Toyota RAV4 VS Kia Sorento
- Massively practical
- Impressive standard inclusions
- Ultra-comfort ride
- Manual not great
- Thrashy engine
- Might be too big for some
- Comfortable ride
- Great value
- Smaller boot compared to rivals
- Seating position is high in GT-Line
- Grey, blue or white - pick a colour
It speaks to the wide-ranging, seemingly infinite appeal of the Toyota RAV4 that a manual version of it even exists.
Sure, only the base car can be fitted with it, and we’re confident it will impress those vocal few people in every single comment section who demand it, but is it actually any good? Or does a manual gearbox tarnish the rather excellent package that is CarsGuide's Car of the Year 2019 overall winner?
While we’re at it, we’ll also give you the low-down on what the cheapest RAV4 is like. Read on to see what we thought.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
How do you make something that was already great even better?
I'm only asking because the last Kia Sorento had very few faults, and this new one arriving must have set Kia’s engineers a bit of a challenge. Could they improve the little bits that needed fixing while leaving everything that was good about the Sorento alone? Or would tinkering with the winning formula take some of the shine off Kia’s large SUV?
We headed to the launch of the new Sorento to find out.
|Fuel Type||Regular Unleaded Petrol|
When Toyota launched the new RAV4 it couldn’t afford to get it wrong.
It didn’t. Even this absolute base car is incredibly well equipped, superb when it comes to comfort, and offers the largest cabin in the mid-size segment.
I’m as surprised as you possibly are that Toyota even sells it as a manual, but honestly, it’s this car’s worst attribute. It only serves to tarnish the drive experience. Pay the extra and get the auto.
The Sorento was always great, and Kia could have easily just released an updated car with a new bumper and called it a new model. But the brand has instead jumped in and fixed a few issues that needed addressing, like the ride, the smaller display and the (lack of) safety features.
Now you have an SUV that’s just as practical and good value as the last one, but also one that drives better and is safer, too.
The sweet spot in this Sorento range for me is the SLi petrol. For just $4000 more than the base price this grade comes loaded with features and includes proximity unlocking, auto tailgate and the Harman Kardon stereo.
Would you pick Kia Sorento over a Mazda CX-9 or Toyota Kluger? Tell us what you think in the comments below.
The RAV4 has come far in its design and aesthetic since the previous generation. It’s much better at grabbing your eye as it cruises past, and although it borrows a lot from the Kluger which has been on the market for a while now, it still strikes the eye as modern and angular.
The double-barreled snout, air dams and chunky wheelarches add a sense of capability to its contemporary guise. Even this base car gets chunky alloys and is covered in contrast black plastic cladding, adding to its look over base-model competitors. The blue tinge of LED headlights rather than the dull tones of halogens seal the deal.
Around at the rear it modernizes the dated Kluger formula with squared-off light fittings and a roof spoiler. The wholly unnecessary dual-exhaust is nice, too.
The interior is where the most base model tells are. You’re greeted by a sea of grey plastics, although to Toyota’s credit, many of them are soft to the touch. It’s all too easy to notice the blanked-out buttons, covered over climate control dials and six-speed gearshifter that looks like it was dropped out of a last-generation Corolla.
While the big screen nestles in the dash, 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen and silver highlights help counteract the base-model blues, there’s no escaping a nasty plastic steering wheel.
The overall visual aesthetic of the RAV4 is still cool, though. On the inside there are great textures hidden everywhere. There’s a triangular pattern in all the storage areas designed to help stop objects from moving, stripped rubbery textures on the inside of the door handles and rubbery turbine patterns on the air-con and volume knobs. Nice touches.
The seats are in a plain pattern but nice to the touch and should be fairly easy to clean as they are comprised of a rugged synthetic material.
All that adds up for a cabin ambiance that easily outclasses most price-competitors, and even higher-spec cars from rival brands.
If you can spot the difference between this new Sorento and the previous one, write in and we’ll give you a hat. That is, if we have any left. Which we probably will because we have a lot of hats, and because the differences aren’t too easy to spot.
Look, I’ll even give you a clue; the grille is glitzier, the headlights have been redesigned and so have the taillights, the rear bumper has been restyled and all grades now have a chrome exhaust. All grades have new wheel designs, too.
That premium feel continues into the cabin, with dark textured materials and an excellent fit and finish.
The cockpit isn’t the most modern (compared to, say, the CX-9), but the new eight-inch screen is on the bigger side by current standards, even if its setting and the controls and dials around it are beginning to date.
