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The 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are SUVs that feel very upscale because of their technology and nicely appointed cabins. These vehicles can be perfect for a wide variety of customers. Some might be looking for SUVs that can take them on fun adventures far away from town, while others might be interested in getting something with enough space for their households and all the gear required for different activities. Many people will be attracted to the style and capabilities of these models.
In several ways, the Santa Fe and the Sorento are quite similar to each other. This overview should provide prospective customers with enough details they need to determine which model might work better for them. A very big distinction is that the Sorento has a third row, so it will appeal to a certain set of buyers who need the additional space for passengers.
Given the fact that the Hyundai and Kia brands are closely related, it's not a huge surprise that the Santa Fe and Sorento are powered by the same types of engines. With either model, there are two choices. The standard version is a 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The other is a 2.5-liter engine as well, but one that has a turbocharger.
A standard engine will give these SUVs 191 horsepower and 181 pound-feet of torque. This is a reasonable amount of capability, and it will give drivers just enough power to comfortably and confidently drive in various conditions. All-wheel drive is optional in case people want to have enhanced traction. In some regions, it's necessary to have all-wheel drive if vehicles will be driven on snowy or icy roads on occasion. This 2.5-liter engine has been paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission in both models.
The other option for customers is to get a Santa Fe or a Sorento with the turbocharged engine. In the Santa Fe, this takes horsepower up to 277 and torque up to 311 pound-feet. Torque would be the same in the Kia Sorento, but because of minor differences in design, a turbocharged Sorento would technically have 281 horsepower. Both companies have chosen to pair their turbo engines with eight-speed dual-clutch transmissions. These are commonly used in sportier vehicles, and they should be a good match for the more powerful engines. Again, all-wheel drive is available.
Even though Hyundai and Kia aren't exactly known for building powerhouses, with the Santa Fe and Sorento, they've built vehicles that have respectable towing capacities. The limits are the same with the two models. With standard engines, they can tow up to 2,000 pounds, and with the more advanced engines, they can tow up to 3,500 pounds.
Another advantage to the Santa Fe and Sorento is that they have something called Drive Mode Select. If people want to drive a little more aggressively one day, they can select the Sport mode. If they want to save gas on another occasion, there's Eco mode. The other modes fall somewhere in the middle, and if someone isn't interested in changing these settings, they certainly don't have to.
As expected, fuel economy is just about the same in the two SUVs. Front-wheel-drive Santa Fes can earn up to 25/28 (city/highway) miles per gallon. Having all-wheel drive and/or the turbo engine drops those numbers down slightly. The best that the Kia Sorento can do is 24/29 (city/highway) miles per gallon. As seen with the Hyundai, the Sorento's fuel efficiency numbers aren't as high when it has all-wheel drive and/or the more powerful engine.
These models are backed by very generous warranties. With the two vehicles, there's a standard warranty of five years or 60,000 miles, and there's a specific powertrain warranty that's good for ten years or 100,000 miles. This is better than the industry standard, so people will certainly be happy to know about this.
The similarities continue when analyzing how easy it is to drive these models. Fortunately, both are "driver-friendly." Anyone would be comfortable in these cabins, and there is plenty of technology to help drivers and their passengers stay connected, informed, and entertained.
For some, a big concern is the size of a particular vehicle. It can be important to get an SUV that has enough interior space while not being too large or difficult to park. Most people would be pleased with the dimensions of these vehicles. The Santa Fe has a length of 188.4 inches, and it's about 75 inches wide. The Sorento has that same width, and it's only about one inch longer.
In the Santa Fe, there's a lot of leg room. Up front, there's up to 44.1 inches of leg room. The rear bench has 41.7 inches of leg room, which is quite generous. Behind the seating area, the cargo hold has a volume of 36.4 cubic feet. It takes only about a second to lower the rear seats, and that increases total cargo capacity to 72.1 cubic feet. With this amount of room, all kinds of equipment and gear can be accommodated.
The Sorento has a different configuration because of its third row. It still has 41.4 inches of leg room in the first row and 41.7 inches of leg room in the second row. Its third row manages to have nearly 30 inches of leg room. While taller adults might not be able to easily fit back there, this could be an ideal place for kids to sit.
Behind the third row, the small cargo area has a volume of 12.6 cubic feet. The third row can be folded down to give the cabin a cargo capacity of 45 cubic feet. Alternatively, both the second and third rows can be lowered, and this would expand cargo capacity to 75.5 cubic feet.
These days, technology can influence the driving experience, given all the recent innovations in the field. In the Hyundai Santa Fe, the lower trims have eight-inch touchscreens, and the higher ones have touchscreens that measure 10.25 inches. Standard features include Android Auto, Apple CarPlay, multiple USB ports in both seating rows, and Bluetooth. Another standard component is Rear Seat Quiet Mode, and this allows the rear-seat passengers to turn down the speaker volume. Higher trims have integrated navigation and premium Harman Kardon audio systems that have 12 speakers, as well as Blue Link technology. This lets people use their smartphones to look up certain types of vehicle information, remotely start their engines, and more.
