Should I Buy the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Toyota Kluger or Toyota Prado?


Hi John, We are in the market for a new car - looking at the Kia Sorento, Toyota Kluger or Prado or a Hyundai Santa Fe. What would you recommend? Thanks, Maria


The Hyundai Santa Fe and Kia Sorento are clones of one another - Hyundai and Kia are the same company even though here in Australia the brands compete fiercely. They share fundamentals - engines, drivelines, major body components and platforms, plus sundry parts and (obviously) R&D input.

My take on this is: Hyundai has done a better job on Santa Fe than Kia has done on Sorento. This is a detail thing - substantively these vehicles are the same and it comes down to personal preference. (In the same way, Kia did a better job on Sportage than Hyundai did on its twin - the ix35.)

Kluger - I have spent a lot of time in heavily used Klugers over the past few years. Channel 7 uses them as news crew cars - so they've got a tonne of gear in the back and they're driven fairly unsympathetically between pressing assignments. They cope with this treatment quite okay - so Toyota's reputation for reliability and robustness is well deserved there.

Basically the Kluger is a fairly robust loungeroom on wheels. Uninspiring, but rugged and capable. The Hyundai/Kia offerings are more engaging to drive, better value for money and come with a five-year/unlimited kilometre warranty.

Personal preference will be a major determinant here - there's really not a wrong answer. You could buy any of the three and be confident you have made the right choice.

Above, left to right: Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia Sorento, Toyota Prado and Toyota Kluger

Prado is vastly different. It is a far more rugged all-terrain-capable wagon. Heavy towing and low-range gear train make it capable of going hardcore places (off road) the other three can't. This off-road ability comes at a cost - it's just not nearly as nice to drive around town. This is the fundamental trade-off with all-terrain capability.

Please see below my video review of the Santa Fe (much of which is also applicable to the Kia Sorento.)

Here's the full Santa Fe review with downloadable resources and specs.

Here's a related Q&A about buying a low price Toyota Kluger.

The other big difference in the Hyundai Santa Fe/Kia Sorento/Toyota Kluger equation is - diesel.

The Kluger is just not sold with a diesel engine. Diesel delivers 30 per cent better economy than petrol, as well as much more low-rpm power. So in normal driving it just feels more grunty. Diesel drivetrains are more expensive than petrol, and Kia/Hyundai typically build adequate petrol engines and great diesels.

More on Petrol Vs Diesel.

This and the longer warranty would tip my choice towards the Hyundai/Kia end of the equation. I'd reserve the Prado for very heavy towing or off-road applications and I'd buy the Kluger if I just wanted a relaxed loungeroom-on-wheels that would cop no end of abuse without substantial complaint.

Lastly I would advise you strongly not to buy the 2WD versions of Toyota Kluger, Kia Sorento or Hyundai Santa Fe. These are cheap, nasty, awful drivetrains. The AWD versions are far better, more composed propositions.

Here are some more resources that might help:

* Note - when accessing the above, click the model of interest to yield the specifications.

Please don't hesitate to contact me again when you have decided what to buy - I'll put you in touch with a good car broker who can save you thousands on the vehicle.

See also my video report on how to beat car dealers >>

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