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Kia Sorento PHEV SX-Prestige AWD Review

A road trip in a 2023 Kia Sorento plug-in yields 35.2 mpg over 1,225 miles after using 34 miles of battery driving

A forward view of the Kia Sorento PHEV along a marina with sailboats

For 2023, the Kia Sorento PHEV is sold in just one all-wheel-drive trim level with a starting price of $50,185. (Photos courtesy of Kia America)

Table of Contents

Overview
Competing PHEV SUVs
Pricing
Performance
Hybrid Battery Charging
Driver-Assistance Systems
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo Space
Why Buy the Kia Sorento PHEV?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

Ijust completed a 1,225-mile road trip in the Kia Sorento PHEV and logged an average of 35.2 miles per gallon. Much of the round-trip from San Diego to Sonoma, Calif., was driven at 70 mph with cruise control. I was pleased with the mileage and expect most owners of this all-wheel-drive, midsize SUV with three rows of seating would be, too.

A plug-in hybrid isn’t necessarily the optimum choice for a road trip, but the Sorento is ideal for its comfort and a sense of reinforced safety. With 31- to 34- miles of battery-electric driving, many owners could drive the workweek with minimal emissions, engine firing, and using pricey fuel.

The six-seat Sorento PHEV is rich in premium interior materials and contemporary design. The midsize cabin provides ample space for shoulder width, tall headroom, and a third row that folds flat to the floor. There is plenty of room for luggage and treasures picked up along the way.

The front seats in the Sorento PHEV

The midsize cabin provides ample space for shoulder width and tall headroom.

For daylong driving, the suite of advanced driver-assist systems took away much of the stress in guarding my line. I grew to trust the system, which kept the Sorento well-centered in the lane, including the curves. Steering assist was reassuring and not invasive. And I drove the entire round trip with no dashboard warnings or loud safety alerts: the Sorento and its network of electronics performed flawlessly.

Besides its suite of advanced safety technologies, the Sorento PHEV has solid NHTSA safety ratings:
• 4 out of 5 stars overall
• 4 stars for frontal and rollover crashes
• 5 stars for side-impact protection
• 4.5 stars for rollover protection

Kia Sorento Overview

Redesigned last year, the fourth-generation Kia Sorento is nearly 1.4 inches longer than the previous model, adding to interior space. The body structure was made stronger, which Kia says improved ride, handling, noise, vibration, and harshness.

The body structure is designed with a multi-load path to distribute the impact forces of kinetic energy through the body. Seven air bags are standard with an array of standard and optional safety technologies and advanced driver-assist systems.

As a midsize SUV crossover, the Sorento is part of Kia’s “Plan S” electrification strategy. The lineup of Sorento trim levels is a triple play of four-cylinder powertrains: gasoline, gasoline-electric hybrid, and the plug-in-hybrid.

The base gas-powered Sorento ($31,000) has a choice of a 191-hp, non-turbocharged 2.5 liter or a 281-hp turbocharged version ($37,000); both with an eight-speed automatic transmission.

The Sorento Hybrid ($38,000) has a turbocharged 227-hp, 1.6-liter engine, and six-speed automatic. And the top-line Sorento PHEV has a 261-hp version of the 1.6-liter engine and six-speed automatic.

A driving gauge shows available miles of electric driving

The plug-in Sorento has an electric driving range of 31 to 34 miles.

Competing Midsize SUV Plug-in Hybrids

  • Hyundai Santa Fe, 31-mile EV range; $41,000-$47,000;
  • Jeep Grand Cherokee 4xe, 25-mile battery range; $61,000-$69,000;
  • Volvo XC60 Recharge, 19-mile EV range; $59,000-$69,000;
  • Volvo XC90 Recharge, 18-mile EV range; $73,000-$80,000;
  • Lincoln Aviator Grand Touring, 21-mile EV range; $71,000;
  • BMW X5 xDrive45e, 31-mile range; $66,000;
  • Porsche Cayenne E-Hybrid, 17-mile range; $88,000; and Porsche Cayenne Turbo S E-Hybrid, 15-mile range; $173,000.

*Above MSRPs include AWD and the freight charge.

2023 Kia Sorento Pricing

For 2023, there is just one well-stocked trim level of Sorento PHEV, the SX-Prestige with all-wheel drive. And it has a one size fits all starting price of $50,185, including the $1,295 freight charge from Korea. With two options for Snow White Pearl paint ($445) and carpeted floor mats ($210), the as-tested price was a reasonable $50,840 (though there likely will be pricing surcharges at the dealership and a possible “protection” package that could add more to the sticker price).

A cargo cover, $190, would be a smart addition, as would a cargo-area mat, $115, which might help with soundproofing in an open cargo area.

Kia Sorento warranties include 10-years/100,000-miles of coverage for the powertrain and hybrid battery. Bumper-to-bumper coverage is for 5-years/60,000-miles with roadside assistance.

Find current pricing and available lease or purchase offers here.

The Sorento's panoramic roof

The panoramic roof as skylight.

Sorento SX-P Upgrades

Kia loaded the 2023 Sorento PHEV SX-P with desirable standard features. Among them:

  • 3-row seating with second-row captain’s chairs;
  • Perforated leather seat upholstery;
  • All-wheel-drive with torque vectoring;
  • 19-inch alloy wheels;
  • 12.3-inch digital gauge cluster (a first for any Kia SUV);
  • Surround View Monitor, using four cameras to create a 360-degree perspective around the vehicle;
  • Blind View Monitor projects live video view of adjacent lanes in the instrument cluster, activated via the turn signal;
  • Electrochromic rearview mirror.

Other standard Sorento PHEV features include:
•Smart key with push-button start and remote start (from key fob).
•Eight USB charging ports.
•10.25-inch high-resolution color touchscreen display with navigation and Kia’s UVO telematics link.
•Satellite radio.
•Wireless smartphone charging pad.
•12-speaker Bose Centerpoint sound system.

The Sorento shift console is a multifunction desktop of organization.

A multifunction desktop of organization.

Sorento PHEV Performance

According to the EPA, the Sorento PHEV’s combined gasoline-electric driving range can be as high as 460 miles. But in my experience, the most driving range I achieved, according to the onboard computer, was 390 miles. That factored the 31 miles of a fully charged battery and 359 miles from the gas engine.

After switching from battery power to engine, the EPA mileage ratings, using 87 octane fuel, are 35 mpg city, 33 highway, and 34 mpg combined, or a combined 79 MPGe rating.

Filling the fuel tank of 12.4 gallons with 87 octane wasn’t overly painful. Gas prices ranged from $5.99 per gallon at the start of my trip to $6.59 and almost $7 by week’s end. The price of unleaded 87 octane had jumped by $1 since I’d filled up for the trip.

Finessing the Fuel

Kia’s plug-in hybrid system switches from battery power to engine intervention for more aggressive driving. And even with a depleted battery, the hybrid system functions as any other hybrid system, giving some short-range and low-speed acceleration, regenerative braking, and auto stop-start at idle.

Because Kia uses a traditional, stepped six-speed automatic transmission, there is no delay in forward motion.

Driving with battery power lifts the performance noticeably. Acceleration is more absolute off the line and continues quickly up to highway speeds. After the transition to gasoline, the turbocharged four-cylinder is quite capable at hefting the Sorento PHEV’s curb weight of 4,537 pounds, which includes 309 pounds for the hybrid battery.

Torque-vectoring all-wheel drive (cornering control) includes a locking center differential. If the system detects wheel slippage, it reroutes power between the front and rear axles and applies subtle braking pressure to the left and right wheels to help maintain traction.

A view of the open engine and hybrid features in the Sorento engine bay

The Sorento PHEV has a 66.9 kW electric motor and a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine that combine for 261 horsepower.

Charging the Hybrid Battery

The 14 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery can be recharged in two to three hours or more, Kia says. And all of my charging sessions for a depleted battery took four hours. That is too long for a stop during a road trip, so most of my driving was on gasoline with some input from the hybrid system. I tried to charge in Sonoma, but the public charging station I visited had four charge stations, three of which were “unavailable.” Two other EV drivers had pulled in, and we shared gripes about the poor maintenance of public charging in general. The one functioning charger was occupied by a fully charged car, but no owner was in sight.

For those over-the-river trips to friends and family, Kia includes a heavy-duty charging cable that can be plugged into a household outlet. Plan on nine hours for a full charge.

