2017 Kia Sorento vs Toyota Highlander

Kia Optima vs Kia Forte

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Towards the larger end of the vehicle spectrum, it can be tempting to go the whole hog and choose the extra capability of a proper body-on frame SUV instead of a full-size or one of the larger midsize crossovers. But if you do opt for the extra towing and off-road capability of an SUV, you sacrifice the car-like driving characteristics of a crossover. So, let’s see how good larger crossovers can be by seeing how the 2017 Kia Sorento and the Toyota Highlander measure up to each other.

2017 Kia Sorento vs Toyota Highlander


Although the Kia Sorento is a midsize, it’s fair to say it will look pretty large to most buyers. The Sorento had a complete redesign last year that was much more fundamental than a change of front and rear fascias. All the trim and sheet metal was changed. This fairly conservative design doesn’t quite have the wow factor, but it does have huge mass appeal.

The current generation of the Highlander has been with us since 2014, so this year it gets quite a noticeable mid-cycle refresh. Now, the Highlander has a more rugged look, and it’s probably better-looking than the smaller CR-V. The Toyota sits nicely between crossover and old-school SUV styling.


In its more basic forms, the Sorento is a five seat crossover, which means lots of space for passengers and their cargo. If you go for a bigger engine than the turbo-four, the Kia can accommodate a couple of extra people in third-row seats. Although last year’s redesign didn’t make the Sorento any bigger on the outside, clever packaging has led to a roomy cabin that’s very nicely finished.

The Highlander can accommodate up to eight people, but the amount of interior space is almost identical to what’s offered in the Kia. The cabin is also very quiet, well-appointed, and it does a good impression of a luxury model. The Highlander is not a great deal better than the Kia, but it is just about good enough to claim a narrow victory here.

Power & Performance

You’ll be offered a very logical choice of three engines in the Kia Sorento, which are a 2.4-liter inline-four, a 2.0-liter four-cylinder turbo, and a 3.3-liter V-6. There’s up to 290 horsepower available, which is sent to the front or all four wheels through a six-speed automatic transmission.

Two conventional engine options are offered in the Highlander. The standard unit is a 2.7-liter four-cylinder and the more powerful option is a 3.5-liter V-6 of similar power to the Kia’s V-6. It’s a close call, but the extra choice of engines gives the Sorento the advantage.

Fuel Economy

Last year’s redesign improved the Kia’s fuel economy, so the most fuel-efficient versions are now rated by the EPA at 21 mpg in the city, 28 mpg on the highway and 24 mpg combined. At worst V-6, all-wheel drive versions of the Sorento still get as good as 17/23/19 mpg.

Thanks to direct-injection and stop/start technology, the EPA rates the fuel economy of front-drive V-6 versions of the Toyota the best at 20 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway and 23 mpg combined. That’s an impressive effort, but not enough to beat the Kia for fuel economy.

Learn More about the Kia Sorento

Kia Optima vs Kia Forte

Toyota has done a very good job updating the Highlander, but it still rates a little below the 2017 Kia Sorento overall. The differences are not huge, but they do add up. What doesn’t add up though is the $5,000 extra you’re asked to pay for the Highlander over and above what the Kia costs. Clearly, the Sorento is the clear winner.