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2018 Kia Sorento vs. 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better?

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author photo by Eric Brandt August 2018
  • The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe and 2018 Kia Sorento are similar but have a few key differences.

  • The Sorento has a lower starting price, but fewer standard features than the base Santa Fe.

  • The Kia has a more diverse lineup with more powertrain options, while the Hyundai has a more simplified lineup with just one engine choice for 2018.

You might not notice at first glance, but the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorento mid-size crossovers are based on the same platform and are even built in the same factories. The Sorento and the Santa Fe both have strong reputations for their reliability, value and safety. But with the two being so similar, what's the difference, and which is better?

Exterior

The most noticeable difference between the Sorento and the Santa Fe is the exterior styling. They both wear a version of the corporate face for their respective brands. The Kia has a smoother look, while the Hyundai has a few more corners and edges in its styling, with a sharp crease going down the sides of the body. In our opinion, the Santa Fe looks a bit more outdoorsy, and the Sorento looks more like an urban runabout.

The aesthetics for both are a bit bland compared to the competition, but they're also both classy with a bit of a premium look. If you decide to buy either, chances are your neighbors will think you spent a little more than you did.

Interior

Usually, when two vehicles share a platform, it's noticeable on the inside. However, that's not the case with the Santa Fe and the Sorento. From behind the wheel, it would be hard to tell the two came from the same factory.

The Sorento's interior has a clean, modern design that looks like it would please a younger crowd of drivers. The interior of the Santa Fe, on the other hand, looks like it's going for a more premium look and feel that might be more suitable for drivers shopping for luxury on a budget. We'd hesitate to call the Hyundai's interior "dated," but from the inside, it looks like an older car than the Kia when comparing the 2018 models.

For 2018, the Santa Fe is only available with 7-passenger seating (or six in the Limited Ultimate trim), which is great if you're looking for an SUV with that many seats. The Sorento, however, is available with seating for either five or seven passengers. That makes the Kia a little more versatile and customizable. If you're considering these two vehicles but don't want or need a third row of seats, the Sorento might be worth a closer look.

Powertrain Options

There's good news and bad news about the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe's powertrain options. The good news is that it offers a very strong 3.3-liter V6 with 290 horsepower, 252 lb-ft of torque and returns 18 miles per gallon city/25 mpg highway. The bad news is that it's the only engine you can get in the 2018 Santa Fe. So you get standard V6 power and optional all-wheel drive, but don't get the options of a lower cost, more fuel efficient 4-cylinder.

The 2018 Kia Sorento has three powertrain options, one of which is the same V6 used in the Santa Fe. The base engine is a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. That's a little weak for a vehicle this size, but it gets 21 mpg city/28 mpg hwy. That makes it a good choice if you're not planning on hauling a lot of passengers very often. The third option is a 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4 that makes 240 hp and the most torque of the bunch at 260 lb-ft. The turbo four returns 20 mpg city/27 hwy mpg. All three engines are available with all-wheel drive.

Obviously, the Sorento wins under the hood considering there are three options instead of just one, and one of those options is the same good V6 that powers every 2018 Santa Fe.

Features and Technology

The 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe is available in three trims: SE, SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate. The SE offers an impressive host of standard options for a base model with features like 18-in alloy wheels, a trailer prep package, dual-zone automatic climate control and 7-in display audio with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. Upgrading to SE Ultimate gets you into luxury territory with navigation, a multi-view camera system, a panoramic sunroof, a hands-free power liftgate, Infinity premium audio, leather seats that are heated in front and back, ventilated front seats and much more. The Limited Ultimate trim is similar to the SE Ultimate, but adds second-row captains chairs for a total of six seats.

The 2018 Kia Sorento is offered in seven trims, which is just too many to go into great detail for each. It starts with the base L trim, moves up to the mid-range LX trims, then the tech-savvy EX trims and, finally, the luxurious SX trims. The Sorento L is only available with the base 2.4-liter engine, while the LX can be had with the 4- or 6-cylinder. The EX is the only trim available with the turbo engine with the other option being the V6. The only engine option for the SX is the V6. The Sorento EX is comparable to the Santa Fe SE, while the SX and SX Limited are as nice as the SE Ultimate and Limited Ultimate trims on the Hyundai. The lower-end Sorento L and LX are better suited for bargain hunters.

The UVO infotainment system is standard on every Santa Fe, optional on the Sorento LX and standard on the Sorento EX and SX trims. Unfortunately, it's not available on the Sorento L. We've praised UVO for being easy to use, with some neat features like the Parking Minder feature that remembers where you parked and tells you on the UVO mobile app. UVO with a 7-in display is standard on the Santa Fe SE and Sorento EX and optional on the Sorento LX. There's a bigger, more vibrant 8-in screen that comes standard on the Santa Fe Ultimate and Sorento SX trims.

Safety

Automakers are getting serious about both active and passive safety features, and Kia and Hyundai are no exception. They're preparing for rearview cameras to be mandatory on every new car on the U.S., so it's standard equipment for both the Sorento and Santa Fe. A rear parking assist system, blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard on the Sorento EX and up and on the Santa Fe Ultimate trims. Fancier safety tech -- like adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and automatic emergency braking -- are standard on the loaded Sorento SX Limited, optional on every other Sorento except the L trim and optional on the Santa Fe Ultimate models.

Pricing

The 2018 Kia Sorento has a starting MSRP of just $25,900, while the Santa Fe starts at $30,850. Both can be optioned through the $30k range, and the Sorento is the only one with a trim that starts above the $40k mark.

Across the board, a similarly appointed Kia has a slightly lower price than its Hyundai counterpart. With the Sorento, you also get the flexibility of a wider price range to spend as little or as much as you want from the mid-$20k range with the Sorento L all the way up to the mid-$40k range with the SX Limited and anything in between.

Conclusion

While one isn't necessarily better than the other, the Sorento and the Santa Fe offer different advantages for different drivers. The Sorento is more customizable and has a lower starting price, making it a good choice for shoppers on a budget looking for a modern, well-appointed SUV. The Santa Fe, on the other hand, is good for shoppers looking for a bit more of a premium crossover with a more adventurous personality that comes with a lot of desirable standard features even at the base level. The Santa Fe is also great if you need seven seats but don't want a minivan or a full-size SUV. No matter which one you chose, the Santa Fe and the Sorento both offer an excellent value in the mid-size crossover segment.

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This image is a stock photo and is not an exact representation of any vehicle offered for sale. Advertised vehicles of this model may have styling, trim levels, colors and optional equipment that differ from the stock photo.
2018 Kia Sorento vs. 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe: Which Is Better? - Autotrader