Considering a new SUV

Right now I am thinking very much about either the Hyundai Santa Fe and the Kia Sorrento. In both I am looking at the 6 cylinder AWD model, not the underpowered 4 cylinder. I currently have a 2001 Jeep Cherokee with 180,000 miles (engine is still running well but the rest of the car is losing reliability, plus I think the transmission will go long before the motor gives out). What I don’t like about my Jeep is the cargo capacity. Once or twice a year a dive from San Diego to Park City Utah to go skiing and with 4 people I end up using a cargo rack on the hitch. Skis go on top but it is still cramped inside with 4 people. Overall I really like the Hyundai because it is bigger though I won’t need the back seats which are standard. I have seen some reviews where they get terrible gas mileage with the Hyundai, worse than 16 mpg in combined driving which would put it on par with my Jeep. Now those reports were for a brand new vehicle and I’ve heard that Hyundai has said mileage improves after the first couple of thousand miles or so. But I have read other reviews that you can expect about 19 combined and 22-24 hwy which I would be fine with though I would expect less with my rather heavy foot. The KIA’s size would be better for everyday driving and I hear the steering is better (Note: I haven’t tested either yet but will start sometime in February when I start seriously looking). The cargo room of the Kia is still better than the Jeep and when only three of us go I can fold down part of the rear seat for more room for luggage which I cannot do with my Jeep. With the KIA I see no complaints with the mpg, they seem to get what you would expect to get, just a bit lower than the unreasonable EPA estimates. When I spoke with my mechanic he said both were good vehicles which is better than what he said about the Ford Edge (which is what I was also considering). Gas mileage is somewhat of a concern but mainly because I hate having to stop for fuel. Still, it is a trade-off when it comes to the size and utility I am looking for. I don’t want to go down in size to a RAV4 or CRV.

I haven’t yet ruled out the Toyota Highlander but you can get quite a bit of car for less money if you go with the Hyundai or KIA. Also, both the Korean cars come with a much better warranty. I may also consider the Subaru Outback with the 6 cylinder but it is also more expensive and looks more like a wagon than a SUV. I have never owned a car for less than 8 years (my Jeep is now on its 14th) so this is a purchase that I intend to keep for quite some time.

So, I would appreciate some input, especially from those who actually own the vehicles I mention.

So are you buying new? Apparently the Sorento is a full redesign for 2016 and it is going to be released early. That might give you good deals on 2015, or might as well buy the 2016. The Santa Fe now has the “smaller” version called Santa Fe Sport that is a tad bigger than Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4, comes with a 2.4 or 2.0 Turbo and gets good reviews. If you want good gas mileage, it might be a better choice and for the few time you need more room, you could get a roof rack and stuck things up there.

I have the Mazda CX-9 which is very close to the Ford Edge. It is bigger and drives very much like a sedan. I am at 50K miles so can’t comment on long-term reliability.

The new Highlander is a very nice car, too big for my taste but I am sure if the price was right I could get used to it :smile:

Yes, I buying new. I own cars so long I think I’ve earned the right to buy new and I don’t want to always worry about what a previous owner did to “my” car. I checked Edmunds and you get a $2K incentive on a 2015 Sorrento, $1.5K more than the Hyundai so that is attractive. I think the new Sorrento will be longer to be more akin to the Santa Fe but likely be priced the same and get pretty much the same performance. Hell, Hyundai and KIA share much of the same parts anyway.

I’ve ruled out the Santa Fe Sport because it only comes with the 2.4 4 cylinder and I do want horsepower and I think a car the size I am looking for is underpowered with the smaller, 4 cylinder engines. The Santa Fe Sport is also pretty much the same as the Sorrento but the Sorrento offers the 3.3 6 cylinder engine. I don’t really want a turbo either. I think the Sorrento is more like the Edge and your CX-9 and it would be the right car for me except for the Utah trip with 4 people. I already put my skis on-top and don’t want to add a cargo pod up there. If I go with the Sorrento I would probably need my tailgate rack for extra gear. The Santa Fe is more on par with the Highlander. I ruled out the Mazdas because of their MPG though they are sporty looking. They also are more expensive than the Korean cars.

