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The Kia Sportage has been around in North America since 1995, but for its fifth generation, Kia made the 2023 Sportage Hybrid the best iteration of the popular compact crossover. With up to 43 mpg combined, a smooth powertrain, and loaded with features at a starting price below $30,000, the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid is one of five finalists to contend for The Car Connection Best Car To Buy 2023.

Kia redesigned the 2023 Sportage compact crossover to make it larger, roomier, and more efficient by introducing two new electrified powertrains, including the Hybrid and a plug-in hybrid that no one on our editorial team has tested yet. Kia introduced new off-road friendly trims in the X-Line and X-Pro, but the Sportage Hybrid stands above the other grades to compete with the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Ford Escape, Hyundai Tucson, and the redesigned 2023 Honda CR-V, which is another finalist for our top award. All of these cars account for major sales volume annually for each automaker, and only the CR-V lacks a plug-in hybrid option.

The Sportage is the roomiest of the bunch, topping the nearly as large CR-V in both cargo and passenger volume within a cubic foot. With a wheelbase of 108.5 inches—2.2 inches more than the CR-V—the 2023 Sportage grows closer in size to its platform-mate, the three-row Sorento, than the smaller Kia Seltos and Kia Niro—another BCTB 2023 contender. It has more presence and sophistication, as well.

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The dog bone grille stretches to the corners where sharp daytime running lights flank its mouth like canines. Large lower cutouts house available fog lights, and subtle if not tasteful black cladding runs over the round wheel arches down the rockers. Most hybrids ride on 18-inch alloy wheels with a distinct design, and overall it looks confident without trying too hard to pretend to SUV DNA, though roof rails and other affects are available.

The confidence continues with a powertrain composed of a 1.6-liter turbo-4 gasoline engine and 6-speed automatic transmission, working with a single electric motor and a 1.49-kwh battery pack. The system generates 227 hp and 258 lb-ft of torque, same as in the 2022 Sorento Hybrid, and front-wheel drive is standard on the base LX, while all-wheel drive comes standard on EX and SX-Prestige grades. It can reach 60 mph in 7.0 seconds, but it rides much smoother, quieter, and more confident than the gas Sportage and its grudging 8-speed automatic transmission.

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All-wheel-drive versions have 8.3 inches of ground clearance (the FWD LX has 7.1 inches) and employ a propshaft to the rear wheels, like the Honda CR-V Hybrid. That setup saves cargo space by not having to put a second motor on the rear axle. A center locking differential splits the torque 50/50 to lock the front and rear axles in tough terrain. The AWD mechanicals cost it at the pump, down to 38 mpg combined that trails the similarly equipped Toyota RAV4 but edges out the 37-mpg combined rating of the CR-V with AWD.

With a 5-year/60,000-mile warranty, and standard safety features such as automatic emergency braking with pedestrian and cyclist detection, active lane control, and automatic high beams, Kia provides financial and safety assurances.

The mid-grade EX strikes us as the best value, with AWD, synthetic leather instead of cloth seats, heated side mirrors, heated front seats, and a heated steering wheel for $32,245. That’s at least $1,000 less than rivals. It also has a large 12.3-inch touchscreen, but smartphone connectivity requires a cord.

Is that enough to win our Best Car To Buy 2023? It could be. Find out on Jan. 4, 2023, as we crown a winner on The Car Connection as well as separate awards on Motor Authority and Green Car Reports.

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