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Telluride vs Sorento: How does Kia’s New SUV Stack Up?

A closeup shows the grille on a green 2020 Kia Telluride.

The Kia Sorento was first introduced back in 2002, and with the brief exception of the short-lived Kia Borrego in the late 2000s, has been Kia’s largest and most capable SUV. However, for the 2020 model year, Kia released the all-new and considerably larger Kia Telluride. This new SUV sports blocky aggressive styling and a significantly higher price tag than the established vehicle, but does it deserve the top spot in Kia’s SUV lineup? A close comparison of the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Kia Telluride will reveal that while the Sorento is an excellent vehicle that is mechanically every bit the equal of the new Telluride, overall, the larger SUV comes out ahead in enough categories to earn its position.

With more interior space, upgraded seating, superior infotainment, and a few extra features of its own, the 2020 Kia Telluride is a great choice for anyone who needs a bit more space than the Kia Sorento can offer. However, this does not mean that Kia’s older model has been entirely superseded, and for drivers who either value performance over size or who are looking for a more efficient vehicle, the 2020 Kia Sorento still remains an excellent option.

Bigger, But by How Much?

Both the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Kia Telluride are three-row SUVs. But they differ considerably in size and volume. On the outside, the Telluride measures a good half a foot longer and four inches wider than the Sorento, numbers that translate directly into a significantly roomier cabin. While the 2020 Kia Sorento has 154 cu.ft. of passenger volume, the 2020 Kia Telluride boasts no less than 178 cu.ft. In real terms, that means around an inch more headroom, 2 inches more hip and shoulder room, and 3 inches more second-row legroom. Overall, this makes the Telluride the far more comfortable vehicle for carrying large numbers of passengers.

And the story is similar when it comes to moving cargo. In fact, with only 11.3 c.ft. of rear cargo space, a 2020 Kia Sorento may have trouble even fitting all the personal items needed for seven passengers. But this problem is not shared by the 2020 Kia Telluride, which has 21 cu.ft. of rear cargo space. And when the rear seats are folded down for transporting large items, the Telluride can accommodate up to 87 cu.ft. of cargo while the Sorento tops out at 73 cu.ft. So for drivers that require maximum versatility, the 2020 Kia Telluride clearly the way to go.

A white 2020 Kia Sorento is driving on a snowy road.

Power to Explore

Under the hood, Kia’s two top dogs both sport V6 engines. And while the engine in the 2020 Kia Telluride is noticeably larger, it is not significantly more powerful. The 3.3L V6 powering the 2020 Kia Sorento produces 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, while the 3.8L V6 in the 2020 Kia Telluride generates an underwhelming 291 hp and 262 lb-ft of torque. In fact, this almost unnoticeable difference in power means that the Sorento is actually the livelier vehicle thanks to it weighing roughly 200 pounds less than the larger Telluride.

The lighter and less powerful Sorento is also the less efficient of these two Kia SUVs when it is equipped with the 3.3L engine and is rated for 22 MPG combined against 23 MPG combined for the Telluride. But if fuel efficiency is the most important factor, then the two lowest trims of the 2020 Kia Sorento come with a 2.4L four-cylinder engine instead of the 3.3L V6. This smaller engine gets 25 MPG combined, but only generates an uninspiring 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Further, the small engine is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission instead of the eight-speed transmissions that comes with the V6 and the Telluride. So while the four-cylinder’s output is sufficient for daily driving and will save some money on gas, the 2020 Kia Sorento will feel much more responsive with the V6 option.

Both of these Kia SUVs are available with an advanced all-wheel drive system that includes an all-wheel drive lock feature for slippery conditions as well as torque-vectoring control to improve handling and stability through corners. This makes both the Kia Telluride and the Kia Sorento extremely safe vehicles, no matter the weather. But if facing deep snow or dirt roads, the higher ground clearance of the 2020 Kia Telluride will probably make it the slightly better choice. And when it comes to hauling heavy loads or pulling a trailer, the Telluride also has the added benefit of an optional self-leveling rear suspension system that will keep the vehicle riding smoothly no matter the load. However, both vehicles have the same 5,000-pound tow rating, and for drivers who do not routinely encounter these more extreme situations, the 2020 Kia Sorento will offer slightly better performance than the 2020 Kia Telluride.

Ride in Comfort

A silver 2020 Kia Telluride is parked on rocks in a desert after winning the 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Kia Telluride comparison.

Overall, the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Kia Telluride both possess modern feature-rich interiors that will provide a comfortable driving experience for commuting, road trips, or off the grid adventures. However, the Telluride offers a number of additional features that are unavailable in the Sorento. Further, while the three V6 trims of the Sorento are not far behind the top three trims of the Telluride, the two lowest trims of the smaller SUV are fairly basic and have a limited feature set to go with their less powerful engines. While both the Sorento and the Telluride are designed with rear passengers in mind and have features such as separate climate control panels for all three rows, the larger Kia takes passenger comfort a step further.

Not only does it offer individual captain’s chairs for the second-row passengers, the top trim of the Telluride even offers heated and vented second-row seats. In addition, all three rows have access to their own USB charging ports, allowing up to six devices to be charged at the same time. Finally, the 2020 Kia Telluride sports a driver talk system that uses the vehicle’s sound system to amplify the driver’s voice for easy communication with the back rows. However, while the Telluride does offer dual sunroofs to give the rear seat passengers some additional light, the 2020 Kia Sorento is available with a massive panoramic sunroof that runs nearly the entire length of the vehicle.

And when it comes to front-row comfort and infotainment, the Telluride again has the edge. While the 2020 Kia Sorento actually offers slightly superior 14-way adjustable power seats with 4-way power lumbar support, only the newer SUV is available with vented seats and a heated steering wheel. When it comes to tech, only the 2020 Kia Telluride is available with a head-up display for improved situational awareness, and the higher trims of the Telluride also come with a larger 10.5-inch central infotainment touch screen.

The Sorento only has an 8-inch display in its top trim, while the lower trims come with an even smaller 7-inch touchscreen. However, while the extra screen space in the larger SUV does come in handy when using the backup camera, surround view system, or navigation, both vehicles use the same infotainment software and have the same basic features. Further, the two SUVs’ audio equipment is identical with the choice between a basic six-speaker setup or a premium ten-speaker Harman Kardon surround sound system.

So while the 2020 Kia Telluride is the clear winner when it comes to features and technology, it is not that far ahead of the 2020 Kia Sorento in the long run. When combined with the marginal powertrain differences between the two vehicles, the main advantage of the larger SUV is its greater interior space, and the small Kia Sorento is very much still in the running for anyone who does not need the extra capacity of the Kia Telluride. Really, both of the SUVs are great choices; the decision is up to the space you need.

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