Driver-Assistance Systems

I am a hands-on driver when using driver-assist systems. It takes time to develop trust in these electronics. Still, Kia’s assistance calibrations were accurate and prevented the Sorento from drifting across lane lines, and it even tracked well when the lane lines were disrupted or decayed.

The Sorento PHEV has an expansive network of Kia Drive Wise Advanced Driver-Assistance Systems, including:

Blind Spot Collision Avoidance Assist — Rear with parallel exit: Under certain conditions, the system can detect vehicles traveling in the next lane. When a vehicle is “seen” in the blind spot, it brakes the outer wheel to help return the vehicle to its lane.

Forward Collision Warning: Designed to detect a vehicle ahead and to calculate distance and closing speed. The system will fire off an alert if it senses a potential frontal collision.

Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist — Junction Turning: As the driver brakes to prevent a collision, the system can lessen the effects when turning left and an oncoming vehicle is approaching.

Highway Driving Assist: Uses federal highway speed limit information from the navigation system and, under certain conditions, will automatically adjust speed to be within the posted speed limit.

Intelligent Speed Limit Assist: Automatically changes the set speed of Smart Cruise Control by using the speed limit information detected through the front camera or GPS navigation information.

Lane Following Assist: Follows lane markings with steering inputs to help maintain lane-centering.

Navigation-Based Smart Cruise Control — Curve: The system can reduce vehicle speed proactively before upcoming curves.

Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist: When approaching cross traffic is detected, the system alerts the driver and can apply the brakes.

A shot of the 19-inch tire and wheel package for the Sorento plug in hybrid

Alloy wheels and 19-inch all-season Continental CrossContact LX Sport tires are standard.

Sorento PHEV Ride and Handling

Sorento’s steel-spring suspension (front MacPherson struts with a multilink rear) capably handles the hefty curb weight. Straight-line ride quality is quite smooth, and I could sense the engineering for low friction and extended glide. However, there is noticeable head toss when turning into driveways or navigating speed bumps.

The 19-inch Continental CrossContact LX Sport 235/55 tires are very compliant with a comfortable treadwear rating of 480, which translates to a 50,000-mile warranty.

Four-wheel ventilated disc brakes have 12.8-inch rotors front and rear. Pedal response is refined and regeneration is well modulated without unexpected grabbiness.

Kia Sorento Interior Function

There appears to have been a generous budget to make the Sorento PHEV more luxurious than some entry-luxury vehicles. The cabin is rich in premium materials, neatly stitched leather, and soft surfaces for elbows. The black woven headliner is calming without making the cabin feel closed in.

Driver sightlines are open at the side mirrors by the small corner glass. Over-the-shoulder glances are compromised by the second-row headrests of the captain’s chairs. But the restricted view was of no consequence with the around-view camera system and Kia’s nifty turn-signal camera views, left or right.

Front headroom is tall at 40.3 inches with long legroom of 41.4 inches.

Fourteen-way power front seats are comfortably bolstered and well-stuffed to handle a tankful of road-trip driving. The seats include a newly added thigh extender, so tall drivers should be able to find an optimum position.

The center shift console is a multi-use desktop. The shift module anchors the rotary shift dial and performance-control selections (Eco, Sport, Smart). The wireless charging pad, two charging USBs, and a data-media USB are just ahead on the console.

Driver information is easily viewed on the 12-inch-wide screen, which can be configured to show a range of functions. But there is a lot of information to fit in the smallish gauge dials.

Infotainment selections are separated from the 10.25-inch touchscreen with AC and vent controls below.

Especially appreciated are the second-tier air vents, four of them across the dashboard. A female friend once told me that she bought her SUV because it had crotch-cooling vents, and the Sorento’s venting should have the same effect.

A door panel in the Sorento PHEV shows contemporary design and materials.

Sorento PHEV is rich in premium interior materials and contemporary design.

Kia Sorento Back Seats and Cargo Space

Legroom in the second row is impressively long at 40.3 inches with headroom of 39.1 inches. And the expansive pano roof creates an enjoyable space. But the seat bottoms of the captain’s chairs might feel downsized to upsized adults.

A flat second-row floor adds to a sense of openness. And the seats have several inches of fore-aft slide with seatback recline.

Second row legroom is long at 40.3 inches but seat bottoms are short.

Legroom is long at 40.3 inches but seat bottoms are short.

Third-row space is kid-class, but with easy access.

Third-row space is kid-class, but with easy access.

Access to the pair of third-row seats is by an easy-to-operate tilt and slide second row. Legroom is kid-class at 29.6 inches (or less if the second-row seats are not moved forward). However, the space is accommodating with a USB charge port on each side, and a cup-mug holder and a burger-snack slot.

Large corner glass is a humane child-tending addition for ambient light.

The cargo area has wide access of 44 inches with 30 ½ inches of entry height. Fold the third-row seats for 41 inches of square and flat cargo space. Handy straps on the back of the seats make them easy to pull back into position.

Or fold both rows of seats for almost 7 feet in length (if the front passenger seat is moved forward).

There is some subfloor storage, but it’s not large enough to stow the charging cable.

The Sorento’s third row that folds flat to the floor.

The Sorento’s third row that folds flat to the floor.

Why Buy the Kia Sorento PHEV?

A plug-in hybrid is a half-step to total battery-electric driving. For many drivers, a plug-in will be a smart choice until battery technology advances to provide more than 300 miles of cost-effective range.

The Kia Sorento Hybrid is also a good family choice. It is less expensive with fuel economy ratings of 39/35/37 mpg in front drive or 36/33/36 mpg AWD. But it does not have the value-added asset of fuel-price protection.

A range of 31 to 34 miles is almost like getting a free gallon of gas every day from the Kia Sorento PHEV. And for those owners with a home charger, there is the reassurance of always having a full “tank.”

the rear quarter panel for the charging port.

The Sorento PHEV plug port is at the rear quarter panel.

2023 Kia Sorento PHEV SX-AWD Specifications

Body style: midsize 6-seat, 5-door SUV with active on-demand 4WD

Engine: 177.2-hp turbocharged 1.6-liter 4-cylinder; 195.4 lb.-ft. torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm

Hybrid System: 89.8 hp permanent magnet motor with 360-volt, 14 kWh lithium-ion polymer battery

Total system power: 261 hp and 258 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Battery-electric driving range: 31-34 miles

Total driving range: 460 miles, maximum (390 miles observed)

MPGe fuel economy equivalent: 54/48/52 mpge city/hwy/combined; regular unleaded fuel

Engine-only fuel economy: 35/33/34 mpg; 87 octane recommended

Top speed: 74.6mph in EV mode; 120 mph for ICE

0-62 mph acceleration: 8.7 seconds

Towing capacity: 1,654 pounds with an unbraked trailer

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 12.4 gallons

Cargo space: 12.6 to 38.5 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 40.3/41.4 inches

2nd-row head/leg room: 39.1/40.3 inches

3rd-row head/leg room: 36.8/29.6 inches

Length/wheelbase: 189.4/110.8 inches

Curb weight: 4,537 pounds (including 309 lbs. for the hybrid battery)

Turning circle: 37.9 feet

FEATURES

Standard Sorento equipment includes: smart-key entry with push-button ignition and remote start, power and heated front seats, 2nd-row captain’s chairs, one-touch slide and fold 2nd-row seats10.25-inch touchscreen with navigation and MapCare, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay apps; UVO link with a free trial; satellite radio 3-month free trial; 4.2-inch supervision cluster, USB charging in all 3 rows

Standard Sorento exterior equipment: 19-inch wheels; hands-free liftgate; roof rails; LED projector headlights, fog, and taillights; heated side mirrors with turn-signal indicators .

Sorento SX-P AWD features include: surround-view monitor, blind-spot view monitor, Bose premium audio, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, perforated leather upholstery, ventilated front seats, heated 2nd-row seats, auto-dimming rearview mirror, power-folding side mirrors, parking collision-avoidance assist-reverse, multi power adjustable driver’s seat with memory.

Safety features include: 7 air bags (including driver’s knee bag), rear occupant alert with ultrasonic sensors, stability and traction controls

Driver-assist technologies: forward collision avoidance (cyclist and junction turning), blind-spot collision avoidance assist-rear; rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist, intelligent cruise control with stop and go; lane-keeping assist and lane-following assist, parking distance warning, forward and reverse

PRICING

Base Kia Sorento PHEV price: $50,185, including $1,295 freight charge; price as tested $50,840.

