The 2021 Kia Sorento and the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe have been battling it out in the midsize SUV segment for years. New versions of both models promise to offer even greater value and available options. Despite utilizing the same chassis, engines, and transmissions, the Sorento bests its SUV sibling in a few key areas. Both SUVs will go on sale toward the end of 2020 and should have starting prices below $30,000.
The Kia Sorento is more powerful
The 2021 Kia Sorento and the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe utilize the same three engines. The first is a 2.5-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engine mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission. The naturally aspirated powertrain makes the same 191 hp in both models. However, the turbocharged 2.5-liter engine produces 281 hp in the Sorento and 277 hp in the Santa Fe. In both cases, the turbo engines come mated to an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission.
The power dominance of the Sorento continues with the hybrid models. According to Kia, the Sorento Hybrid produces a combined 227 hp from its 1.6-liter turbocharged engine and electric motor. Hyundai, on the other hand, claims the Santa Fe generates 225 hp from the same powertrain. Both the Sorento and the Santa Fe will feature a plug-in hybrid version toward the end of 2021. While we know that the Kia PHEV produces 261 hp from its 1.6-liter engine, Hyundai has not published official power figures for the Santa Fe.
The Sorento is more fuel-efficient
The gap between the 2021 Kia Sorento and the 2021 Hyundai Santa Fe begins to widen when discussing fuel economy. Despite sharing the same engines, the Kia manages to be slightly more fuel-efficient than the Hyundai. For the naturally aspirated 2.5-liter engine, Kia estimates that the Sorento will average 27 mpg. The Santa Fe is estimated to average 26 mpg from the same powertrain when equipped with FWD and 24 mpg with AWD.
In terms of the turbocharged engine options, the two SUVs are neck and neck. In both applications, the 2.5-liter engine is capable of consuming just 25 mpg when equipped with FWD. It is important to note that unlike Hyundai, Kia did not publish separate fuel consumption figures for the FWD and AWD versions of the Sorento.
A potential explanation of why the engines generate different power outputs and fuel economy despite being identical is tuning. The Hyundai’s turbocharged 2.5-liter engine develops its peak power at 6,100 rpm while the Sorentos engine achieves the same at 5,800 rpm. While the difference is slight, the Sorento offers more torque lower in the rev range, meaning it doesn’t have to rev relatively as high to make its peak power. In contrast, the Santa Fe has to rev higher and burn more fuel to generate its available power figure.
The Sorento offers an off-road trim level
In terms of trim levels, both SUVs are almost evenly matched. The Kia Sorento offers a variety of trim levels ranging from the base L to the range-topping SX. Likewise, the Santa Fe starts with the base SE trim to the luxurious Calligraphy. Where the two differ is that the Sorento offers a focused off-roading package for their elegant SX trim.
The X-line trim gives the Sorento an additional inch of ground-clearance by increasing the ride height. The Sorento X-line also receives unique bumpers and exterior details that help it achieve greater approach and departure angles. Unique to the X-line are 20-inch wheels and driving modes for the all-wheel-drive system. Locking differentials and hill descent control are also on board to help the Sorento navigate challenging terrain. The result is that while the Sorento is more powerful and fuel-efficient, it is also more capable.