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When it comes to purchasing sports utility vehicles, whether compact, midsize, or large SUVs, you want to know you’re getting the best for your buck. With the compact SUV pack, MotorTrend has your back with tests to tell you which performs best in different categories.

One of these versions landed high in the top seven list and is known as the “most improved” by the publication’s team of reviewers. Which model is it and how did it improve?

Rear angle view of green 2023 Kia Sportage, highlighting why Kia cars are so reliable
2023 Kia Sportage | Kia

Which compact SUV is it and how did it improve?

The compact SUV named the “most improved” model is the 2023 Kia Sportage. That’s due to several different factors. First, its transmission and steering ratio outperforms similar compact SUVs. The 8-speed automatic is tuned to provide a more refined ride, while steering is quicker than the Tucson, which shares the same underpinnings as the Sportage. 

Next, the interior has stepped up to compete with others in its class. The reviewers were impressed from the moment of entry. Inside, you’re welcomed by faux wood trimmings, metallic accents, and D-ring door handles. The brand put some effort into the small details as well. Behind the headrests are hangars for storing your personal items, and interesting air vent designs.

For the infotainment system, you get a curved display, which combines with the digital gauge cluster to form a single panel of informational indicators, according to MotorTrend. Lastly, the Sportage did well in its safety crash testing with the IIHS, receiving a Top Safety Pick rating

How well did it rank among the other compact SUV rivals?

With the seven test vehicles that MotorTrend pitted against each other, the Kia Sportage performed well enough to land in third place. While its engine leaves a lot to be desired for the reviewer when it comes to power it offered a pleasant ride and felt more confident driving down the road. 

It did suffer from a noisy cabin and less-than-desirable touch buttons, but it offered a more pleasant experience than most of the other compact SUVs tested.

The Tucson, which is built almost exactly like it landed in the last place for the same underpowered engine. It also had a pretty bouncy ride and a transmission that performed poorly compared to the 2023 Kia’s Sportage

Coming in just before the Kia model is the Honda CR-V, with its spacious interior and excellent handling. The compact SUV that outperformed all of the tested vehicles was the Nissan Rogue. It had more features to offer, exquisite interior space, and an engine providing plenty of pep. 

What did MotorTrend’s test vehicle offer?

The model MotorTrend used in the testing was a 2023 Kia Sportage X-Pro AWD Prestige, which ran on a 2.5-liter inline-four-cylinder engine producing 187 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Unfortunately, this combination of the automatic transmission and engine was one of the worst regarding acceleration times. 

For a 0 to 60 mph run, the Sportage handled it in 9.3 seconds, which is at the bottom of the pack. The only redeeming part is that it tied in last place in this category with the Hyundai Tucson, so it wasn’t the only poor-performing SUV. 

The Kia pulled decent towing capacity ratings, which was 2,500 lbs. It’s not the highest figure of the group, but it ranks second behind the 2022 Toyota RAV4, whose towing ability was 1,000 lbs more than the Sportage. Kia’s Cargo space for this model was 36.6 cubic feet behind the rear seats and 69.3 cubic feet reaching the back of the front seats. 

Fuel economy ratings for the Sportage MotorTrend tested weren’t too bad with 23 mpg on city roads and 28 mpg on the highway. The total range for the four-cylinder engine is reportedly 358 miles before needing a refueling stop. While the base model starts at $38,415, the X-Pro version tested by the publication, starts at $39,255. 

While you can find the good and bad about all the compact SUVs tested by MotorTrend, the Sportage, showed how much it improved by offering a decent-performing transmission, cool design touches, and features, and an interior that welcomes you into the driver’s seat. 


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