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Midsize SUV Showdown: 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Honda Pilot

A grey 2020 Kia Sorento is parked in a field with mountains in the distance after winning the 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Honda Pilot comparison.

In the market for vehicles that can accommodate more than five passengers with exceptional drivability, superior fuel economy, and sufficient cargo space, the options are relatively limited. The only vehicles that can really fit the bill are three-row midsize SUVs. They have room for up to eight passengers depending on their seating configuration. And they tend to be easy to handle, as many are built on either sedan or small truck platforms. But in this small market, which is the best? Well, two of the most popular on the market are from well-known manufacturers, Kia and Honda. And today, we are going to find out which one is the best of the best in a comparison: 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Honda Pilot.

At first glance, these two vehicles are very alike, as they have many similar features. Both are front-wheel drive standard with available all-wheel drive, so you can choose which drivetrain better meets your needs. They also provide plenty of cargo space, as the designers at Kia and Honda have done a very good job allotting space between the passenger cabin and the trunk. Finally, the Sorento and Pilot are both rated to be able to tow up to 5,000 pounds of trailer, making them two of the most versatile three-row midsize SUVs on the market. Nevertheless, there are several differences between the two models that we are about to explore in the following comparison.

All About the Prices

The first important piece of this comparison is to look at the vehicles’ costs. This will help us understand the true value of each one. The base trim for the 2020 Kia Sorento is the L and starts at $26,990. And there are four other trims available, including the LX with an MSRP of $28,090, the S V6 with an MSRP of $33,190, the EX with an MSRP of $35,490, and the top trim, the SX, with an MSRP of $40,090. The 2020 Honda Pilot, on the other hand, has a much higher base MSRP of $31,650 for the LX trim. This is followed by the EX with an MSRP of $34,530, the EX-L with an MSRP of $37,960, the Touring with an MSRP of $42,720, the Elite with an MSRP of $48,220, and the top trim Black Edition with an MSRP of $49,720.

The price point for the Kia Sorento is significantly lower than that of the Honda Pilot. This, in itself, gives a major advantage to the Sorento right from the start.

A blue 2020 Honda Pilot is parked outside a modern home.

The Engine Offerings

The 2020 Kia Sorento features two different engines. The L and LX trims come equipped with a 2.4-liter DOHC 16-valve I-4 gas engine, paired with an electronically controlled 6-speed automatic transmission. This engine produces 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. The other trims feature a 3.3-liter DOHC 24-valve V6 gas engine with an electronically controlled 8-speed automatic transmission. This engine can produce up to 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. The 2020 Honda Pilot has only one engine option, a 3.5-liter 24-valve SOHC V6 gas engine with i-VTEC. This is paired with either a 6-speed automatic transmission or a 9-speed automatic transmission and produces 280 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque.

The two V6 engines on the Sorento and Pilot easily outperform the I-4 on the 2020 Kia Sorento L and LX models. However, you will have to pay extra on a Pilot to get the 9-speed automatic transmission to match the performance of the V6 on the Sorento with its standard 8-speed automatic transmission. Also, Kia gives you the option of choosing performance or fuel economy with two engine options, something that is not the case with Honda, and we will explore this next.

A Fuel Economy Breakdown

Both of these midsize SUVs get excellent fuel economy, but there are some differences. The Kia Sorento sees 25 MPG combined (22 city/29 highway) with the 2.4-liter engine and FWD. This decreases when this engine is paired with AWD to 23 MPG combined (21 city/26 highway). And when the Sorento is equipped with the 3.3-liter engine and FWD, the numbers decrease, slightly, again to 22 MPG combined (19 city/26 highway). Lastly, with this same engine and AWD, the fuel economy is 20 MPG combined (18 city/24 highway). These numbers are all excellent and prove our earlier point about Kia, giving you the option to choose between extra power or extra fuel savings.

The Honda Pilot, while also good, does not hit numbers as great as the Sorento’s. When equipped with the 9-speed automatic and FWD, this SUV sees 23 MPG combined (22 city/29 highway), and when this is upgraded to AWD, the numbers decrease to 22 MPG combined (19 city/27 highway). When the Pilot has a 6-speed automatic transmission and FWD, the numbers remain the same as the 9-speed with AWD, except for the highway number that decreases to 26 MPG. And with the 6-speed transmission and AWD, the fuel economy is 21 MPG combined (18 city/26 highway). All in all, the Pilot ends up with similar fuel economy to the Sorento, but the standard numbers are not nearly as great; this gives the Kia Sorento the upper hand.

Inside the SUVs

The sunroof in a 2020 Kia Sorento is shown.

One of the reasons to choose a three-row midsize SUV is to get a spacious interior that seats up to eight passengers. The 2020 Kia Sorento has fully 154.2 cu.ft. of passenger space with plenty of legroom, 44.1 inches for front-row passengers, 39.4 inches for second-row passengers, and 31.7 inches for third-row passengers.

The interior of the 2020 Honda Pilot is also roomy, although it only has 152.9 cu.ft. of total passenger space. This is reflected in the fact that there are only 40.9 inches of legroom in the front row, 38.4 inches in the second row, and 31.9 inches in the third. This could prove problematic if you are planning to take a long road trip with more than five friends and relatives. The last thing you’re going to want to hear are the kids in the third-row fidgeting and constantly asking, “Are we there yet?” So if you need passenger space, the Sorento is the way to go.

A Glance at Technology

The last area we are going to explore today is technology. All 2020 Kia Sorento models have a 7-inch color touchscreen display with the Kia infotainment system. This includes a 6-speaker audio system, Bluetooth connectivity, and Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Higher trims add special features like a Harman/Kardon 10-speaker surround-sound audio system.

In contrast, the 2020 Honda Pilot LX has only a 5-inch color touchscreen with a 7-speaker audio system. While the infotainment system includes Bluetooth connectivity, it does not have Android Auto and Apple CarPlay and misses a number of other features. To get the larger 8-inch color touchscreen with features that are standard on every Kia Sorento, you will have to pay for a Honda Pilot EX or higher trim. So, the Sorento, again, steps ahead in the comparison.

The Better SUV

If it is not apparent yet, here’s a blunt statement: The Kia Sorento is the better SUV. This vehicle has shown that it provides more options and greater value than the comparable 2020 Honda Pilot. In essence, you will need to pay more for a Pilot to get the same features that are offered in a less expensive Sorento. And with the Sorento’s better fuel economy, you will also spend less time pumping gas than you would in a Pilot. Overall, the Sorento is just the better SUV.

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