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Looking for an SUV that can seat more than just five people? Then you've probably been looking into the third-row SUVs that are being put out on the market for the 2020 model year. Among them, you will find two that are getting some rave reviews - the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Honda Pilot.
Both of these vehicles clearly have a lot of good things to offer. The Pilot demonstrates Honda's emphasis on versatility, and the cabin is downright spacious. You get a smooth, compliant ride each time, and the fuel economy is superb. Plus you get a ton of handy small item storage areas. On the downside, though, you have to deal with sensitive alerts from the collision warning system, and adaptive cruise control gets fussy too. The third row has a narrow access way, and the 9-speed automatic transmission simply is not as effortless at shifting gears as the 6-speed automatic.
The Sorento has some serious highlights as well. The front and rear fascias have been somewhat revamped for the model year, and the EX and SX trims have been dropped. This crossover SUV is family-friendly and has a ton of standard features. Its interior is quiet and chic, and you get a best-in-class warranty from Kia. But you get less cargo space than you do in competitors, and the third row is definitely suited for children, not adults. Unfortunately, all engine options - including the V6 - feel underwhelming when it comes time to put the pedal to the metal.
So, which of these two third-row SUVs might be the right fit for you? Is one of them an overall better buy than the other? They have a lot in common, but there are definitely some big differences. In this comparison review, we will go over different powertrain options, what makes these vehicles drive-able, and what kinds of safety features and ratings they have received. In the end, we will announce which SUV has the most value and is the overall best decision.
Let's kick things off by talking about the powertrains in each of these two SUVs. The 2020 Honda Pilot has a standard 3.5-L V6 engine that gets 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission comes standard as well, but you can opt for a 9-speed automatic transmission, save for the Touring and above, on which it comes standard. Front-wheel drive (or FWD for short) is standard, but all-wheel drive (or AWD) can be put on any trim level and comes standard on the Elite and Black Edition.
The 2020 Kia Sorento offers you a few different powertrains to choose from. The first is the L and LX trims' 2.4-L 4-cylinder engine that, paired with a 6-speed automatic transmission, gets 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Up from that, the S and EX Sport offer a 3.3-L V6 with an 8-speed automatic transmission that work together to generates 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. All but the base L trim get the option of equipping AWD; otherwise, FWD is standard.
What is it that makes a vehicle enjoyable (or awful) to drive? It is more than just having a strong powertrain. It involves factors like comfort, interior design and build quality, how well the tech features function, and how much utility a vehicle offers. And you can bet that Honda and Kia like to compete on all of these fronts.
That being said, let us first go into detail about the 2020 Kia Sorento. It is rather slow to accelerate for this segment, only getting from 0 to 60 mph in 8.3 seconds. The V6 feels too soft at the low end but will perk up once you get it over 5,000 rpm. It will pull well right to the red line. The brakes are appropriately firm and easy to modulate, allowing you to come to a safe panic stop in 125 feet - a great showing for this class! This SUV handles much better than expected despite the 8-speed being kind of sluggish when you take it out of Sport mode. You will need to be patient as you press down on the gas pedal, and the 7.3 inches of ground clearances means you will not be able to do much off-roading. But it will do alright in the winter.
As far as comfort goes, we recommend getting the optional heated and ventilated front seats and heated outboard rear seats, as they are a true delight. The seat padding is firm but is still somehow soft. The front seats have lower bottom cushions that extend out for extra comfort and support, and the second row slides and reclines. Of course, as is the case with most third-row SUVs, third-row space is cramped. Here, it is low to the floor and just not that comfy. However, you get a refined ride quality that feels like you are riding in a luxury SUV, and there is basically no wind or road noise to be heard.
Honestly, the third row should just be left for kids who are out of car seats. Access to the third row is tight for adults. Up front, you get excellent outward visibility when looking directly ahead, but in the rear view, the third row tends to obstruct your view.
Technology is a highlight on the Sorento, especially with the user-friendly 8-inch touchscreen and its intuitive layout. Unfortunately, the optional Harman Kardon sound system is not that fantastic, and the navigation system is not that advanced despite being easy to use. Smartphone app integration via Apple CarPlay and Android Auto works seamlessly and is a better alternative to native navigation. Also, take note that there are not enough charging ports to go around.
Utility is decent in the Sorento with 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space available behind the third row. This maxes out to 38 cubes when you take the third row down. You can use the levers and straps from the back to fold down the second and third rows, and there is a smart unlock feature that you can use to quickly release the tailgate. There is a wireless charging pad that is appropriately placed, enough cup holders, and average-sized door pockets and bins. The 5,000-pound max towing capacity is good for a subcompact SUV.
