Powered by V6 petrol engines, both of these vehicles are the cheapest tickets into the new Toyota Kluger and Kia Sorento ranges. Here's how they compare.
The Toyota Kluger V6 and Kia Sorento V6 are among the cheapest tickets into a full-size seven-seat family SUV, and both models are fresh to market.
With long waiting times for the Toyota Kluger Hybrid and Kia Sorento diesel variants, many buyers are weighing up whether to jump the queue and opt for the petrol V6 versions, which are less popular choices due to their extra thirst.
However, while they’re thirstier at the bowser than a hybrid or diesel, these latest petrol V6s are relatively efficient thanks in part to their eight-speed automatics, which enable the engine to operate at low revs at cruising speeds.
The Kia Sorento petrol V6 front-wheel drive is $3200 cheaper than diesel all-wheel-drive variants, while the Toyota Kluger petrol V6 front-wheel drive is $6500 cheaper than hybrid all-wheel-drive variants.
What we have here are the most affordable entry points into the new Toyota Kluger and Kia Sorento ranges.
The price of the 2021 Toyota Kluger GX V6 is listed between $52,600 and $54,000 drive-away as this article is published (stamp duty varies from state to state, most jurisdictions listed this model at about $52,800 drive-away). All-wheel-drive V6 versions of the Toyota Kluger are $4000 dearer.
The Toyota Kluger Hybrid all-wheel drive – hybrid models are AWD only – is $6500 dearer than the V6 front-wheel drive. As this article was published, Toyota’s website shows prices ranging from $59,000 to $61,000 drive-away for that variant (most jurisdictions are about $59,600 drive-away).
The 2021 Kia Sorento S V6 costs $49,290 drive-away nationally as Kia had applied a promotional offer across the country. All-wheel drive is not available on the Sorento V6. The Kia Sorento turbo diesel all-wheel drive – again, this engine is AWD only – starts from $52,490 drive-away, a $3200 premium.
Stock availability is limited across both brands right now because of high demand and production slowdowns due to semiconductor shortages.
Nevertheless, with the recent arrival of the fourth-generation Toyota Kluger – the successor to the segment leader – we compared it to its closest rival, the Kia Sorento.
The Kia Sorento is the reigning Drive Car of the Year. It's worth clarifying that at the time of COTY testing, only the diesel all-wheel-drive range was available.
We’re now in the base-model Kia Sorento V6 petrol. Although this is the most affordable option in the Kia Sorento range, it’s not a bare-bones proposition.
Standard equipment includes an electric park brake, digital speed display in the instrument cluster, single-zone air-conditioning (but with vents to all three rows) and, as with the Toyota Kluger, the convenience of extendable sun visors with lit vanity mirrors.
The infotainment has digital radio, AM/FM, Bluetooth, and wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Embedded navigation is reserved for dearer models.
Safety tech includes autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assistance, safe door-exit warning (to detect passing traffic). Speed sign recognition is not yet available on Kia models locally.
There are four ISOFIX child seat mounts – two in each of the second and third rows – and five top tether points, so an old-school child seat can be fitted in the middle of the second row.
With seven airbags (including one between the front seats), this generation of Kia Sorento has a five-star safety rating from 2020. However, the curtain airbags do not include protection on the rear roof pillars.
For the full specifications rundown of every Kia Sorento variant, click here.
Conspicuous by its absence in this company: the Kia Sorento S V6 petrol lacks a sensor key and push-button start, and only the driver has a one-touch auto-up and auto-down power window switch.
The Toyota Kluger GXL V6 petrol has a sensor key and push-button start, and one-touch operation for all four power windows.
Neither of the models tested has a power-operated tailgate.
The Kia Sorento has a 12V power socket to the cargo hold, the Toyota Kluger in this guise does not.
A handy Sorento touch (which the Toyota Kluger lacks): in addition to a central locking switch in the driver’s door near the power window switches, the front passenger power window panel also has a central locking switch to avoid having to reach across the cabin to lock or unlock the car.
The Kia Sorento has an upmarket-looking interior, with a familiar theme across both the Kia and the Toyota: a digital instrument display between two analogue dials, and a large tablet-style touchscreen with shortcut buttons on either side of the display.
It might be picky, but it was an observation we noticed on test. The volume dial on the Kia is located on the left of the infotainment screen (further to reach), whereas the Toyota Kluger's volume dial is positioned closer, on the right. To be fair, both vehicles have volume controls on the steering wheel.
The graphics in the digital displays and the faux-alloy cabin highlights give the interior of the Kia a lift. It’s practical, too, with large door pockets front and rear, and a generously sized centre console.
There are ample charge ports (three USB ports and one 12V socket up front and one USB port for the second row), but the Toyota Kluger has even more (three USB ports and one 12V socket up front, one 12V power socket in the centre console, and two fast-charging USB ports for the second row).
