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Hyundai Santa Fe Elite vs Kia Sorento Sport+ Review: We Compare the Popular Hyundai & Kia 7 Seater Diesel AWDs


Matt Campbell
Reviewed & driven by
CarsGuide

8 Feb 2021

For this CarsGuide comparison test, we’ve brought together twins under the skin. Both of these seven-seater SUVs are designed for those who want a lot for a little, and they truly deliver on value, practicality and refinement.

The competitors we have in this seven-seat SUV comparison are the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite and the Kia Sorento Sport+, both of which are made in South Korea and share the same parent company, and both of which offer excellent family-focused SUVs for buyers with budget in mind.

That’s not to say these are “cheap” three-row SUVs - the days of Kia and Hyundai being considered also-rans are long gone, with these two models truly at the head of the field when it comes to perceived quality, style and technology. They’re not exactly cheap when it comes to cost, either.

In this review, we’ll cover those considerations as well as plenty more for new car customers in Australia, and we’ll see whether the just-updated Hyundai 7 seater is good enough to topple the all-new Kia 7 seater SUV. We’ll drill down across our eight review criteria, and at the end you’ll find out which one is our winner. Alternatively, you can watch the video above or head to our YouTube channel. 

Pricing and specs

There’s less than $1000 separating these two SUVs when it comes to the list price of each model tested. For this comparison review, we decided to go with the diesel all-wheel drive versions of each of these three-row family SUVs, though you can get petrol front-wheel drive models for less money.

Each of these models represents the second-from-the-top model in each respective variant line-up. 

The Hyundai Santa Fe Elite diesel AWD is the more affordable option of the two - yes, Kias are now more expensive than their siblings! - with this version costing $55,100 (MSRP/list price/before on-road costs) at the time of writing.

The Kia Sorento Sport+ diesel AWD has a cost of $55,850 (MSRP), so you need to be able to justify the extra 1.3 per cent asking price… right? 

Well let’s take a look at what you get for your money and how these two are separated from each other on specification. Here’s a rundown, starting with a look at the media systems. 

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Sat navYY
Apple CarPlay / Android AutoYY- with wireless Apple CarPlay
Touch screen size10.25-inch10.25-inch
USB ports58
RadioAM/FM/DABAM/FM/DAB
CD playerNN
Sound system speakers106
Wireless phone charging (Qi)YN

Some noticeable differentiators, including the Hyundai’s 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo system, which is a significantly better sound system than the six-speaker unit in the Kia. But the Kia counters with eight USB ports, despite missing out on Qi wireless charging (you get that in the Hyundai, and it’s one of the cleverest designs we’ve seen for a charge pad - you slot your phone in near the cupholders: watch the video to see!).

They’ve both got big media screens but the usability of the Kia’s unit is better thanks to its edged control buttons and knobs. The Hyundai’s control buttons are down well below, and it means you have to look further away from the screen to see which button you’re hitting. Plus the pop-out tablet style of the Hyundai screen makes it look small, where the Kia’s integrated finish is bold and big.

Next, let’s look at some other interior trim elements.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Interior trimLeather appointedLeather appointed
Front seat adjustment Electric (driver and passenger)Electric (driver only)
Leather steering wheelYN
Heated front seats NY
Heated steering wheelNY
Air conditioningDual-zone climate controlDual-zone climate control
Rear seat ventilationThird row with fan controlThird row with fan control
Directional rear air ventsYY
Keyless entry / smart keyYY
Push button startYY
Cruise controlAdaptiveAdaptive
Auto dimming rearview mirrorYY
Electric tailgateY - with sensor openingY - with sensor opening
Electric second-row seat foldingYY

So if you live in a cooler climate, or just appreciate a toasty tooshy, the Kia will likely appeal more to you here. But the electric adjustment for the passenger front seat in the Hyundai has a near driver’s seat trigger as well, so you can move the seat forward if you’re ferrying rear-seat occupants around - great for kids who like to kick the seat in front!

You might want to check out the interior pictures to see which of these two models you like the look of most, but next we’ll look at exterior differentiators.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Alloy wheels20-inch19-inch
TyresContinentalContinental
Spare wheelFull size alloyFull size alloy
Roof railsYY
LED headlights YY
LED daytime running lightsYY
LED fog lightsNY
Auto headlightsYY
Auto high-beam lightsYY
Auto rain sensing wipersYY

The 20-inch rims on the Hyundai look enormous, while the Kia’s 19s are big but fit the car well. Which one is the best looking? We’ll leave that decision up to you, but we’re going over some of the design highlights and differences in the next section.

