Toyota Kluger v Kia Sorento 2021 Comparison

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Two impressive SUVs, the Kia Sorento 7-seater and Toyota’s new Kluger, go head to head in this comparison test.
Whilst the Kluger is a hybrid with the Sorento being a diesel, this comparison certainly puts the two through the rigours of combined city and highway driving to see which comes out the winner!
Check out this in-depth review from Carsales:


The new Toyota Kluger has landed in Australia and it’s made quite the first impression, totally overhauled inside and out with a fresh hybrid drivetrain, there is no shortage of hype. But is it truly warranted? Well I can’t think of a better test than to pitch it against our reigning car sales car of the year champion the Kia Sorento.

Here we have two $60,000 all-wheel drive propositions to find out, let the battle begin!

The seven seat SUV segment is a hive of activity in 2021 and here we have two mainstream options adopting slightly different approaches to success the Kia and the Toyota both come in just below $60,000, drive away.

Whereas the Sorento sport plus employs a familiar turbo diesel powertrain the Kluger GX hybrid teams a naturally aspirated petrol engine with two electric motor generators. The differences don’t stop there. The Toyota Kluger is undoubtedly the sales darling of the large SUV segment, in fact even when the third generation model was getting a bit long in the tooth, it didn’t deter Aussie buyers. For 2021 the Kluger adopts Toyota’s TNGA architecture which has liberated bigger dimensions in all key areas as well as a larger footprint to match.

In this hybrid GX trim, the cheapest petrol electric variant available, the Kluger gets led headlights and tail lights and rides on 18-inch alloy wheels with a full-sized spare.

The Kia Sorento needs little introduction as our reigning car sales car of the year champion. In this comparison we have the mid-level sport plus trim fitted with a turbo diesel engine. The most immediate and striking feature here is the size of the Kia, it’s nearly 16 centimetres shorter in length than the Kluger, it’s 100 kilograms lighter and it’s shorter and smaller in every key dimension as well. I’d argue that the Kia makes much more of an impact in terms of styling, it’s got this really cool front end, a nicer profile, it’s just a little bit prettier to look at. Although it’s subjective, it’s important to a lot of buyers.

The Sorento sport plus rides standard on larger diameter wheels measuring 19 inches with a full size spare. It matches the Kluger with led headlights, tail lights and daytime running lights.

Now for me this is the biggest point of difference with these two vehicles… what’s in the engine bays. For the Kluger a petrol-electric or hybrid drivetrain and for the Kia a tried and tested turbo diesel four-cylinder. Another key difference is their transmission choices, a continuously variable transmission or CVT in the Kluger versus an eight speed dual clutch automatic for the Sorento. When it all boils down to it though the on paper claims are quite similar. 5.6 litres per hundred versus 6.1 litres per hundred. How do they transpire in reality…? Let’s find out!

The Toyota takes an outright edge for power in this comparison when you combine its petrol engine and motor generator outputs, however the Kia wins it easily for torque at 440 newton metres. Crucially the Kia also reaches its peak outputs much lower in the rev range. Theoretically meaning you don’t have to work its engine as hard to get results. The Kluger and Sorento both offer a two-tonne braked towing capacity plus at least one individual off-road mode within their all-wheel drive systems.

So if there was one area the previous generation Toyota Kluger was really screaming out for attention it was interior presentation. The fourth generation model does take a huge leap forward with its interior presentation, its comfort but also the assortment of cubbies and new technology as well. Gone is the predecessor’s really clunky foot operated park brake that’s replaced by a new electric unit, there’s also a new eight inch touchscreen and five USB ports dotted around the cabin. But even with that new technology there is a real familiarity with the Kluger and that’s thanks to much more hardwired buttons and switch gear than what you’ll find in a lot of other offerings in this segment. It means you can kind of just jump in and know where everything is straight away. Not everyone will love the sort of the high stack design of the centre fascia and the fact that you, you do kind of feel like you’ve got a wall of dashboard around you, but in terms of functionality it works quite well.

The Kluger benefits from its larger dimensions most in the second and third rows where additional leg shoulder and headroom is available in this comparison. All three rows have access to air vents but there is no separate switch back in the bleachers. The third row also misses out on top tether points ruling out the fitment of child seats. In equipment terms the Kluger cannot quite match the Sorento in this comparison. Missing items include a powered tailgate, satellite navigation and leather trim. Well we’ve already heaped plenty of praise on the Kia Sorento for its interior presentation but in this comparison I’m going to do it again because the sport plus variant really does trump the Toyota for equipment, for presentation and for interior comfort as well. You’ve got leather upholstery, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, a larger 10.25 inch centre touchscreen and really clear legible presentation. There is a digital veneer to all the buttons and switch gear but it’s done in a way that it’s still really easy to use in everyday life. Traditional volume knob, really easy to find buttons, and a nicer design theme as well with great metallic highlights throughout the cabin. Tech savvy buyers will also appreciate the placement of seven USB points throughout the cabin as well as two 12 volt outlets.

The Kia’s smart internals feel markedly more up market reflecting a stronger value equation. Additionally it also offers larger second row door apertures for easier ingress and egress and more walk through space into the third row, a virtue of clever packaging. Another boon for the Sorento is the fitment of separate climate controls for the third row, plus the ability to stow the rear seats from the tailgate area. Its four ISOFIX attachment points and five top tether points, including two in the third row, trump the Kluger and offer more flexibility.

