Kia’s Compact SUV Has a Long Road to Catch Up to the RAV4 and CR-V
The Kia Sportage is the South Korean automaker’s best-selling model in the U.S. It’s not uncommon for a brand’s compact SUV to be its best-seller, and the Sportage is no exception. However, despite the strong sales of the Sportage, it still doesn’t come close to the sales figures of two of its top rivals: the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
Compact SUV sales numbers
Kia sales are up 16% in 2023 compared to the same time in 2022. The sales growth has been primarily led by SUVs, including the Kia Sportage. According to Kia’s sales figures, Sportage sales are up 24% in 2023, having sold 96,022 units this year.
That’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near the sales leaders in this class. The Toyota RAV4 is America’s best-selling SUV, and it’s sold a whopping 264,733 units in the U.S. this year. The Honda CR-V isn’t too far behind, with 227,785 sales under its belt so far in 2023.
A history of Kia Sportage sales
Sales data on GoodCarBadCar goes back to 2005 when the second-generation Kia Sportage came out. The second-gen Sportage was a departure from the original model. The first-generation Sportage was a small off-roader with body-on-frame construction, similar to the Geo Tracker. The generation that ran from the 2005 to 2010 model years was a bigger SUV with car-like unibody construction, and it was only available with a four-door body. In this era, the Honda CR-V was the sales king in this class. The Honda sold over 150,000 units every year between 2005-2010, while the Sportage never broke 50,000 unit sales per year in that period.
The third generation of the Kia Sportage ran from model years 2011 through 2016. It became even more car-like in an attempt to mirror the success of its rivals from Toyota and Honda. However, the sales numbers for the Kia didn’t move very much compared to the second-gen Sportage.
It was in 2016 that the Toyota RAV4 first outsold the Honda CR-V, and the RAV4 has retained its crown ever since. The year 2016 also saw a jump in sales for the Kia Sportage because that’s when the fourth-generation model went on the market. Other than in 2017, when 72,824 units were sold, the fourth-gen Sportage has consistently sold more than 80,000 units annually.
This jumped significantly when the current-generation Kia Sportage hit the market in 2022. 2022 was by far the best sales year ever for the Sportage; it sold 124,244 units and is on track to beat that in 2023.
Why can’t the Kia Sportage catch up to the CR-V and RAV4?
Reputation goes a long way in this segment. A strength of the Kia Sportage is that its name has been around in the U.S. since the 1995 model year (with a two-year hiatus between the first two generations). Although that’s a good streak, its name doesn’t carry the same meaning as the Toyota RAV4 or Honda CR-V.
Many buyers in the market for a compact SUV are looking for something safe and reliable with a car-like driving experience. The RAV4 and CR-V have long track records of delivering exactly that. While the current Kia Sportage is an outstanding SUV with modern tech features, a roomy interior, multiple hybrid options, and a class-leading warranty, its reputation still lags behind this segment’s sales champs.