And when it comes to safety specs and technology, these two are also closely matched. See the safety section below to see what we mean. 

While there’s a slight price advantage to the Hyundai on the price list, we can’t split these two on value. Both are exceptionally well equipped.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 9

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 9

Design

We know you’ll have made up your mind already about which you like the look of more, and it’s not our place to tell you what to think.

  • It’s hard to find anything that you don't like about the Sorento’s styling, while it’s easier to pick apart the Hyundai’s look. It’s hard to find anything that you don't like about the Sorento’s styling, while it’s easier to pick apart the Hyundai’s look.
  • It’s hard to find anything that you don't like about the Sorento’s styling, while it’s easier to pick apart the Hyundai’s look. It’s hard to find anything that you don't like about the Sorento’s styling, while it’s easier to pick apart the Hyundai’s look.

But there is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching, even beautiful, SUV, where the facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before, but it won’t be to all tastes.

That’s arguably the biggest difference between the two. It’s hard to find anything that makes you think “I don’t really like that” about the Sorento’s styling, while it’s easier to pick apart the Hyundai’s look. 

  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.
  • There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV. There is no denying that the new-generation Kia Sorento is an eye-catching SUV.

The arachnid headlights and broad grille of the Hyundai will divide opinion, where the concave “Tiger Nose” grille of the Kia and its set-back headlights are certainly more refined. The rear end treatment sees Hyundai adopt the very ‘now’ look incorporating a horizontal light bar on the tailgate, while the Kia has a new, almost Mustang-like tail-light treatment. 

  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The arachnid headlights and broad grille of the Hyundai will divide opinion. The arachnid headlights and broad grille of the Hyundai will divide opinion.
  • The arachnid headlights and broad grille of the Hyundai will divide opinion. The arachnid headlights and broad grille of the Hyundai will divide opinion.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.
  • The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before. The facelifted Hyundai Santa Fe looks more aggressive than before.

There’s even more to consider inside each of these cars, including the dashboard design - the Kia with its bold, flat look finish, while the Hyundai has a more conservative look to its cabin. There’s more to it than that, though, with these models offering different boot space and child seat capabilities - more on that in the interior and practicality section, coming up next. You can check out interior pictures there, too.

  • The Hyundai has a more conservative look to its cabin. The Hyundai has a more conservative look to its cabin.
  • The Kia has a bold, flat look finish inside. The Kia has a bold, flat look finish inside.

And what’s interesting is that these two are so close when it comes to dimensions but there are some differentiating factors, like the Kia's slightly longer wheelbase.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Length4785mm4810mm
Wheelbase2765mm2815mm
Height1710mm1700mm
Width1900mm1900mm

It might seem obvious, but these two models are built on the same platform, according to the companies. The pre-facelift Santa Fe rode on an earlier version of this engineering platform, though, and it seems Hyundai didn’t stretch the wheelbase to match the Sorento, even if it is a small difference in length. The fact the Santa Fe packs almost as much space into a shorter nose-to-tail space might push you that way, however.

Let’s next look at the weight and towing capacity ratings for these two family SUVs.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Towing capacity - unbraked750kg750kg
Towing capacity - braked2500kg2000kg
Gross vehicle mass (GVM)2610kg2610kg
Gross combination mass (GCM)5110kg4610kg

If you’ve got a small caravan or a boat, the Kia’s lower braked towing rating could rule it out for you. It’s not ideal, that’s for sure.

Now, we’re not saying that these two vehicles are purpose-built off roaders, but we know there are plenty of buyers out there who might head off highway for some dirty adventures. There are no listed figures for things like approach angle, departure angle, ramp over / break over angle or wading depth, but we can tell you that both have the same ground clearance mm - 176mm. Hardly high-riding.

And we’d be suggesting you consider your off road intentions despite both models having Terrain Mode selection dials, allowing you to choose between Sand, Mud and Snow modes. That’s in addition to the on-road modes, including Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart. For this test, we left both in Smart mode, which calibrates engine/transmission and steering response to suit the driver’s behaviour.

Too close to call, here. The Sorento's subjectively better styling might not offset the lower towing capacity for you, but if you don’t plan to tow, it doesn’t matter either way.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 8

Interior and practicality

There are very different vibes to the cabins of the two vehicles in this test. 

