2016 Honda Pilot vs 2016 Kia Sorento

Which three-row crossover is better for a family on the go?


It’s almost winter time and the family needs to get to the mall for some last-minute holiday shopping, but there’s a blizzard outside.

Hidden curbs buried under fresh powder are just waiting to rip off unsuspecting bumpers and high-side the family sedan. The slippery ice-covered ramp leaving the mall’s parking garage laughs hysterically as two-wheel-drive vehicles attempt to ascend it.

Not wanting to create a suburban spin-off of the movie Alive, it has been decided to stay indoors. Looks like Christmas is cancelled.

This harrowing disaster could all have been avoided with a three-row crossover like the Kia Sorento or Honda Pilot. Think of these large family haulers as being minivans with more ground clearance and optional all-wheel drive because, well, that’s exactly what they are.

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Size vs Style

The Kia Sorento underwent a refresh last year and emerged with a stylish new exterior. This year, it’s the Pilot’s turn and although it may not have the same style as the Sorento, the big crossover’s look is completely different. Gone is the boxy body of old, as the Pilot now features a curvaceous shape more in line with Honda’s other crossovers, the CR-V and HR-V.

And with the new design has come a growth spurt. The 2016 Pilot isn’t just bigger than last year’s model, but it’s also over seven inches longer than the Sorento. Yet, even with this size advantage, the Pilot holds a narrow advantage when it comes to curb weight.

 SEE ALSO: 2016 Honda Pilot Review

Still, the Sorento does feel smaller on the road, offering more agility and quicker responses.

The Pilot is large and feels like a baby bus behind the wheel. Thankfully, the ride quality is anything but bus-like. The suspension is so soft and wafts down the road in a way the comparably choppier Sorento cannot match. Outside noise in the Pilot is kept to a minimum, enhancing the feeling of refinement.

2016 Honda Pilot

Big V6 Power

Aside from the new shape, the other big news for the 2016 Pilot is the drivetrain. Gone is the 3.5-liter V6 of old, replaced by a new 3.5-liter unit, this time utilizing direct injection. This helps bump power up to 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed automatic can send power to the front or all four wheels, unless the decision is made to splurge for the Touring or Elite trim of the Pilot. Then a nine-speed automatic transmission, based on the one found in the Acura MDX is equipped.

Click here to compare these SUVs side by side

With the nine-speed, the Pilot delivers impressive straight line performance. Best of all, it happens in such an incredibly smooth, refined way – like every mechanical component is slathered in Crisco.

Power for the Sorento comes courtesy of a 3.3-liter V6 that’s up 10 horsepower on the Pilot, but down 10 lb-ft. of torque. Equipped to a six-speed automatic transmission, power delivery to the road is not as robust as the Pilot’s despite the similar power to weight ratios. The actual operation of the transmission and engine are not as buttery smooth either.

Compare Specs

2016 Honda Pilot
2016 Kia Sorento
Vehicle 2016 Honda Pilot Advantage 2016 Kia Sorento
Engine 3.5 L V6 - 3.3 L V6
Horsepower 280 HP Sorento 290 HP
Torque 262 lb-ft. Pilot 252 lb-ft.
Weight 4,317 lbs. - 4,343 lbs.
2nd Row Legroom 38.4-inches Sorento 39.4-inches
3rd Row Legroom 31.9-inches - 31.7-inches
Rear Cargo 18.0 cubic feet Pilot 11.3 cubic feet
Fuel Economy (US) 19 MPG city, 26 MPG hwy Pilot 17 MPG city, 23 MPG hwy
Fuel Economy (CDN) 12.4 L/100 km city, 9.3 L/100 km hwy Pilot 13.4 L/100 km city, 9.4 L/100 km highway
Fuel Economy Observed 22.6 MPG Pilot 22.0 MPG
Starting Price(US) $30,875 Sorento $25,795
Starting Price(CDN) $37,185 Sorento $29,210
Top Trim Price(US) $47,300 Sorento $46,495
Top Trim Price(CDN) $52,185 Sorento $48,710

Surprising Fit and Finish Champion

Fit and finish in the Pilot is a bit odd. The further back one sits in the Pilot, the worse it gets. Up front the materials are nice, soft and appealing to the eye. But by the middle row it’s a mix of good and bad, while everything in the third row is hard, ugly plastic. Other issues in the Honda have to do with the infotainment screen that is set at too much of a tilt, producing glare from the windshield and the moon roof. And of course it’s operating the button-free, sometimes infuriating, HondaLink infotainment system.

Switch to the Sorento and everything is laid out in just as logical fashion. But, the infotainment screen is slightly recessed to eliminate glare and there are actual buttons along with a volume and a tuning knob for easier operation.

2016 Kia Sorento interior dashboard

2016 Honda Pilot interior dashboard

For front seat comfort, the Pilot wins as they are more agreeable and lack the hard spots found in the Sorento’s seats. Second row passengers are spoiled a bit more in the Sorento, though, as the materials back there are just as good as they are up front and there is a true panoramic moon roof, not a dual roof set up like in the Pilot.

Third Row and Cargo Discrepancies

It’s obvious there is a size difference between these two vehicles once the third row of the Sorento and Pilot are sampled. With the Pilot being longer, wider and taller than the Sorento, it’s no surprise the backseat is more accommodating. Although legroom is similar between the two vehicles, there is a whole lot less headroom in the Sorento. Actual seat comfort is good in both crossovers and kids should fit in either without issue. But full-size adults are only going to fit in the Pilot.

2016 Kia Sorento

And getting in and out of the Pilot is also easier. With wide rear door openings, there is ample maneuvering room and Honda’s fantastic one button tilt and slide middle seat function makes entry and exit even easier. The Sorento has a much smaller opening for third-row passengers to squeeze through and Kia’s single lever mechanism to move the second row seats works well enough, but is not as slick as Honda’s single button.

 SEE ALSO: 2016 Kia Sorento Review

The smaller size also hurts the Sorento’s cargo area. With just over 11 cubic feet of space, the Kia can’t compete with the Honda’s 18 cubic feet of space. As well, the Pilot features an adjustable load floor for more flexibility. And when more space is required, the Pilot’s 108.5 cubic feet behind the front seats crushes the Sorento’s 73 cubic feet.

For the price of $47,300, the fully loaded Pilot Elite all-wheel drive comes equipped with modern technology like active lane keep, adaptive cruise control, a rear entertainment system and dual moon roofs. For $800 less than the Pilot, the Sorento Limited comes equipped with most of the same technology as the Honda, minus the active lane keep and the rear entertainment system. It does however come with an around view cameras that really help when parking.


The Verdict: 2016 Honda Pilot vs 2016 Kia Sorento

If you aspire for a luxury crossover, but can’t quite foot the bill for one, then maybe the smaller, yet stylish Kia Sorento is for you. Otherwise, the Pilot excels at just about every family hauling task you can throw at it, making it the better choice. Plus, it should have no trouble tackling the local big box stores and parking lots during a winter blizzard. Good news, kids, Christmas is back on.

2016 Honda Pilot

2016 Kia Sorento