The compact SUV market is filled with options that cater to different lifestyles and preferences. Two popular contenders in this segment, the 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage, have garnered attention for their distinctive features and capabilities.
In this comparison, we will delve into the aspects that set these vehicles apart and shed light on their respective strengths and weaknesses, helping you make an informed decision on which compact SUV best suits your needs.
The 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage both showcase bold exterior designs that are both striking and modern. While both vehicles boast a robust road presence, their unique design elements set them apart from one another.
The Forester features Subaru’s signature hexagonal grille, flanked by sleek LED headlights. The vehicle has a rugged appearance, with pronounced wheel arches and black cladding around the lower body, giving it a distinct off-road look. The Forester’s high ground clearance and functional roof rails make it a practical choice for those who enjoy outdoor adventures.
The Sportage offers a more aggressive design, with its tiger-nose grille, slim LED headlights, and dynamic body lines. The vehicle sits lower than the Forester, with a more athletic stance that emphasizes its sporty nature. The Sportage also offers a panoramic sunroof and unique wheel designs, giving it a premium feel.
The interiors of both the 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage offer comfortable and well-appointed cabins, with each having its distinct style and features.
The Forester’s interior features a simple and clean design, with a focus on functionality. The cabin is built with high-quality materials, and the dashboard is laid out intuitively, with easy-to-read gauges and straightforward controls. Subaru’s STARLINK multimedia system comes standard, featuring a touchscreen display with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration.
The Sportage’s interior is more upscale, featuring soft-touch materials and a sleek, modern design. The dashboard features a widescreen infotainment display, creating a seamless and futuristic look. The Kia UVO infotainment system includes wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support, as well as a premium Harman Kardon audio system on higher trim levels.
Both the Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage provide spacious and comfortable seating for up to five passengers, with ample headroom and legroom for occupants of all sizes.
The Forester boasts supportive seats with a high seating position, offering excellent visibility for the driver. The rear seats are roomy, with ample space for three adults to sit comfortably. Cloth upholstery comes standard, with available leather upholstery and heated front and rear seats on higher trim levels.
The Sportage offers comfortable and well-bolstered seats, with available Nappa leather upholstery for a more luxurious feel. The front seats provide good support and can be heated and ventilated on higher trims. While the rear seats offer ample space for passengers, the sloping roofline may reduce headroom for taller occupants.
The Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage both offer ample cargo space and storage options for their class, making them practical choices for families and adventure seekers alike.
The Forester leads the pack in cargo capacity, with 28.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 74.2 cubic feet with the seats folded down. The vehicle also features a wide and low cargo opening, making it easy to load and unload items. Additionally, the Forester includes multiple storage compartments throughout the cabin, such as a large center console, door pockets, and cup holders.
The Sportage offers a slightly smaller cargo area, with 26.9 cubic feet of space behind the rear seats and 67.7 cubic feet when the seats are folded down. However, the Sportage does provide a convenient power liftgate on higher trims and a dual-level cargo floor for added versatility. The cabin also includes numerous storage spaces, including a sizable glove box, center console, door pockets, and cup holders.
The Forester comes standard with a 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine, producing 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque. It’s paired with a Lineartronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission) and Subaru’s Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system, ensuring optimal traction and control in various driving conditions. The Forester’s suspension is tuned for comfort, providing a smooth and composed ride, even on rougher surfaces.
The Sportage is available with two engine options. The base engine is a 2.4-liter four-cylinder that produces 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque. The available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine delivers a more spirited 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission, and all-wheel drive is available. The Sportage’s suspension leans more towards sportiness, delivering a firmer ride and more agile handling.
The 2023 Forester achieves an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 26 mpg in the city, 33 mpg on the highway, and 29 mpg combined. The vehicle’s standard all-wheel drive and Boxer engine contribute to its impressive efficiency.
The base engine on the Sportage delivers an EPA-estimated fuel economy of 23 mpg in the city, 30 mpg on the highway, and 26 mpg combined. Opting for the more powerful turbocharged engine results in a slight decrease in efficiency, with 20 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway, and 23 mpg combined. All-wheel drive is available but will further reduce fuel economy.
The Forester comes standard with Subaru’s EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, which includes adaptive cruise control, pre-collision braking, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. Higher trims add features like blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and reverse automatic braking. The Forester has received top safety ratings from both the IIHS and NHTSA.
The Sportage offers a suite of safety features, including standard forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist. Additional available features include blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control. The Sportage has also received high safety ratings from the IIHS and NHTSA.
The Subaru Forester is available in five trim levels: Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring. The Base trim includes standard features like the STARLINK multimedia system, EyeSight Driver Assist Technology, and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive. The Premium trim adds a panoramic sunroof, power driver’s seat, and X-MODE for enhanced off-road capability. The Sport trim offers unique exterior styling and additional features like paddle shifters and keyless access.
The Limited trim includes leather upholstery, dual-zone climate control, and blind-spot detection. Finally, the top-of-the-line Touring trim boasts features such as a heated steering wheel, integrated navigation, and a Harman Kardon audio system.
The Kia Sportage is offered in four trim levels: LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo. The base LX trim includes features like the UVO infotainment system, rearview camera, and lane-keeping assist. The S trim adds blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and unique exterior accents.