My son is pushing for the Santa Fe because he likes the interior better. That being said, my son just spent $5K on a mountain bike and probably has close to that value in surfboards. Like I said, I want better mileage than my Jeep (not hard to do, but I would like it to be significantly better than the 14 mpg I get in normal use, it is 4WD) but I also want a car that I am satisfied with on long road trips. Hell, my Jeep doesn’t even have cruise control which I really notice on my jaunts to Utah. Last year my Jeep’s catalytic converter failed the day were were leaving for Utah so I borrowed my parents’ 1998 Explorer. The cruise control and firm leather seating was very nice, especially given I was just 11 weeks post hip preservation surgery.

The nice thing is that I am not in a hurry. I’d like a new vehicle by the spring or early summer. I am already spending way too much keeping my Jeep running properly though I might keep it as a true off-roader. I do know the longer I wait for a 2015 model the better the price will be but the options will be limited. I like the Santa Fe but not with the captain’s chairs in the second row. I don’t ever really see the need for a 6 or 7 seater but 5 is a distinct possibility around town. If you get the second row captain’s seats then you need to put someone in the back to seat 5.

Hey, thanks for your input! When it comes down to it I will make the final decision on what is best for me and my mission but I like hearing from people who have newer SUVs about what they like and don’t about their choice.

One other thing, with the Santa Fe and 3 people I could likely put the skis inside. I might even be able to do that with the Sorrento. The ski rack on the roof is noisy, depresses mileage and is a PITA when you get hit with a crosswind. Had the latter happen when I was just leaving Mequite NV getting close to the pass through AZ. I thought I blew a friggen tire. It also happened right after my voltage meter started to show an over-charge (I was looking at that when the Jeep suddendly violently jerked) so I spent the next few minutes trying to figure out if it was the wind or something else.

I had just replaced the alternator so now I’m wondering if it is a connection, the PCM or a bad battery. I turned the lights back on and the voltage went back down to 14.

Why base the decision on a twice a year long rode trip? You could just rent a big SUV for those trips.

Because I have always considered that trip in my car buying decision making since I can remember. Also, I do need something large enough to haul stuff routinely which my Jeep can do but only with the back seats down. I also own property in our local mountains which do get snow so AWD is something nice to have. But you point is well taken which is why I am considering a smaller SUV (the KIA Sorrento ) and a larger one (the Hyundai Santa Fe). And, finally, I’m going from a Jeep which is a rather “manly” vehicle and want something that isn’t to “chickish” (my apologies to the women on here). I don’t need a soft ride but I do want something that can handle the elements that I can find on-road an I don’t have to worry if I get a bit off-road with it.

I put an emphasis in the “Utility” part of the SUV. :slight_smile:

Consider the Subaru Forester. Consumer reports top rated. The 4 cylinder engine is more than powerful enough, the price is low ($22k), mileage is 25-30 MPG. Very roomy inside, full time AWD.


Have you looked at the Mazda CX-5 with the 2.5L engine? It gets great EPA mileage (25/32/27) and has good power even though it is a 4-cyl. The Skyactiv engine compares well to 6-cyl engines. If the size is acceptable, consider a test drive. My daughter bought one with the 2L engine a few months ago and she is very happy.

They Hyundai or the Kia you mentioned are good choices, I’d at least look at the highlander for comparison. My Brother has considered a Highlander for their next vehicle but is also looking at a few other options (3rd child due in April so they need to upgrade soon) It really comes down to what you like best and what works for you.

Love the input. Bill, if I were to go with Subaru I would go with the 6 cyl Outback. I don’t like the look of the Forester and if I wanted hp I’d have to go with the turbo, which mean premium gas. The Outback is in my list though more pricey than the KIA and not as roomy as the Santa Fe. Subaru does do well in Consumer Reports which is why the Outback is a consideration for me. My brother is probably going with a Subaru (he has a 98 Outback) and I really don’t want to have what my brother has even if he would likely go with the 4 cyl model. Yeah, that sounds petty but it is a consideration for me.

JT, if I were to go Mazda I would go with the CX-9. Price-wise I get more for the money with the Korean models and better mileage. Plus my son has a Mazda 3 and just had to replace the engine at 111K miles. I am wary of the 4 cyl engines (especially those being used in Mazda, Scion and Toyota) being used right now due to oil consumption issues that can start as early as 70K miles. I really want to steer clear of the 4 cyl models.