Options on test vehicle: Snow White Pearl paint $445; carpeted floor mats $210.

Where assembled: Hwasung, Korea

Warranties: 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain; 5-years/60,000-miles bumper-to-bumper coverage with roadside assistance.

Read more

Kia Sportage Hybrid Review

The 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid emphasizes the human in the interface between driver and machine

An exterior view of a Vesta Blue 2023 Kia Sportage

The 2023 Kia Sportage is now in its fifth generation, and completely redesigned and re-engineered. (Photos courtesy of Kia Motors)

Table of Contents

Overview
Pricing
5 Cool Things
Powertrains and Fuel Economy
Kia Sportage Hybrid Performance
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Back Seats and Cargo
Why Buy the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid?
Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

The Kia Sportage could have been put out of its misery after its 1995 debut in the U.S. This little SUV was the second model in the Kia lineup after the born-to-be-a-beater Sephia small sedan.

From my first test drive of the inaugural five-door Sportage, I remember the paint drips, the spongy seats, and the flimsy construction. But it was cheap to buy, its utility was family-friendly, and it had a can-do driving personality. It even had a 5-year/60,000-mile powertrain warranty, which at the time went beyond the coverage of most other brands.

The mid-1990s was the frontier for new small SUVs. The Kia Sportage was up against the already popular Toyota RAV4 and Honda CR-V. Yet, the Korean upstart endured and has taught some tricks to its competitors.

Today, more than 30 subcompact and compact SUVs are for sale in the U.S. And the 2023 Kia Sportage is now in its fifth generation, completely redesigned and re-engineered.

Since launching the first Sportage, Kia now sports five SUVs ranging from subcompact to large and battery electric (EV6). There are 12 models in the Kia lineup, of which seven are electrified or battery electric.

Among the competitors of the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid are the Honda CR-V Hybrid, Ford Escape Hybrid, Hyundai Tucson Hybrid, Subaru Crosstrek Hybrid, and Toyota RAV4 Hybrid.

An interior view of the Sportage front seats

Front headroom is reasonably tall at 37.8 inches with the panoramic sunroof.

2023 Kia Sportage Overview

The Sportage has gone from one of the smallest SUVs in its class to one of the largest, Kia says. Its overall length is 7.1 inches longer than the previous generation, with a 3.4-inch longer wheelbase.

The new Sportage is a half-inch taller and wider. Kia says the Sportage has class-leading rear legroom of 41.3 inches and best-in-class rear cargo capacity of 39.5 cubic feet when factoring in the dual-level cargo floor.

Kia moved the new Sportage chassis to the latest third generation “N3” platform of the Sorento midsize SUV. Building this compact SUV on a midsize foundation creates a rigid base and better driving dynamics, Kia says.

Using more “hot-stamped parts” and ultra-high-strength steel increased tensile strength and torsional stiffness. The result minimizes road, wind, and engine noise. And for a more traffic-calmed cabin, more sound-absorbing and insulating materials were added.

The larger Sportage is a market separator from Kia’s smaller SUVs, the Seltos and Niro.

White SynTex leatherette upholstery

SynTex leatherette upholstery is relaxed to the touch but feels durable.

2023 Kia Sportage Pricing

America loves a choice for just about any product and the 2023 Kia Sportage choices. It is available in seven trim levels with gasoline, hybrid, and (soon) plug-in hybrid powertrains. New for 2023 are two new “adventure-ready” X-Pro trim levels.

With standard all-wheel drive, the Sportage X-Pro and X-Pro Prestige have a 1.5-inch boost in ground clearance. X-Line models also have unique body and interior trims and options for new 19-inch all-terrain tires and the multi-terrain mode AWD system.

Sportage starting prices range from $27,285 for the LX front-wheel-drive model to $38,085 for the AWD X-Pro Prestige model.

The Sportage Hybrid has three trim levels of LX, EX, and SX-Prestige. Base pricing ranges from $28,585 for the LX FWD to $37,485 for the SX-Prestige AWD.

Today’s 2023 Sportage EX AWD tester came to $33,940 with options for the EX Premium package ($1,500) and carpet floor mats ($500).

The EX Premium package adds:

  • Panoramic sunroof with power sunshade.
  • Smart power tailgate;
  • LED interior lighting;
  • Dual illuminated sun visor vanity mirrors

Vehicle MSRPs include the $1,295 freight charge. Gasoline models are built at West Point, Ga.; electrified models are built in Gwangju, Korea.

Find current Kia Sportage pricing and incentives here.

The digital driver area of the Kia Sportage Hybrid.

The digital driver area of the Kia Sportage Hybrid.

5 Cool Things About Sportage

Driving range of more than 500 miles for the Sportage Hybrid.

Coat hanger re-imagined. A molded coat hanger behind the front headrests has a quasi-valet function. The plastic molded hangers give good collar support, but Kia also added a hook for a shopping bag or for organizing charging cables just below on the seatback. The robust coat hanger is a natural grip for back-seat occupants to use for a bit of leverage on exit.

8 standard Advanced Driver Assistance Systems. Included are the newly available 360-degree Surround View Monitor with 3D View and live feed Blind-Spot View Monitor in the instrument cluster.

Leading Vehicle Departure Alert. For those too busy answering texts at the stoplight, the Sportage gives a chime to notify that the vehicle ahead is pulling away.

Dual level cargo floor. It adds 5 cubic feet in the low position and drops the floor about 3 1/2 inches. Floor-to-headliner height grows from 29 inches to 32 ½.

The very useful molded coat hanger on the front seatbacks.

The plastic molded coat hanger.

he seatback USB port and hook for a grocery bag or the organize a charging cable.

And the seatback USB port and bag hook.

Design Styles

Kia’s “Opposites United” exterior design “philosophy” applies smooth, soft surfaces offset by rugged, sheer forms. The treatment combines off-road confidence with cutting-edge modern cues, Kia says.

Design identifiers include Kia’s Tiger nose grille that spans the entire width of the front fascia. “Boomerang” daytime running lights push the uniquely shaped headlights to the outer corners. And angular fenders imply a sharp and strong presence, Kia says. The futuristic “notch-shaped” taillights connect by a thin black graphic across the tailgate.

Big sky views with the panoramic sunroof, in the EX premium package.

Big sky views with the panoramic sunroof, in the EX premium package.

2023 Kia Sportage Powertrains

The base, nonturbocharged, direct-injection 187-hp, 2.5-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine replaces the outgoing 181-hp, 2.4-liter engine with direct injection. A new eight-speed automatic transmission replaces a six-speed automatic. Fuel economy ratings on the recommended 87 octane are 25/32/28 mpg city/highway/combined for front-wheel drive and 23/28/25 mpg AWD. (The 2.4-liter had fuel economy ratings of 23/30/26 mpg FWD and 21/25/23/ AWD.)

The 2023 Sportage Hybrid has a combined 227-hp from the turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6-liter four-cylinder and front and rear permanent magnet synchronous hybrid motors. The lithium pouch-style battery pack has 270 volts and 1.49kWh of energy.

The six-speed automatic transmission helps provide AWD fuel-economy ratings of 38/38/38 mpg on the recommended 87 octane. Front-drive hybrid Hybrid models have mileage ratings of 42/44/43 mpg city/highway/combined.

Around-town driving in my test week, returned mileage in the mid-20s to the mid-40s. My highway mileage ratings were 36 to 41 mpg on average. The 13.7 gallon fuel tank will provide a generous cruising range of 500 to 520 miles.

The soon-to-be-released 2023 Sportage PHEV builds on the hybrid model’s powertrain. Its 177-hp, 1.6-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine is supplemented by a 66.9kW electric motor and 13.8 kWh lithium-polymer battery. It has a targeted battery-electric driving range of 32 miles. Sales are expected to begin in July 2022 with pricing expected to start at around $35,000.

The 227-hp Sportage Hybrid powertrain has highway mileage ratings of 38 mpg with AWD or 44 mpg with front-drive.

