Road Review – Hyundai vs Kia

Hyundai Santa Fe 2.2D Executive                                Kia Sorento 2.2CRDi EX
R 659 900                                                                              R 609 995

Doing a back-to-back comparison of the Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento brings a reminder of a schoolboy joke that asked “What is the difference between an ostrich?”, the answer (amidst childish hysterical giggles) “One leg is both the same.”

Both vehicles, both kitted with 2,2-litre CRDi engines, vie for attention in the same premium SUV class with the Hyundai, perhaps, edging the Kia in terms of luxury feel, reinforcing the fact although both brands fall within the same company, there is a difference in stature.


For the Santa Fe, this is the fourth generation model and is “ambassador for the brand’s new design language”, according to Hyundai Motor Group’s new design chief Luc Donckerwolke.

The exterior design is characterised by a powerful wide stance and an athletic, bold look. Its refined lines reinforce the car’s status at the top of Hyundai’s SUV line-up. The front introduces the Cascading Grille that is complemented by the Composite Light – a design comprising LED Daytime Running Lights positioned on top of the headlights. The Elite and Executive have full LED headlights, while the Premium derivative is equipped with halogen lights. The Elite’s headlights have dynamic bending into a corner as an added feature.

The dynamic character of the side is enhanced by a sleek roofline and the bold side character line running from the headlights to the taillights to form a fluid design. The rear creates a confident and stable stance with unique tail lights, a striking bumper design and twin exhaust pipe outlets. The Elite is equipped with LED taillights.


The current generation Kia Sorento made its global debut at the 2014 Paris Motor Show, and was introduced in South Africa in June 2015.

The enhanced Kia Sorento retains its SUV proportions, but thanks to its mid-life update now sports a tighter, sharper exterior design. The revised front-end features a more artfully detailed radiator grille, flanked by a new headlamp configuration featuring projection headlamps and revised LED Daytime Running Lights on higher specification models.

The front revamp is complemented by a newly sculpted bumper design, incorporating projection-type fog lamps, that assists in giving Sorento a more aggressive overall expression. Enhancements to the rear design also include a new bumper design, sleeker tail lamps, and a subtly revised tailgate.

The power for both vehicles comes from the 2,2-litre CRDi engine that delivers 142 kW maximum power and 440 Nm maximum torque for the Santa Fe and 147 kW and 440 Nm for the Sorento.

Linked to the newly developed 8-speed automatic gearbox (on both vehicles), which is engineered with a transversal layout, it delivers enhanced fuel efficiency of 3% to 4%.

Designed in-house by Kia and launched in 2016, the transmission boasts 143 patented technologies and requires fewer control valves, enabling a more direct mechanical link to the engine.


At this point for any prospective buyer, the choice will boil down to one of pure aesthetics, since there is little to choose between the two.

While both brands offer high levels of safety equipment, the Santa Fe introduces Rear Occupant Alert (in the Elite derivative) that monitors the rear seats to detect passengers and alerts the driver when leaving the car. The Elite also comes with an Electronic Child Safety Lock.

The Rear Cross-Traffic Collision-Avoidance Assist – a standard feature in the Executive and Elite derivatives – is a Hyundai first too. When reversing out of areas with low visibility, the system not only warns the driver if vehicles approach from the rear side – it also applies the brakes automatically. The Executive and Elite also boasts a Blind Spot Detection system.

The Safety Exit Assist, also standard in the Executive and Elite derivatives, prevents accidents when vehicles approach from behind by temporarily locking the doors before being opened, so that passengers will exit the car safely.

Sorento features a full complement of safety and driver assistance systems, including anti-lock brakes with Electronic Brake-force Distribution (EBD), six crash bags and ISOFIX child seat anchors. The all-electric windows also have a safety function that automatically halts the window closing if an obstruction – like a child’s hand – is detected.

Drivers also benefit from Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Hill-start Assist, while all models feature Park Distance Control at the rear, linked to a reverse camera displayed on the 8-inch colour touchscreen.


