It is hard to deny the practicality of the SUV, for most guys a the ideal off-roader would be no-frills, rugged, and very capable. But most of us don’t live off a fire road deep in the forest and if we are honest our SUVs are likely to spend more time in the drive-through than driving the trails. That is where the 2023 Kia Sportage stands out from the crowd thanks to its dynamic styling and surprisingly off-road capabilities.
The styling is bold, with the aggressive grill and headlamp design being the first thing you notice when you see the new Sportage, under the hood things are a bit more conventional. With an option of a 187-hp four-cylinder, a 226-hp hybrid powertrain, or a plug-in-hybrid with an estimated electric range of 34 miles. The range of options and trim levels can get a little confusing with the 12 different trim packages ranging from the base LX to the X-Pro Prestige Hybrid.
The one I drove at The Texas Off-Road Invitational by the Texas Motor Press Association, is the X-Pro, in Jungle Green and Black, it has a panoramic sunroof, quilted SynTex seating, and 8.3 inch of ground clearance. The last one is important because I am at an off-road ranch with the Texas Motor Press Association, and it is time to see just how sporty the Sportage really is.
The Sportage as equipped is just under $39,000 but it includes Kia’s latest active all-wheel drive system with multi-terrain drive mode and center locking differential. The X-Pro trim level is Kia’s dedicated off-road package, not only does it get the additional ground clearance, it gets some faux skid plates that might or might not help, and 17 inch wheels with all season tires by BF Goodrich.
With the push of a button, the locking center differential locks torque 50/50 between the axles for more traction, letting the Sportage climb a serious hill with ease. When not locked the AWD system sends torque to the axles based on wheel speed and throttle input. But having the option to lock the differential means the Sportage can take on steeper climbs and more complicated obstacles than many other compact SUVs. I tried my best, on dirt, sand, grass, and a short obstacle course, the Kia never got stuck and didn’t even struggle.
With Kia’s hill descent control, while it is not the most sophisticated hill decent system on the market, it does the job well and will give novice off-roaders more confidence on the trail. Kia has aimed the X-Pro squarely at Subaru buyers, people who need good off-road capability but don’t want to drive Bronco or Wrangler every day. Its capable of a lot more than just dirt roads, without giving up the civility you want in a daily driver for you and the family.
When it comes to infotainment, the Sportage comes standard with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. A 12.3 infotainment display is standard on this model, the exterior cameras also come in handy when you are traversing off-road thanks to bird’s eye views. Gridlines help guide the way as and the tire view is helpful when working around more difficult obstacles.
Overall, the new Kia Sportage X-Pro took all the trials and tests I could throw at it like a champ and still was ready to drive to work the next day, making it the perfect weekend warrior and daily driver.
2023 Kia Sportage X-Line AWD: $36,680 (as tested)
- 5L 4-cylinder Engine w/ 187 hp & 178 lb.-ft. of torque with an 8-speed automatic
- Active All-Wheel Drive w/ Center Locking Differential
- Multi-terrain Drive Modes
- 3 Inches of Ground Clearance
- 17-inch Alloy Wheels w/ BFGoodrich® All-Terrain Tires
- Panoramic Sunroof w/ Power Sunshade
- Smart Power Tailgate
- High-Utility Roof Rails, Gloss Black
- Dual-Zone Auto Climate Control
- 3-inch Dual Panoramic Displays w/ Navigation and Kia Connect
- Harmon Kardon® Premium Audio System, 8 Speakers
- Wireless Phone Charger
- Smart Key w/ Push Button Start and Remote Start
- Driver's Seat Memory System
- X-Line SynTex Seating Trim w/ Heated Front Seats
- Navigation-Based Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go - Curve
- Heated Steering Wheel
- Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist w/ Car, Pedestrian, Cyclist, and Junction Turning Detection
- Blind Spot Detection Technology
- Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist
- Lane Keeping & Following Assist
- Driver Attention Warning w/ Leading Vehicle Departure Alert
- Rear Parking Sensors
- Highway Driving Assist
- High Beam Assist
- Safe Exit Warning