The 227-hp Sportage Hybrid powertrain has highway mileage ratings of 38 mpg with AWD or 44 mpg with front drive. (Mark Maynard)

Kia Sportage Hybrid Performance

The roll-on of hybrid power is linear and forceful. There are driver-selectable drive modes of Eco, Sport, Smart, and Snow (AWD only). The system defaults to Eco mode on start up, but I got the best fuel economy in Smart mode, which monitors driving style for the most efficient performance.

While paddle shifters are standard on the Sportage Hybrid, I did not feel the need to use them. There is an element of deceleration braking, which is useful to reduce on-and-off throttle use. The engineering of throttle uptake, braking engagement, and steering response is balanced and reassuring to the driver.

Low-rolling resistance Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires on the Sportage Hybrid

Low-rolling resistance Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires, 235/60 18-inch.

 Sportage AWD Ride and Handling

The Sportage suspension is tuned for comfort, not sportiness — and that is an asset for this glorified family wagon. The independent suspension uses front MacPherson struts and a rear multilink setup with gas-pressurized shock absorbers front and rear. The ride can feel bouncy over city street transitions and lumpy sections of road, but it is never sloppy.

The ride quality is cushioned by the robust sidewall of the 235/60 18-inch Goodyear Assurance Finesse tires. These are all-season low-rolling-resistance tires to aid fuel economy, and they are not hard-rolling or squirmy in emergency maneuvers. (17-inch tires and wheels are standard on front-drive models.)

The active on-demand all-wheel-drive system, with terrain modes, is fully automatic with no driver engagement. The system routes power between the front and rear wheels depending on road and driving conditions.

Braking force is absolute from the 12.6-inch front rotors and 11.9-inch rear rotors. And the regenerative action of the braking is not noticeable.

The Sportage gearshift dial

The shifter console has tool-box function.

Driver Assist Technologies

All models of the 2023 Sportage have a suite of driver-assist technologies. Among them:

  • Forward Collision Avoidance-Assist with Car, Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection;
  • Blind Spot Detection;
  • Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist;
  • Lane Keeping and Following;
  • Driver Attention Warning with Leading Vehicle Departure Alert;
  • Rear Parking Sensors;
  • High Beam Assist.

For more semi-autonomous driving (two hands on the steering wheel), the EX model includes Blind Spot Collision Avoidance-Assist and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance-Assist.

The e-bin with wireless charging.

The e-bin with wireless charging.

Kia Sportage Interior Function

The Sportage interior reflects the design of high-end outdoor products, furniture, and modern architecture, Kia says. The treatment is intended to transform the cabin into a pleasant living space, complete with near-luxury, thoughtful features.

And it is a pleasant space, very well soundproofed, and with many details to emphasize the human in the machine interface. The most noticeable noise is the HVAC fan.

But it also is a highly digital space. Some functions of the infotainment screen require a two-finger tap that can take eyes away from the road.

The upper trim levels of the Sportage have a panoramic curved display that connects two 12.3-inch screens. One is the driver’s digital instrument cluster; the other is for infotainment and cabin controls, top center in the instrument panel.

Front headroom is reasonably tall at 37.8 inches with the panoramic sunroof (in the EX Premium package) or 39.6 inches without the sunroof.

“Boomerang” style running lights of the Sportage

“Boomerang” style running lights.

Asymmetrical Shift Console

The shift console has tool-box function to smartly arrange all the little things American drivers use every day:

  • Engine start button
  • Self-parking camera
  • Wireless charging
  • 2 USB charging ports (including one C-type
  • Seat heaters

A pair of deep cup holders can be segmented by a nifty spring-activated grip for smaller cups or cans or leave the space open to secure a tablet.

The gear selector is a low and broad dial, but it will take some initial focus to rotate the dial. The lower trim levels have a traditional shift lever.

The EX cabin is well dressed in quality trim materials. SynTex leatherette (“animal-free”) upholstery is relaxed to the touch but feels durable. Perforated centers take the sweat from summer, but the Sportage EX does not have ventilated front seats.

The driver seat is 10-way power adjustable with lumbar support. But the front passenger has only a four-way manually adjusted seat.

From my testing of other higher trim level Kia models, I missed having a front power passenger seat, a front parking sensor, and the blind-spot view monitor. The blind-spot views activate in the gauge array, either left or right when the turn signals are used. And for the tester’s almost $34,000 price, it would not have been excessive to expect a cargo area roller cover, which is “available” for $150.

To get a front (eight-way) power passenger seat and front AND rear parking sensors requires moving up a trim level to the SX Prestige. It starts at $37,485, but floor mats and a roller cargo cover are still optional.

The Sportage back seats have long legroom of 41.3 inches

Back seat space is relaxed with long legroom and a reclining seatback.

Back Seat and Cargo Space

The back seat legroom in the Sportage is some of the longest in a passenger vehicle at 41.3 inches. Even with tall occupants in the front seats, there is adult leg space and footroom.

But three across on the 60/40 folding rear bench makes the space feel more subcompact than compact. And like nearly every rear bench seat, the center position is best as a short-run position or for the neighbor kid on a summer evening ice cream run. A low hump to the transmission-exhaust tunnel helps center seat footroom, but it is still a narrow, no-elbow-room position. The window seats are the best, separated by the cushy fold-down armrest with can holders.

There is an easy-fold function to the seatbacks. The seat-base handle, rather than a release tab at the top of the seatback, is for handier for an occupant to ease back the seat a few inches, or fold the seatback completely for cargo.

Cargo space is broad and tall, with an assist from the dual-level floor. The opening is 45 inches wide by 29 inches tall for 34.5 cubic feet behind the back seat. And the dual-level floor adds about 3 ½ inches more height in the low position. Fold the 60/40 seatback for 6 feet in length.

Cargo space is flexible with the dual-level floor.

Cargo space is flexible with the dual-level floor.

Why Buy the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid?

The 2023 Kia Sportage has evolved to the top tier of family-life small SUVs. Its fuel economy will be a top attention-getter for motorists in the market. And the EX tester is a defining statement of “premium” materials, durable construction, and smart engineering. There are less expensive small SUVs, but few that compare to the Sportage Hybrid’s interior appearance and easy drivability.

Sportage owners considering the 2023 model will immediately appreciate the languid stretch of cabin space. It is a more horizontal environment rather than the vertical cabin orientation before. The tailgate glass is taller for better views, and the ride quality is far smoother, too.

The design is a study in providing special small features and details that make this small SUV a keeper. But there were a couple of missing details on the Sportage EX tester that prevented it from being a keeper for me (and her).

The girlfriend-wife did not like the “sitting in a bucket” front passenger seat. And a front parking sensor would take the creep out of edging closer to our garage door — and an inadvertent “Oops, too far.”

There is a $3,000 price difference between EX versions of the gas and hybrid models. But the value difference between the two powertrains is the enjoyable performance of the Sportage Hybrid with its much better fuel economy.

It might be worth considering the Sportage SX Prestige for those who plan to keep their new Sportage for the life of the powertrain and hybrid battery warranties: 10-years/100,000-miles.

A rear view of the 2023 Sportage

The 2023 Sportage shares the midsize chassis of the Kia Sorento SUV.

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid Specifications

Body style: compact, 5-seat, 5-door SUV

Engine: 177-hp, turbocharged and direct-injected 1.6-liter 4-cylinder; 195 lb.-ft. torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm

Transmission: 6-speed automatic with paddle shifters

Fuel economy: 38/38/38 mpg city/hwy/combined; 87 octane or higher

Motor: 44kW permanent magnet synchronous; 59.3 hp from 1,600-2,000 rpm, 195 lb.-ft. torque from 0-2,100 rpm

Battery: 1.49kWh lithium-ion (pouch type); 5.5Ah, 270-volt;

Total system power: 227-hp, 258 lb.-ft. torque

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 13.7 gallons

Cargo space: 34.5-65.4 cubic feet; cargo floor in low position, 39.5-73.7

Towing capacity: 2,000 pounds with trailer brakes; 1,653 w/unbraked trailer

Front head/leg room: 37.8*/41.4 inches *39.6 inches without sunroof

Rear head/leg room: 37.8*/41.3 inches *39.1 inches without sunroof

Length/wheelbase: 183.5/108.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,896 pounds

