Subaru Forester VS Kia Sorento
- Interesting looks
- Excellent safety
- Good space and practicality
- Not interesting to drive
- Doesn't live up to 'Sport' name
- Bit pricey to own
- Excellent features and good value
- Comfortable and easy to drive
- Cool styling, but still practical
- No petrol four cylinder engine
- Airbags don’t fully cover third row
- Engines are thirsty
This is not the Subaru Forester Sport model they get in Japan, and it's therefore not the one most Aussies have been desperate to see launched here.
Nope, the giveaway is the 2.5i part of the name for this 2021 Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model, which has just been added to the brand's range to add a bit more of an eye-catching variant to the line-up.
In Japan, the Sport gets a new turbocharged petrol engine, but this one instead soldiers on with the same powerplant as the rest of the Forester range, but there have been plenty of changes and additions besides.
|Engine Type||2.5L turbo|
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
The Sorento is the mothership of Kia’s line-up. A big, seven-seater SUV which during the past decade has won over Aussie families for its spaciousness and practicality, its safety tech and the way it drives, while being great value for money.
Now the new-generation model has arrived looking leaner and meaner than the old Sorento. So, has it lost any of the charms which made it a winner, or has it only got better?
|Engine Type||2.2L turbo|
The Subaru Forester Sport is an interesting new addition to the range, despite not really moving it forward in any other way apart from its eye-catching looks. It is a competitive counterpoint to the likes of the CX-5 and CR-V, but still doesn't quite reach the same levels of refinement and driving enjoyment of the RAV4.
There is no doubt the Forester Sport will add a level of appeal that Subaru has been needing in its family SUV range since launch, but we really think the thing that would get more customers excited would be a new turbocharged top-spec model, which would certainly be more deserving of the Sport name.
Kia has done it again. The new-gen Sorento will be an instant family hit with its super-cool styling, modern cabin tech, practicality and space, while being great value for money. For such a modern SUV, there should have been a high-output four-cylinder petrol offered, as Mazda does with its CX-9. A superb engine like that, is what an SUV this great deserves.
The sweet spot in the range is the Sport+. Sure it doesn't have the remote parking feature of the GT-Line but it comes with a proximity key, privacy glass and leather seats.
If you've ever trawled the Subaru Japan website like me (high five, car nerds!), you might be thinking: "This Subaru Forester Sport model looks a lot like that Forester X-Break in Japan!". And you'd be right.
It is, essentially, the same car. Just with a considerably nicer looking set of wheels than the Japanese model. They aren't my favourite rims, but then again, I think the Forester's rims on the whole are pretty yuck.
Wheels aside, the flashes of orange around the car will no doubt catch your eye. There are plenty of them: the lower body protection has orange trim from the front bumper to the side skirts/sills and the rear bumper, too; plus there are orange bits as part of the roof rails, too.
The exterior also cops a bit of a blackout treatment, with new dark graphics front and rear, including a black garnish between the tail-lights. And of course, the rims are black, too.
Inside the style a bit more adventurous, with a smattering of orange trim highlights on the vent surrounds, the transmission tunnel, the stitching that runs on the dashboard, doors and seats, and even the eye-catching and intriguing mesh-look water-repellent trim on the seats that goes up to the doors, too. I guess Subaru assumes Forester Sport buyers will be spending a lot of time in the rain?
I really love the orange trim finishes - they really lift the ambience of the cabin and make it feel a bit more exciting than a regular Forester. In fact, it's like the Forester looked a bit further down the Subaru line-up to the XV and said, "Hey, how come you're getting all the attention?".
There are some inherently awesome SUV features that the Forester's interior design brings to the fore - we'll get to that in the next section.
The new-generation Sorento looks nothing like the last one… n-o-t-h-i-n-g like the last one. Well, apart from the rear, side window which has the same angle to it, which is an intentional nod to the previous model.
The outgoing version was premium and friendly looking, but its proportions seem bloated compared to the muscular, angular, new-generation Sorento.
It appears to have had an attitude change, too. Sure, this is a family SUV but there are muscle-car traits from the Camaro-style headlights flanking that cliff face of a grille, to the Mustang-esque tail-lights, with everything in between filled with sharp edges.
The cabin is even more striking with its cheese-grater textures in the dash and doors, the large centre console with chrome trim and rotary shifter.