Both models have air vents to all three rows, but in the Kia the back seat is ventilated by foot vents, which are less effective than the roof vents in the Toyota Kluger.
Both models have the convenience of an electric park brake that releases automatically if the driver’s seatbelt is engaged.
The Kia Sorento’s cargo hold is generously sized, yet the Toyota Kluger’s boot is even bigger.
According to our tape measure, the Kia Sorento has a boot floor length of 390mm with all three seat rows in position, 1060mm with the third row stowed, and 1940mm with the second and third rows stowed. The cargo hold width is 1370mm.
By comparison, the Toyota Kluger has a boot floor length of 490mm with all three seat rows in position, 1100mm with the third row stowed, and 2070mm with the second and third rows stowed. The cargo hold width was 1210mm for the most part, though one pocket stretched the tape measure to 1420mm.
The Toyota Kluger has more storage under the boot floor than the Kia Sorento.
We put six-foot Sam Purcell in the third row as a worst-case scenario, and confirmed what every family buyer of these cars already knows: it really is only for kids in the third row.
The Kia makes life a little more difficult with very little foot room under the second-row seat.
The second row has ample room for heads, shoulders, knees, and toes.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. And the capped prices for routine maintenance are listed as follows: $338, $533, $411, $725, $381, $657, and $404, which is $2388 over five years and $3449 over seven years.
By comparison, the Toyota Kluger is cheaper to service ($250 every 12 months/15,000km or $1250 for the first five visits for routine maintenance), but price certainty runs out after five years.
Warranty for the Kia Sorento V6 is seven years/unlimited kilometres versus the Toyota Kluger V6 warranty, which is five years/unlimited kilometres, extending to seven years for the engine and driveline with on-time scheduled servicing.
On the road
The Kia Sorento has come of age with this latest model. It drives more like a car than before, and feels comfortable and composed in most scenarios. The steering is light and intuitive, and the throttle responds well to gentle inputs as the V6 is eager to please.
The Kia Sorento V6 gets the job done with a bit more noise than the Toyota Kluger V6, but the differences are only apparent when both vehicles are driven back to back.
In isolation, they’re both excellent at what they do: offer a lot of space, features, and comfort for the money.
Both have the same towing capacity of 2000kg braked and 750kg unbraked, though we didn’t get to test them under such a load. If towing is a priority, it would be worth considering the all-wheel-drive options of these vehicles.
In the case of the Kia Sorento, only the diesel is available with all-wheel drive, whereas the Toyota Kluger has the option of V6 petrol all-wheel drive and a four-cylinder hybrid all-wheel drive.
Claimed consumption for the Kia is 9.7L/100km, the Toyota lists 8.7L/100km. The fuel economy of both V6s on our 150km test loop was near identical (10.4L/100km for the Kia Sorento V6 and 10.5L/100km for the Toyota Kluger) with primarily a mix of inter-urban and freeway driving. The fuel economy figure also included our acceleration tests and a winding mountain road.
While these fuel consumption figures are thirstier than what you can expect in the real world from the diesel Kia Sorento (8.0L/100km on test, 6.1L/100km claimed) and hybrid Toyota Kluger (6.5L/100km on test, 5.6L/100km claimed), they are fair for a petrol V6 in a big SUV.
Some Ford Territory owners are still recovering from fuel bills that were a result of consuming petrol at a rate of 15–17L/100km.Using that as the benchmark, the Kia and Toyota V6s use 50 per cent less petrol than a Ford Territory in the real world.
Helpfully, both the Kia Sorento V6 and Toyota Kluger V6 also run on regular unleaded. Many European cars (and the Toyota Kluger Hybrid) insist on more expensive premium unleaded.
The cabins of both vehicles are comfortable and practical, with excellent visibility all around aided by wide-view side mirrors and blind-zone warning.
However, some judges preferred the layout and appearance of the Kia Sorento cabin compared to the Toyota Kluger.
The interior materials are a step up for both brands, though they also have their fair share of hard plastics in the door panels. The Kia has larger storage pockets (including in the door pulls) of each door.
Overall, the Kia Sorento V6 is a comfortable and powerful seven-seat SUV that would be easy to live with in the daily grind.
The fourth-generation Toyota Kluger has just gone on sale in Australia and it has big shoes to fill. The previous-generation Toyota Kluger was the top-seller in the segment despite the lack of a hybrid or diesel option.
Buyers who prefer V6 power will like the new one, which is perkier and yet more efficient than before. It’s also much better equipped than its predecessor.
As with the Kia Sorento, although this is the most affordable option in the Toyota Kluger range, it’s not a bare-bones proposition.