You can have your Sorento in any colour as long as it’s grey. Okay, that’s not true, there’s also 'Gravity Blue', 'Snow White Pearl' and 'Clear White', joining a trio of greys; 'Silky Silver', 'Metal Stream' and 'Platinum Graphite'.
The Sorento’s dimensions have changed slightly – this new one is longer by 20mm, now 4800mm end-to-end. The height has stayed the same at 1690mm with roof rails, and its width is still 1890mm.
I parked this RAV4 next to a last-generation Toyota Kluger and really shouldn’t have been surprised how close they were in size. Still, bracket creep means the RAV4 is now truly gigantic compared to its forebears and that means family practicality all over.
It’s things as simple as the fact that both doors are massive and open very wide, allowing for super easy access to any seat for less mobile passengers, those lifting cargo up into the cabin, and those who might need to fit child seats.
Leg and headroom for the front two passengers is stellar, and the driver’s position is very adjustable, even with the base manual-adjust seats. Visibility is up with segment leaders like the Subaru Forester, as the RAV4 is essentially a glasshouse with massive windows and wing-mirrors.
Even the dial cluster is huge and legible, and there are big dials for operating the air conditioning and multimedia while you keep your eyes on the road.
You’ll find storage areas everywhere with that triangle pattern for holding objects in. All the bottleholders (two in the doors, two in the centre console) are massive, and there’s a huge trench in front of the shift-knob suitable for even the largest phones.
There’s even a long trench above the glove box for… aesthetic purposes? It has the no-slip surface, but objects would hurtle towards passengers under heavy acceleration, so I fail to see the point of it.
There's one USB port, one 'aux' jack, and one 12-volt socket for front passengers.
In terms of rear legroom, your second-row passengers will hardly be flying economy. I had a abundance of legroom behind my own driving position. Arm and headroom were also plentiful.
All doors have a soft strip across them for elbows. There’s a drop-down arm rest even in the base car, and the same chunky, grippy doorcards with a big bottle holder.
Rear passengers get a set of air vents on the back of the centre console, too.
The boot is ridiculous with a class-leading 580-litres (VDA) of space. It’s wide and unimpeded by styling bits, and you can even stow the roller cover under the floor paneling when not in use.
The GX ships with a space-saver spare, but you can upgrade to a full-size alloy spare for $300. If you do so you’ll remove the false-floor paneling.
The answer is very. Both head and legroom in the front is excellent, even in sunroof-equipped models, and at 191cm I can sit behind my driving position with about 40mm of space between my knees and the front seatback.
Headroom in the second row is good, but the same can’t be said for the third row which has limited headspace for me - although legroom can be made better because the second row seats slide forward on rails. That said, I could set the seats - the third row, second row and front row - and sit in them all with a little breathing room.
With all seats up, though, there’s just 142 litres of room left for luggage. That was enough to fit two airline overhead luggage cases, but if you have a big family and you’re heading away on holiday, you’ll need to invest in a roof pod. A genuine 450-litre Kia pod for the Sorento costs $995.42.
With the third row folded flat the luggage capacity increases to 605 litres, which sounds enormous, but the Mazda CX-9’s is 810 litres.
Cabin storage is great with two cupholders in each row. There’s two large storage trays in the back row, too, plus there’s a giant centre console storage bin big enough to hide a small backpack, great under-dash storage in front of the gear shifter and big bottle holders in all doors.
Price and features
That’s right. The GX manual is the cheapest way to get into a Toyota RAV4 today. Starting at $30,640 (MSRP – before on-road costs) we’d even consider it great value despite the manual 'box.
To understand why you just have to take one look at its specification sheet. Remember, this mid-sizer competes against the (also surprisingly still manual) Nissan X-Trail ST ($29,890), Honda CR-V Vi (auto - $28,290), and Mitsubishi Outlander ES ADAS (auto - $33,290).
If you’re happy milling your own gears, you get better kit than the auto entry-level CR-V, the manual X-Trail ST and even significantly undercut the entry-level Outlander (if you include the fact that the Mitsubishi requires the ADAS pack to even compete on safety).
Included spec on this absolute base car includes not-so-budget stuff like 17-inch alloys, an 8.0-inch multimedia touchscreen (which will ship have Apple CarPlay and Android Auto imminently, but if you buy a current-stock car you will have to return to the dealer for a software upgrade), DAB+ digital radio, built-in sat-nav, manual air conditioning (this base grade strips the cool little screens out of the dials), auto LED headlights, a 4.2-inch display in the dash, front and rear parking sensors, and heated auto-folding wing mirrors.