The 10.25-inch media display, standard on the Sport grade and above, is the most interesting I’ve seen on any car I’ve tested.
The level of detail, thought and styling which has gone into it is obvious with its neon people, fonts and icons, incandescent light bulb effect for radio frequencies, and even the ‘streetlight’ mode for the navigation is intriguing. At the same time, it’s one of the easiest to use systems I’ve encountered.
The top-grade GT-Line steps up the premium look with its fully-digital instrument cluster and Nappa leather seats.
The materials feel high quality, while the fit and finish is superb.
The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly with the SUV now measuring 4810mm long (+10mm), 1900mm wide and 1700mm tall.
There are seven colours to pick from but only clear white doesn’t demand the $695 cost of the rest which include 'Silky Silver', 'Steel Grey', 'Mineral Blue', 'Aurora Black', 'Gravity Blue' or the 'Snow White Pearl' of the Sorento in my video above.
The Forester could be the most practical vehicle in its class. Against the likes of the Toyota RAV4, Mitsubishi Outlander, Mazda CX-5 and VW Tiguan, it stacks up pretty well for cabin practicality, space utilisation and accommodation.
It's a nice, bright and airy place to be, with a big glasshouse that makes it feel a bit more outdoorsy than its rivals. The benefits of that are two-fold - it's easy to see out of, whether you're the driver or if you're a kid in the back.
Looking up front first, the Forester's cabin presentation is much more eye-catching in this grade. The other models in the range are, well, a bit bland. The Sport, though, is a bit more - dare I say it - sporty. And I personally hate models called Sport, but that's a story for another day.
The orange stitching everywhere and the orange metallic look finishes on the dash and the centre console - it combines for a more special feeling cabin than any of the other Foresters available.
I really appreciate the media screen Subaru offers - it's easy to use and is bright and colourful, and also the flush finish design - not a floating tablet style screen - does make it just a little easier to use. However there is a secondary screen above it, which shows you a bunch of information about the car that you theoretically will never actually need to know.
That top pod also has a driver monitoring camera system which is looking at you all the time and will warn you if you take your eyes off the road for too long. Intriguingly, it flashes a warning onto another screen - the one on the instruments, which also makes you look away from the road...
It really is a button and screen overload. If you like minimalism, you're not going to like the number of things in front of you as the driver of a Forester. But they all have a purpose (sort of), and for me, it's better than everything being run through touch screens!
The front seats are quite comfortable, with electric adjustment for the driver and passenger. Both are electric adjusted and heated as well, which is nice, and the material used is genuinely really comfortable - it's like a good quality couch.
Even though those are nice elements, I couldn't find myself a perfect driving position – I feel like I sat just a little too high and I couldn't get the steering wheel in quite the right position for my preferences.
Storage is mostly okay up front: the cupholders between the seats are a little bit deep so small takeaway coffees might be hard to get out, and there are bottle holders in the doors, a small cubby in front of the gear selector for a wallet and/or phone, and that's also where you'll find 2USB ports. No wireless phone charging, though.
The overall space for a family of four is perfectly usable. There is no seven seater version of the Forester, nor any seven-set SUV in the brand's range at all in Australia, so it's strictly a smaller family affair, or a good option for grandparents on duty.
There's very good second row seat space, with a high seating position and hip point allowing for adults to easily slot in there (I'm 182cm/6'0" and I can fit behind my driving position with heaps of leg, toe and headroom to spare), but it's also a handy height for child loading, with dual ISOFIX and three top-tether points. Weirdly, though, Subaru has kept with the ceiling-mounted centre seatbelt, and the seat is flat and a bit uncomfortable for adults in terms of cushioning and support. Great for child seats, though.
There are plenty of smart features in the second row, including twin map pockets on the seat backs, one of which is sectioned and divided for smaller items. Plus there are those two USB ports for charging devices (again, perfect for a family of four), and there are rear directional air vents. There is a fold-down armrest with cupholders, plus bottle holders in the doors.
Weirdly there are LED lighting pods for the boot and the tailgate, and up in the front of the cabin there is LED lighting, too - but in the centre, the middle lighting pod is halogen. Weird.
The boot area offers 498 litres of cargo capacity (VDA) with the seats up, but hit the electric release levers (handy!) at the sides of the boot and you liberate a total 1740L of space - enough for a pair of mountain bikes or a few weeks' worth of camping gear for a couple.
