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The 2023 compact SUV market brims with good options to fill a wide range of needs. However, if you’re looking for an all-wheel drive (AWD) model, the Subaru Forester is at the top of the list. An AWD Kia Sportage presents another good compact SUV option, but there’s one huge reason to pick the Forester instead

Subaru Forester’s fuel economy beats the Kia Sportage

While the two compact SUVs share many similarities, the 2023 Subaru Forester gets superior fuel economy. The EPA estimates the 2023 Kia Sportage with AWD receives fuel economy ratings of 23 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway. On the other hand, all 2023 Subaru Forester trims, except the Wilderness, get 26 city mpg and 33 highway mpg estimates. The Forester (with standard AWD) even beats the front-wheel-drive Sportage’s rating of 25 mpg in the city and 32 mpg on the highway.

2023 Subaru Forester vs. Kia Sportage: Powertrain and drivetrain options

Subaru offers one powertrain for the 2023 model year Forester. That engine is a 182-hp 2.5-liter four-cylinder with 176 lb-ft of torque. According to U.S. News, a continuously variable automatic transmission (CVT) and all-wheel drive complete the drivetrain. 

The Forester’s Boxer engine uses a horizontally-opposed layout rather than the more prevalent inline or V configuration. The Boxer engine design generates less vibration, provides a lower center of gravity, and is standard equipment in Subaru models. 

Like the Forester, the 2023 Kia Sportage features one powerplant across its lineup. Kia says the Sportage’s 2.5-liter inline four-cylinder produces 187 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, slightly more than the Forester. Shifting duties fall to an eight-speed automatic transmission that routes power to an FWD or AWD system. 

Is the Forester’s superior fuel economy a good reason to choose it over the Sportage?

The 2023 Subaru Forester gets an EPA-estimated 29 mpg city and highway combined, allowing it to travel 100 miles on 3.4 gallons of gasoline. Compare that to the 2023 Kia Sportage with AWD, with a combined estimate of 25 mpg, which uses 4.0 gallons to drive 100 miles. 

On a 500-mile road trip, that difference equates to the Forester using three fewer gallons of gasoline than the Sportage. Over 15,000 miles, the Forester uses 517 gallons of gas, while the Sportage burns 600 gallons. Considering today’s gas prices, that difference adds up to over $250 more to drive the 2023 Kia Sportage.

If you’re deciding between a 2023 Forester and Sportage, the two offer enough similarities in passenger seating, cargo capacity, and price that a few mpg is a big deal. However, if you’re serious about better fuel economy, the Kia Sportage Hybrid gets a combined 43 mpg for an extra $1,200 over the base Sportage. For comparison, the AWD Sportage Hybrid gets an EPA-estimated 38 mpg combined. 

Ultimately, the extra cash for the Sportage Hybrid requires waiting until its odometer reaches at least 28,000 miles for the investment to pay off. If that isn’t your cup of tea, the 2023 Subaru Forester is the better choice based on fuel economy alone. That is, as long as you avoid the Wilderness trim. 

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