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When Driving is about Lifestyle, Car Life Nation is the Answer

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A white 2020 Kia Sorento is driving in a desert and shown from the front.

A Competitive SUV Comparison: Kia vs Mazda

The last decade or so has seen a massive increase in the popularity of SUVs. Everything from crossovers and other small sport utility vehicles to the big rigs that can hold seven, eight, or even nine passengers are on the road in record numbers. And these trends show no signs of slowing down. One thing that makes SUVs so compelling is their versatility. Whether you are hauling kids to soccer, groceries to the cabin, or buddies to a memorable weekend, SUVs can handle it all. But with that uptick in popularity has come some fierce competition. Most, if not all, of the leading brands have their own line-up of SUVs as they try to get their foot into this lucrative market. Two such sport utility vehicles that have made a splash and are going head to head for more drivers are the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Mazda CX-9.

These two SUVs are doing quite well, and drivers are finding them to be agile and reliable. But when it comes to pulling the trigger, which one is the better buy? While both of these SUVs are trending in the same direction with their trims, specs, and special offerings, there are a number of distinctions worth comparing when trying to answer that question. To help you formulate a response of your own, here are some of the significant differences between the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Mazda CX-9.

A Trim Overview: The Sorento

A gray 2020 Kia Sorento is shown from the side driving in a field after winning the 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Mazda CX-9 comparison.

Before we put these two SUVs side by side, we need to look at the different trims for each, starting with the Kia Sorento. The 2020 Sorento comes in five available trims starting with the L, which has an MSRP of $26,990. What makes the base model so great is that some of the advanced features from previous years have worked their way down and are now standard. These include remote keyless entry, Apple CarPlay, and Android Auto, and a stunning 7” touch-screen. In addition to those goodies, the third row folds down nicely to expand the storage area and the amount of anything you can take with you. Finally, under the hood, the 2020 Kia Sorento L boasts a 2.4L Inline 4 cylinder engine that can generate 185 hp.

A step up from the L model is the Sorento LX, with its price tag of $28,090. With the LX, you get all the great features of the L plus two rapid-charging USB ports, a sound-absorbing windshield, and a blind-spot collision warning. Being only the second trim, the Sorento LX is a pretty impressive ride and comes with plenty of extras. The third trim is the Sorento S V6, which starts at $33,190. As you might guess from the name of this trim, it comes with an upgraded 3.3L V6, 290 hp engine that can really move. Like most middle trims, S V6 comes with plenty of features yet is priced competitively enough to be a lovely choice.

The Sorento’s fourth trim is the EX, which starts at $35,490 and includes several cosmetic and luxury features. These include leather-trimmed seats and a few safety features like lane-keep assist. Finally, the top trim is the Sorento SX, which starts at $40,090. This fully stocked trim features a premium audio experience, a larger 8” touch-screen, and wireless phone charger in addition to a number of mostly cosmetic upgrades. At $12,000 higher than the base model, the SX is for those who want a truly luxurious ride.

The CX-9 Trim Breakdown

The first two things you will notice about the Mazda CX-9 are that it only comes in four different trims, and each and every trim has a substantially higher price tag than its Sorento counterpart. For starters, the Mazda CX-9 Sport—the base model—starts at $33,890. That is more than $5,000 higher than the Sorento L’s starting figure. One interesting point worth noting is that even though the Sport is significantly more expensive than the Sorento L, it does not come with Apple CarPlay or Android Auto—both of which are reserved for the higher trims.

The second trim available is the Mazda CX-9 Touring, which comes with a price tag of $35,710. The engine on the Touring—and all the trims as there is only one engine offered for all of them—is a 4-cylinder that peaks at 250 hp. While that beats out the Sorento’s lower trims, it fails to muster the same kind of power generated by the Sorento S V6 and other higher trims. Ironically, the Sorento S V6—the third and middle trim, with the 290 hp engine—has a better price than even the CX-9’s base model and has more power than any CX-9 trim.

The third Mazda CX-9 trim is the Grand Touring, and though it starts at $41,550—or about $6000 more than the Touring—it only features minor upgrades. Both the engine performance and fuel efficiency are the same as the lower trims, and while there are some nice extras like automatic power-folding side mirrors and aluminum roof rails, it is hard to see why it is $6,000 more than the Touring (and more than any Sorento trim).

The final CX-9 trim is the Signature trim, which is another $5,000 on top of the Grand Touring for a grand total of $46,215. With that much of a price difference between trims, you would expect some serious goodies either under the hood or with the interior. But again, you are hard-pressed to find a major difference between even the Sport and the Signature trims, let alone the Grand Touring and the Signature. It’s the same engine with the same output and performance, though in this case, the all-wheel drive is standard on the Signature (though it is optional at all trims), and on the inside, it does have standard second-row captains chairs.

All told, it seems like the Sorento has more available—and better— options and price points, ultimately making for the better buy.

A gray 2020 Mazda CX-9 is parked in front of trees and shrubs.

Quick Glance at Safety

And declaring that the Sorento is the better buy came even before recognizing the safety powerhouse that the Sorento is—especially at the higher trims. When equipped with forward collision-avoidance assist and LED Headlights, the 2020 Kia Sorento is the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) top safety pick for 2020. The 2020 Sorento also features electronic brake force distribution, which helps when having to make a quick stop, and can prevent rollbacks with hill-start assist. Finally, the advanced airbag system and Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children (LATCH) rounds out the Sorento’s impressive safety suite and is especially reassuring if you are a parent. These fantastic features only prove that the Sorento is superior.

Which Will You Buy?

While both the 2020 Kia Sorento and the 2020 Mazda CX-9 are high-quality sport utility vehicles worthy of the attention they have been receiving as of late, the 2020 Kia Sorento gets the nod as the SUV to buy. However, before you buy, you should take the 2020 Sorento for a test drive. While it is always helpful to read about it, as always, seeing the new Sorento for yourself and experiencing the thrill of the S V6’s 290 hp or the feel of the leather-trimmed seats of the SX will give you a better understanding of just how great this SUV truly is.

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