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.