The Santa Fe is more conservative, more oriented towards a buyer who is after the luxury elements you might expect from a European brand. The materials are supple, there’s a traditional slew of buttons below a floating screen, and it has a delicate and purposeful overall look.

The Sorento also has some European influences, but in a more technical way - it has the big-screen wow factor, the angular idealism that a lot of customers are drawn to. There’s a lot of piano black, a flat panel screen look, and some of the most jumbo-sized door handles we’ve seen. It’s more playful and youthful, that’s for sure.

  • The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn. The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn.
  • The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn. The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn.
  • The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn. The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system makes it easier to learn.
  • Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times.  Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 
  • Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times.  Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 
  • Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times.  Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 
  • Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times.  Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 
  • Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times.  Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 

The design is one thing, but the usability of the cabin is what really counts. The Kia’s broader screen with high-mounted controls for the media system meant it was easier to learn, while the Hyundai’s floating unit and lower-mounted buttons required a bit more thought at times. 

Both have excellent operating systems, with mostly very simple interfaces to each multimedia system. The Kia’s stereo is no match for the Hyundai’s, but both have the requisite smartphone mirroring technology fitted (not wireless mirroring, though). 

The Santa Fe’s really smart wireless phone charger in the cupholder section is genius - it means your phone faces away from you if you’re driving, meaning fewer distractions from notifications. The Sorento doesn’t have wireless charging in this spec.

The Sorento does have more USB ports - eight as opposed to five in the Santa Fe (image: Sorento). The Sorento does have more USB ports - eight as opposed to five in the Santa Fe (image: Sorento).

But the Sorento does have more USB ports - eight as opposed to five in the Santa Fe. That’s a lot of USBs, and we love that they’re cleverly located up in the front seat backs for second-row occupants.

Those rear row seats offer good space for adults - the third row is certainly more amenable than in a Mitsubishi Outlander, Honda CR-V or Nissan X-Trail three-rower. But the back isn’t at Kia Carnival levels of space, and a Nissan Pathfinder and Hyundai Palisade both better these two for third-row SUV room.

That said, our rear-seat tester Mitch reckoned the second row was more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its more sculpted seats, while the third row was ever-so-slightly roomier in the Kia.

  • The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe). The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe).
  • The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe). The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe).
  • The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe). The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe).
  • The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe). The rear-seat felt more more comfortable in the Hyundai thanks to its sculpted seats (image: Santa Fe).

Like to stay hydrated? The Kia is the car for you. It has eight cup holders and four bottle holders, including clever ones mounted at the armrests of the rear doors. The Hyundai has five cup holders and four bottle holders.

The Kia has an outright advantage when it comes to child seat capacity.

The Sorento has a staggering number of attachment points for baby seats, including three top-tether points in the second-row (plus two ISOFIX), and two top-tether attachments in the third-row as well (plus a further two ISOFIX). That makes a total five top tether and four ISOFIX points.

  • The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento). The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento). The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento). The Kia's rear row seats offer good space for adults (image: Sorento).

By comparison, the Santa Fe doesn’t have any child-seat anchorages in the back row, therefore limiting its ability to a degree. It has three top-tether points in the second row and two ISOFIX. So it might not fit your family as well as the Sorento.

But the Santa Fe arguably has a comfort and convenience advantage, in that it has the smaller section of the second row - the “40” portion of the 60:40 split - on the kerbside of the car. That’s a smarter approach than what is used in the Kia (larger portion on the gutter side of the car) because it means there’s less interruption if you need to access the back seats, especially if you have child-seats mounted in the car full-time.

And the Hyundai also gets nicer rear seats in terms of comfort, plus there is quilted leather trim on the tops of the second-row seats to continue the luxury theme from up front. 

  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).
  • The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento). The Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior (image: Sorento).

Parents will also love the rear seat retractable blinds in the Santa Fe, which are excellent for younger children and mean you don’t have to ruin the look of your new car with a set of sock-style or suction cup shades.

And further, if your children appreciate a hushed environment on the road, there’s a Quiet Mode in this spec of the Hyundai that mutes the rear speakers and limits the volume up front, too. Plus you can project your voice without having to yell, with a rear speaker mode (Passenger Talk) for the front. Those are two things the Sorento doesn’t have at this price point (standard in GT-Line) that could make your life - and your drives - more pleasant.

So while the Kia offers a more aesthetically pleasing interior with a few additional USBs and cup holders, we think it’s actually the Santa Fe that will be marginally more family-friendly for long-term use.

  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).
  • The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe). The Hyundai seems more family-friendly for long-term use (image: Santa Fe).

