So, you’re shopping for a 3-row SUV. Does that mean you need a big, full-size model with the associated poor fuel economy? Not necessarily. Several well-made midsize SUVs come with a third row. In most cases, it’s not one you’d want to ask adults to ride in regularly. But it will get extra kids to the game and give you flexibility a 2-row SUV doesn’t.
Two of the best options are the 2023 Kia Sorento and Toyota Highlander. Let’s see how they compare.
2023 Kia Sorento
The 2023 Kia Sorento is a great family value. It boasts good fuel economy numbers, a lower starting price than most rivals, and strong safety scores. It’s smaller than most 3-row SUVs, making it easier to handle in tight situations. The Kia Sorento seats six or seven passengers, depending on configuration. Pricing starts at $30,090.
Kia Sorento Highlights
That third row: The Sorento packs three rows of seating, but it’s not as long, as wide, or as tall as the Highlander. That can make it easier to live with if you’ll be driving in traffic or tight suburban parking lots. Does that mean tight interior dimensions? No. Incredibly, the smaller Sorento gives second- and third-row passengers more legroom than the larger Highlander.
Saves you thousands: The Sorento’s base price is more than $6,000 under that of the Highlander. That price doesn’t get you a stripped-down model, either. Even the base Sorento includes Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, charging points in all three rows, rear a/c vents, heated mirrors, and more.
The longest warranty in the business: The best reason to buy a Kia remains long-term financial stability. Kia’s 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty gives you a decade insulated from surprising repair bills. Toyota can’t match it.
Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Sorento models for sale near you.
2023 Toyota Highlander
The Toyota Highlander is the best-selling 3-row midsize SUV in America. It gives you that legendary Toyota resale value, a nice balance of features, and lots of cabin space. For 2023, Toyota has replaced this model’s V6 engine with a turbocharged 4-cylinder, giving it better fuel economy this year. The Toyota Highlander seats seven or eight passengers, depending on configuration. The Highlander starts at $36,420.
Toyota Highlander Highlights
More power in the base engine: Both SUVs are powered by 4-cylinder engines. But Toyota’s puts out 74 more horsepower. Kia can beat that – a more powerful engine in the SX, SX Prestige AWD, and X-Line SX Prestige AWD models puts out more power than the Highlander’s engine. But a model with that engine starts at almost $39,000.
Five-Star Safety Rating: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gave the Highlander five stars in crash testing. The Sorento earned four.
Available JBL Audio System: Sadly, the Highlander’s best audio system is limited to the two most expensive trim levels. But our editors prefer it to the Bose system found in high-end Sorento models.
Check this week’s Fair Purchase Price or see the Highlander models for sale near you
These two tout three rows of seats and front- or all-wheel drive. Each is also available with a hybrid powertrain.
Either of these 3-row midsize SUVs could meet your needs. The Sorento is the better value, with a lower price and a longer warranty. It’s also a little easier to handle in traffic, with a smaller exterior shell. Toyota counters with great resale value, a more powerful base engine, and better crash-test scores.
Only your own priorities can determine which is right for you.
|2023 Kia Sorento||2023 Toyota Highlander|
|Engine||2.5-liter 4-cylinder||2.4-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder|
|Horsepower||191 hp @ 6,100 rpm||265 @ 6,000 rpm|
|Torque||181 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm||320 @ 1,700 rpm|
|Transmission||8-speed dual-clutch automatic||8-speed automatic|
|Fuel Economy||24 city/29 highway/26 combined mpg||22 city/29 highway/25 combined mpg|
|Also Available||2.5-liter turbo 4-cylinder; AWD; hybrid; plug-in hybrid||AWD; hybrid|
|Basic Warranty||5 years/60,000 miles||3 years/36,000 miles|
|Powertrain Warranty||10 years/100,000 miles||5 years/60,000 miles|
|NHTSA Overall Safety||4 stars||5 stars|
|Max Seating Capacity||7||8|
|Wheelbase||110.8 inches||112.2 inches|
|Overall Length||189.0 inches||194.9 inches|
|Width||74.8 inches||76.0 inches|
|Height||66.7 inches||68.1 inches|
|Turning Diameter||18.96 feet||37.4 feet|
|Headroom, Front||40.3 inches||41.2 inches|
|Headroom, 2nd Row||39.1 inches||39.4 inches|
|Headroom, 3rd Row||36.8 inches||36.1 inches|
|Legroom, Front||41.4 inches||42.0 inches|
|Legroom, 2nd Row||41.7 inches||38.7 inches|
|Legroom, 3rd Row||29.6 inches||28.0 inches|
|Shoulder Room, Front||59.1 inches||59.0 inches|
|Shoulder Room, 2nd Row||58.1 inches||58.7 inches|
|Shoulder Room, 3rd Row||53.0 inches||55.0 inches|
|EPA Cargo Volume||12.6/38.5/75.5 cubic feet||16.0/48.4/84.3 cubic feet|