Turning circle: 38.6 feet

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: Smart key locking with push-button ignition and remote start, 12.2-inch driver instrument display, 12.3-inch touchscreen infotainment display with navigation and Kia Connect, wireless phone charger, power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, SynTex seat upholstery, heated front seats, leather-wrapped and heated steering wheel, front and rear USB-C charging ports, electronic parking brake with auto-hold, 18-inch alloy wheels and temporary spare, heated side mirrors with turn-signal indicators, dual-zone climate control, LED headlights and taillights

Safety features include: 6 air bags, electronic stability and traction controls, downhill brake control, and hill-start assist

PRICING

Sportage EX base price: $32,285, including $1,295 freight charge; price as tested $33,940

Options on test vehicle: EX premium package $1,500; carpeted floor mats $155

Where assembled: Gwangju, Korea

Warranties: 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper basic coverage with roadside assistance; 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain; 10-years/100,000-miles hybrid battery

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Kia EV6 Review

The 2022 Kia EV6 battery-electric is a visual blitz of aerodynamic origami for the electrified era

An exterior view of the EV6

Buyers of the battery-electric 2022 Kia EV6 will receive a charging credit of 1,000 kWh, useable over 3 years. (Photos courtesy of Kia America)

Table of Contents

Developing the Kia EV6
EV6 Exterior Design
5 Cool Things
Kia EV6 Pricing
Incentives and Rebates
Powertrain and Charging
Onboard Generator
EV6 Performance
Ride and Handling
Interior Function
Why Buy the Kia EV6?
2022 Kia EV6 Wind Specifications

BY MARK MAYNARD

The speedline styling of the 2022 Kia EV6 gives it a car-of-the-future mystique. But beneath its steel exterior and neural network of electrification, is the familiar function of a “normal” car. If you are comfortable navigating a smartphone, this car will be a quick study — but not all is simple with some of the electronic controls.

Developing the EV6

The battery-powered Kia EV6 crossover SUV signals the beginning of the brand’s transformative “Plan S” electrification strategy. Kia says it will deliver 11 new electrified models across the world by 2026.

Starting with the EV6, Kia’s EV lineup will have the “EV” designation followed by a number that indicates the car’s position in the lineup.

The E-GMP modular platform will allow multiple vehicle segments — sedans, CUVs, SUVs — with dual-motor options for all-wheel drive.

It is an adaptable foundation with a long wheelbase and wide stance, Kia says. The EV6 has the same 114.2-inch wheelbase as the full-size Kia Telluride SUV. And the liftback EV6 compares with the width of a Ford Mustang Mach E and the wheelbase and ground clearance of a Tesla Model Y.

The EV6 shares powertrain elements and some technologies with corporate partner Hyundai and its just-released IONIQ5, but the two EVs are distinct in styling and footprint. The EV6 is 1.8 inches longer than IONIQ5 and narrower by just .04 inch. The EV6 wheelbase is shorter by 3.9 inches, and the roofline is lower by 2.2 inches.

An overhead view of the Kia EV6

Features of the EV6 GT-Line include a sunroof and monochromatic paint.

EV6 Exterior Design

Exterior design of the EV6 was a collaborative effort between all three of Kia’s global studios: Namyang, Korea; Frankfurt, Germany; and Irvine, Calif.

The appearance is a visual blitz of aerodynamic origami for the electrified era.

  • A series of slash lines above and below the headlights are the daytime running lights. Kia says the treatment defines the car’s “Digital Tiger Face,” which carries over from Kia’s “Tiger Nose Grille.”
  • The smooth rise of the hood with fender-top bulges flows up and over the swept-back windshield to the slant of the rear tailgate.
  • Crossover-inspired side profile . A character line runs along the bottom of the doors and curves upward toward the rear wheel arches to visually elongate the profile of the car.
The 'Digital Tiger Face' of the Kia EV6

The ‘Digital Tiger Face.’

5 Cool Things About the EV6

  • Dual 12.3-inch-wide digital display screens for driver information and navigation-media.
  • 800-volt multicharging architecture allows ultra-fast DC charging from 10 percent to 80 percent charge (up to 210 miles range) in less than 18 minutes.
  • An upcoming high-performance EV6 GT will have 576 horsepower and is capable of 0-60 mph acceleration in less than 3.5 seconds, Kia says.
  • 21 standard active advanced driver assistance systems. Semi-autonomous driver capabilities include Highway Driving Assist 2.
  • Onboard power generator, known as Vehicle-to-load (V2L) functionality. Owners can use the EV6 battery as an emergency power source.
The power-opening charge door of the EV6.

The power-opening charge door.

 2022 Kia EV6 Pricing

The Kia EV6 is sold in three rear-wheel-drive trim levels of Light, Wind, and GT-Line; all-wheel drive is available for the Wind and GT-Line. The transmission is a single-speed reduction gear with drive modes of Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow.

Starting prices range from $42,155 for Light, $48,750 for Wind RWD (add $3,900 for all-wheel drive), and $52,455 for the GT-Line RWD or $57,155 with AWD. Pricing includes the $1,255 freight charge from Hwasung, Korea.

Standard equipment on all EV6 trim levels is substantial to support the pricing. Among the features is smart-key entry with push-button ignition (and remote start). Navigation-based smart cruise control has stop-and-go function. And dual 12.3-inch-wide digital display screens (one screen is for driver information, the other for navigation-media) have a panoramic presence. There also are five USB ports (four USB-C charging ports and 1 USB-A media port) and a wireless phone charging pad. The front seats are heated and the driver has an eight-way power-adjustable seat with lumbar.

Also standard is Kia Connect smartphone connection via app. Users have access to lock or unlock the car, remote climate control for preheating or precooling, vehicle charging, Find My Car, and stolen vehicle recovery.

Check here for current Kia EV6 pricing.

The Kia EV6 GT-Line driver area

The EV6 GT-Line driver area with non-animal leather upholstery.

EV6 Trim-Level Details

The EV6 Light trim level has a smaller battery and a shorter driving distance. Inside, the black interior is dressed in recycled fabric and vegan leather (or pleather). Paint colors are limited to just two no-cost choices (Interstellar Gray and Gravity Blue) with a $495 option for Snow White Pearl.

EV6 Wind

For another $6,595, the Wind brings a significant boost of features. The big assets are a bigger battery, a bigger motor, and a 310-mile all-electric driving range, 78 miles farther than the base model.

The Wind also adds the onboard power generator (V2L), gloss-black exterior accents, ventilated front seats, vegan-leather upholstery, an eight-way power front passenger seat with lumbar support, 14-speaker Meridian audio system, smart power tailgate, park-distance warning forward and reverse, and tow-package wiring.

The rear-drive Wind tester was $48,750 with one option for Glacier paint (sort of a faint gray), $495.

EV6 GT-Line

As the top-line model, the GT-Line includes all the features of the Wind, plus exterior and interior upgrades for the price difference of $3,705.

Inside are such extras as a wide sunroof, non-animal leather, and suede seat upholstery, an eight-way power front passenger seat with two-way power lumbar. The “Chauffeur Seat” fore-aft adjustment switch (more of a limousine feature) allows rear passengers to move the front passenger seat forward for more footroom or easier exit).

The EV6 Augmented Reality (AR) Head-Up Display system is engaging for its large three-dimensional image that appears to hover over the hood of the car. Graphics are projected from the base of the windshield and include such functions as speed and driver assistance system alerts, lane guidance, and turn-by-turn navigation instructions.

The augmented head-up display in the EV6

The Augmented Reality Head-Up Display system, only on the EV6 GT-Line.

Unique to the GT-Line exterior are monochromatic paint with gloss black accents, 20-inch wheels, and the very desirable automatic extending door handles.

The GT-Line AWD adds 20-inch wheels (a 1-inch upgrade), heated rear seats, and a heat pump, which is more range-preserving than radiant cabin heating.

Kia EV6 Incentives and Rebates

In California and some other states, the 2022 Kia EV6 qualifies for up to $10,250 in federal and state rebates or incentives.

Federal Electric Vehicle Tax Credit: $7,500.  IRS tax forms are here.

California Clean Fuel Reward: $750. Available toward the purchase or lease of a new electric vehicle with a battery capacity greater than 5. The customer must register the vehicle in California and the customer must reside in California.

California Clean Vehicle Rebate: $2,000.  Participants are eligible based on gross annual income, as stated on their federal tax return.

Find federal and state laws or incentives here.

And the Kia EV6 qualifies for California’s High-Occupancy-Vehicle freeway access, $22, with the green DMV decal

EV6 tire and wheel sizes are 19 or 20 inches with a substantial footprint of 235/55.