And while there is a difference between these SUVs for boot capacity, the reality of the boot space situation is closer than you’d think.

We put our CarsGuide suitcases (124L, 95L and 36L) as well as a pram in the back. Both managed to fit it all with room to spare with the second row folded down - no surprise there, with the Kia claiming 616L of five-seats-up boot space, while the Hyundai offers 571L in that configuration.

  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).
  • The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+). The Sorento claims 616L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Sorento Sport+).

Using all seven seats? The room is limited in both SUVs, with Kia again claiming a slightly higher figure of 187L compared to the Hyundai’s 130L. It didn’t look that big of a gap in practice, as both struggled to fit a large case or the pram with the two rearmost seats in use.

  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).
  • The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite). The Santa Fe offers 571L of boot space with five-seats-up (image: Santa Fe Elite).

You might think it’s weird that we’re awarding this part of the test to the Hyundai, given its smaller (on paper) boot space and child seat fitment, but if you’re really only using this as a 5+2 SUV - which we reckon is either SUVs best use case - then the larger kerbside seat and lack of window blinds help push the Hyundai’s case.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 9

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 8

Engines and transmissions

They’re built on the same underpinnings, and share plenty in common when it comes to powertrains, too.

The pair tested here both have the same diesel engines, the same outputs, the same transmissions and same drivetrains. Here’s a rundown.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Engine2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel2.2-litre four-cylinder turbo-diesel
Power output 148kW at 3800rpm148kW at 3800rpm
Torque output440Nm at 1750-2750rpm440Nm at 1750-2750rpm
TransmissionEight-speed dual-clutch automaticEight-speed dual-clutch automatic
DrivetrainOn-demand all-wheel driveOn-demand all-wheel drive

The power and torque outputs are good in both instances, and each has a new dual-clutch automatic transmission (wet type) fitted to both models.

They even have identical gear ratios, but they don’t drive exactly the same - more on that in the driving section below.

  • Both cars are built on the same underpinnings (image: Hyundai Santa Fe). Both cars are built on the same underpinnings (image: Hyundai Santa Fe).
  • Both cars are built on the same underpinnings (image: Kia Sorento). Both cars are built on the same underpinnings (image: Kia Sorento).

Weirdly, neither engine comes with start-stop fuel saving technology, and neither has AdBlue. But they meet Euro 5 standards, so there’s a diesel particulate filter (DPF).

If you have concerns over issues with reliability, engine problems, transmission problems, recalls or general complaints, you should check out our Hyundai Santa Fe problems page and our Kia Sorento problems page.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 8

Fuel consumption

Both models here have the same powertrains and weigh about the same, so it’s no surprise they have identical fuel consumption claims - that’s the official combined cycle fuel use figure that the manufacturer says you should be able to achieve across a mix of driving.

How did they stack up in our real world testing, which comprised highway, back road, urban and country driving? See below - we were surprised at the difference, too!

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
 Official combined cycle fuel consumption 7.4L/100km 7.4L/100km
 Actual fuel use on test  8.8L/100km 7.8L/100km
 Difference between claim and actual 1.4L/100km / 18.9 per cent 0.4L/100km / 5.4 per cent
Fuel tank size67L67L
 Theoretical driving range 761km based on actual fuel use 859km based on actual fuel use

A litre of extra fuel per 100 kays might not seem like much, but that’s why we’ve included the other breakdowns - like the theoretical range based on our real-world driving, not to mention the monetary advantage over a year of driving.

As such we’re giving the Kia an extra point here. And we’ll explore why we think the Hyundai used additional fuel in the driving section below.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8 

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 9
 

Driving

These two seven-seaters were driven across the same mix of roads - urban and suburban streets, free-flowing and also congested highways and freeways, and a bunch of quieter, windy country roads - to see what they were like.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite

  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.
  • The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set. The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set.

You might think that because these two models share the same engine and transmission, but there are actually differences in the way these two drive.

They both have a 2.2-litre diesel engine (with an alloy block - the pre-facelift Santa Fe was a steel block engine), as well as a newly developed eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission (pre-facelift the Santa Fe had a conventional eight-speed torque converter auto), with on-demand all-wheel drive.

Even the gear ratios are the same. But they drove differently, and this was most noticeable on hilly sections, where the Santa Fe was a bit more frantic with its engine braking and not as relaxed or refined as a result.

