The compact SUV isn’t quite America’s favorite kind of vehicle. But it’s close. Sales of small sport-utilities have been growing for years as Americans embrace their mix of affordable price, high seating position, and foul-weather stability.

Two of our favorites are the 2023 Subaru Forester and the 2023 Kia Sportage. Thanks to a long record of reliability, Subaru’s compact SUV is a familiar sight to everyone. Kia’s effort is all-new for 2023, with sharp styling and a long list of trims that has something for everyone. Let’s see how they compare.

2023 Subaru Forester

Subaru has some of the most loyal owners in the auto industry. They return again and again to Subaru dealers because of the long-established reputation that has won Subaru our Most Trusted Brand Award an incredible eight times. The Subaru Forester was last redesigned for the 2018 model year, making it one of Subaru’s older designs. But buyers swear by its grippy all-wheel-drive (AWD) system and rugged good looks. Prices start at $26,395.

Subaru Forester Highlights

Standard AWD: Kia charges an additional $1,800 to add AWD to most versions of the Sportage. Subaru doesn’t build a Forester without it. Reviewers have praised Subaru’s symmetrical AWD system for so long that you’re probably tired of hearing it. But you might want to own it.

Extra-capable Wilderness trim level: Subaru is already known as an outdoorsy brand. But it offers an even more off-road capable version of the Forester, one that wears the Wilderness badge. Details like matte hood decals to reduce glare and an extra half inch of ground clearance make this model more capable off-road than most brands’ light off-roader trims.

Higher ground clearance: Even if you don’t select the Wilderness model, the Forester can go places the Sportage can’t. Its 8.7 inches of ground clearance beat the Kia’s by half an inch. The Wilderness edition boasts an even-more-impressive 9.2.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Subaru Forester models for sale near you.

2023 Kia Sportage

2023 Kia Sportage Hybrid

The Kia Sportage is all-new for 2023 and already one of the most well-balanced small SUVs on the road. Kia is leaning into design in 2023, producing eye-catching cars. The Sportage’s brawny stance and boomerang lights look fantastic. Buyers can select from an unusually varied list of trims and powertrains, including light off-roaders and a plug-in hybrid model that can travel 34 miles on electric power alone. Prices start at $26,290.

Kia Sportage Highlights

Design-forward cabin: If the Forester’s aging design shows anywhere, it’s in the cabin. Kia, meanwhile, pairs a digital driver’s display and a central touchscreen in a single housing, so it appears as one wide, curved screen. It looks like something out of a luxury car, and it should. An industry secret — Kia nabbed a high-profile designer from BMW to oversee its new interiors. It shows.

Flexible lineup: Subaru has yet to truly embrace electrification. Foresters come with one powertrain only, and it’s a gas-powered one. Kia can sell you a gas-powered, hybrid, or plug-in hybrid Sportage. Even if you want to stick with gas, Kia builds seven different trim levels.

Excellent warranty: No automaker offers longer warranty protection than Kia (corporate cousin Hyundai notwithstanding). Their 5-year/60,000-mile basic warranty and a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty mean major repairs could be covered in 2033.

Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Kia Sportage models for sale near you.


You’ve probably gone on first dates more expensive than the price difference between the base models of these two SUVs. Their power figures and fuel economy are almost the same, too.


The Subaru Forester is a proven, capable small SUV with a hard-earned reputation for reliability and resale value, and standard AWD. The Kia Sportage is a brand-new design, more up-to-date than almost anything else in its class. It’s sharp-looking inside and out and available in many configurations to meet most buyers’ needs.

Only your own preferences can tell you which description appeals to you.


2023 Subaru Forester 2023 Kia Sportage
Starting Price $26,395 $26,290
Popular Powertrains
Engine 2.5-liter 4-cylinder 2.5-liter 4-cylinder
Horsepower 182 hp @ 5,800 rpm 187 hp @ 6,100 rpm
Torque 176 lb-ft @ 4,400 rpm 178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm
Transmission CVT 8-speed automatic
Fuel Economy 26 city/33 highway/29 combined mpg 25 city/32 highway/28 combined mpg (FWD)
Also Available AWD, Hybrid, Plug-in hybrid
Basic Warranty 3 years/36,000 miles 5 years/60,000 miles
Powertrain Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles 10 years/100,000 miles
NHTSA Overall Safety 5 stars TBD
Max Seating Capacity 5 5
Wheelbase 105.1 inches 108.5 inches
Overall Length 182.7 inches 183.5 inches
Width 71.5 inches 73.4 inches
Height 67.5 inches 65.4 inches
Turning Diameter 35.4 feet 38.6 feet
Headroom, Front 41.2 inches 39.6 inches
Headroom, Rear 39.6 inches 39.4 inches
Legroom, Front 43.3 inches 41.4 inches
Legroom, Rear 39.4 inches 41.3 inches
Shoulder Room, Front 58.1 inches 57.5 inches
Shoulder Room, Rear 57.2 inches 55.6 inches
Cargo Volume 28.9/74.2 cubic feet 39.6/74.1 cubic feet

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