Tire and wheel sizes are 19 or 20 inches with a substantial footprint of 235/55.

EV6 Powertrain and Charging

The lithium-ion polymer battery is packaged “skateboard” style under the floor. There are two sizes of high-voltage batteries: 58 kWh (only on the Light trim level) and 77.4 kWh, standard for Wind and GT-Line.

Rear Wheel Drive, Light: 58 kWh battery with a 125kW 167 horsepower rear motor. Estimated zero-to-60 performance in 8 seconds with 232 miles of driving range;

RWD, Wind and GT-Line: 77.4 kWh battery with a 168kW 225-hp rear motor. Estimated zero-to-60 performance in 7.2 seconds with 310 miles of driving range;

AWD, Wind and GT-Line: 77.4 kWh battery with a 70kW front motor and 239kW rear motor for 320-hp total. Estimated zero-to-60 performance in 5.1 seconds with 274 miles of driving range;

Ultra-Fast Charging

Kia says its “world’s first” patented multicharging system supports 400-volt and 800-volt DC charging. The system works on DC chargers with speeds ranging from 50kW to 350kW.

  • 50kW DC fast charging will take 73 minutes to charge from 10 percent to 80 percent.
  • 350-kW DC fast charging adds nearly 70 miles in less than 5 minutes. From a 10 percent to 80 percent charge, it takes fewer than 18 minutes to add up to 210-miles.
  • 11kW onboard charger for Level 2 home or public charging. It can boost the charge from 10 percent to 100 percent in 7 hours, 10 minutes (240-volt AC at 40-amps) for the 77.4 kWh battery.

Onboard Generator

The so-called Vehicle-to-Load (V2L) functionality, or onboard power generator, allows the EV6 to be a power-outage savior. A special adapter connects at the rear charging port to tap power from the high-energy battery.

The generator provides 1900 watts to power electrical appliances, devices, tools, and recreational gear. Or tap into it for tailgating and beach parties.

From a full charge, EV6 power can be drawn for 36 or more consecutive hours, Kia says. And the EV6 can charge vehicle-to-vehicle at 1.1 kW, equivalent to a 110-volt charger. (Charging will be verrry slow but it’s better than nothing in an emergency.)

The system also includes a household 110-volt power outlet at the second-row seat base. Owners could use it to recharge tools and devices or plug-in for video entertainment on the go.

The Kia EV6 has an onboard generator to use in emergency situations or to power appliances and more

Be the life of the outdoor party with the onboard generator.

EV6 Performance

I did the majority of my driving in Normal mode, but if I had a Level 2 home charger, I’d let it rip in Sport mode all the time. It’s not that performance in Normal is lacking. Acceleration from a start feels reserved as the curb weight gets rolling. But there is a fire hose of force with a heavier foot on the accelerator pedal.

Driving in Normal mode seemed miserly in how it conservatively, or efficiently, used the battery reserve. Depending on temp and terrain, a 5-mile jaunt can register 3 miles on the battery charge.

Flip the steering wheel drive mode tab to Sport and the EV6 sees red — the digital driver’s screen glows red. Plunge the accelerator and the performance feels blistering fast, but always controllable. There is no lag in moving away from the light.

A Quick Charge

For a 90-mile roundtrip to visit friends, I topped off the battery, which had a charge of 71 percent. At an EVgo public fast-charge station, it took just under 31 minutes for the charging to stop at 100 percent for 299 miles of range. I used 24.270 kWh of energy for a cost of $14.12. And that is without member discounts on charging. Charging at home on a Level 2 charger gives a greater member discount and a lower power company time-of-use cost to charge in off-hours.

The equivalent fuel cost for adding just over a quarter tank of 87 octane to a 15-gallon fuel tank would have been almost $20 at $5 a gallon.

When asked why my charge didn’t reach the expected 310 miles, the Kia rep explained that total range depends on a variety of factors, including driving style and past efficiency. “Your battery percentage and indicated range will not always be linear per charge, he wrote in an email. “That explains a significant portion of the variance, as you’ve probably experienced with other EVs.”

As with an ICE vehicle, “your mileage may vary.”

The front motor of the Kia EV6 AWD

AWD models add a front motor for a total of 320 hp and 274 miles of range.

EV6 Ride and Handling

The EV6 rides like a big luxury sedan. And the suspension is not elaborate, a steel multilink setup with MacPherson struts at the front and a rear five multilink. Shock absorbers front and rear have selective damping control.

With a curb weight of 4,017 pounds, the EV6 Wind is not a heavyweight among EVs, but the driver can sense the heft of motivating the tonnage.  Transitioning speed bumps and driveways will generate a waggle of head toss. And there will be occasional clunks and jolts as the suspension manages the weight over heaves in the road and busted pavement.

On the highway, the EV6 is a superliner of smoothness. The ride is sound-isolated from road or tire harshness and the cabin is a relaxed atmosphere from the clamor of the commute.

Driving in Sport mode noticeably boosts acceleration response and, somehow, makes the EV6 feel less weighty. With a home Level 2 charger, I’d drive in Sport mode all the time.

Dual 12.3-inch-wide digital display screens show driver information and navigation-media.

A dramatic presentation of dual 12.3-inch-wide digital display screens.

Interior Function

The EV6 cabin has the appearance of a crisply dry-cleaned and neatly pressed dress shirt. It is thoroughly modern and lined with eco-friendly materials. Recycled plastic is used extensively with non-animal leather surfaces on some trims. There is full LED lighting inside and out.

The joined 12-inch digital infotainment screens form a curved display extending 2 feet across the instrument panel. The combined span of screens has a dramatic presence and is easily viewed with filtered blue light.

There are just a few key physical buttons along the instrument panel.

The slim dashboard extends from the steering wheel across to the center of the car. Below the navigation screen are controls for heat, ventilation, and AC that have electronic haptic-touch buttons. There is a bi-modal function to access either the heat-AC-vent controls or the media-radio settings. At either end of the slim control panel is a small dial. One is for manually adjusting volume or fan speed, the other is for channel tuning or temp. But the touchpoints to switch modes is a small contact point that can sometimes be hit-and-miss while driving. Several times I cranked the fan speed when I want to blast the tunes. In time, a driver will adjust.

The center armrest is treated almost as a design statement. Its peninsula style anchors the start button, gear engagement selector, wireless charging pad, and switches for seat heating and ventilation. And there’s also a deep storage box.

The peninsula-style console in the Kia EV6 has open storage below.

The peninsula-style console has open storage below.

Below the console is open storage large enough for a purse or to-go bag. Door panels have generous bottle storage slots and the space is lined with some type of recycled fabric-like material.

The center shift console in the EV6

The multifunction center console makes a design statement.

EV6 Driver Sightlines

Sightlines for the driver are open across the hood. But over-the-shoulder views are somewhat complicated by the narrow back glass and upswept rear quarter. However, the standard surround-view monitor gives total parking views through four cameras.

My biggest complaint was the exterior door handles that do not automatically extend when walking up to the car with the key fob in pocket. Instead, opening the door is almost a two-handed exercise to push open the flush handle and pivot your hand to grab the lever. To get an automatically extending door handle, you’ll have to step up to the EV6 GT-Line.

Unfortunately, there is not a standalone option for automatic door handles on the Wind. And for that simple convenience, I’d opt for the GT-Line.

Back Seat and Cargo Area

All of the back-seat dimensions for the EV6 indicate executive-class transport: 38 inches of headroom, a flat floor, and thin front-seat frames that help maximize rear knee room. But there are complications. Passengers with large shoe sizes might comment on the narrow foot space for entry and exit. The 39 inches of max legroom is adult-class long unless there are tall people up front who don’t wish to move their seats forward a bit. And the seating position feels low because of the upswept rear-quarter panels. And the Wind has no option for a sunroof to help visually open the space.

Once seated, however, there are many assets. Among them are B-pillar vents that add welcome airflow, which is especially beneficial for those who are sensitive to motion. The seat bottoms have adult thigh support and there are a few clicks of seatback recline. And the handy USB port in the side of the front seatback is such a smart idea that it should be copied by others. The fold-down center armrest has a pair of can holders, and there is bottle storage in the doors.

The EV6 has 39 inches of max legroom and a flat floor.

39 inches of max legroom and a flat floor.