Plus there are shopping bag hooks on the outer sides of the boot area and one on the tailgate,, plus four tie down points if you need to attach things and stop it from rolling around. There's a cargo blind, and a 12 V outlet in the boot, too.
The new Sorento has more space inside, a bigger boot and more charging outlets for devices.
Climbing into the third row is also easier now thanks to a wheelbase that’s been stretched by 35mm to 2815mm and a second row which slides further forward.
Even somebody my height (191cm/6'3") and with my impressive lack of co-ordination can get in. Watch the video to see how elegant I look doing it.
Legroom is excellent throughout and I can sit behind my driving position in the second row, and behind that in the third row without my knees touching any of the seatbacks.
You now have more boot space, too. With the third row in place there’s 187 litres (up by 45 litres), and with third row flat there’s 616 liters (up by 11 litres).
Cabin storage is also excellent. There are eight cupholders, plus, four bottle holders in the doors up front and back. You can have 12 drinks on the go and it only fits seven people.
Then there are the charging points. The GT Line and the Sport+ have USB ports in the third and second row, and all grades have three USBs up front and two 12V outlets.
The GT-Line also includes wireless charging. There are directional air vents in all three rows. Nobody is going thirsty, or airless, or chargeless.
A special shout out needs to go to the Remote Smart Parking Assist feature of the GT-Line, too. The system makes the Sorento even more practical.
Price and features
The new Subaru Forester 2.5i Sport model is a $41,990 proposition - that's the MSRP/RRP, or the price before on-road costs (you might find driveaway deals if you search Autotrader, though).
It slots in between the 2.5i Premium ($39,490) and the 2.5i-S ($42,990), but it stands out compared to both of those versions with a revamped design and a number of inclusions over the models below it, but most of them are visual differentiators which we'll detail in the next section.
Let's consider the standard equipment offered here: black 18-inch alloy wheels with a full size spare, an electric sunroof, water repellent cloth interior trim, electric front seat adjustment (driver's side with memory settings), heated front seats, electric tailgate, electric folding rear seats, smart key hands-free entry and push button start, auto headlights and auto wipers.
There's also a 8.0-inch touchscreen media system with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone mirroring tech, DAB+ digital radio, CD player, six speakers, Bluetooth phone and audio streaming, 4xUSB ports (2x front, 2x rear), a 4.2-inch digital driver info display with digital speedo, and a leather-lined steering wheel and shifter.
The safety story is a very strong one - see the section below for all the details.
Things missing from the 2.5i Sport that you might want for include an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a proper surround-view camera, and leather seat trim.
Colours available for this spec comprise: Crystal Black silica, Crystal White pearl (as seen here), Dark Blue pearl (exclusive to Sport), Ice Silver metallic, Magnetite Grey metallic and Sepia Bronze metallic. The green and red options are not available on Sport, but no matter the colour you opt for, it won't cost you any extra.
Obviously though, you might want to choose carefully, as there are some orange highlights inside and out that might not match up with your preferred colour choice. Let's get to that next.
The new-generation Kia Sorento costs about $3K more than the previous model, but in return you’re given better features and the latest tech.
There are four grades in the Sorento range: the S, Sport, Sport + and top-of-the-range GT-Line. All grades can be had with a diesel or petrol engine. The catch is, only the diesel version is equipped with all-wheel drive, while the petrol variant is front-wheel drive only.
For the petrol line-up list prices start at $45,850 for the S, then steps up to $48,480 for the Sport, $52,850 for the Sport+, and $60,070 for the GT-Line. Want that in diesel? Just add $3000 to each price.
Kia does drive-away pricing almost permanently, which will save you money on rego and other on-road costs. At the time this was published you could buy a GT-Line diesel for $63,070 drive-away.
What do you get for the money?
The Sport grade adds 18-inch alloy wheels, a big 10.25-inch display, sat nav, dual-zone climate, and a power adjustable driver’s seat, but it still has cloth seats.
Things are getting pretty spesh with the Sport+ grade. There’s all of the Sport’s features plus 19-inch alloy wheels, leather seats (heated up front), proximity key with push-button start, power tailgate, privacy glass, LED tail-lights and remote engine start.
