Clayton Seams: Compact CUVs represent Canada’s hottest new car segment. Hybrid compact CUVs are gaining in popularity every year as well as we hurdle towards the EV singularity. The 2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid and the 2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid both feature fairly dramatic styling for the segment, but underneath, they share the exact same hybrid powertrain. The goal of our comparison test is to determine which of these hybrid compacts is the better option for Canadian drivers who are looking to save at the pumps this summer but not compromise on capability or comfort. Steph, set this up for us.

Stephanie Wallcraft: As you mentioned, Clayton, the Tucson is based on the same platform and same powertrain as the Sportage—and that’s every Tucson and every Sportage, not just the hybrid versions.

The Tucson was fully redesigned for the 2022 model year and we’ve reviewed it extensively here at Driving.ca, mostly with very positive results. The Sportage has followed for the 2023 model year, and although we’re just getting to know it, our first impressions have been similarly in its favour. Both benefit from their redesigns through increased interior dimensions and the addition of hybrid and plug-in hybrid powertrains.

It’s the hybrids we’re focusing on here: a 1.6-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine is fitted in each, along with a front-axle-mounted electric motor and a battery that recharges through power recovered from the engine and regenerative braking rather than needing to be plugged in. A six-speed automatic transmission and standard mechanical all-wheel drive are also incorporated on each.

The biggest differences between these two vehicles are therefore in exterior and interior design, switchgear, and pricing. Clayton, where would you like to start?

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2022 Hyundai Tucson Hybrid

CS: These cars are understandably similar in a lot of ways but I think the interiors show how different they actually are. You’d have to look very closely at these two interiors to find anything more than a turn signal stalk shared between the two. The Hyundai interior is all about luxurious minimalism with sweeping hidden vents, a driver-oriented touchscreen and a center console almost completely devoid of traditional buttons. Instead, that swath of “piano black” is dotted with over a dozen capacitive buttons. Ideal for wiping with sanitizer in the covid age but they can be a little tricky to use while the vehicle is in motion. One of the only places you’ll find traditional buttons inside the Hyundai is the gearshift. And once again, using this without looking at it can be tricky because all the requisite gears are engaged the same way with large similar buttons. When the Tucson interior is freshly detailed it looks very slick indeed but it only takes a few days for those flat dark surfaces to become speckled with dust. The Hyundai sacrifices some useability for style here. 

Compared to the Hyundai, the Kia interior is more conventional. It has a traditional three-spoke steering wheel, rotary knobs for climate control, and a rotary knob shifter which provides better tactile feedback than the Hyundai. It also has conventional buttons for most climate and vehicle functions in addition to a touchscreen infotainment system. There is piano black to be found here as well but not in as great amounts as in the Hyundai. The Kia interior looks sharp and requires less of a learning curve than the Hyundai for it to feel familiar. Steph, how do the exteriors of these two compare?

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

SW: Again, you’d never know these vehicles are related if you walked up to both of them on the street. Frequent driving.ca readers are likely familiar with the Tucson Ultimate we test drove by now as it’s made several appearances on these pages. The squared-off grille is flanked by a pair of highly unconventional five-paneled lights, which guide the eyes around the sides toward the deeply creased door panels. The twin upright taillights give the Tucson’s rear plenty of shape and definition. There’s nothing else even remotely like this on the road—except, one could argue, the related Hyundai Santa Cruz pick-up built on the same platform, plus the Hyundai Elantra, whose doors riff on a similar design theme—and there’s absolutely no mistaking it in either appearance or lighting signature when you spot one nearby.

The Sportage’s new design, while clearly distinct from that of the Tucson, is no less conventional. A new take on the Kia tiger-nose grille sees it smashed into a minimalist horizontal line toward the hood, while a large mesh treatment opens up below it. On either side, boomerang-shaped LED headlights offer a similar look to those found on the Hyundai Sonata, though they’re less elongated and overdramatic here. Daytime running lights are tucked inside the curves of the headlamps, and the side panels create a less angular and more traditional profile. The rear turn signals have rejoined the taillights for this generation—and thank goodness for that because they were far too low when they were embedded in the bumper in this writer’s opinion—while the similar-shaped lights and band across the tailgate are more in line with today’s styling trends.

I think we’re agreed, Clayton, that the powertrain and driving dynamics on these two vehicles are nearly identical, and they ought to be given how closely related they are.

CS: Yes, with identical drivetrains and chassis, it’s no surprise that these two cars drive almost exactly the same. Both provide more passing power than expected for this segment, smooth rides, and quiet highway cruising. Neither are sports cars but are ideally suited for road trips, daily commuting, and weekend getaways. 

The largest area in which these cars differ is in the user interfaces of their interiors. Hyundai and Kia tackle the same problems in fairly different ways. But in the end, despite my affection for Hyundai’s diffuse mode, I have to give the interior edge to the Kia. The Hyundai’s large swaths of black plastic gather dust like a magnet, and the push-button shifter can be irksome. In contrast, the Kia’s curved LED displays look premium for the segment and its rotary shifter is intuitive. These are detail items but in a race this close, they matter!

SW: I’m with you on this, Clayton. I was initially on the fence about the combined media and climate control panel just underneath the centre stack. At first, I thought it was a cool way to put a lot of functions into a very small space. Then I tried to use it while driving, and it seemed like a usability nightmare because I was never sure which set of controls I was working with, so I was constantly looking down and well away from the road trying to figure it out. That was until I discovered that you can hold down the selector button for a few seconds, and then a pop-up lets you choose to have the panel return automatically to either set of controls after a few seconds so that you always know where you’re starting. That extra bit of usability gave the edge handily over to Kia in my books.

suv comparison: 2022 hyundai tucson hybrid vs 2023 kia sportage hybrid

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

There’s a lot more that’s identical between these two vehicles, including the infotainment system and many of the safety features. In these top-trim examples, this includes things like Hyundai Motor Group’s blind view monitor system, which projects a camera view of each side’s blind spot into the corresponding side of the digital instrument cluster whenever a turn signal is activated. I still default to using my mirrors, but for drivers who don’t, this could be a welcome feature. Highway drive assist, an around-view monitor, and remote smart park assist are among the other key features included in both vehicles.

To me, then, there are two main differentiators that decide this face-off for me. One is that I’m a bigger fan of the styling of the Sportage overall, inside and out. The other is pricing. Hyundai has chosen to make the hybrid powertrain standard on the two top trims of the Tucson, meaning that pricing starts at $39,099 before the $1,825 destination charge and other fees for the Luxury grade. On the Kia side, though, there are also two trims available: the EX mid-level trim and SX top trim, with the former starting at $35,995 before the $1,900 destination charge and other fees. That slight edge on pricing could get more Canadian families into a more fuel-efficient compact crossover, which makes the strategy behind the Sportage a winner in my books.

CS: And with that, the winner of our comparison is the Kia Sportage hybrid! It’s a close race when the two vehicles share a powertrain but there was enough here for us to confidently call the Kia the winner. But that said, because they’re the same underneath, it’s mostly personal preference as to which you’d prefer so it’s worth looking into both if you are shopping in the segment. 

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