Despite rising fuel costs and urban sprawl, SUVs still represent big business and sell in impressive numbers. In light of that, we decided to take a look at two of our favorite new SUVs, the Kia Sorento and the Jeep Grand Cherokee, to see which one is better for each kind of buyer out there.
That’s because these SUVs are as versatile as any other vehicle out there, filling the needs of its owners in each specific way. The Kia Sorento is heavily revised this year and emphasizes that versatility alongside other elements like luxury, performance, and style. The exterior is attractive thanks to new sporty and aggressive looking fascias, and you can get the Sorento with a fully LED lighting system. I’ve grown to love the ice-cube like fog lights, but I’m not a huge fan of all the black plastic around the lower grille. The rear end has a rugged looking skid-plate to give the Sorento that tough SUV feel that is usually reserved for the other car we have out here today.
Kia Shows up Big
The more impressive updates on this crossover come inside as Kia changed many little things that add really up. For starters, the Sorento comes with multiple seating arrangements. Although the third row is pretty tight, it can fold with a 50/50 split, while the second row features a 40/20/40 split. You get over 11 cubic feet of space to store stuff with all seats in place, or 73 cubic feet with everything folded down. It’s spacious, to say the least, but there’s more to it than that.
See Also: 2019 Kia Sorento Review
The seats in our tester are wrapped in nice Nappa Leather that brings the fantastic Kia Stinger GT to mind, but one complaint I have about the Sorento is with its seating position, especially in regards to the outboard armrest, which is a bit too short.
However, Kia has updated many of the touch points in the cabin. The steering wheel and shift knob get a new look and feel, as do the air vents and center console. The gauge cluster has also been updated, plugging a bright multifunction display screen to make the car feel modern and intuitive.
The Sorento can also be equipped with a ton of handy features, like a huge dual-pane sunroof, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated and vented seats, a heated steering wheel, a power liftgate and a 630-watt ten-speaker surround sound system from Harmon/Kardon.
The combination of all of these things means that the Sorento went from being just a family-focused SUV to something more, as the additional features and luxurious appointments give it an extra edge.
Power as Needed
That edge is dulled a bit by the loss of the turbocharged four-cylinder that used to be offered in the Sorento. While a 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder or 290-hp 3.3-liter V6 are still available, the automaker is also promising a new diesel option that should be popping up sometime in the future to capitalize on the sudden lack of competition in that regard.
You can get the Sorento with either front-wheel drive or with all-wheels being motivated, and our V6 model indeed comes with all-wheel drive. The whole powertrain is tied together with an eight-speed automatic, while four-cylinder models make do with a six-speed auto.
The engine is nothing to get excited about. It feels good to bury your foot and get going in this SUV, but it doesn’t sound very good in action. A bit coarse at times in action, it’s plenty usable on the everyday commute and can pass with ease.
Instead, the other elements of the powertrain are more interesting. The all-wheel-drive system features a “4WD lock” mode to evenly distribute power to the front and rear axles. It also packs a torque vectoring cornering control system, which kicks in when understeer is detected to ensure smooth and stable driving even when driving aggressively.
There’s also the Smart Shift and Drive mode that measures your driving behavior to automatically select and switch between different drive modes. While that sounds a bit invasive, it actually works, and can accurately decide what drive mode settings to automatically use when you’re just cruising on the highway, and when you’re driving a bit more aggressively. If you don’t want to use this feature though, you can just use one of the pre-set drive modes.
Luxury for Less
The Sorento is extremely accommodating on the road. Everything feels smooth and natural. Gear changes are snappy with no hesitation while the steering is extremely responsive, allowing the Sorento to feel more like a car than a three-row SUV. Body roll and lean is nicely kept in check, and this Kia never feels wobbly or unwieldy. It is easy to drive with little interruptions and doesn’t require a huge change in driving style, which can be said about other big cars. It gives a really good sense of confidence on the road, allowing you to quickly judge where it can fit, either in a parking spot or in some traffic.
The Sorento is capable of getting about 21 MPG combined, and I’d say our real-world usage of the truck confirms that. But the Jeep is also rated to get 21 MPG combined, so the two trucks even out there.
The Sorento starts at $27,000 but that’s for a front-wheel drive, four-cylinder model. This fully loaded example will set you back over $47,000. That’s a huge margin between models, but the Jeep is also pretty versatile in terms of capability, performance and price, so it’s a pretty appropriate comparison subject.
