2013 Kia Sorento vs. 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

By Teddy Field

For many years, South Korea’s massive car firm conglomerate (Hyundai / Kia) has been a major player in the international car market. But American buyers didn’t care for all the cheap plastic, bright colors, and bad styling. Rental companies, and penny-pinchers loved the fact that you could get a brand new car, for $1.99. Comfort and aesthetics however, weren’t part of that package.

Then, rumors started flying around that Chinese automakers were planning to export loads of small, cheap cars to the U.S. This would’ve crushed Hyundai/Kia’s market share, so they decided (rumor has it) to take their cars upmarket. Leaving the ‘bottom of the market’ to the Chinese.

After spending millions on separate styling departments, and new technologies/platforms that could be shared between the two car companies, Hyundai/Kia managed to transform itself from “invisible” to “popular”. And some of their new vehicles are even considered to be rivals for popular Honda’s and Toyota’s. So for this car comparison, we’re going to look at their 7-seat crossovers, and see if Gangam Style works in The Burbs.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Over the last few years, Hyundai has been replacing all of their generic-looking people-pods with stylish new models. The latest of these ‘new Hyundai’s’ is the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe. And yes, this car comparison is between two first cousins. However they’re completely different, so nobody would ever know…unless you told them.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

Completely redesigned for 2013, the Santa Fe now comes in two sizes: Short & Long. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is the short-wheelbase version, and it features comfortable seating for 5, along with your choice of two powerful & efficient 4-cylinder engines. The base 2.4 liter gets direct injection and 190-horsepower. The 2.0 Turbo gets a twin-scroll turbo, to reduce turbo lag, and direct injection to increase efficiency. It makes a V6-like 264-hp, and a 4-pot-like 31 mpg on the highway (FWD).

Using lightweight high-tensile steel, the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is 266 lbs lighter than the outgoing Santa Fe. And the body structure is 15% stiffer too. Not only does that improve fuel economy (the FWD 2.4L Santa Fe can achieve 33 mpg), but it also makes this family hauler feel less cumbersome to drive. Hyundai also gave it a new standard Driver Selectable Steering Mode, which varies the steering weight via a little button on the steering wheel. It’s not going to turn the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe into a corner carver, but it’s an interesting toy to play with.

2013 Hyundai Santa Fe

The (regular) 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe is the long wheelbase model, with three rows of seating, and a standard 294-hp direct injected V6 (they seem to have invested heavily in that technology). The second row seat (on both models) can slide up to 5-inches fore & aft. This allows you to slide it forward to maximize cargo room, or backward to give the passengers more room. The seatback also splits 40/20/40, allowing you more flexibility when loading people and cargo at the same time. This is a roomy and functional family bus to be sure. However, there’s a massive blind spot around the rear quarter windows, due to the swoopy new design language. Hyundai calls it ‘Fluidic Sculpture’. We call it ‘Woops-Bam!’. Fortunately, a backup camera is available.

Other surprising-for-the-money features include:

  • Brake Assist / Brake Force Distribution
  • Upscale cabin
  • Heated steering wheel (opt)
  • Glass roof (opt)
  • 8-inch touchscreen (opt)
  • 10-year/100,000 mile warranty

The more expensive (Japanese) CUVs are like a single-malt scotch; they’re smooth, and feel like a product that took years to perfect. The 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe on the other hand, is like a box of wine; you get the same amount of drunk, for ⅓ the price.

2013 Kia Sorento

While Kia is owned by Hyundai, it’s allowed to operate independently of the mother-ship. This means separate design departments, and different target customers. Hyundai uses a modern fluid-y design, meant to attract more affluent shoppers who want to save a little green on their next luxury-rig. Kia on the other hand, hired an ex-Audi designer, who gave the brand a more athletic face. This attracts a younger professional type, who wants a bargain buggy with sporty pretensions.

2013 Kia Sorento

The 2013 Kia Sorento was originally launched in 2009, and helped to put Kia on the map. The styling is sporty, yet sophisticated. Interior materials feel relatively expensive, and the design looks European. 5 people can ride comfortably under the optional glass roof, and you can squeeze 2 more (small) people into the available 3rd row. It’s not the biggest cabin in the class, but it’s certainly livable.

2013 Kia Sorento

Under the hood, the 2013 Kia Sorento can be outfitted with one of three engines; the base 2013 Kia Sorento LX gets a 175-hp 2.4 liter 4-burner, the 2013 Kia Sorento EX gets a direct injected 2.4 liter with 191-hp, and the 3.5 liter V6 makes a healthy 276-hp. All engines come with a 6-speed automatic.

The 2013 Kia Sorento V6 is hilariously powerful, and the GDI 4-pot does provide adequate motivation. They don’t have the refined feeling of a more expensive crossover, but this is a cheaper alternative afterall. And that’s the same feeling that you get on the inside. Nice, but somehow not-as-nice as the competition. But don’t forget, it is cheaper than a similarly equipped Toyota Highlander.

<strong>Car Comparison: 2013 Kia Sorento vs. 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe</strong>

SPECIFICATION2013 Hyundai Santa Fe / 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport2013 Kia Sorento
Fuel Economy21/29/24 2.4L / FWD21/29/24 2.4L / FWD
20/26/22 2.4L / AWD20/27/22 2.4L / MT
20/27/23 2.0T / FWD21/30/24 2.4L GDI / FWD
19/24/21 2.0T / AWD20/26/22 2.4L GDI / AWD
19/26/22 3.3L V6 / FWD20/26/22 3.5L / FWD
N/A / 3.3L V6 / AWD18/24/20 3.5L / AWD
Suburban Snob Factor7 / 10 Camrys7 / 10 Camrys
IIHS RankingTop Safety Pick = YTop Safety Pick = Y
Why Buy It?Although the 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe lacks some of the smooth-refinement found in a Honda or Toyota CUV, it does offer a lot of bang for the buck. Plus, this trucklet actually looks pretty good…for a Hyundai.The 2013 Kia Sorento is the value leader in the family-bus segment. In only a few short years, the Sorento has managed to earn snob appeal once saved for Soccer League Approved Toyotas. And, it costs less than a ham sandwich.