Two very popular crossover SUVs on the road today have roots as more rugged off-road machines. Today they’re among the most popular vehicles in the family-utility niche—but which one’s better for you?
The Kia Sorento and the Ford Edge are both five-seat, mid-size crossover SUVs. The Sorento has an optional third row with two more seats; if you’re in a Ford showroom, the company offers the larger Explorer to fill that role.
Each is relatively new, with the Edge redesigned last year and the Sorento new for 2016—although its styling was updated so conservatively that you might have to look twice to tell for sure. The pair competes with the Chevrolet Traverse, Honda Pilot, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Nissan Pathfinder, and Toyota Highlander, among others.
Both cars rank fairly high in our scoring, but we’ll stop short of announcing an outright winner: the fight isn’t fair, yet. The Sorento has been rated using our new scoring system; the Edge is awaiting its score. We’re working through the new model year to even the playing field, so stay tuned to this space to see who comes out on top. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
MORE: Read our latest reviews of the 2017 Kia Sorento and 2016 Ford Edge
From the outside, the redesigned Sorento is so evolutionary that it’s easy to let your mind fill in the lines, if you knew the previous model. The Sorento’s proportions look familiar, with a more prominent version of the Kia grille, some cleaned-up and more mature, upscale details in front and in back, and more softly rounded lines for most of what’s in between.
The update is far more obvious inside. The 2016 Sorento’s cabin has been dramatically tidied-up and made more sophisticated, with soft-touch trims all around—wherever front occupants might happen to touch—and climate and navigation/audio controls that are cordoned off into neat, intuitive control pods.
Ford calls the latest Edge more athletic, and for both styling and performance, it’s no exaggeration. The SUV silhouette has been upgraded, pushing the design closer to a premium look without cutting into its appeal. The Edge has some great surfacing and details that wouldn’t be out of place in a BMW; the blacked-out details of the Edge Sport underscore the new athleticism, with sport-wagon undertones.
Inside, the Edge now has some of the best trims and materials in its class, and a dash shape that builds on familiar Ford models like the Focus and Escape.
The Kia Sorento carries over two engines from the previous model. The 185-horsepower 2.4-liter 4-cylinder base powertrain, and a 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 at the top of the line. But for 2016, Kia added a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 that makes 240 hp. All three are paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission and can be ordered with front- or all-wheel drive. We preferred the 2.0T model for its perky feel in most types of driving, even if its off-the-line acceleration wasn’t the fastest of the three.
From the driver’s seat, the latest Sorento responds and performs much better than its predecessor. The steering tracks better on center, the suspension provides a firm, composed ride, and the stiffer body structure gives a heftier, more confident feel and a vault-like German ride. Fuel economy is about par for the class, with the highest at 24 mpg combined for the 2.4-liter with front-wheel drive, down to 19 mpg for a fully loaded AWD with the V-6.
The Ford Edge offers plenty of powertrain combinations to fit both tech-savvy and traditionalist buyers. The base engine is a 245-hp 2.0-liter EcoBoost 4-cylinder, paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s the only choice regardless of engine. This base engine has great responsiveness, can be fitted with all-wheel drive, can tow 3,500 pounds, and should be perfectly adequate for most needs. A 280-hp 3.5-liter V-6 is optional for buyers who must have a V-6. But it’s the Edge Sport, with a direct-injected and twin-turbocharged 315-hp 2.7-liter V-6, that’s the most intriguing. Its understated performance is strong and confident.
2016 Ford Edge 4-door SEL FWD Angular Rear Exterior View
On the road, the Edge isn’t edgy, but precise and responsive. The steering has a precise, reassuring feel, tracking well in a straight line and taking corners without fuss. The Sport model gets its own damper and spring rates, and standard 21-inch wheels, with 20s as an option. Active noise cancellation actually leaves the Edge Sport the quietest model. Fuel economy ratings are good, but not class-leading, ranging from a high of 24 mpg combined for the base front-wheel-drive model to 20 mpg combined for the Edge Sport with AWD.
The Sorento’s driver’s seat now has extendable thigh bolsters—definitely of use to taller drivers. Second-row space is essentially the same for two- and three-row versions, although two-row models include an underseat storage system. Adults will find the third row too short and hard to be comfortable over a long day—although it’s just fine for a quick dinner outing with those under 5-feet-10.
With slightly less cargo storage, the Edge is a vehicle designed more for people than gear. The front seats are high, but afford enough head room and offer a good view out over the hood. Even with those front seats all the way back, there’s enough rear leg and knee room for long-legged adults. Still, the seats are too short and flat—both in front and in back.
Both the 2017 Sorento and the 2016 Edge earn five stars overall from the NHTSA, with five stars on every test except for rollover, which has been rated at four stars. The IIHS rates the Sorento “Good” on every test, and awards it a Top Safety Pick+ designation. The Ford, however, doesn’t do quite as well with the IIHS, achieving only an “Acceptable” score on the small-frontal overlap crash test (and “good” in all other ratings).
In back-to-back drives, we found the Edge more rewarding to drive, and more pleasing to our eyes. But the Sorento has more interior space, and offers that third row, which the Edge doesn’t.
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