In the Kia Sorento, the options are similar. The SUV starts out with an eight-inch touchscreen with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, and the most premium trims have 10.25-inch touchscreens with built-in navigation. Four out of the five available trims have SiriusXM and UVO technology, which is somewhat similar to the Blue Link system in the Hyundai. A 12-speaker Bose sound system is available, as is wireless charging. Passengers will be glad that each row has at least one USB port.
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In addition to all of the standard safety elements, like airbags, rearview monitors, tire pressure monitoring, and anti-lock brakes, the Santa Fe and Sorento have many available driver-assist technologies. These systems can actively monitor how things are going, and if there is a concerning issue, then they can alert drivers. In some cases, they could take corrective measures by either hitting the brakes or making steering adjustments.
In the Hyundai Santa Fe, every trim has lane keeping assist, adaptive cruise control, forward collision-avoidance assist, and driver attention warning. Lane keeping assist will warn drivers when they're veering out of their lanes, and it could help them re-center themselves. Adaptive cruise control is a program in which the SUV could adjust its steering if traffic on the highway slows down or speeds up. The forward collision-avoidance assist feature can prevent drivers from accidentally hitting other vehicles as well as pedestrians and cyclists. Finally, the warning system can sense when drivers might be distracted, and it simply prompts them to focus their attention on the road.
The Kia Sorento has many of those same features, but there are few differences. First, adaptive cruise control isn't standard; it's only included on the higher trims. Also, the Kia's driver attention warning system comes with a feature that emits a warning if the leading vehicle has started moving after being stopped in traffic or at a red light, for example. Lastly, the forward collision warning and mitigation system does come with pedestrian detection, but cyclist detection is only included with higher trims.
The most premium trim of the Sorento has a 360-degree camera and a blind-view monitor. Almost all of the Sorento trims have blind spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring and mitigation systems. Most trims have parking distance warning, too. These features can all be found on the higher trims of the Hyundai Santa Fe.
Which Has the Best Value?
Deciding the value of a vehicle requires looking at its pricing. Hyundai and Kia, in the past, were known for their affordable vehicles. As these companies have made strategic moves and have grown their presence in the industry, it's not always the case that their new vehicles are what anyone would consider to be cheap.
The Santa Fe does have a reasonable starting price at $26,850, but its top model is priced at $42,300, which makes it seem more like a luxury model. The same is true with the Kia Sorento, which starts at $29,390 and goes all the way up to $40,590. Such a big price difference should indicate to potential customers that there is a wide range of amenities offered.
The base models are going to have almost everything that modern consumers are looking for, like a large touchscreen, smartphone compatibility, and driver-assist technologies. The entry-level trim of the Santa Fe is called the SE, and it has 18-inch wheels, LED headlights, automatic high beams, and cloth upholstery. The Sorento's lineup starts with the LX, which has heated side mirrors with LED turn signals, 17-inch wheels, cloth seats, and automatic high beams as well.
Moving up in trim is associated with getting more sophisticated amenities. As mentioned, certain mid-level trims are where the engines are upgraded to turbocharged models, more driver-assist technologies become available, and the touchscreens and infotainment systems have been enhanced. Mid-level trims of each model have larger wheels than their basic counterparts, and they could have power moonroofs, hands-free liftgates, and smart entry systems.
The top trim of the Hyundai Santa Fe is the Calligraphy. It's really impressive because of its heated and ventilated front seats, Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel, and head-up display. The SX Prestige is the most premium Sorento trim available. It has perforated and embossed leather seats, heating and ventilation in the front row, and the same type of steering wheel that the Santa Fe has. However, it doesn't have the heated rear seats nor does it have a head-up display.
Which is Better?
While they are very comparable in so many ways, remember than the Sorento has three rows of seats while the Santa Fe is a traditional two-row SUV. The Sorento can carry up to seven passengers since it has the additional two seats in the third row, and this is going to be a major factor for some customers.
That being said, the total cargo capacity of the Sorento is only marginally greater than that of the Santa Fe. They have the same amount of capability, too, so they really do handle in a similar fashion.
In terms of technology, the two SUVs have the same size touchscreens and many of the same components. A minor difference is that the Sorento is available with SiriusXM. It's nice that both companies have put USB ports in their rear rows. There are also some differences in the respective safety packages. It could be argued that the Santa Fe has the more comprehensive package, though the Sorento still has a lot to offer.
It's similar when examining the interiors of these cabins. The two entry-level trims have comfortable seats and many convenient features, while the highest trims have luxurious materials and high-tech components. What model would be best for a particular buyer would depend on the details of each trim and someone's style preferences. Of course, whether five seats are sufficient is going to be the biggest question that potential buyers have to ask themselves.