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2017 Kia Sportage vs. 2016 Kia Sorento: What’s the Difference?

Editor’s note: You may want to read more of Autotrader’s model vs. model comparison car reviews as well as the 2017 Kia Sportage review and the 2016 Kia Sorento review.

 

If you’re interested in a new SUV with a modern design and cutting-edge equipment, your shopping list might include the 2017 Kia Sportage and the 2016 Kia Sorento. Both are recently redesigned — the Sportage so recently that it has already debuted for the 2017 model year ahead of most other vehicles on the market. But what exactly separates these two models? What’s the difference between them, and which one should you get? To help you answer these questions, we’ve created a close comparison between the Sportage and the Sorento.

2017 Kia Sportage   2016 Kia Sorento

Exterior

Despite hailing from the same automaker and receiving major stylistic changes around the same time, the Sportage and Sorento offer surprisingly different exterior designs. The Sorento’s look is certainly more traditional, with its overall size and shape fairly similar to rival midsize SUVs, albeit with a sportier touch. The Sportage, however, looks more futuristic and more modern with a unique design that helps it stand out from rivals. The two models also share one major difference: size. The Sportage is 176.4 inches in length, while the Sorento is 187.4 inches. The difference is enough for the Sportage to be considered a compact crossover, while the Sorento is squarely in the midsize segment.

2017 Kia Sportage interior   2016 Kia Sorento interior

Interior

The biggest interior difference between the Sorento and the Sportage is seating capacity. Specifically, the Sorento offers up to seven seats, while the smaller Sportage seats only five. The Sorento also offers more cargo room and more passenger room — even up front, where its larger size is noticeable over the smaller Sportage. As for interior design, however, the Sportage and Sorento are largely similar, with both models using roughly the same switchgear and many similar materials. While the interiors aren’t identical in the two models, drivers familiar with one will feel right at home in the other.

2017 Kia Sportage interior   2016 Kia Sorento interior

Mechanicals

Both the Sportage and Sorento are front-wheel-drive crossovers with optional all-wheel drive. Both come standard with 6-speed automatic transmissions.

Unusually for compact and midsize SUVs, the Sportage and Sorento share most of their engine options. Both models come standard with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, which makes 181 horsepower in the Sportage and 185 hp in the Sorento, while both models offer an optional 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder that makes 240 hp — an impressive figure for the Sportage. Drivers interested in extra muscle can get a 290-hp 3.5-liter V6, which is only offered on the Sportage EX and SX.

As for fuel economy, the Sportage returns two to three miles per gallon more than the Sorento due to its smaller size.

2017 Kia Sportage   2016 Kia Sorento

Features & Technology

When it comes to equipment, you might be surprised to learn that the Sportage offers many of the same features as the Sorento — save for the aforementioned third-row seating and the available V6.

For example, you don’t have to pay extra for a Sorento in order to get a heated steering wheel, a hands-free power lift gate, an 8-inch touchscreen or a Harman Kardon sound system, as those features are all included in the Sportage. You also don’t need to upgrade to the Sorento in order to get a long list of high-tech safety equipment, as the Sportage offers a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, lane-departure warning, parking sensors and forward-collision warning. Interestingly, only the Sportage couples forward-collision warning with automatic braking; the Sorento doesn’t yet offer an automatic braking feature.

Still, there are a few items gadget lovers will find in the Sorento but not in the Sportage. The smaller Kia does not feature adaptive cruise control, for example. It also lacks memory settings for the seat and mirrors, heated rear seats and the Sorento’s useful multiangle backup camera. For that reason, the Sorento is a better choice for gadget lovers — though we suspect most shoppers will find just about every piece of technology they need in either model.

2017 Kia Sportage   2016 Kia Sorento

Driving Experience

On the road, the two models drive exactly how you’d expect: The Sorento is a little larger, slower and more cumbersome, while the Sportage is spry and feisty — more so than most compact crossovers. It’s also quicker in acceleration than the larger Sportage, though neither model is exactly fast with the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine. The Sportage feels fast with the 2.0-liter turbo, while the Sorento seems only average; step up to the 3.5-liter V6, however, and the Sorento offers some serious passing power.

As for ride comfort, we don’t think either model has a major edge here, and we think both the Sorento and the Sportage are roughly the same in terms of interior noise, visibility and materials quality, but the Sorento boasts more passenger room and cargo room than its smaller sibling — something that’s evident from the moment you open any door.

2017 Kia Sportage   2016 Kia Sorento

Safety

Because the Sportage is so new, it has not yet been tested by the federal government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The Sorento was tested and earned a perfect 5-star overall score. Meanwhile, both models were tested by the nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Only the Sportage earned a Top Safety Pick+ score, while the Sorento makes do with the firm’s strong but not top-level Top Safety Pick rating.

The reason for the difference? While the Sportage offers an automatic forward-collision braking system, the Sorento merely offers a forward-collision warning system with no braking component. The models share other advanced safety options, including a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert and lane-departure warning. Interestingly, the Sportage also has another advantage over the Sorento in terms of standard features: a backup camera, which remains optional in the Sorento and standard in the Sportage. Other standard safety features, such as side-curtain airbags, anti-lock brakes and traction control, are standard in both models.

Conclusions

The 2017 Kia Sportage and 2016 Kia Sorento are excellent crossovers that are primarily separated by their size. The Sportage is smaller and cheaper, while the Sorento is larger and more expensive. If you need the extra size, as many families do, the Sorento will be the one you want, but for drivers who don’t need 3-row seating or an available V6, the Sportage (and its futuristic styling) is likely a better choice.

Find a Used Kia Sportage for sale

Find a Used Kia Sorento for sale

 
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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