Cars

Wonder Twins: The Kia Sorento vs. the Hyundai Santa Fe

The Sorento (yes, spelled with one“r”) and the Hyundai Santa Fe are nearly identical twins, sporting a lot of the same equipment with a very similar price tag. So why bother talking about them in the same article? Kia and Hyundai may have the same parent, but they compete with each other like any siblings do.

It’s an interesting business arrangement that might call to mind the competition between Buick and Oldsmobile in the 1980s.You have two brands that cover essentially the same ground, with very much the same product, at an almost identical price point. What’s the point?

It’s a different relationship from that of Buick and Olds, though. Those two brands were wholly owned divisions of General Motors. By comparison, Hyundai only owns 33.9 percent of Kia. On the ground here in the United States, Kia is competing for every sale with Hyundai just the way it does with Toyota.

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Seating configuration is one of the main differences between the two vehicles. The Hyundai Santa Fe Limited we drove features a six-passenger seating configuration with dual captains chairs for the second row occupants, with a small third row rear seat that you wouldn’t want to sit in for long unless you were under the age of eight. It’s a similar story for the Kia Sorento SX, though the captains chairs give way to a second row bench.

The way that second row works is also a bit of an advantage for Hyundai.The Santa Fe Limited is 193.1 inches long, where the Kia Sorento SX only comes in at 184.4. Almost all of that 8.7-inch length difference is obvious when you open the rear door and look at how the doorsill meets the dogleg that forms the rear wheel opening.

The Hyundai has a clearly longer sill, and it translates into 2.5 inches more legroom in the second row. It’s not like the Kia is cramped at all, but the Santa Fe offers a legroom difference you can feel. If your kids are basketball players, it may make the difference in which one you choose.

You’ll also notice the difference in cargo volume, no matter how many seats you have deployed. With all the seats occupied, the Kia Sorento provides 9.1 cubic feet of storage, while the Hyundai offers 13.5 cubic feet, large enough to store one more piece of rolling luggage. With all of the seats stowed, the Kia has 72.5 cubic feet of storage space, while the Hyundai offers a full 80.0 cubic feet.

Any Sorento with the exception of the low-trim, front-wheel-drive LX features what you’d expect in a vehicle of this size: a 3.3-literV6, good for 290 hp and 252-lb.ft. of torque.The six and seven passenger versions of the Santa Fe use the same engine, but Hyundai also offers a five-passenger Santa Fe Sport that features a turbocharged 2.0-liter engine that delivers nearly as much horsepower as theV6, but with more torque at much lower RPM, a difference you can feel when merging onto the highway or accelerating from a stoplight.

Where the Kia gains on the Hyundai, though, is curb weight.The Santa Fe, in six-passenger form, tips the scales at 4,057 pounds.The Kia is 3,894 pounds, 163 pounds lighter, or about the weight of your average teenage boy. EPA fuel economy ratings are exactly the same, but on the road, the Kia feels a little sportier and is a little more fun to drive.

The Kia also has an advantage in the audio/ heat interface. It’s largely subjective, but most of the Hyundai’s controls are managed via a central knob that you push to confirm entries. The Kia Sorento’s interface also features a large, eight-inch touch screen, but its audio controls are operated by a much more familiar knob for volume and a knob for tuning. The Kia UVO and Hyundai BlueLink smartphone integration system are both outstanding, intuitively pairing phones in just a few steps, unlike the maddening process of some competitive systems.

From there, it’s kind of a shell game, with the Hyundai Santa Fe Limited offering a much lower base price, but then adding almost $3,000 to reach the same level of equipment offered as standard in the Kia Sorento SX. The one warranty advantage is the Hyundai’s 84-month, unlimited mileage corrosion warranty. The Kia’s runs out in 60 months and 100,000 miles.

Either of these two vehicles is up to the task of moving a family and its gear through whatever weather New England throws at it. Aside from the legroom difference in the rear, which vehicle do you choose?That’s a question you should be answering by experiencing the difference in customer service provided by your closest Hyundai and Kia dealer.

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