The EX trim provides additional comfort features like heated front seats, dual-zone climate control, and a power liftgate. The range-topping SX Turbo trim features the powerful turbocharged engine, a sport-tuned suspension, and a Harman Kardon audio system.
Pricing for the 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage varies depending on trim level and options, but both vehicles offer competitive starting prices within the compact SUV segment.
The base Forester has a starting MSRP of around $25,000, with the top-of-the-line Touring trim starting at approximately $35,000. Additional options and packages can increase the price further.
The entry-level Sportage LX starts at around $24,000, while the high-performance SX Turbo trim has a starting price of roughly $34,000. As with the Forester, options and packages can result in a higher overall price.
While the 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage both offer attractive features and capabilities as compact SUVs, they also have some key differences that set them apart. Here are the main distinctions between these two vehicles:
Off-Road Capability and All-Wheel Drive:
The Subaru Forester comes standard with all-wheel drive and boasts a higher ground clearance, making it a better choice for off-road enthusiasts and those who frequently drive on rough terrain. In contrast, the Kia Sportage offers all-wheel drive as an option, and its lower stance makes it more suited for urban environments and paved roads.
Performance and Driving Dynamics:
The Kia Sportage offers a more powerful turbocharged engine option and sportier handling, making it an appealing option for drivers who prioritize performance and a dynamic driving experience. The Subaru Forester, while offering competent performance, is more focused on providing a comfortable and composed ride.
Interior Design and Luxury:
The Kia Sportage boasts a more upscale and modern interior, with available Nappa leather upholstery and a sleek infotainment display. The Subaru Forester’s interior, while comfortable and functional, is more simplistic and utilitarian in design.
The Subaru Forester offers class-leading cargo capacity, with more room for luggage, gear, and other items than the Kia Sportage. This makes the Forester a more practical choice for families or those who frequently require extra storage space.
The Subaru Forester offers better fuel efficiency than the Kia Sportage, particularly when comparing the base engines. This can be an important consideration for buyers who prioritize fuel economy and want to save money at the pump.
After examining the various aspects of the 2023 Subaru Forester and Kia Sportage, it’s clear that both vehicles have a lot to offer. Each compact SUV caters to different priorities, with the Forester being the go-to choice for off-road enthusiasts and those seeking ample cargo space, while the Sportage appeals to drivers looking for a more performance-oriented and luxurious experience.
While your personal preferences and requirements will ultimately drive you towards to choose between these two compelling vehicles, we do recommend taking the time to test drive both models to determine which one truly resonates with your lifestyle and driving needs.
- Exterior Design:
- Rugged appearance with hexagonal grille and black cladding
- High ground clearance for off-road capability
- Functional roof rails
- Interior Design:
- Simple, clean, and functional layout
- High-quality materials
- Standard STARLINK multimedia system with touchscreen display
- Supportive seats with high seating position
- Ample space for up to five passengers
- Available leather upholstery and heated seats
- Class-leading cargo capacity (28.9 cubic feet behind rear seats, 74.2 cubic feet with seats folded)
- Wide and low cargo opening
- Numerous storage compartments in the cabin
- 2.5-liter four-cylinder Boxer engine with 182 horsepower and 176 lb-ft of torque
- Lineartronic CVT and Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive
- Comfort-tuned suspension
- Fuel Efficiency:
- EPA-estimated 26 mpg city, 33 mpg highway, and 29 mpg combined
- Standard EyeSight Driver Assist Technology
- Available blind-spot detection, rear cross-traffic alert, and reverse automatic braking
- Top safety ratings from IIHS and NHTSA
- Trim Levels:
- Five trims available: Base, Premium, Sport, Limited, and Touring
- Starting MSRP of around $25,000 for the Base trim, up to $35,000 for the Touring trim
- Exterior Design:
- Aggressive, sporty design with tiger-nose grille and dynamic body lines
- Lower stance for a more athletic appearance
- Available panoramic sunroof
- Interior Design:
- Upscale, modern design with soft-touch materials
- Widescreen infotainment display
- Standard UVO system with wireless Apple CarPlay and Android Auto support
- Comfortable, well-bolstered seats
- Available Nappa leather upholstery and heated/ventilated seats
- Slightly reduced headroom in the rear due to the sloping roofline
- Cargo capacity of 26.9 cubic feet behind rear seats, 67.7 cubic feet with seats folded
- Power liftgate on higher trims
- Multiple storage spaces in the cabin
- Base 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine with 181 horsepower and 175 lb-ft of torque
- Available turbocharged 2.0-liter engine with 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque
- Eight-speed automatic transmission and available all-wheel drive
- Fuel Efficiency:
- EPA-estimated 23 mpg city, 30 mpg highway, and 26 mpg combined for the base engine
- Standard forward-collision warning, lane departure warning, and lane-keeping assist
- Available blind-spot monitoring, rear cross-traffic alert, and adaptive cruise control
- High safety ratings from IIHS and NHTSA
- Trim Levels:
- Four trims available: LX, S, EX, and SX Turbo
- Starting MSRP of around $24,000 for the LX trim, up to $34,000 for the SX Turbo trim