Woly, the Highlander is a consideration though more expensive with the options I want. I haven’t ruled it out though I don’t need 7 seats. 5 is all I need which is an option with the Sorrento (smaller than the Highlander and too small for 7 seats IMHO) but not an option with the Santa Fe which I think matches up pretty closely with the Highlander.

I do appreciate the input guys.

Kudos for doing research.
Allow me to suggest that you pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore. While not perfect, it’s the best and most objective source of comparative data available.

You might want to pick up a few other consumer mags too. I would suggest ignoring JD Powers, because their main business is selling awards rather than objectively assessing cars. For the right price anybody can create some category for any vehicle to win, and that’s exactly what JD Powers does.

While you are at it look at the Honda Pilot too. The 3rd row is roomy. It is getting old as far as the design goes so it is due for a makeover. It has the variable cylinder management, so if you test drive it see if it bothers you (was shaking in & out when I drove one). You should be able to get a CPO for a decent price or even a better deal on a new one since the design is old. It is noisier than your other options.

I have a subscription to CR and have checked the reviews for the vehicles I am looking at, though they are for the 2013 models. I do say that they don’t rate the Ford Edge very highly in terms of reliability so it confirmed to me what my mechanic said about it. I’ll have to stop by a bookstore and look through the auto mags to see if there is a SUV edition.

For what it’s worth, worrying about cylinder count isn’t productive because it’s meaningless. A friend of mine has a 4-cylinder Honda that can stomp most cars on the road that cost less than 60 grand. Look at the actual horsepower and torque numbers. There are a lot of new cars out there with turbocharged 4’s that are as fast or faster than their naturally aspirated 6 cylinder counterparts.

If you really keep cars as long as you say, I would definitely be looking at Honda/Toyota. Kia/Hyundai are really good cars these days, but… Well, look, if you can keep the body from rusting out around you it’s not terribly hard to get a Honda/Toyota to half a million miles. I don’t think Kia/Hyundai are quite there yet.

You’re right about the Edge, btw. In fact, expand that to all Ford SUV’s. We have a fleet of them at work and they are all utter crap. I have not seen this many brand new cars have so many problems in the first 20,000 miles since the days of the Yugo. Everything from major engine repairs to 5 safety recalls to cooling system failures to door handles falling off. If we go a week without one of our vehicles having to go (back) to the shop, we’re amazed. The build quality is atrocious.

I took a brief look at the Pilot, I think it is quite a bit wider and with my son’s motorcycle and car in the garage it could be a tight fit. Even the models I’m looking at are about 5"wider than my Jeep and the Pilot would be about 9" wider. IIRC it is about the size of the Explorer. I did rent one a few years back and I remember I didn’t really care for it. Price wise it is about the same as the Hyundai which is attractive.

Shadowfax, in the main models I am considering the 4 cyl engines do not put out the hp or torque. Pretty much every review I’ve seen on them say to opt for the 6 since the 4 lacks power for a vehicle that size and doesn’t return all that much better mpg. Hyundai does offer the Santa Fe Sport with a 2.0 Turbo which is pretty much the same car as the KIA Sorrento but with a turbo which gives it a bit better hp and torque than the 6. I will probably give that a look but the Hyundai is a couple of grand more than the Sorrento with the 6 cyl. Other than the engine those cars are pretty much the same.

The 6 cyl and the turbo 4 all give me plenty of hp, much better than the 190 I have in my Jeep. The standard 4 cyls have the same hp as my Jeep though the cars are heavier. My Jeep can be a bit gutless going up the mountains in Utah where the speed limit is mostly 80.

I am going to look at the Highlander but it does not come with a turbo option so that means I am again looking at the 6. I know all about Toyota’s reputation for reliability though my parents’ Lexus hasn’t been all that bulletproof. I could live with the XLE model which is priced about the same as a fully loaded Santa Fe but if I wanted to compare apples to apples I would have to go with the Limited model which is about $4K more than the loaded Santa Fe. You do see a lot of Highlanders around which is good and bad.

The Honda doesn’t really have what I want, the CRV is too small and the Pilot is too big.

