving feel between the previous and current generation Sportage. The increase in engine displacement means the Kia is smooth in traffic and on long highway stretches. Left to Normal and Eco it’s more than capable in stop-and-go traffic, given that it has Auto Hold and can return impressive fuel efficiency. The Kia no longer has be to taken into the higher rpms for power delivery, any competent driver can make use of the new engine’s low and mid-range grunt to find a sporty enough pace to which the chassis will respond.
The all-new Kia Sportage is a better SUV as it has got larger to accommodate the modern demands placed upon it. It has managed to grow with the times without dulling its sportier driving characteristics. The Sportage can best be described as a former sprinter who has become a long-distance runner. It’s still competitive, just in a new arena.
MODEL: 2023 Kia Sportage Executive
ENGINE: 2-litre, four-cylinder — 154bhp/142lb/ft
DRIVETRAIN: six-speed automatic/front-wheel drive
SUMMARY: Grown up, but hasn’t left the fun completely behind.