And at the top of the tree is the GT-Line which adds 20-inch alloy wheels, quilted Nappa leather seats, 12.3-inch digital instrument cluster, mood lighting, 12-speaker Bose sound system, head-up display, a wireless phone charger, heated seats in the front and second row, and a panoramic sunroof.
By far the most impressive feature of the GT-Line is it's ability to park itself without anyone being in the car. Yup, you read that right. It's called 'Remote Smart Parking Assist' and it's for tight parking spaces.
It's astounding, and to see it work watch the video above where I demonstrate how easy to use and practical the feature is.
Engine & trans
Instead, the 2.5i part of the name indicated a carryover 2.5-litre four-cylinder horizontally-opposed 'boxer' engine producing 136kW of power (at 5800rpm) and 239Nm of torque (at 4400rpm). No turbo here.
The Forester is available solely with a continuously variable transmission (CVT) Lineartronic automatic gearbox, and as it's a Subie, of course it has the brand's "Symmetrical" all-wheel drive (AWD) system standard, too.
The Sport grade isn't available with the brand's hybrid powertrain, though that's no great loss. Read our review where we compared that version against the excellent RAV4 hybrid to see how it fared
The 2.5i models have seen a towing upgrade for 2021, with the unbraked rating set at 750 kilograms, while the braked towing capacity is now 1800kg (up from a meagre 1500kg in earlier models).
As with the previous Sorento there’s a choice of a 3.5-litre petrol V6 or a turbo-diesel four-cylinder.
Essentially, they are the same engines from the previous model and the outputs are almost unchanged with the diesel making 148kW/440Nm, while the petrol produces 206kW/336Nm.
The transmission in the diesel variant is properly new. It’s an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic. The eight-speed that comes in the petrol is an old-school traditional automatic transmission.
The braked towing capacity for the petrol is 1898kg while the diesel can pull 1908kg.
The official combined cycle fuel consumption figure for the Forester 2.5i Sport is identical to the rest of the range: 7.4 litres per 100 kilometres, with emissions claimed at 168g/km CO2.
On test, we saw an at the pump fuel economy of 9.5L/100km across a mix of urban, highway, country and open road driving (plus a very short unsealed off-highway stint).
Fuel tank capacity is 63 litres. It can run on the more affordable 91RON regular unleaded.
Fuel consumption is down slightly in both diesel and petrol engines. Kia says the petrol engine should use 9.7L/100km after a combination of open and urban roads.
As for the diesel, Kia says it should use 6.1/100km. I drove the GT-Line diesel for a week, living with it like you will – school drop offs, shopping centres, city streets, motorways, you name it.
I put 195.1km on the clock and used 18.6 litres – that’s come out to be a very real-world 9.5L/100km.
The Subaru Forester is a smooth and decent family SUV, one that doesn't necessarily do anything exceptionally well, but nor is it terrible at anything when it comes to on-road driving.
In fact, my biggest complaint is the noise intrusion - there's quite a bit of tyre roar through even normal road surfaces, and coarse chip roads are louder again. There's also wind noise up around the windscreen and mirrors, and the engine is noisy under acceleration because of the CVT automatic transmission, and it doesn't sound overly delightful, either.
That said, the 2.5-litre engine's response is pretty good, offering decent and linear power delivery. It's not fast, not overly fun, and the CVT auto does rob it some of the excitement you might want. However, it jumps away from a standstill pretty nicely, and if you can hit the sweet spot when you're accelerating you might be surprised by its brisk response.
There are paddle shifters to take matters into your own hands - though even if you use the SI drive mode selector (Sport or Intelligent drive modes), it's less thrusty than turbocharged competitors (Ford Escape) or even hybrid-powered rivals (Toyota RAV4).
The ride comfort is quite good, there's a nice supple attitude to the suspension and the way it controls itself over bumps, but it is quite soft and that means that there is some noticeable body roll in corners.
Thankfully the seats are really quite nice and offer good support, and while the steering is decently weighted and accurate enough it's hardly the last word in excitement for thrills. I'm also not much of a fan of the lane keeping system and how it affects the steering, as it interrupts the smoothness of your steering a little too much. There's a button you can hit to turn it off, but you have to do it every time.