Other regular sort of spec items include six speakers and a reversing camera.
That’s the best kit at this price in the mid-size SUV world by a solid margin. That’s not all though, even this manual RAV4 features the full 'Toyota Safety Sense' suite. More on that in the safety section of this review (spoiler: It’s good).
Among the few giveaways that the GX manual is the cheapest one is the turn-key ignition, cloth seat trim, and urethane steering wheel. Still… are you really going to complain against its unprecedented list of inclusions at this price?
Options are limited to premium paint (every colour except for ‘Glacier White’ - $600).
There are four levels in the Sorento line-up. It starts with the petrol Si, which lists for $42,990 ($45,490 for the diesel), then steps up to the Sport for $44,990 (the diesel is $48,490), the SLi for $46,990 ($50,490 for the diesel), and the-top-of-the-range (and diesel-only) GT-Line for $58,990.
Prices have increased over the previous Sorento, with the GT-Line now $500 more expensive, the SLi price is up by $1000, the Sport (which used to be the SLi Limited) is up by a $1000 and the Si petrol is $2000 more.
A $60k list price is a decent chunk of moolah to hand over, but if you have a look at the specification sheet it’ll take you about 1.5 seconds to see that the entry grade Si comes loaded with features and possibly everything you’d want anyway, so there is really no need to bother with options.
The Si has the same eight-inch display that comes standard across the range, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto and a six-speaker stereo with digital radio. There’s also nav, a reversing camera, dual-zone climate, auto headlights with LED DRLs, roof rails, a rear spoiler and 17-inch alloy wheels.
The Si also comes with a barrage of new advanced safety equipment which you can read all about below.
The Sport is the Si but with 18-inch alloys and leather seats. Then stepping up into the SLi adds a 10-speaker Harman Kardon stereo, proximity unlocking, auto tailgate, powered front seats, tinted rear glass, alloy pedals, LED taillights, alloy treadplates and faux-wood trim on the centre console.
The GT-Line is swamped with even more features. Things like heated front and rear seats, panoramic sun roof, 360 camera, LED ‘bending’ headlights, a heated steering wheel, window sunshades in the second row, dual chrome exhaust and 19-inch alloy wheels. None of it is necessary, but all of it is nice to have.
Engine & trans
The six-speed manual version of the GX as tested here can only be had with a 127kW/203Nm 2.0-litre non-turbo petrol engine.
Those power figures are so-so and you’ll need to push up the rev-range (and compromise your fuel economy while doing so) to make the most out of them because there’s no turbo.
There are more sophisticated powertrains available in this segment with superior outputs, although not many at this price.
The manual transmission does let you wrangle the most out of this engine, although I was less impressed with the way it feels. More on that in the driving segment.
The petrol Sorentos are front-wheel drive and the diesels are all-wheel drive. There’s no manual gearbox but the six-speed automatic transmission from the old car has been replaced by an eight-speed unit.
The 3.5-litre V6 petrol is a new engine (the previous one was a 3.3-litre unit).
The manual version of the RAV4 wears a claimed/combined fuel consumption rating of 6.8 litres per 100km on the combined cycle. That’s pretty low, although nowhere near as low as the Hybrid auto’s amazing 4.7L/100km combined rating.
Over a week of driving in conditions I would consider true to combined freeway/urban driving, I scored 8.0L/100km which is not bad at all considering the RAV4’s size.
The RAV4 drinks base grade 91RON unleaded petrol and a 55L fuel tank. There’s no diesel version this time around.
The petrol engine is thirstier than the diesel, but not by as much as I’d have expected. We drove both on similar roads at the launch of the new Sorento and the V6 was using an average of 9.5L/100km according to the trip computer after crawling through Sydney’s urban streets, then onto highways before climbing the winding roads into the Blue Mountains. That’s lower than the 10.0L/100km that Kia reckons the V6 should use in combined driving conditions.
The diesel engine was using an average of 8.2L/100km on mainly country roads. Remember, though, that the diesel is an all-wheel drive. Kia says 7.2L/100km is the official fuel figure.
Then from Katoomba in the Blue Mountains to Sydney airport, the V6 petrol used an average of 7.8L/100km.
You should also know that even though the V6 is bigger than the previous one it only drinks 0.1L/100km more fuel.
The idea of a six-speed manual with rev-matching technology (complete with three modes) sounds fantastic on paper. Comment section pundits will be overjoyed. The bad news is it’s simply not that great.
