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Telluride-or-Die: New Kia SUV So Much Better Than Sorento, It’s Fratricide

2020 Kia Telluride

It’s been quite an introduction for the 2020 Kia Telluride, which has made its presence well-known since we first saw it at the 2019 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, taking home Best in Show honors from our panel of expert reviewers. And after we got behind the wheel, the love fest continued. In his review of the Telluride, our Aaron Bragman called the all-new SUV “big, comfy, and classy” and furthermore said that the newcomer “immediately becomes a benchmark in the large crossover class.”

Related: 2020 Kia Telluride Review: The New Big SUV Benchmark

I felt compelled to verify Bragman’s rosy review for myself, so I grabbed one and did about 700 miles in the Telluride, trekking from Los Angeles to the Sierra Nevada mountains and back. After loading up the Telluride with snowboarding gear and four adult males, it only took about 50 of those miles to realize I was driving something special.

The Telluride lives at a fantastic three-way intersection of interior quality, striking styling and a smartly arranged, spacious cabin that makes it stand out in this class. But there is a catch: The introduction of the Telluride may have rendered another one of Kia’s vehicles — the three-row Sorento SUV — effectively obsolete.

2020 Kia Telluride

That isn’t to say there’s something wrong with the Sorento. I reviewed the lightly updated 2019 version of the SUV and found it to be “a thoroughly easy-to-use and easy-to-like family vehicle.” The problem is that the Telluride that I tested actually cost less than the Sorento I reviewed. Both vehicles were the top respective trim levels for each (SX for the Telluride, SX Limited for the Sorento) and even though the Telluride had more than $2,000 in options, it still checked in at a lower price: $46,860 (including destination charges) versus $48,370 for the Sorento. And the Telluride had more equipment, a much better interior and a big advantage in passenger and cargo room. Compare the two here.

That’s About the Size of It

Let’s start with the size of the two vehicles. Kia calls both mid-size SUVs even though the Telluride is 7.9 inches longer and uses that added length to its best benefit. It has a significant advantage in cargo area behind the third-row: 21.0 cubic feet versus 11.3 cubic feet for the Sorento. The Telluride also offers a vastly superior third row, which I called out as a weakness of the Sorento. There’s much more legroom back there; with the first- and second-rows set up to accommodate me (I’m 5-foot-11), it left about 3 inches of space between my knees and the second-row captain’s chair in front of me. The Telluride also technically has three seats in its third row to the Sorento’s two, though I wouldn’t recommend putting three passengers back there; while legroom and headroom are good, it’s simply not wide enough.

2020 Kia Telluride

Amenable Interior

I also found a large advantage for the Telluride in cabin amenities. Take the third row again, for example: The Telluride puts the air vents in their proper place for better ventilation — the ceiling. The units in the Sorento shoot air directly into your ribs. Both vehicles offered USB, 12-volt and 110-volt household outlets for the second row, but only the Telluride offers an additional pair of USB ports in its third row. The Telluride also had heated and ventilated second-row captain’s chairs, while the Sorento only offered heated seats.

Up front, the Telluride’s got a lot more style to its interior. The Sorento isn’t bad, but it relies heavily on black plastics, and the dashboard area just looks rather dark. On the Telluride, the whole area looks inviting with convincing faux wood trim pieces and warm, Nappa leather seating surfaces. It also has a larger screen (10.25 inches to 8 inches) that’s placed up higher for easier visibility.

2020 Kia Telluride

Safety First

The biggest advantage for the Telluride, though, probably comes in the safety department. The Telluride’s list of standard safety features is formidable; it includes automatic forward emergency braking with pedestrian detection, adaptive cruise control that works down to a stop, lane keep warnings with steering assist, blind spot warnings, rear parking sensors, and a safe-exit assist system that detects vehicles approaching from behind and keeps the doors closed. To get these features on the Sorento, you have to jump all the way up to the EX trim, and it doesn’t offer the safe exit system at all. Nor does it offer the blind spot view monitor, which displays a live view of the vehicle’s blind spot in the gauge cluster when the turn signals are activated.

2020 Kia Telluride

Price Comparison

Each stone that I turned over between the two vehicles revealed additional advantages for the Telluride. It just offers you more of everything in a more cohesive, better-looking package that has big utility advantages, as well. And if you walk the pricing grades between the two, it lines up pretty favorably for the Telluride, especially with the added standard safety equipment. An LX V-6 version of the Sorento starts at $32,335 (prices include destination), while the Telluride will only cost you $400 more. The Sorento EX does wield some price advantage over the Telluride EX ($36,635 to $38,135), but as you move up to the top trim levels, the Telluride reclaims its lead.

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There are two potential things that the Sorento has going for it: size and price. The Telluride is noticeably larger when you’re driving it, and for those who want a three-row SUV on the smaller side, the Sorento does that particular job better.

The Sorento also offers a lower base price. I started comparing the Sorento with the Telluride at a matching trim level with the V-6 engine equipped for the Sorento (it’s standard on the Telluride). But below that, the Sorento does offer a four-cylinder engine option, plus it starts at a lower trim level (L versus LX) than the Telluride offers. The Sorento starts at $27,335 — $5,400 less than the Telluride’s cheapest model, and that’s a sum of money that’s hard to ignore.

So Long, Sorento

All told, the Sorento’s plus column simply doesn’t add up to enough for me. The Telluride flexes its superiority and, most impressively, does so at comparable cost when you go trim by trim. It’s simply the better SUV overall and, while I will miss the Sorento — which did nothing wrong except cross paths with the juggernaut that is the Telluride — it might be time for it to be towed off to that big junkyard in the sky.

2020 Kia Telluride

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