|Vehicle||2019 Kia Sorento||Advantage||2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee|
|Engine||3.3-liter V6||-||3.6-liter V6|
|Output||290 hp, 252 lb-ft of torque||Grand Cherokee||295 hp, 260 lb-ft of torque|
|Transmission||8-speed auto||-||8-speed auto|
|Combined Fuel Economy (MPG)||21 MPG||-||21 MPG|
|Fuel Economy (l/100kms)||NA||-||11.3|
|Cargo space (cubic feet)||11.3 - 73||Sorento||36.3 - 68.3|
|Cargo space (liters)||320 - 2,066||Sorento||1028 - 1,934|
|Towing Capacity||5,000 lb.||Grand Cherokee||6,200 lb.|
|As Tested Price (USD)||$47,480||Sorento||$47,820|
|As Tested Price (CAD)||$48,865||Sorento||$52,845|
Jeeps for Every Budget
But it’s also important that these two cars are really targetting two different kinds of buyers. And this Limited model with the Sterling package is a mid-level trim vehicle, compared to the Sorento’s loaded model. So there a few things that should be brought up when talking about any Grand Cherokee and not just this one. First, you can get it with a number of motors. While most will opt for the 3.6-liter V6 engine, other buyers can pick between more powerful V8s if they’re so inclined. Additionally, the luxury options and features like air suspension and upgraded upholstery and trims can really be added too. You can go well overboard and get yourself in a $102,205 Grand Cherokee Trackhawk, with 707 horsepower and other insane goodies… But if you stay thrifty you’ll end up with something like we have, which costs just $47,820 ($52,845 in Canada.)
The Limited model with the Sterling package gets a few unique elements, like platinum accents on the exterior and big 20 inch wheels.
While the Jeep boasts a fancy all-wheel-drive system and limitless off-road capability, its interior is a little less versatile, at least in comparison to the Sorento. The Grand Cherokee doesn’t come with the third row of seating and the total space available is just 68 cubic feet.
See Also: 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee Review
Fortunately, the seats are extremely accommodating, feeling like the sort of loungers you’d find in a fancy movie theatre. In fact, our tester comes with a rear seat entertainment system and Blu ray player, making that comparison apt.
On the surface, the interior upholstery looks pretty nice, yet the trim accents just aren’t that. There could be a few more luxury touches in here to give off a more premium vibe. You’ll definitely notice the harder materials throughout the cabin which feel low grade.
Like the Kia, there’s bottomless list of features in here, although nothing that the Sorento doesn’t have. However, the Jeep does use the fantastic and modern feeling UConnect infotainment system, as well as a better looking digital gauge cluster. One small issue occurred with the infotainment system where it went completely blank until we made a call using our phone that was still connected via Bluetooth to the unresponsive system. Once the call began ringing, the screen came alive, which is both good news and puzzling. This happened a few more times and was fixed the same way. It’s strange, to say the least, and not at all confidence inspiring.
Road Worthy or Off Road Worthy
Once you hit the road, there’s a mix of feelings. The Grand Cherokee feels a bit more like a truck than the Sorento does. That has both positive and negative connotations. The vehicle feels substantial and tough, but can also feel a bit loose, especially in terms of body roll and sway. Behind the wheel, it feels like you’re at the helm of something big, and definitely, it definitely doesn’t try to feel like a car or attempt to be sporty or fun even if it has a sports mode.
Under the hood of this Grand Cherokee is a 3.6-liter V6, the very popular Pentastar engine, which makes 295 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, which are both better than what you’d find in the Kia. It’s paired to a ZF designed eight-speed which has a good sense of what gear to be in at any time. It’s rated to tow 6200 lbs which is a solid advantage over the Sorento.
The Must-Have Jeep Feature
The more impressive element of this trucks is the all-wheel-drive system as well as the optional air suspension and Select-Terrain traction system. What that means is you can use a knob to dial in the current road conditions and the Jeep will sort out its traction and stability system to ensure you have the best grip for the situation. It helps to have some capable tires equipped if you’re taking this Grand Cherokee to uncharted territory, but this system will definitely improve your confidence on certain trails and surfaces.
But for how good the Grand Cherokee is at off-roading and crappy conditions, it could be a bit tighter during on-road situations. Don’t mistake me for saying its a bad truck, it just feels a bit more average in comparison to the Sorento. Of course, the Kia isn’t nearly as confidence inspiring off-road, but it makes up for it by being really good during the everyday commute.
Both of these trucks can be equipped with plenty of driver assistance and safety features. They both have adaptive cruise control that can bring the vehicle to a stop. They both have blind spot monitoring and lane-keeping assistance. They also have fantastic rear-view cameras. The Jeep has parking sensors to aid with parking, while the Kia has different camera angles. I can’t definitively say one car is better than the other in this regard, but the IIHS does. The safety advocate has given this 2019 Sorento a Top Safety Pick Plus rating, which is something the Jeep doesn’t have.
The Verdict: 2019 Kia Sorento vs 2018 Jeep Grand Cherokee
Both of these SUVs are fantastic, and I have no problem recommending them to someone who wants the most luxury-like SUV for the money. Seriously these two could compete with the likes of Lincoln, Buick, Acura, and Lexus at this point.
The Jeep is a little less refined on the road but makes up for it with off-road confidence, while the Kia is fantastic for the everyday commute and the family thanks to its huge interior. It’s a close call, but I’ll say the Sorento is the one that will fit more customers needs and budgets.