Now even with all that excellent packaging at play one area where the Sorento just cannot compete with the Kluger is boot space. There is far more interior space in the third row for the Kluger thanks to those longer dimension. That counts for both when the third row is in place or when it’s stowed.

It’s neck and neck on safety. Both the Kluger and Sorento have a five-star ANCAP safety rating under the latest and most stringent criteria. They each tick the important boxes for driver assistance systems and feature seven airbags. The Kluger’s third row airbags are said to extend all the way to the rear roof pillar whereas the KIAs only offer protection around the glass area of the cabin. But enough of all that, it’s time to hit the road!

We’ve jumped behind the wheel of the Toyota Kluger first and wow, what an improvement on the previous generation model. I’d argue this is probably the biggest extent of physical change between the two. The new Kluger feels much more controlled on the road, it’s controlled over bumps feels more sure-footed and capable through the corners and there’s a little bit more agility at play as well. The upshot of all that is that this is a more enjoyable SUV to drive than before. The hybrid drivetrain spends about 50 percent of the time in electric mode around town and that gives way to really decent real world fuel economy. Once we’ve spent a bit of time at the wheel I’ll reveal just how efficient the hybrid is compared to the diesel in the Sorento. But first impression is that it’s really smooth it’s really quiet, obviously from a standstill and when the petrol engine does kick in it does so fairly seamlessly and intuitively. In a mix of conditions the Kluger returned a fuel use average of 7.2 litres per 100k. It’s a smooth drivetrain around town, leaning on electric assistance to iron out most of the petrol engine’s talk holes. Ask a little bit more of the drivetrain and the petrol engine’s smaller outputs are exposed leading to plenty of engine noise and more revs to get the job done.

Through the corners there is a surprising amount of immediacy to the Kluger, especially upon initial turning. You don’t quite get the same level of road feedback and feeling in the controls as you do in the Kia but all in all it’s a really well acquitted all-rounder on the road. Of these two vehicles on test I’d argue that the GX hybrid Kluger is slightly more effective at taking the edge off bumps in the road. That could be owed to its larger footprint but also the fact that it has smaller diameter 18-inch wheels. The Kluger doesn’t really rewrite the dynamic rulebook for a large SUV but I don’t really think that’s this car’s intended purpose. It’s supposed to be a really strong all-rounder, supposed to be suitable for families, it’s supposed to be comfortable and it does all of that really well. The fact that it’s got an added layer of dynamic sheen is a big positive too.

The Kluger’s large dashboard and bulky c-pillar sections do tend to obstruct the outward view, yet there is an air of approachability for such a large vehicle… that takes us to the Sorento!

Now it might be noticeably more up market inside the cabin with its presentation and its technology, but the other immediate feature with the Kia Sorento is that it feels almost a size down or half a size down on the Toyota Kluger with the way that it drives. That 100 kilogram difference in kerb weight, the 15 centimetre difference in overall length, but also the differences in width and height mean that the Kia Sorento is the easier vehicle of these two to place on the road. It’s the easier of these two vehicles to navigate through tight spaces, reverse parking, all those kind of day-to-day scenarios that you do encounter. The other side of that it does feel bumps in the road a little bit more than the Toyota Kluger. You’ll notice pitter patter imperfections kind of tremoring their way a little bit more through the cabin and it is also prone to larger thuds through the cabin than the Toyota. Now not being a hybrid means that you do notice the diesel clutter of the Sorento’s 2.2 litre oiler through the cabin a little bit more, but once you get up to speed it really does sort of amble its way through the eight-speed gearbox and works really well to get down to business. It’s a surprisingly efficient real-world drivetrain as well, we’ve had very little trouble seeing into the sixes and sevens on tests which isn’t really that far off the Toyota hybrid.

Although the Kia’s turbo diesel engine does without the fanfare of Toyota’s hybrid the pair was evenly matched for efficiency on tests. The Sorento sipped on 7.3 litres per 100ks, marginally more than the Kluger. But the diesel engine offers a more substantial torque curve that makes lighter work of hills and getting up to speed while it’s eight speed dual clutch automatic transmission offers more refinement and intuitiveness to match.

Now being the smaller and lighter of these two I kind of expected that the Kia Sorento would exude slightly more of a sporting character but it surprised me just how much spoiler it is on the road. The steering in the Sorento isn’t quite as fast and immediate as the Kluger upon initial turn in, but there is more waiting and more feeling and feedback as you push your way through the corner. The other remarkable thing about the Sorento is just how flat it sits through the corners. There’s a really good deal of body control and there’s a lot of grip and road holding on offer. Visibility is a strong point in the Sorento and aside from some low speed diesel grumble, the cabin is well cosseted against outside noise. While the suspension tune isn’t for everyone it is likely to appease a broader cross-section of buyers.

Both vehicles have their ownership strengths as well. The Kia with a more generous seven-year warranty and the Toyota with capped price servicing that is almost half the price of its rival over a five year period. It’s clear this is a close contest but as they say in the classics, there can only be one winner!

The fourth generation Toyota Kluger is undoubtedly smarter more efficient and much more pleasant to drive on the road. Is it enough to take out this comparison? Well for me, it’s still the Kia Sorento that holds a slight edge. It trumps the Toyota with its value for money, its packaging and its outright smarts on the road. All the reasons why it took out our 2020 car sales car of the year!

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