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2021 Toyota Highlander vs Kia Sorento

2021 Toyota Highlander vs Kia Sorento

2021 Highlander vs Sorento - How do they stack up? Which is Better?

Spacious, comfortable, powerful, and fuel efficient - those are probably four "must-have" items on your checklist while shopping for a new SUV. And one of the vehicles we will examine in this comparison review will check all of those boxes. The other will come close but not quite hit the mark. We will make no bones about it, the one that checks all the boxes is the 2021 Toyota Highlander.


The Highlander is hot off of an overhaul in 2020, so do not expect to see too many changes for the 2021 line-up. The one addition that is generating a lot of buzz is the inclusion of the all-new XSE trim level, which slides right smack-dab into the middle of the line-up. The XSE offers a more sport-oriented design with a sport-tuned suspension, special styling elements, a built-in navigation system, and ambient interior lighting.

For those looking for a family-friendly vehicle that is also able to handle tight curves and winding mountain roads, the Highlander SUV may be just what you need. Its large size does not take away from its sporty performance - in fact, pairing it with an upgraded suspension can make your ride even more enjoyable.

Handling is not the Highlander's only highlight. Far from it. The Highlander's cabin is quiet and comfortable, spaciously crafted and boasting some seriously plush seats. From behind the steering wheel, you get a clear view around the vehicle. Of course, if you need it, the standard back-up camera is handy. Blind spot monitoring and the available 360-degree surround view camera system are helpful as well. But you won't rely too heavily on any of them.

For a powerful yet efficient ride, the V6 engine in The Highlander provides an unbeatable combination. It beats out even one of its top competitors -the Honda Passport- with 24 mpg combined fuel economy that is 1-2 better than any other third row SUVs on the market.

The Highlander is not all sunshine and rainbows though. It has its downsides. The main downside is its cramped third row of seats. This is a problem that many third-row SUVs have, so it is nothing mindboggling. Accessing it is difficult, and the small seats and lack of leg room make this row suitable only for children. A few third-row SUVs do it better.

If you need to transport more than just passengers, the Highlander's cargo space should be taken into account. With all three rows of seating in place there is a slightly-below average capacity with 16 cubic feet; however by folding down that third row it takes this total up to an impressive 48.4 cubes - plenty for even your biggest haul.

So, how does the 2021 Kia Sorento stack up? Redesigned inside and out, the 2021 Kia Sorento provides drivers with four powertrain choices plus more interior space than ever before - including plenty of cargo room to boot! Craft your perfect ride by picking from a large selection of standard and optional features while enjoying loads of legroom in both rows along with a user-friendly infotainment system that dazzles with crystal clear graphics. The latest Kia Sorento opens up countless travel possibilities without compromising comfort or convenience.

The Powertrain

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is an outstanding vehicle for those who seek a dynamic driving experience combined with efficient fuel economy. Featuring a 3.5-liter V6 engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, it can deliver 295 horsepower and 263 lb.-ft of torque - allowing you to traverse the roads in confidence. FWD comes standard but each trim level also offers AWD as well as the hybrid version if desired - proving that no matter your preference there's something here to suit everyone.

The 2021 Kia Sorento receives its power from a standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder that puts forth 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft. Its 8-speed automatic transmission routes power to the front wheels. There is a turbo 2.5-liter 4-cylinder that creates 281 hp and 311 lb-ft of torque that comes starting on the EX trim level. The SX Prestige is strictly FWD while the SX Prestige X-Line comes solely as an AWD model.


Driving can be a truly transcendent experience, or it could potentially turn into your worst nightmare. How comfortable and enjoyable you find the ride depends on more than just its power: acceleration, braking, handling and steering capabilities all come in to play for an optimal driving experience. Even factors like how well integrated the vehicle's technology is make a difference! So when shopping around for that dream car of yours - remember drivability matters too.

