Redesigned SUVs rev up competition with improvements

By Consumer Reports
The redesigned Kia Sorento EX V6 now ranks among the better SUVs Consumer Reports has tested. The EX V6 model outscored all other vehicles in CR’s recent tests and now ranks third among small and midsized SUVs, behind only the Subaru Forester 2.5XT and the Toyota RAV4 V6, in CR’s Ratings.
In CR’s recent tests of four small and midsized SUVs, the Sorento posted an Excellent overall road-test score, outperforming two versions of the freshened Hyundai Santa Fe, including the Limited V6, which earned an Excellent, and the 4-cylinder GLS, which earned a Very Good.
CR’s testers found the Sorentos to be competent vehicles that strike a good balance of size, passenger room, and price. An available third-row seat adds to their appeal.
Small and midsized car-based SUVs have become popular with families as sedan replacements. Models such as the Sorento, Chevrolet Equinox, and Hyundai Santa Fe straddle the two classes in size and price. There are plenty of good choices in this competitive category, with the best models combining a roomy interior, nimble handling, and decent fuel economy. A model with two-wheel drive will get slightly better fuel economy than the same model with all-wheel drive, but it won’t provide as much traction in slippery conditions.
CR’s engineers also did a face-off between the mildly freshened Honda CR-V and the new Hyundai Tucson small SUVs, with the CR-V improving slightly with a Very Good road test score and the Tucson also scoring a Very Good.
While the Santa Fe and CR-V are Recommended, the Sorento and Tucson are not Recommended because they are too new for CR to have reliability data. CR only Recommends vehicles that have performed well in its tests, have at least average predicted reliability based on CR’s Annual Auto Survey of its more than 7 million print and Web subscribers, and performed at least adequately if crash-tested or included in a government rollover test.
Prices ranged from $25,730 for the 4-cylinder Santa Fe to $32,390 for the Sorento EX V6.
CR’S FINDINGS INCLUDE:
— Kia Sorento. The Kia Sorento straddles the small and midsized SUV categories and a small third-row seat adds utility. It has a very firm ride. The Sorento EX V6 ($32,390 Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price as tested) is powered by a 276-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that is smooth and powerful and gets 20 mpg overall in CR’s own fuel economy tests. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The interior is nicely finished and everything fits well. With the rear seats folded, cargo room is moderate.
— Hyundai Santa Fe. The Hyundai Santa Fe rides better than the Sorento and handling is secure and responsive. Both the 4-cylinder GLS and 6-cylinder Limited versions of the Santa Fe have compliant rides and absorb bumps well. The Santa Fe Limited V6 ($31,330 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 276-hp, 3.5-liter V6 engine that is refined and powerful and gets 20 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly. Braking is very good. The rear seatbacks fold forward to create a large space.
— Honda CR-V. The freshened Honda CR-V is a practical, safe, and reliable small SUV that’s enjoyable to drive. The ride is pliant enough to absorb bumps and feels fairly agile in normal driving. The CR-V EX AWD ($25,805 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 180-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that gets 21 mpg overall. The five-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. Braking is excellent. The rear seats can slide forward for cargo.
— Hyundai Tucson. The redesigned Hyundai Tucson offers better fuel economy, straightforward controls, and responsive secure handling. But the ride is stiff, road noise is pronounced, and cargo space and visibility are sacrificed to styling. The Tucson GLS AWD ($24,090 MSRP as tested) is powered by a 170-hp, 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that delivers good performance and gets 22 mpg overall. The six-speed automatic transmission is smooth and responsive. Braking is excellent. The 60/40-split rear seat creates a good-sized cargo hold.

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