Santa Fe derivatives have an anti-lock braking system, ESP (Electronic Stability Program); DBC (Downhill Brake Control) and HAC (Hill start Assist Control) and it was awarded with a 5-star certification in the Euro NCAP crash test.

So, still nothing in it as far as choices are concerned.

Drivers and front passengers in the Santa Fe get the support of the electric extendable seat cushions offering 10 different positions.

In the second row, legroom is increased by 38 mm and the seat is 18 mm higher. The new one-touch walk into the third row eases passenger access to these seats. Headroom in the third row has been improved by 22 mm.

Standard luggage capacity is increased by 31 litres to 547 litres behind the second row of seats, and can be extended to 1 625 litres with both the third and second row of seats folded down.

The 7-inch infotainment system in the Santa Fe – which is a standard feature in all three derivatives – integrates all media and connectivity features, allowing connectivity with smartphones via Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Passengers can also use the navigation applications of their smartphone, to be displayed on the touch screen. The system recognises the passenger’s voice allowing them to dictate messages or to make phone calls. The Display Audio also features an integrated rear-view camera with dynamic guidelines.

Inside Sorento, upgrades and enhancements include a new, more tactile steering wheel, a new gearshift lever and a revised instrument cluster with improved graphics. The redesign also includes alterations to the air vents and the centre console design.

All model derivatives offer seating for up to seven passengers, with leather upholstery as standard across the board. Featuring 40/20/40 second row split folding seats for improved versatility, with a higher folding centre armrest, these seatbacks can be ‘remotely’ folded by conveniently located levers in the side of the cargo bay.


The third row seats fold away flat in the luggage compartment; ensuring luggage space is not compromised when the seats are not in use. When the seats are folded flat, Sorento offers 605 litres of luggage space, and features an under-floor tonneau cover storage compartment and integrated cargo net to secure loose items.

The Santa Fe Elite derivative is equipped with a panoramic sunroof; electrically operated rear hatch door (with adjustable height and opening speed), driver and passenger seats with option of heating or ventilation and paddle shifts on the steering wheel for manual gearshifts.

The development strategy for the fourth-generation Santa Fe’s suspension and steering was to improve responsiveness and vehicle stability while also enhancing comfort and overall quietness.

The suspension, consisting of McPherson struts at the front and a multi-link setup at the rear, delivers a smoother ride feeling by reducing the impact and vibration when driving on rough roads. The suspension has been stiffened and placed vertically to give a longer travel length for more ride comfort.


External vertical shock absorbers optimise responsiveness and stability while improving noise, vibration and harshness levels during driving. Road noise is reduced by reinforcing the floor panel and incorporating more materials in the carpet.

While fitted with a similar suspension setup, the test route did favour the Hyundai in terms of overall long-haul comfort both from a driver and passenger perspective, with the ride quality of the Kia seemingly set a little on the hard side.

I did enjoy the Kia Drive Mode Select that adapts the weight of the rack-mounted power steering system, for more relaxed or immediate, engaging steering responses.

The new Smart Mode anticipates the driver’s steering preferences, automatically switching between Eco, Comfort and Sport modes. This enables the Sorento to adapt to the driver’s steering behaviour as road conditions change, pre-empting the driver’s preference for different speeds and driving environments.

In the comparison the Santa Fe was somewhat heavier on fuel use at 7,8 l/100 km compared to the 6,3 l/100 km for the Sorento, which is a little unusual considering the kerb weight of the Santa Fe at 1 805 kg is lighter than the 1 823 of the Sorento.

The Sorento also has lower CO2 emissions being 164 g/km versus the 200 g/km of the Hyundai.

The Hyundai comes with a 7-year/200 000 km manufacturer’s warranty (consisting of the standard 5-year/150 000 km warranty plus the additional 2-year/50 000 km drivetrain warranty extension).


An additional part of the package is a 5-year/90 000 km service plan, and roadside assistance for 5 years or 150 000 km.

All Sorento models have an unlimited kilometre, five-year warranty, as well as a standard 5-year/100,000 km service plan and 3-years of roadside assistance.

And still, the choice comes down to looks and personal feel behind the wheel.


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