The 2021 Toyota Highlander is the perfect family vehicle—powerful, efficient, and quick. With a V6 engine that provides ample power without sacrificing fuel economy and an 8-speed transmission for lightning fast shifts, acceleration from 0 to 60 miles per hour takes only 7.5 seconds—far quicker than many competitors in its class. Even top models like the Kia Telluride can't keep up! This well-rounded ride ensures smooth sailing no matter where you're headed with your loved ones on board.

As we already mentioned, the Highlander is a capable vehicle when it comes to handling. Steep mountain climbs or back country roads are no match for the Highlander. The optional torque-vectoring AWD system does a superb job at providing extra traction and stability control while the vehicle is going across slick road surfaces. It also makes the handling balance that much better.

On the downside, the Highlander does still feel like the bulky SUV that it is. Applying the brakes in a panic can lead to, well, more panic since they take a while to bring the vehicle to a halt. Nimbleness is also not the Highlander's forte.

Comfort, however, is one of its fortes. The first two rows have plushily padded seats that are sculpted for optimum support. The compliant suspension manages to avoid feeling light and dispatches bumps of all sizes with relative ease. The thin padding on the third row of seats is the only sore spot, which emphasizes the fact that these seats are best suited for children. Outside noise from the wind and road is kept to a minimum thanks to some excellent insultation designs.

The cabin offers plenty of space, save for the third row, which is better suited to youngsters. With its commanding outward view, the driver's seat can be easily adjusted and modified to fit any body type - though taller folks might want a bit more range from their telescoping steering wheel.

The Highlander offers a wealth of tech features, most notably its optional huge 12.3-inch touchscreen - an impressive sight to behold at first glance but not practical for driver use due to glare buildup. An 8-inch display is the smarter choice for visibility and usability purposes, plus it responds quickly with user commands thanks to an intuitive interface. Passengers get plenty of connectivity options in the front two rows via five USB ports; however, anyone riding behind won't have access to that perk on this model vehicle.

The 2021 Kia Sorento is a breath of fresh air, that is for certain. The optional turbo engine gets this vehicle up to speed in just 6.7 seconds, which is a snappy time indeed. This is enhanced by the new 8-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, which provides seamless shifts between gears. The brakes make it easy to slow the vehicle down and modulate in virtually any scenario. The 121 mile braking distance is better than average for this segment. While the steering system is not quite as accurate as it should be, the handling is on point.

Spanning three rows, the interior of this vehicle provides a comfortable seating experience, with only slight stiffness in its second-row captain's chairs. Smaller passengers won't lack for comfort either; despite being close to the ground and on the smaller side, even children and petite adults will be able to relax back into their seats. Ride quality isn't as smooth when equipped with 20-inch wheels but it remains pleasantly steady while cruising at speed down highways or other open roads.

This cabin offers plenty of room for the tallest of adults to stretch their legs, while intuitive controls quickly make it feel like home. Great visibility is just one feature enhanced by a fascinating surround-view camera system with an impressive 10.25" display - and its built-in navigational systems are surprisingly easy to use! Unfortunately, voice commands don't quite live up to expectations; luckily there's still much more than meets the eye at this cozy getaway spot on wheels.


Toyota and Kia prioritize safety in their vehicles, equipping the Highlander with an array of advanced driver aids. Known as "Toyota Safety Sense", these features give drivers unprecedented protection on the road - from forward collision warnings to adaptive cruise control that adjusts speed automatically when needed. The system also includes lane tracing assist which helps guide cars back into their original lanes if they veer over them, alongside automatic high beams for nighttime visibility and traffic sign recognition so you don't miss a turn-off.

Kia offers a similar set-up on the Sorento. It has forward collision mitigation, a driver attention warning, low-speed adaptive cruise control, and lane departure mitigation. None of them seem to issue false alarms and work about as expected.


Which is Better?

Thanks to a significant upgrade, the 2021 Kia Sorento is now an impressive 3-row SUV. But don't overlook its competition – the Toyota Highlander offers fantastic bang for your buck: top of the line V6 engine and abundant cabin space at prices that won't break the bank.

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