This generation of Kia Sportage is easily the best yet. It went from an afterthought of a compact crossover to being one of the best in its segment, and a huge reason for that success is its interior.
The most obvious reason this Sportage’s interior is finally competitive is due to the sheer size of the car now. Backseat legroom and cargo capacity — in depth test of cargo here — are both top-of-class now, and they feel it. That rear bench will recline or stand up further straight depending on use case. And if you buy either the Hybrid or gas-only Sportage, it comes with a spare tire under the cargo floor. The Sportage is so big inside that if you’re buying a three-row SUV simply for the extra space they offer and not for the extra seats, you may want to think twice. On the flip side, if you’re in the market for a compact SUV and actually want something that feels compact, the Sportage likely isn’t the one for you. Considering Americans and their thirst for big cars, though, that portion of buyers is surely a thin slice.
Beyond the sheer size of the Sportage’s insides, the cabin sure is a lovely, modern space. Fans of the Kia EV6’s interior will find a lot to like here, as the Sportage helps itself to the panoramic curved display that houses two 12.3-inch high-resolution screens. The curve of the housing angles the infotainment system toward the driver ever so slightly, but doesn’t prohibit use from a passenger. Kia’s usual software plays on the screen, which is quick to respond and features the alluring black-and-purple color scheme. You get both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, but neither works wirelessly. That big, digital cluster features smooth animations in drive mode changes, and you even get different views and colors depending on the mode you’re in.
The switchable control panel below the screen is becoming a mainstay in Kia products and allows you to swap between climate and radio/navigation controls at the touch of a button. Once you get the hang of how it works, it can be a lovely system that reduces clutter on the dash while maintaining “physical” controls for many often-used functions. That said, as we discovered with our long-term EV6, those who constantly fiddle with the climate control system are likely to find they’re annoyingly flipping back and forth too frequently.
Also in the realm of physical controls we’re glad to see still around are all the buttons for heated/cooled seats and the heated steering wheel. No fumbling through menus for these, as they’re front and center on the center console. Plugging in is a cinch with the big cubby underneath the center stack full of outlets, and the wireless phone charger finds a convenient home down there, too. Other space-saving efforts include the small, rotary shift knob (hybrid and PHEV) that’s easy to work with and the cupholders that feature sliding holders, allowing you to use that space for general storage or for actual drinks.
As for areas of improvement, the materials used throughout the Sportage could use some rethinking. There are so many vast swaths of piano black plastic in high-touch areas, and it’s a minor disaster. After only a few days that shiny interior that looks so premium in photos becomes a dusty mess of dirt and fingerprints that simply looks terrible. The whole center console is subject to this mess, and all the door panels are, too. Kia should simply pick some other material to cover these high-touch, flat areas, because it’s a high-maintenance annoyance as it stands. Plus, a car like this is likely to be abused with family and everyday duties, and the scratches on that plastic will surely annoy anyone who likes a clean-looking car.
All that said, Kia’s interior designers won when it comes to interior colors (above) and styling. Color options are tied to certain trims and even powertrain, but you can get Sage Green, Carmine Red and a Triton Navy/Misty Gray (even the steering wheel is blue!) two-tone. Frankly, it’s stunning how many different colors Kia lets you pick from, even in lower trim levels, and we highly recommend you opt for one of the more interesting combinations.
Kia really has a bit of a juggernaut with this new Sportage interior, and while there are some minor quibbles to be had, the Sportage is still one of our favorite SUVs you can buy today. For a full breakdown of the entire Sportage lineup, make sure to check out our full 2023 Kia Sportage review and buying guide.