Standard equipment includes an electric park brake, sensor key door locking and unlocking, push-button start, one-touch auto-up power windows for all four doors, a digital speed display, AM/FM and digital radio, Bluetooth, wired Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Embedded navigation is available on dearer model grades.
Safety tech includes autonomous emergency braking, radar cruise control, blind-zone warning, rear cross-traffic alert, a rear-view camera, front and rear parking sensors, lane-keeping assistance, and speed-sign recognition.
There are two ISOFIX child seat mounts – located in the second and third rows – and five top tether points, so an old-school child seat can be fitted in the middle of the second row, or third row.
Interestingly, the Toyota Kluger’s second-row seat splits 60/40 with the smaller portion on the passenger side (so only inconveniencing one passenger for access to the third row), whereas the larger portion of the Kia Sorento’s second row tilts forward (inconveniencing two passengers for access to the third row).
With seven airbags (including one for the driver’s knee), this generation of Toyota Kluger has a five-star safety rating from 2021. And, unlike the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe, the curtain airbags in the Toyota Kluger offer protection all the way to, and including, the rear roof pillars.
As mentioned earlier, neither of the model grades tested has a power-operated tailgate.
Other minor differences: the Toyota Kluger GXL V6 lacks a power outlet in the cargo hold, but the Kia Sorento has one as standard.
For the full price and specifications rundown of every 2021 Toyota Kluger variant, click here.
The Toyota Kluger interior has received a welcome lift in appearance, with better-quality materials, larger digital screens for infotainment and in the instrument cluster.
The seats are covered in a hard-wearing fabric and the doors, centre console and glovebox are cavernous.
Service intervals are 12 months or 15,000km, whichever occurs first. Toyota charges $250 per visit every 12 months/15,000km up to the first five visits for routine maintenance ($1250), which is cheaper than the Kia Sorento ($2388 over the same period), but Toyota’s price certainty on servicing runs out after five years. Kia offers seven years' capped-price servicing.
Warranty for the Toyota Kluger V6 is five years/unlimited kilometres, which extends to seven years for the engine and driveline with on-time scheduled servicing, versus the Kia Sorento V6 that has seven years/unlimited-kilometre coverage.
On the road
The new-generation Toyota Kluger feels like it has gone to finishing school, such is its refinement. It’s more supple than before and also more composed in corners. Of course, it’s not meant to be a race car, but it feels more surefooted in roundabouts and in the daily grind than its predecessor.
It’s also a touch quieter as it slips through the air (for a full-size family seven-seat SUV), which is aided in part by good aerodynamics, better sound deadening, and slightly quieter tyres.
The Toyota Kluger V6 tends to deliver its power a little more effortlessly from low in the rev range, and works intuitively with the eight-speed automatic.
Only when you floor the accelerator can you feel the front tyres start to pull on the steering wheel as they follow the contour of the road in search of traction. The optional all-wheel-drive V6 mutes this sensation because some of the power is going to the rear wheels.
With similar engines and similar power outputs – both backed by eight-speed autos – it shouldn’t come as a surprise the Toyota Kluger and Kia Sorento are line-ball in acceleration.
We ran the VBox satellite timing equipment on both cars to try to split the difference. After four runs each, the Toyota Kluger V6 recorded a 0–100km/h time average of 7.7 seconds and the Kia Sorento averaged 7.6 seconds.
Both felt perky, and are on par with the performance delivered by six-cylinder Holden Commodores and Ford Falcons from a decade ago.
The Toyota Kluger was disappointing in our emergency braking test from 100km/h. On the same stretch of tarmac on the same day in the same conditions, the Kia Sorento pulled up in a respectable 39.2m, whereas the Toyota Kluger needed three metres more (42.2m).
To be sure it wasn’t an anomaly, we repeated the tests the next day and got the same result. We suspect the Toyota Kluger’s low-friction tyres may be partly to blame as the brake package on the vehicle is otherwise impressive.
The Toyota Kluger tested ran 235/65R18 Toyo Open Country tyres, while the Kia Sorento tested ran 235/65R17 Continental Contact 6 rubber, which is a beautiful tyre, if a touch noisier in this application.
Both cars deserve kudos for being equipped with full-size spare wheels and tyres with matching alloy rims. Both are slung under the rear of the car; however, the Toyota Kluger's spare is tucked behind a neat plastic cover to protect it from debris.
On our winding mountain road test, both cars felt composed, though the judges favoured the Kia Sorento’s lower Volkswagen Golf GTI-like seating position. That said, the driver seats in both cars can be raised to give a commanding view of the road ahead.
In the daily grind, the Toyota Kluger has a slight edge when it comes to turning circles. It’s a touch tighter at 11.4m versus the Kia Sorento’s 11.6m rating.
