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3 reasons the hybrid Kia Sportage is superior to the gas model

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I’ve had recent tests of both the gas and hybrid Kia Sportage in the last few weeks, and while I love the new design, the base gas engine left me feeling cold and lifeless with its limp acceleration and meh fuel economy. So, I did a review of the lights at night and gave it a mediocre score on the drive impressions.

And then I got the hybrid Kia Sportage, and schwing.

This vehicle is a winner.

So, if you’re looking at the 2023 Kia Sportage, here are three big reasons I’d shell out the extra $1,300 and spring for the hybrid over the gas model.

Power

The biggest reason will be the power boost. I’m an aggressive driver, and I need fast highway accelerations and quick off-the-line starts in a fast-paced urban environment.

This is where the base gas model fell flat.

The base gas engine is equipped with a 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine that delivers 187 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque. While this is perfectly fine if you’re a Sunday driver toddling around town, this is not what you want for those unexpected fast maneuvers.

The hybrid, however, is a different story.

Equipped with a 1.6-liter turbo, 4-cylinder and mated to the hybrid electric motor, this delivers 195 horsepower in combined output and makes a huge difference to the power equation. It’s excellent for both passing and highway merges, plus with the electrified start, you don’t have to deal with that pesky auto stop/start function that turns your engine off whenever you come to a complete stop. Because it’s a hybrid, the vehicle can start moving with immediate torque as soon as you hit the gas pedal.

Efficiency

Though the EPA estimates you should get 25 MPG in combined driving in the all-wheel-drive gas version of the Sportage, I turned the vehicle in averaging 17.5 MPG over 83.5 miles. That’s not great for a small SUV with a four-banger.

The EX trim AWD hybrid (the trim I tested), however, gets and EPA estimated combined 38 MPG, and I averaged 27.2 MPG in mostly highway driving.

While neither vehicle hit the EPA ratings, the hybrid got 10 MPG better, and that’s definitely a statement.

In addition to overall efficiency, the hybrid Kia Sportage offers the additional benefit of range. I found that when fueling up, I could go 443 miles on a single tank of gas. That’s enough to go from Chicago to Indianapolis and back with gas to spare.

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

Quietness

Kia vehicles tend to be on the entry-level side of the spectrum, which means a 4-cylinder engine plus less sound-deadening materials equals engine noise eking into the cabin under hard acceleration. And at times, in the gas model, I felt like the proverbial Kia hamsters were literally running on a wheel in the engine compartment – banging drums along the way — to get the vehicle moving.

In contrast the hybrid Kia Sportage was smooth and quiet with an efficient electrified power boost. The switch between gas and electric operation was also fairly seamless, without clunk or stutter. Plus, even at highway speeds, the vehicle would often switch into EV mode, which added to the overall quietness of the vehicle.

The bottom line on the hybrid Kia Sportage

I was prepared to dislike the 2023 Kia Sportage based on the power and efficiency of the gas model, but taking a weeklong test in the hybrid – including a road trip – completely changed my mind.

With the hybrid powertrain, the new Sportage not only looks amazing but also has capable and fast handling. While I typically tell people not to waste their money on extras, and that sometimes includes the hybrid powertrain, it’s totally worth it here.

The bottom line

Base-to-base, you’re looking at a a price difference of only $1,300. In the grand scheme of new vehicle prices, that’s not a huge amount of money, and I would spend that moo-lah every day to get a vehicle that’s faster as well as more efficient.

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Jill Ciminillo

Jill Ciminillo is the Managing Editor for Pickup Truck + SUV Talk as well as a Chicago-based automotive writer, YouTube personality and podcast host, with her articles and videos appearing in outlets throughout the U.S. Additionally, she co-hosts a weekly radio show on car stuff for a local Chicago station. Previously, Jill has been the automotive editor for both newspaper and broadcast media conglomerates. She is also a past president for the Midwest Automotive Media Association and has the distinction of being the first female president for that organization. Jill is also currently a juror for the North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year (NACTOY).

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3 Comments

  1. Anonymous January 1, 2023

    Are you not aware that the Kia Sportage , with the mild hybrid engines are having major engines issues , the crank shaft is cracking , my car was one of them we saw 22 more in a cork garage , main dealer with all the same issue while my own was being fixed , and now it has happened a second time , it’s not a years old ,
    Please don’t use my details ,

    Reply
    1. Car driver January 2, 2023

      All these so called car reports keep telling people how hood are those Korean cars. The simple truth is they are only good for the first 3 months. Everybody know Korean cars don’t last.

      Reply
  2. safe driver January 3, 2023

    why would you be an aggressive drive? To whom are you aggressive? You should not be allowed to drive

    Reply

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