As for the standard 4 cyl I have to say that my mechanic said that the Mazda, Toyota, and Scion 4 cylinder engines have a tendency to start consuming a lot of oil which can start being an issue as early as 70K miles. My son’s Mazda 3 did that and he ruined his motor at 111K miles. No signs of an oil leak, he just burned 3 qts of oil. I have read that some people have reported burning 3 qts in as little as 2 weeks. That has me a bit skittish about the 4 cyl. I’m not sure if the turbo engines have the same issues but with a turbo you have one more thing that can go wrong and you have to burn premium in it. My only experience with a turbo is my parents once had a Mercedes turbo diesel. I have heard the new electronic turbos don’t have the lag to engage that the old turbos had but I always remember that you hit the gas and then waited for the bump when the turbo kicked in.

The only manufacturer that’s even close to releasing an “electronic turbo” is Audi, and that won’t be for at least another year. Turbos on the cars you’re looking at are exhaust-driven just like the ones you remember, but the lag isn’t nearly as bad because the turbos aren’t there to make you win races, just to give a little extra power, and so they aren’t very big. Smaller turbos spool up faster which significantly reduces the lag.

Also, not all of today’s turbo motors require premium. Some only recommend it for better mileage and power, but will not be damaged if you run regular gas.

One vote for a turbo: They’re really nice to have in the mountains, because they help compensate for the reduced air volume at elevation.

That said, I’m not the biggest fan of the current “turbo 4 for fuel efficiency” trend, because it doesn’t work all that well - turns out the real world efficiency numbers aren’t appreciably better than the larger displacement engines they replace. I suspect this is because the turbo works better at higher throttle inputs (because exhaust flows faster and therefore spins the turbine faster), which means the cars feel underpowered unless you put your foot in it more than you would have to with a larger displacement naturally aspirated engine – in other words, these new turbo cars are turning drivers into unwitting leadfoots.

One caution I will mention on Hyundai/Kia – again, they’re very good cars, but they’re also very inexpensive cars when compared to the competition. It’s very important for H/K to have that price advantage right now because they’re climbing out of the low quality image hole that they dug for themselves in the 90’s. But in order to be that competitively priced without producing the rolling crapheaps they used to make years ago, they do need to “cheap out” on some things: If you get leather, or a leather wrapped steering wheel, it’s not going to last as long as leather in more expensive cars. Gas doors are plastic instead of metal, etc.

I would feel very safe in wagering that a brand new Honda/Toyota bought today will be in better shape, at least visually, than a brand new Hyundai/Kia will be in a decade or so.

All that aside, it really boils down to which car you like the best - - None of the ones that you’re looking at are bad cars, and if you take proper care of it, you should get many years of good service out of whichever one you pick. My recommendation would be to drive all of them, and not just around the block, but for a more extended test drive, and get the one you like the best. Especially since you’re going to keep it for a long time, you want to be sure that you really like it.

@shadowfax; I am not sure about Toyota/Honda being better in the long run compared to Hyundai/Kia. The reason H/K are able to offer more for less $ seems to be cheaper labor cost, which is what T/H started doing way back when. Now the tide has turned. I have a few friends that have Hyundai’s with 180+K miles without major issues. Now if you are not lucky, any company can sell you lemons.
But, T&H still have good resale and that is still relevant to the OP in case the car is not what they were looking for or their needs change.

If I was buying used today, there are a lot of good deals on Sorento’s.

@galant I’m not sure about it either because right now Hyundai/Kia are (is… same company) obviously making good cars, but whether they’re as good as Honda/Toyota cannot really be determined until the cars are very much older. I didn’t mean to imply that today’s cars won’t last as long, just that it’s an unknown compared to the companies that have a long-established track record of relative reliability.

I appreciate all the comments. I usually own a car for 8 years. I kept this Jeep longer because it has been pretty reliable and I bought it in the last year of production. Only have about 180K on it and I know the motor is good for at least 300K. But, I have had to replace the AC condenser (about 7 years ago), the heater core and have had some nagging electronic issues in the last couple of years. I keep expecting the transmission to go, it slips when I start on a hill.

There is definitely more plastic on the interior in the Korean models as compared to the Toyota. I’m definitely going to test drive those on my list.