One piece of hidden genius worth noting in the Toyota Kluger V6: its automatic stop-start system can be deactivated once stopped by releasing the tiniest amount of brake pressure – without letting the car roll forward.
To keep the engine switched off while you’re stuck in traffic, simply maintain full pressure on the brake pedal.
This was a tough call. Even after a week with this pair, we struggled at times to split the differences, which is why some of the notes in this test might seem picky. It may sound like a cop-out, but both of these vehicles are very good at what they do.
Although they’re the cheapest tickets into their respective seven-seat ranges, neither of these vehicles feels cheap. Then again, they’re $50,000 or thereabouts, so they shouldn’t feel like a bare-bones proposition.
The scores tell one story, but we could see why buyers would prefer one of these vehicles over the other.
Some customers will be sold on the Kia’s cheaper drive-away price, seven-year warranty, modern styling, and driving comfort.
Others will be swayed by Toyota’s reputation and resale value, cheaper servicing costs, and convenience items such as sensor key, push-button start, and speed sign recognition.
In the end, colleague Sam Purcell – who spends a lot of time in family SUVs – leant in favour of the Kia Sorento V6, and I leant in favour of the Toyota Kluger V6.
I edged towards the Toyota Kluger because I prefer the convenience of a sensor key with push-button start, the four one-touch auto-up power windows, the 40 per cent split for the passenger side of the second-row seat, speed sign recognition tech, curtain airbag coverage across the rear roof pillar, and the quality of the overall fit and finish.
The Kia Sorento interior in many ways looks more upmarket and has cleaner graphics (and I prefer the Kia Sorento's grippier Continental tyres and better braking), but the quality of the materials in the Toyota cabin edge it ahead for me.
That said, we would both happily live with either of these vehicles. As family transport, both these vehicles really are that good.
To read why Sam Purcell leaned in favour of the Kia Sorento, see his comments below.
|Toyota Kluger GX V6 2WD||Kia Sorento S V6 2WD|
|Drive-away price||$52,600 to $54,000||$49,290|
|Engine||3.5-litre V6||3.5-litre V6|
|Fuel type||91 regular unleaded||91 regular unleaded|
|Power||218kW @ 6600rpm||200kW @ 6300rpm|
|Torque||350Nm @ 4700rpm||332Nm @ 5000rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed auto, front-wheel drive||8-speed auto, front-wheel drive|
|Towing capacity||2000kg braked||2000kg braked|
|Cargo room (VDA), third row up||241L (to window line)||187L (to window line)|
|Cargo room (VDA), third row down||552L (to window line)||616L (to window line)|
|Cargo room (VDA), second and third rows down||1150L (to window line)||2011L (to roof)|
|Consumption on test||10.5L/100km||10.4L/100km|
SECOND OPINION: Tester's notes by Sam Purcell.
It’s incredible just how good and how closely aligned these two seven-seat SUVs are. The all-new Toyota Kluger is impressive, but the Kia Sorento is no pushover.
Both of these large, seven-seat SUVs mirror each other in strengths: a smooth and powerful petrol V6, which is smartly managed by an eight-speed torque converter automatic transmission driving the front wheels. They also both ride well over bumps and have plenty of safety and convenience technology.
The crash-avoidance tech in the Toyota Kluger seems to have a better tune because I didn’t feel compelled to mute it, whereas the Kia Sorento's lane-keeping was more aggressive.
While both of these SUVs are the most affordable choices in each model range, the Kia Sorento carries a few extra details, finishes and materials that edged it ahead in my opinion.
Seat and door materials appear marginally nicer, and I really like the raised cupholders in the second-row doors. Why don't all family SUVs have these?
However, the Kia Sorento lacks push-button start, keyless entry and speed-sign-recognition tech – which are standard on the Toyota Kluger.
And the curtain airbag coverage in the Kia Sorento doesn't extend across the rear roof pillar, as it does in the Toyota Kluger.
Buyers who prefer to have more technology and a few extra safety advantages may prefer the Toyota Kluger.
Space across the first and second rows is good in both SUVs. But, as you might expect, the third row in both vehicles is better suited to kids. Being able to slide the second row forward can help.
The Kia Sorento has the benefit of a seven-year warranty – versus five years' coverage, plus a conditional two-year extension, on the Toyota Kluger. The Toyota Kluger has cheaper servicing costs.
The list of minor differences is seemingly never-ending, and I can see why buyers would be tempted either way.
It's worth reiterating that the Sorento does carry a bigger stick in terms of drive-away value, so I'd ultimately prefer to trouser a few grand and go with the Kia.
Most buyers will make a choice on price and availability – and which one they prefer the look of. The good news is, whichever one of these you choose, you can't lose. If you think we're sweating the small stuff, it shows how close this particular contest is.