It seems to be geared quite tall, and there’s a long throw between each cog. There’s not much feel to it locking in, nor is there any feel through the extremely light clutch pedal, so I admittedly ground the gears on more than one occasion.
As much as I hate to admit it, I prefer the CVT auto in this SUV for the same reasons I believe all SUVs this size should have spongy suspension.
It’s not meant to be a driver’s car. This is a practicality appliance for families that just so happens to have wheels. It should be comfortable and easy to use.
Thankfully, the rest of the RAV4’s drive experience is exactly that. The suspension has a lovely soft comfort-focused tune, and the combination of soft springs and small wheels (shod with relatively high profile rubber) makes for a quiet and refined cabin.
Of course, the trade off is that the RAV4 is hardly a corner carving sport machine, but ask yourself – do you need that?
The steering is very light, making the big body easy to swing around city streets, but it does lose a little feeling at speed.
As already mentioned, the visibility is excellent out of this car, the amenities are easy to use without becoming distractions, and it’s reassuring that the safety stuff is all really rather good.
A riveting drive the RAV4 is perhaps not, but it nails the brief as an easy-to-use family machine.
The previous Sorento had a comfortable ride, which was probably a bit too ‘floaty’ for my liking and the steering felt overly light. Those issues have been rectified in the new Sorento, with suspension adjustments that have reduced body roll in the corners while still keeping the ride super comfy, and new steering which feels a little heavier and more accurate.
I had the chance to spend time in the Si petrol, SLi Petrol and the GT-Line diesel.
I’m a fan of that V6 petrol. The response from the engine is instant, while the power and torque feels abundant. The diesel takes a moment to deliver the grunt and doesn’t run as smoothly as the petrol.
Here’s something a bit unexpected; I found the seating position in the base spec Si better than the top grade GT-Line. The manually adjustable seats in the Si could be set lower, while the power adjustable ones in the GT-Line weren’t quite as flexible.
The Sorento is one of the best seven-seat SUVs in this price range to drive. Easy to pilot, plenty of grunt and with good visibility all around.
Even though this is a rare manual, it doesn’t miss out on much of the RAV4’s impressive standard active safety suite.
Included is auto emergency braking (AEB – with pedestrian and cyclist detection day and night), active cruise control (yes, even on the manual), lane departure warning (with lane keep assist), but no ‘lane trace alert’ available on the auto, traffic sign recognition, blind spot monitoring, and rear cross traffic alert.
That’s among the best active safety in the entire mid-size SUV category, and it’s all on the manual base model. Toyota’s here to win.
The RAV4 also has an above-average seven airbags, hill start assist, front and rear parking sensors, a reversing camera (pretty good), and ISOFIX child seat mounting points on the outer two rear seats.
It also has the expected stability, traction, and brake controls.
Somewhat unsurprisingly once you’ve digested all that, the RAV4 wears a maximum five-star ANCAP safety rating (with excellent scores across the four new categories) as of May 2019.
The Sorento scored the maximum five-star ANCAP rating when it was tested in 2015. This new version comes with more advanced safety equipment such as AEB, lane keeping assistance and adaptive cruise control – these are standard across the entire range, too.
The GT-Line comes with more equipment, such as rear cross traffic alert, blind spot warning, and a 360-degree view camera.
If the Sorento was to keep up with rivals like the CX-9, it really needed this advanced safety gear fitted across its range. It's great to see Kia has responded to this need.
You’ll find three top tether anchor mounts and two ISOFIX points for child seats across the second row only.
The RAV4 is covered by a five year/unlimited kilometre warranty that Toyota thankfully upgraded to earlier in 2019.
But that’s not quite the whole story. If you keep your service record genuine and up-to-date Toyota will cover the engine for an extra two years, and you’ll also be covered by seven years of roadside assist and a 60-day money-back guarantee (if your car should suffer an issue which renders it ‘undrivable’ inside that period).
The five-year base coverage also includes panel work and any genuine accessory you might have fitted.
The RAV4 requires servicing once a year or every 15,000km whichever occurs first, and is covered by a capped price of just $210 (incredibly cheap) for the first four years.
The RAV4 is built in Japan.
The Sorento is covered by Kia’s seven-year, unlimited-kilometre warranty. There’s also seven years of capped-price servicing. Servicing is recommended annually or every 15,000km.
The diesel is capped at $403 for the first service, then $471, $465, $664, $454, $570 and $482 for the seventh. The petrol is cheaper to maintain with prices capped at $349 for the first, then $415, $405, $544, $393, $505, and $417.