The 2020 Honda Pilot is a worthy rival for the Sorento. Its 9-speed automatic transmission can get the vehicle from 0 to 60 mph in a snappy 7 seconds flat. This is incredibly fast for a third-row SUV. The brakes remain consistently firm, never becoming squishy beneath your foot. They are always easy to modulate and make a secure panic stop in about 124 feet. It handles curvy mountain roads without any issue and has precise steering despite lacking some road feel. You just do not get enough ground clearance to make it a great off-roader.
The Pilot is packed with comfort though. The body is well controlled, smoothing out bumps as soon as it encounters them. The front seats are remarkably supportive, and you can recline and slide the second row. You will not hear much noise from the wind or road, and the V6 is pleasantly tranquil. Bonus: the tri-zone automatic climate control system does a beautiful job of distributing air flow.
The cabin is all about practicality and has many smart features. The third row is not the most spacious, but the seats are cozy. With just one touch of a button, you can tilt and slide the second row for easier access to the third row. It is easy to find a comfy driving position although taller drivers might wish the steering wheel had more telescoping adjustability. Still, you get a commanding outward view from the driver's seat.
When it comes to tech, Honda is getting more things right now. The touchscreen is easy to use, and navigation responds quickly to your inputs. The optional 10-speaker sound system is phenomenal and totally worth the extra money if you are a music lover. Wifi hot spot is equipped on the Touring and Elite trim levels, but adaptive cruise control only works down to 20 mph.
With Honda, it is all about versatility. The 16 cubic feet of cargo space behind the third row expands to 84 cubes when you fold down the second row. This does trail some segment leaders, but you get a ton of under-floor storage, meaning the usable space is better than most competitors. There are also huge door pockets and cleverly designed small item storage areas. The center console is, in particular, is designed for maximum versatility, allowing you to not just store but truly organize your small items. Max towing is 5,000 pounds on the AWDs and 3,500 pounds on the FWDs, so if you want to tow, get an AWD.
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Safety is definitely an important factor to consider while making your buying decision. Everyone wants something that will keep them safe and secure. Knowing what kinds of safety features are included is important, as are the ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (better known as NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (also known as IIHS).
The 2020 Kia Sorento has adaptive cruise control on the EX Sport, and despite being jerky, it does actually work right down to 0 mph. Lane keep assist is a helpful feature that comes standard, and you can get a lot more on the LX. It has a blind spot monitoring system and rear cross-traffic alert. The Convenience Package adds forward collision warning and parking sensors, which are also handy to have available.
The NHTSA gave the Sorento an overall rating of 5 out of 5 stars. It only lost one star on the rollover test. There are some user complaints involving the powertrain, which tends to slip gears while shifting after first starting the vehicle, especially in the cold weather. It will act up until it has been driven for several miles and the engine warms up. The IIHS gave the vehicle "Good" ("G") marks on everything but the headlights (which received a "Poor"/"P" score for a lot of glare from the halogens on the L, LX, EX, and SX) and an "A" on the LATCH system (for hardware that could be confused for LATCH anchors).
Honda takes safety seriously too, and you will find plenty of features, ranging from adaptive cruise control to a blind spot monitor and lane keep assist. Lane keep assist can be a bit obnoxious during constant radius turns, but it otherwise works well. Adaptive cruise control could be smoother, and it does not work down to 0 mph like the Sorento's system does.
The NHTSA assigned the Pilot 5 stars overall but lost a star for the overall front passenger side. There are currently two recalls: one for incomplete body welding and another for crackling in the speakers before the vehicle totally loses power. The IIHS got mostly "G" marks but got "A" marks for the small overlap front passenger side test, headlights on the lower trims, and the LATCH system's ease of use.
Which Has the Best Value
The 2020 Kia Sorento does have a good amount of value for a vehicle in its class. The EPA estimate of 21 mpg combined (with 19 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the highway) holds up in real world tests. These numbers do match those in V6-powered mid-size SUVs. The competition will have a hard time touching the build quality on this vehicle, but there are other Kias with the same features that are literally half the price. Still, with such a generous warranty, this deal is hard to beat.
The 2020 Honda Pilot has a ton of comfort, excellent build quality, and a more upscale cabin than most competitors, although the Sorento almost matches it. Still, the Honda makes it easy to justify spending more on a higher trim level since it is reasonably priced and very well equipped. The warranty is not quite as generous as Kia's, but it is industry standard. It just does not quite give you as much overall value as the Kia, so the Kia takes the cake here.
Which is Better?
The 2020 Kia Sorento and 2020 Honda Pilot are right in step with one another with just a few minor differences. The Pilot bests it for technology and interior materials, but the Sorento makes up for that with a fantastic warranty. While there are more affordable Kia models out there this year, the Sorento is probably one of the most exciting.