2023 Kia Sportage Harman/Kardon: Better Than Average, But Ironic

2023 Kia Sportage Harman/Kardon

Kia claims the Sportage Harman/Kardon sound system “transforms the Sportage cabin into an astounding surround sound experience.” We’re here to test if that’s an accurate assessment. The Sportage sound system by Harman in past years came with eight speakers and 315 watts of power output as advertised on Harman’s website.The 2023 Kia Sportage premium sound system sports 85 more watts for a total of 400 watts with the same number of speakers suggesting its relatively the same system but with a bit of an update rather than an overhaul. Compared to other premium sound systems in its segment, how does it perform?

The system we tested came equipped in a Kia Sportage Hybrid SX Prestige which is the highest trim level available for the hybrid powertrain and only trim offered with the Harman/Kardon. If you’re set on getting the Kia Sportage Harman/Kardon system in a non-hybrid then you’ll have to opt for the Sportage SX, Sportage SX Prestige, Sportage X-Pro, or Sportage X-Pro Prestige trims.

Available inputs and capabilities of the Kia Sportage audio system are AM/FM/XM radio, Bluetooth, USB-A and C ports, and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. A couple weird compromises we found are the USB-C port is not a data port, it can only be used for charging, and the larger screen found on the Hybrid SX Prestige doesn’t support wireless Apple CarPlay, but the smaller screen as standard in lower trim levels does; very ironic.

After his test of the Kia Sportage Harman/Kardon system, Charlie concluded the system to perform well on some songs but others it seems to drop some aspects. He gave the Kia Sportage audio system from Harman a B- score because it feels like it’s a strong setup. The crispness of the higher ranges and the booms of the bass warrant a better than average rating.

The Kia Sportage sound system compares to the Toyota RAV4 JBL and the Hyundai Tucson Bose but is definitely much better than the setup found in the Honda CR-V. It’s only when you crank the sound up that you’ll have to come down on the mid-range because of the conscious decisions Kia made with this system.

Watch the Kia Sportage Sound System Review:

How We Test the Kia Sportage Audio System:

We take audio systems seriously here at Daily Motor. That’s why we take every vehicle, from a Kia Sportage Harman/Kardon sound system to supercars like the McLaren 570S, and put them through our rigorous audio-system testing. We use the same lossless, uncompressed WAV audio files on a USB drive plugged into the audio system so that every radio we test starts from the same baseline. To provide a realistic example for the Kia Sportage sound system experience, we record with high-quality binaural microphones. We test every system with their sound settings set to their factory defaults, because that’s how the radio’s engineers designed it to sound, but we test all the sound settings on many different genres of music before shooting the reviews. After demonstrating the Kia Sportage audio system settings, adjustments, inputs, speaker locations, and Android Auto and/or Apple CarPlay functionality, we head out on the road to listen to our sample tracks at highway speeds. Most cars can sound great while stationary, but road, wind, and engine noise can deteriorate music fidelity. At the end of the Kia Sportage audio system test, we give an objective rating based on audio quality and overall system usage as well as a subjective rating factoring in vehicle attributes and price.

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