Cargo Space

The slant of the EV6 tailgate crops cargo space (24.4 cubic feet) behind the seatback for taller, boxy items. But fold the 60/40 seatback for about 6 1/2 feet in length. The tall floor height (because of the battery below) lowers the cargo entry height to 27 inches. Conveniences include seatback releases (left and right), a 12-volt plug, and a roller cover.

Cargo area of the Kia EV6

Space behind the back seat (24.4 cubic feet) limits taller, boxy items.

The folded seatback for more cargo space in the Kia EV6

But fold the 60/40 seatback for about 6 1/2 feet in length.

Why Buy the Kia EV6?

The Kia EV6 is the car of tomorrow for today. It is a proud statement of Kia’s attention to detail and engineering.

An on-road rear view of the Kia EV6

In California and some other states, the 2022 Kia EV6 qualifies for up to $10,250 in federal and state rebates or incentives.

 2022 Kia EV6 Wind Specifications

Body style: Compact-class 5-door crossover SUV; unibody construction of advanced high-strength and high tensile steels

Motors: AC Permanent-Magnet Synchronous

Battery: 77.4 kWh lithium-ion polymer, 697 volts; 253 kW output

Battery weight: 1,052 lbs.

Power: 168 kW 225 hp rear motor; 258 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: Single-speed reduction gear with drive modes of Eco, Normal, Sport, and Snow); steering-wheel-button selectable

Top speed: 115 mph (117 mph AWD)

0-60 mph acceleration: 7.2 seconds, in Sport mode; (5.1 seconds AWD)

Driving range: 310 miles

MPGe: 136/100/117 mpg city/hwy/combined

CHARGING TIMES

400V Rapid DC 150kW: 73 minutes, estimated, to 100 percent charge

800V Rapid DC 250kW: 18 minutes, to 100 percent charge

Level 2 240-volt: 7 hours, 10 minutes

Onboard charger: 10.9kW

BY THE NUMBERS

Cargo space: 24.4-50.2 cubic feet

Front head/leg room: 39/42.4 inches *36.8 in. w/sunroof

Rear head/leg room: 38/39 inches

Length/wheelbase: 184.3/114.2 inches

Height/width: 60.8/74 inches

Curb weight: 4,299 pounds; AWD, 4,539

Turning circle: 38.2 feet

Max towing capacity: 2,300 pounds w/braked trailer

FEATURES

Standard equipment includes: smart-key entry with push-button ignition (and remote start), navigation-based smart cruise control with stop-and-go, dual panoramic 12.3-inch digital display screens with navigation-media combination, recycled fabric and vegan-leather seat materials, 5 USB ports (4 USB-C Charge Ports, 1 USB-A media port), Android Auto and Apple CarPlay infotainment, Kia Connect, wireless phone charging pad, Wi-Fi hot spot, heated front seats, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with power lumbar, 19-inch wheels

Wind RWD features: Onboard power generator (V2L), gloss-black exterior accents, ventilated front seats, vegan-leather upholstery, an 8-way power front passenger seat with lumbar support, Meridian premium audio system, smart power tailgate, park-distance warning forward and reverse, and tow package wiring

Safety features include: 7 air bags, forward collision avoidance assist and cyclist-junction turning assist; blind-spot collision avoidance; rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist; lane-keeping assist and lane-following assist; parking distance warning-reverse; highway-driving assist

PRICING

Wind base price: $48,255 including $1,255 freight charge; price as tested $48,750

Options on test vehicle: Glacier paint $495

Where assembled: Hwasung, Korea

Warranties: 10-years/100,000-miles electric-vehicle system (150,000 miles in California); 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain limited warranty; 5-years/60,000-miles new vehicle limited warranty and 7-year anti-perforation warranty

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Kia Seltos Review

Subcompact 2021 Kia Seltos SUV is a value package with premium appeal

Sold in five trim levels, Seltos starting prices range from $23,000-$29,000. (Photos courtesy of Kia America)

BY MARK MAYNARD

 

We can’t always get what we want but sometimes being able to get what we need fulfills a lot of essential wants. And in the throes of a pandemic, the new Kia Seltos subcompact SUV is a heaping helping of comfort food with a full serving of meat-and-potatoes function, safety technologies, durability, value and just enough style for pride of ownership.

The 2021 Seltos is a new vehicle in the Kia lineup that slots between the boxyish Soul and the compact-class Sportage SUV. It shares an architecture with the Hyundai Kona, which has been well received in a growing subcompact segment that includes the Chevrolet Trax, Ford EcoSport, Honda HR-V, Mazda CX-30, Nissan Rogue Sport and Subaru Crosstrek.

Front seats of the Seltos

The broad-beam cabin has ergonomically placed switches and controls.

Like many of the competitors, Seltos is a so-called world car. It was launched last year in South Korea, followed by India, the Philippines and Indonesia with its North American debut early this year as a 2021 model.

With a name derived from “Celtos,” the son of Hercules in Greek mythology, Kia says that the Seltos is aimed directly at millennials and “youthful, tech-savvy buyers” looking for a vehicle that stands out from the crowd. But that sounds much like the marketing used for the Soul, which had been a disruptor for its youthful styling and attitude — and it is the last of its kind from when boxy was cool, outlasting the dearly departed Honda Element and Nissan Cube.

Kia Seltos front seats in white leather

Front headroom is a tall at 40 inches without the sunroof.

Kia Seltos Pricing

While the Kia Seltos’ pricing — $23,000-$29,000 — will appeal to younger buyers the bigger influencer for a wider range of buyers will be its optional all-wheel drive, squared-off cabin space, access to advanced driver-assist technologies and for many — more palatable styling.

Seltos is sold in five trim levels — LX, EX, S 2.0L, S 1.6T and SX. There are two choices of four-cylinder powertrains and optional AWD with torque vectoring (for traction and steering stability) and a locking differential for sure-footed off-road situations.

Current pricing incentives include special financing of 0.9 percent APR for 48 months for qualified customers. And there is a $199 monthly lease for 36 months for the Seltos LX and S, with $2,699 due at signing for qualified lessees. Check Kia Offers for updates.

The top-line SX model get a 10.2-inch touch screen display.

The top-line SX model gets a 10.2-inch touch screen display.

Kia Seltos Powertrains

Entry Seltos models are powered by a 146-horsepower, non-turbocharged 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle (for fuel economy) and an “Intelligent” continuously variable automatic transmission. Front-wheel-drive fuel economy ratings are 29/34/31 mpg city/highway/combined and 27/34/29 with AWD, with the recommended 87 octane fuel.

The sportier trim levels get the more tech-infused and turbocharged 175-hp, 1.6-liter four-cylinder with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic. It has mileage estimates of 25/30/27 mpg city/highway/combined.

Both powertrains have driving modes of Normal, Smart (Eco) and Sport. Selections are made by a small dial on the shift console or just nudge the shift lever to the left for grab-and-go Sport mode.

The Seltos turbocharged and direct injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine.

The turbocharged and direct injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder is no laggard with its 195 foot-pounds of torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm. (Mark Maynard photo)

Kia Seltos Features

Today’s Seltos tester is the upper-middle-class S Turbo AWD with a starting price of $26,610, including the $1,120 freight charge from Gwangju, South Korea. With one option for carpeted floor mats ($130), the tester’s sticker price was $26,740.

The many conveniences mean a lot in a lower-priced vehicle and the Seltos has an accommodating list of standard equipment. Among the features for all models are remote locking, rearview camera, 17-inch alloy wheels and four-wheel disc brakes, power side mirrors, six-way manually adjusted driver’s seat, steering wheel audio and cruise controls, 60/40 folding seatback and dual-level cargo floor, air conditioning, six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth phone and audio connections, Apple CarPlay or Android Auto for navigation, phone and other apps.

The Kia Seltos interior has a premium presence in the plastics, fabrics and trim elements.

The interior has a premium presence in the plastics, fabrics and trim elements.

Seltos Safety Features

Safety features in all Seltos models include six air bags, downhill brake assist, hill-start assist, stability, and traction controls.

Moving up to the Seltos S trim adds Kia’s Drive Wise driver-assist technologies of forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-following assist, lane-keep assist, driver-attention warning and high-beam assist.

The S 1.6 Turbo model layers on other safety features, including blind-spot collision warning, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist rear, rear cross-traffic collision warning and rear cross-traffic collision avoidance assist.

