The Korean car manufacturers are relentless. In less than 18 months, they’ll have put four new mid- large-sized SUVs on the road in the hopes to attract attention – SUVs and CUVs are hot-ticket items as we all know.
In the not too distant future, the Hyundai Palisade and Kia Telluride will land on our roads and provide room for everything and everyone. In the meantime, both Kia and Hyundai are feeding the trend with new or all-new versions of their popular midsize Sorento and Santa Fe, respectively.
These vehicles share many components but, in an attempt to further differentiate the non-identical twins, Hyundai and Kia have worked hard to create their own unique product.
How different can they be? Let’s find out:
Which is more enjoyable to drive?
Even if these large vehicles are not destined to please driving enthusiasts, there are those among us parents that still require some satisfaction from spending many an hour behind a steering wheel.
Unfortunately, neither of these will satisfy this need. Should you, however, not crave much as far as feedback from a drive is concerned, the Kia Sorento is the lesser offender. Its 290-horsepower 3.3-litre V6 is far livelier and responsive than the Santa Fe’s 235-horsepower turbocharged 2.0-litre 4-cylinder engine. While the later produces 8 more torques, it seems sleepy at all times.
From there, the standard 8-speed automatic transmission (standard for these particular mills) is equally lackadaisical. It responds lazily to excited throttle inputs and gearing does little to improve upon this. Now, if “D” and forget it are your thing, these powertrains are fine.
On the road, these vehicles drive comfortably and with confidence. Ride quality is generally good in both cases – I’d go so far as to say this is one of their highlights. The Kia Sorento displayed a fair amount of wind and tire noises at highway speeds. Sadly, the drive is further marred slightly by mediocre to average steering that suffers from annoying on-center play. The reviewed Sorrento suffer from an extremely spongy brake pedal to boot.
Both the HTRAC and Dynamax AWD systems work as or better than expected. So, which is more enjoyable to drive?
Answer: it’s a tie – they’re both ok
Which is more fuel-efficient?
That’s easy: It’s an exact tie, almost down to the reported tenth of a litre per 100 km. Typically, car manufacturers move to boosted smaller displacement engines to increase fuel efficiency. This is a trick that Hyundai’s failed to master since the previous generation Santa Fe.
The 2.0T returns 12.3 / 9.8 / 11.2 (city/highway/combined) L/100km while the 3.3-litre V6 manages 12.5 / 9.7 (city/highway) L/100km. The data is almost identical for the 2.4-litre which serves as base engine for both trucks.
Fact is that a solicited turbocharged engine is liable to consume more fuel than a normally aspirated one. Also, the V6 will likely be more reliable.
Answer: 2019 Kia Sorento
Which is more spacious?
As unidentical twins, you’ll not be surprised to learn that both of these vehicles offer up roughly the same amount of interior space. The major difference between the two is the Sorento’s 3rd row. For the time being, the Santa Fe XL is available however will be replaced by the Palisade in the coming months.
While the Sorento will be joined eventually by the larger Telluride 3-row SUV (the Palisade’s twin), it offers the 3rd row if you need it. Based on the supplied numbers, the Santa Fe is smaller, but barely. Despite the absence of the 3rd row in the Hyundai, boot volume behind the 2nd row is still down by a few litres over the Kia.
First and second row occupants are treated to plenty of space and storage.
Answer: the 2019 Kia Sorento, by a thin margin
Which has the better value?
This is like going to war with the same number of soldiers, fighter planes and ammo. The base 2019 Kia Sorento LX FWD is $1,000 less expensive than the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe Essential FWD but the latter gets an 8-speed automatic transmission instead of a 6-speed. Otherwise, they both provide a 7-inch touchscreen with rearview camera, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats and steering wheel and 17-inch alloy wheels.
In both cases, there are eight versions to select from and there are minor differences between similarly-priced trims and equipment. The top-line $48,865 Sorento SXL includes lovely Nappa leather but does not include head’s up display as does the $44,999 2.0T Ultimate Turbo AWD Santa Fe.
A quick glance down the list of features indicates that the Hyundai Santa Fe will give you a little more kit for your money.
Answer: the 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe
Which would we recommend?
In the last two years or so, this segment has grown to include some very impressive and interesting products. As I’ve stated, we at Motor Illustrated like the following candidates: Volkswagen Atlas, Dodge Durango, Subaru Ascent and Mazda CX-9.
The Korean products offer plenty of equipment for the price, good warranties but their long-term value and reliability have us questioning them as valid choices for more than four years. The 2019 Sorento SXL we tested had just over 11,250 km on the clock but it sounded and felt like far more than that. Perhaps the Hyundai Santa Fe will fare better than the Sorento in the long-run but that remains to be seen.
From our list of concerns, we find the Santa Fe’s new design to be an issue. Like many recent designs from Hyundai, the vehicles do not age gracefully and quickly look dated. If you plan to purchase your Santa Fe, expect to be shocked by its trade-in value in 4-5 years. This also applies to the Kia however its more conventional design will do better over time.
It’s difficult to argue against the Hyundai Santa Fe or the Kia Sorento as both carmakers are aggressive with their pricing plans. Even so, the Subaru Ascent remains our top choice. Between these two, we’d settle for a $40,865 Kia Sorento EX Premium.