The engine itself offers strong pulling power. It’s not what I’d call quick, but it does get moving pretty well, once the dual-clutch auto has sorted out getting you away from a standstill. I feel like the previous eight-speed torque converter auto had a bit more off-the-mark urgency, though without testing back-to-back it’s hard to say definitively.

The Hyundai and Kia both have Australia-specific suspension and steering tunes, each with a different flavour despite the brands both stating they tune their handling setups to suit local tastes.

And I have to say, it really will depend on your taste as to which you’ll prefer to pilot here. 

The road manners of the Santa Fe feel more softly set, less for the enthusiastic driver and more for the day-to-day commuter. It just doesn’t feel quite as tied down or in-control of itself, especially when changing directions at higher speeds.

The steering weighting in the Santa Fe is heavier than in the Sorento, with a number feeling at higher speeds. At lower speeds it’s fine, reacting quickly with a light action, and there’s good grip available too.

Those 20-inch wheels make themselves known over sharp edged bumps, especially at lower speeds. It isn’t clumsy, but it can clunk over big lumps or driveways at parking pace. The rear suspension in the Santa Fe is softer and makes it feel lighter over larger bumps, which can make it feel like the rear end lopes more and bobbles over mid-corner bumps. It’s not to the point of nervousness, but it does dull the fun factor to a degree.

But honestly, the most annoying thing I found about the Santa Fe’s drive experience was the push-button gear selector. What’s wrong with a conventional shifter, like the Kia has? It means - until you really get to know the car after, probably, months or years of ownership - you might find you have to look down to hit the correct button (P, R, N or D). It just adds complexity without giving anything back.

Kia Sorento Sport+  

  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.
  • The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive. The Kia feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive.

As above, the Kia’s 2.2D and 8DCT powertrain is a solid performer. Like the Santa Fe you’ll feel the dual-clutch working at low speeds when taking off from a standstill, and it shifts quickly and cleverly as speeds rise, too.

But the Kia’s powertrain was a touch more relaxed in our testing, clearly having adopted a slightly different tune characteristic. It wasn’t as reliant on downshift and exhaust braking, meaning it didn’t act like the Hyundai - plucking third gear on downhill stints and revving hard - but would rather rely more on the actual braking while sticking in a higher gear.

That makes it feel more relaxed, especially if you’re likely to drive down steep hills every day (like I do). 

And the engine and transmission team together well, with smooth progress and good power delivery across the rev range. In our testing, the Kia was just a smidge quicker on our uphill acceleration test, seemingly making a little bit better progress through the gears under hard acceleration. 

It really feels more tuned for a person who likes to drive, rather than someone who simply needs to drive from point to point. It has a nicer steering feel - lighter yet delivering more road feel at the straight ahead position, while also offering good weighting and response as you turn the wheel further at higher speeds. 

Again, the grip was excellent (both cars run Continental PremiumContact 6 rubber) but the suspension tune of the Kia is firmer, more purposeful and precise. It has a marginally harder ride and a definitely more rigid rear suspension, which means there’s less body roll when you change direction. 

The result is a car that is definitely more engaging for those who like to go for a drive to a pretty place as much for the road trip as the destination. It is just nicer as an overall experience, and while - again - the large (19-inch) alloy wheels can pick up sharp edges at lower speeds, it is overall more resolved and comfortable than the Santa Fe.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 9

Safety

When it comes to advanced safety technology both of these SUVs come comprehensively loaded with safety equipment as standard. They are both excellent in that regard - and the Kia Sorento range has been awarded the maximum five-star ANCAP crash test rating against the most stringent 2020 criteria, while the Santa Fe update has retained its 2018 five-star score.

However, for both of these models there are still some safety considerations you should keep in mind. Neither of these SUVs has third-row airbag protection for rear-row occupants, whereas if you buy a Toyota Kluger or Mazda CX-9, you get what we’d call ‘proper’ third-row occupant airbag protection.

Also, the Santa Fe misses out on the extra front-centre airbag you get in the new-generation Sorento model. As such, the Kia has an airbag count of eight (dual front, front side, dual front centre, curtain airbags for first and second rows), while the Hyundai has a six-airbag count (dual front, front side, and side-curtain airbags for 1st and 2nd rows).

Note: the below safety details are for the specifications tested. Both the Santa Fe and Sorento model ranges still reserve some safety technology for the highest grades (Highlander and Platinum, respectively), including surround view camera systems, rear autonomous braking and blind-spot camera systems. If that stuff matters to you, you’ll need to spend the extra money to get it.