Driver-Assist Features

It is not yet common for a $25,000 car to have advanced driver-assist technologies, but Kia connects the technologies in the higher trim levels.

Only the Seltos SX model includes all the Level II semi-autonomous driving features, such as highway-driving assist, smart cruise control with stop and go and fusion forward collision assist with cyclist detection.

The not-quite semi-autonomous drive experience in the tester is well calibrated to center the Seltos in the lane while making fluid course corrections. The system sensors did not seem to be overly sensitive to varying daylight conditions and shadows, which have caused frequent cancellations in some systems I’ve tested.

Kia’s system gives the driver the immediate benefit of more watchful eyes on the road without continual beeps, bonks, and random alerts. But when the driver is about to do something stupid, the system will sound the wake-up alert.

Always keep both hands on the wheel when using a driver-assist system, even though Kia’s system seemed to be forgiving of one-handed driving.

The Kia Seltos back seat

The rear seatback has a two-position recline.

Seltos Performance

The turbocharged and direct-injection 1.6-liter four-cylinder is no laggard with its 195 foot-pounds of torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm. The seven-speed dual-clutch transmission works well enough to maintain the power flow, mostly because of the low 3,317-pound curb weight.

In heavier vehicles, this type of powertrain is somewhat slow to respond as the turbocharger builds boost and the automated-manual transmission takes time to engage and disengage gears. It can be a loopy transaction at slower speeds when it takes a bigger push on the accelerator to get a quick power response.

But less weight means quicker uptake of forward momentum in the Seltos. Sport mode takes away much of the delay and the engine’s automatic stop-start at idle function can be switched off, such as when creeping in downtown traffic.

The base 2.0-liter engine might be powerful enough for the majority of drivers, but I have not tested it with the continuously variable transmission.

Seltos Ride and Handling

Engineering a small SUV for sporty-driving attributes typically causes a stiffer ride that isn’t easy to tame, but the suspension in the Seltos AWD felt remarkably well balanced.

Front-drive models use a torsion-beam rear suspension, which is less heavy and less expensive than a multi-link with lower mounting points that improve cargo space, but the ride quality is not always smooth.

The AWD models are uprated with an independent rear setup (multi-link) for more flexibility and wheel travel when driving off-road. The balance of spring rates and shock absorbers is a commendable accomplishment of comfort with stable enthusiasm when the spirit moves — or evasive maneuvers demand.

Between the relatively long wheelbase (103.5 inches) and the independent rear end, the ride quality is steady on the highway (not choppy) and without big head-toss when transitioning speed bumps or turning into driveways. And for a small upright SUV, the cabin is not jittery from road harshness or wind noise — and all this with a subcompact turning circle of 34.8 feet.

My week of testing returned a peak average fuel economy of 28.5 mpg with much highway driving, but readings of 19-23 mpg were common around town.

Braking for the 1.6 Turbo is beefier than expected with 12-inch ventilated front discs and solid 11.2-inch rear rotors. But there was no shortcut to braking for the 2.0-liter models, which have discs of 11 inches front and 10.3 inches rear.

Alloy wheels red center caps are standard (17- or 18-inches) on Seltos

17- or 18-inch alloy wheels are standard. (Mark Maynard photo)

Interior Function

The Kia Seltos is bigger on the inside than expected for a subcompact, created by a squared-off openness and upright glass. Front headroom is a tall at 40 inches without the sunroof and front shoulder room of 55.5 inches is just 1.6 inches less than in the slightly larger Sportage.

The raised ride height (with 7.2 inches of off-road ground clearance) allows comfortable hip-point entry and exit, with no head-ducking from swoopy body lines. The seats, too, have less intrusive side and bottom bolstering, which avoids that indelicate wedgie. The center armrest has a deep box and a sliding top for improved elbow support.

Sightlines are open at the side mirrors, over the hood and out the rearview through the deep tailgate glass. The sun visors are deep and provide good coverage but do not extend.

The broad-beam cabin has functional space to ergonomically place gauges, switches and controls. The gauge cluster focuses attention with two white-on-black dials for speed and tachometer, separated by a 3.5-inch driver-info module with pages for fuel economy, tire pressure, user settings and a digital speedometer.

The 8-inch infotainment touch screen at the top center of the instrument panel is easily viewed without glare in daylight. And just below are two large dials for cabin temperature and vent position with a smaller dial between for fan speed. It is a good format for eyes-on-the-road adjustments. The six-speaker audio system isn’t terrific, but there is a Bose upgrade. The top-line SX gets a 10.25-inch-wide touch screen for navi, audio, and apps.

The shift console is a compact module of efficiency with a large e-bin for charging devices with one USB port and two 180-watt, 12-volt plugs. And it integrates a shelf to lay a phone or for the optional wireless charging. (The EX and SX have wireless charging and one more USB in the back seat.)

The seats are wide and supportive with thigh support for most adults. And the Sofino upholstery has a premium appearance of durable fabric neatly stitched with the manmade leatherette. The driver seat in the S is six-way manually adjusted but the four-way front passenger seat lacks height adjustment, but it’s not like riding in a hole.

An open cargo area of the Kia Seltos SUV

Cargo space is square with up to 5 ½ of length with the back seat folded.

Back Seat Space

The Seltos back seat benefits from the openness of the cabin. A low hump to the exhaust tunnel aids three-across seating. And the seatback has a two-position recline. The seatback folds 60/40 and has a fold-down armrest with cup holders, but amenities are spartan, with no ports, plugs or air vents.

Cargo Capacity

The Seltos has a working cargo area of 26.6 cubic feet behind the back seat stretched to 62.8 cu. ft. with the seat folded. The square space is about 33 inches deep behind the back seat, extending to almost 5½ feet when the seats are folded. Kia has a clever two-level cargo floor that when manually moved to the lower position adds 4 inches more depth for taller items up to about 33 inches.

Why Buy the Kia Seltos?

Some of the competitors in this subcompact SUV segment are transplants from other countries and not completely reconfigured or engineered for the U.S. and North America for long-term durability and reliability. The Kia Seltos does not feel foreign-born in how it drives or its premium presentation of materials and technologies.

As the son of Hercules, the Seltos earns a mighty-mite badge of determination.

A rear view of the Kia Seltos on a country road

For a small SUV, the cabin is not jittery from road harshness or wind noise.

2021 Kia Seltos S Turbo AWD Specifications

Body style: subcompact, 5-seat, 5-door small SUV crossover with AWD

Engine: 175-hp turbocharged and direct-injection 1.6-liter 4-cylinder with auto stop-start at idle; 195 lb.-ft. torque from 1,500-4,500 rpm

Transmission: 7-speed dual-clutch automatic with torque-vectoring all-wheel drive with locking center differential

Fuel economy: 25/30/27 city/hwy/combined; premium recommended

BY THE NUMBERS

Fuel tank: 13.2 gallons

Cargo space: 26.6-62.8 cu. ft.

Front head/leg room: 40/41.4 inches

Rear head/leg room: 38.4/38 inches

Length/wheelbase: 172/103.5 inches

Curb weight: 3,317 pounds

Turning circle: 34.8 feet

FEATURES

Standard Seltos equipment includes: remote locking, 8-inch touch screen with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto app infotainment, rearview camera with guidance lines, USB multimedia port, heated front seats, Sofino leatherette and cloth seat trim, sliding front center armrest console, 60/40 folding back seat, power (heated) side mirrors with LED turn signals, LED running lights and taillights, 18-inch alloy wheels, roof rails, fog lights

Seltos S Turbo AWD features: 1.6-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder engine; 7-speed DCT; 18-inch alloy wheels; blind-spot collision warning, blind-spot collision-avoidance assist rear, rear cross-traffic collision warning, rear cross-traffic collision-avoidance assist

Standard driver-assist features: forward collision-avoidance assist with pedestrian detection, lane-following assist, lane-departure warning, driver-attention warning, high-beam assist

Safety features include: 6 air bags, downhill brake assist, hill-start assist, stability and traction controls

PRICING

Base price: $26,610, including $1,120 freight charge; price as tested $26,740

Options on test vehicle: carpeted floor mats $135

Where assembled: Gwangju, South Korea

Warranty: 10-years/100,000-miles powertrain; 5-years/60,000-miles bumper to bumper with roadside assistance

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