And that driver-monitoring camera system really does make you realise how much you're not looking at the road ahead. I'm a constant glancer, looking at whatever is driving past or whatever I see parked in people's driveways, and the system really made me realise that.
Because it's a Forester with all-wheel drive, I took it for a brief light off road review expedition, where it lived up to the brand's adventure-focused persona.
The most impressive element was a combination of nice high ground clearance (220mm), plus the way that soft suspension rolled over rocks and bumps allows decent travel to the suspension, and good control to the driver's hands, too.
The drive mode selection system allows you to choose "snow/dirt" or "deep snow/mud", meaning soggy camping trips or drives to the snow should be pretty well catered for. Like most soft-roading vehicles and crossovers, though, the tyres will be your biggest letdown but also your easiest upgrade.
The hill descent control system worked really well, and while I wasn't pushing any boundaries of what to expect a SUV like this to do, it was pretty well sorted of the whole.
We’ve test driven the diesel version of the Sorento in the GT-Line grade, as the diesel is likely to be the more popular choice. And once we get our hands on the petrol version, we’ll let you know what that’s like to pilot, too.
You definitely won’t forget what's powering the diesel. It’s fairly noisy on the outside, but the cabin is well insulated so not much clatter finds its way in.
That’s just the start of what feels like a plush and premium driving experience.
The ride is excellent, comfortable and composed even on the crumbling city roads around where I live. The same roads I’ve driven Benz and BMW SUVs on and some of those don’t feel as good as the Sorento.
I’m serious. The Sorento’s body control is outstanding. It doesn’t wobble, doesn’t feel too bouncy, and provides a superb connection between the driver and the road. I can’t say the same for some much more expensive SUVs.
It’s down to the hard work Kia puts into getting its suspension right for Australia. Months before the Sorento came out in January 2020 Kia’s local engineers were driving it all over Australia, and through a process of trial and error found the right suspension that felt as good as they could get it. And they have nailed it.
So, along with the Sorento being comfortable on Aussie roads, it handles better than you’d expect something this large to.
I pushed it hard into corners I take all my test cars though, without the major lean or roll you’d experience in some large SUVS.
Steering is also a highlight. It’s accurate, smooth, and gave me a good feeling of connection with the road.
The diesel engine, while a bit noisy, is instantly responsive with no turbo lag and provides good acceleration. Only the diesel Sorento is all-wheel drive, so this is the pick if you’re planning to head on to dirt roads regularly.
That said, the Forester has an extensive safety technology specification list, starting with auto emergency braking (AEB) that works both in city and inter-urban settings up to 80km/h, and it features pedestrian and cyclist detection, too.
There's also lane departure warning with an active lane keeping assistance system that works from 60km/h to 145km/h, and there's adaptive cruise control that works through the brand's stereo camera EyeSight system. Blind spot monitoring and rear cross-traffic alert are standard, as is a rear AEB system to stop you bumping into cars or walls at low speeds, rear parking sensors, a reversing camera that is complemented by a front and front kerbside camera (not quite surround view, but close).
The Forester has seven airbags (driver's knee, dual front, front side, full-length curtain), and there are dual ISOFIX outboard child-seat anchors and three top-tether points.
Then the GT-Line also has blind spot view monitor, which shows the view behind you on whichever side you’re indicating towards.
All Sorento also have seven airbags including one which pops up between the driver and front passenger.
Curtain airbags extend to the third row, but don’t completely cover the windows of those very back seats. This may make you reconsider whether you want to have children back there.
If you do, there are ISOFIX points and top tether mounts for the third-row seats, plus two more ISOFIX points and three top tethers mounts across the second row.
It’s good to see the Sorento has kept its full-sized spare wheel, which is under the car.
Subaru Australia backs its cars with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty, which is on par with its main rivals but behind the likes of Mitsubishi (10 years if you service with them) and Kia (seven years).
The brand offers just 12 months of roadside assistance when you buy a new car, where some others offer seven years or more.
The company also has unusual service intervals of 12 months/12,500km, with a capped price servicing plan that spans five years/62,500km. The average cost per service over that period is high, at $476.50 per annum - and it'll be even higher if you do a lot of kilometres.
There are also three-year and five-year service plans available. If you sign up for those, you get three years roadside assist plus a loan car when you get your car serviced. The costs for those are $1281.81 (three years/37,500km), or $2382.52 (five years/62,500km).