Here’s a rundown of the spec fitted to the Elite and Sport+ variants:

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Reversing cameraYY
Front parking sensorsYY
Rear parking sensorsYY
Airbags6 - dual front, front side, 2-row curtain8 - dual front, dual front centre, front side, 2-row curtain
Auto emergency braking (AEB)Y - 10km/h to 180km/hY - 10km/h to 180km/h
Pedestrian detectionY - 10km/h to 85km/hY - 10km/h to 85km/h 
Cyclist detectionY - 10km/h to 85km/hY - 10km/h to 85km/h 
Auto high-beam lightsY - over 40km/hY - over 40km/h
Adaptive cruise controlY - up to 180km/hY - up to 180km/h
Lane departure warningYY
Active lane keep assistY - over 60km/hY - over 60km/h
Junction assist (stops vehicle turning in front of oncoming traffic)Y - 10km/h to 30km/h
 
Y - 10km/h to 30km/h
Blind spot monitoringYY
Rear cross trafficY -  with auto braking below 8km/hY - with auto braking below 8km/h
Speed sign recognitionYY
ANCAP safety rating (year tested)5 stars (2018)5 stars (2020)

There are other standard fit items like Safe Exit Assist, to ensure that rear occupants don’t open their doors into traffic, as well as Driver Attention Warning that monitors your inputs and can chime to tell you to take a break, and Rear Occupant Alert, which sounds an alarm if you try to lock the car with someone sitting in the back. 

Given both are very well equipped (excluding third-row airbag coverage) they’re close on scores here. But the Kia just edges ahead with its additional front centre airbag.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 9

Ownership

Ownership is a key area for both of these brands. In years gone by, the warranty and servicing promise of each of these companies has helped get buyers through the door, and they both remain strong - but the Kia is ahead on a few fronts.

 Hyundai Santa FeKia Sorento Sport+
Service interval12 months/15,000km12 months/15,000km
Annual service cost (avg over five years)$459$479
Capped price servicing planLifetimeSeven years/105,000km
Prepay servicing available?YN
Warranty coverFive years/unlimited kmSeven years/unlimited km
Roadside assist included?12 months initially, refreshed annually if serviced with Hyundai for up to 10 yearsSeven years

The thing that might push you towards the Hyundai is the ability to prepay your servicing. You can do so for three years/45,000km ($1377), four years/60,000km ($1836) or five years/75,000km ($2295), and that means you can roll those costs into your finance and have one less annual thing to budget for. It’s a great move for families.

The Kia is ahead on a few fronts in terms of the warranty and servicing promise. The Kia is ahead on a few fronts in terms of the warranty and servicing promise.

But the extra two years of warranty is arguably a better peace-of-mind consideration, and that’s why we’re again giving the Kia a one-point score advantage against the ownership criterion.

Hyundai Santa Fe Elite - 8

Kia Sorento Sport+ - 9

Verdict

We totally get why you might choose the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite over the Kia Sorento Sport+. It could come down to your preferences for a different exterior look, interior finishes and design, or maybe you just want to save a little money.

But in this test, we think it’s the Kia that stands out as the better optional overall, with excellent value, ownership, design and technology. It’s ever so slightly more enjoyable to drive, too. You can't discount the Santa Fe's excellent child-seat capabilities, and it has that smarter second-row setup that could be the deciding factor. Either way, you're getting a quality SUV that promises to offer plenty for your money.

Another reminder that if you’re considering either of these as ‘full-time’ seven-seaters, those missing curtain airbags remain a caveat. But if that doesn’t factor into your considerations, then you could do a lot worse than either the Santa Fe or the Sorento.

So, which would you choose, and why? Our scoring table below sets out how these SUVs scored against all of our criteria, and that should help you sort out what matters most to you. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

 Hyundai Santa Fe EliteKia Sorento Sport+
Pricing and specs99
Design88
Interior and practicality98
Drivetrain88
Fuel consumption89
Driving89
Safety89
Ownership89
Overall (average of the above)8.3/108.6/10

 



Disclaimer: The pricing information shown in the editorial content (Review Prices) is to be used as a guide only and is based on information provided to Carsguide Autotrader Media Solutions Pty Ltd (Carsguide) both by third party sources and the car manufacturer at the time of publication. The Review Prices were correct at the time of publication.  Carsguide does not warrant or represent that the information is accurate, reliable, complete, current or suitable for any particular purpose. You should not use or rely upon this information without conducting an independent assessment and valuation of the vehicle.

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