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

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

A red 2020 Kia Sorento is towing a small camper on a highway towards a city.

Midsize SUV Head-to-Head: The 2020 Kia Sorento vs The 2020 Ford Explorer

Midsize SUVs are all the rage these days because people want space and cargo-hauling ability without having to buy a monster SUV or truck. They’re also longing for that third row of seats to haul the kids and their friends to soccer practice. More than ever, manufacturers are paying attention to all the must-haves on buyer’s lists. From space and cargo capacity to fuel economy and state-of-the-art infotainment, buyers are demanding it all. Automakers compete for your business by finding the sweet spot between value and quality—and most hit the mark—but what if it’s down to two or three choices? That’s when it’s time to really compare. Take the 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Ford Explorer. How are these vehicles the same, and where do they differ?

Before we take a look, we recommend deciding what’s most important to you. Is it safety? Comfort? Luxury? Price? These days, it’s getting difficult to determine which vehicle will tick all the boxes while respecting your budget and offering all the different options you want and need, so a checklist will help you focus. These two vehicles offer varying solutions for the needs you’re trying to meet, so the more specific you get, the easier it will be to choose.

When it boils down to a few small details, always refer back to your priority list. That way, if the differences are slight, you can use that list to compare. For example, if the cost is your number one consideration and you’re down to two very similar vehicles, it makes sense to choose the one with the lower price. The same is true for other priorities like safety, fuel economy, or reliability. There are so many options available today that you needn’t compromise on any of your wish list items!

With all of that said, sometimes a vehicle is the clear winner, and nothing breeds more confidence than knowing you’ve made the best possible choice. We can demonstrate this with a great example, so without further ado, let’s review the 2020 Kia Sorento vs the 2020 Ford Explorer to see where they’re alike and where they’re different, and why you might choose one over the other. We will review a few key areas that new car buyers commonly focus on to determine the best option for their needs.

Powertrain and Reliability

A blue 2020 Ford Explorer is parked on a pier in front of canoes.

Reliability is a big deal, and one of the ways to discover whether a car is reliable is to check the warranty. Kia offers its owners much more peace of mind, with a ten year or 100,000 mile powertrain warranty. Ford’s powertrain warranty sits at 5 years or 50,000 miles, a substantial difference that should be noted when comparing reliability. The company’s dedication to owner satisfaction shines through with this extra protection and speaks to Kia’s confidence in the longevity of its vehicles and their mechanical reliability.

The car buying website reviews thousands of vehicles every year. CarGurus rated the 2020 Kia Sorento EX AWD #3 in reliability versus the 2020 Ford Explorer AWD, which came in #8. Why is this important if both cars come with a decent warranty? For starters, it’s inconvenient to deal with vehicle repairs. Taking a morning to deal with dropping the car off, waiting for the repair, arranging a loaner or rental, etc., is a hassle. It pays off to look more closely at each vehicle’s reliability rating to potentially save yourself a headache. Also, when it comes to powertrain failures, nothing is more expensive to repair. If you’re keeping your vehicle for a while, consider the powertrain warranty very carefully.

How about power and performance? Both vehicles offer multiple engine configurations, but the Kia Sorento comes standard with front wheel drive and available all wheel drive. The Ford Explorer is equipped with rear wheel drive and available four wheel drive. Front wheel drive offers more traction, which helps in the snow and other tricky driving conditions, which is an important consideration.


The 2020 Kia Sorento weighs less and is not quite as long as the Ford Explorer. This is a big size advantage, because the Sorento will be easier to park and maneuver in tight turns, but does Kia compromise interior space with this size advantage? In a word, no. While each vehicle offers a few differences when comparing specific size specifications such as legroom and headroom, the Sorento wins in total passenger volume, with 154.2 cubic feet versus the Explorer, which comes in at 152.7 cubic feet.

The Sorento’s interior is ergonomically intelligent, which means that you’ll find controls and buttons in easy-to-reach spots, and the dash layout is intuitive and clean. By contrast, the Explorer is a little less refined and put together, especially when equipped with its optional 10.1-inch touchscreen display, which is awkwardly sized and doesn’t fit well on the dash.

How about luxury touches? Interior space is great, but buyers want a comfortable, plush interior with lots of upgraded features while still keeping budget under control. Let’s look at the high end of the Sorento model range. The 2020 Sorento SX has a starting MSRP of $40,090. Moving up the model line to the top-of-the-line 2020 Explorer Platinum, you’re going to cough up a lot more money because the Explorer Platinum has a starting MSRP of $58,250.

Both vehicles on the high end have a ton of luxury features, like a leather-wrapped steering wheel, power windows with first and second row one-touch up/down, automatic sliding and folding second row seats, touchscreen displays, and wireless phone chargers. So while the Sorento virtually matches the Ford Explorer in luxury standard features, the price of entry into the upper echelon of the model range is going to be a lot less on the Sorento. If it’s luxury you’re after, you won’t have to spend thousands more to get there with the Sorento SX.

The black interior of a 2020 Kia Sorento is shown, winner of the 2020 Kia Sorento vs 2020 Ford Explorer comparison.


The Kia Sorento earned the esteemed Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Top Safety Pick once again for 2020, with a superior rating on front crash prevention, vehicle-to-vehicle. Kia appears regularly on the IIHS list of safest vehicles, with the Sorento consistently bringing home this award in 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019. In 2020, the Ford Explorer was not named a Top Safety Pick by IIHS. In fact, the Ford Explorer has not made the list since 2013.

Once again, Kia’s standard front-wheel drive shines when comparing the safety features of the 2020 Kia Sorento vs the 2020 Ford Explorer. That extra traction is there when you need it and can get you out of a tricky spot in inclement weather. That’s a peace-of-mind feature that drivers don’t even have to think about. It’s there when you need it. Rear-wheel drive just can’t offer the same handling in slippery conditions.

It’s clear that while both vehicles offer substantial benefits, the 2020 Kia Sorento edges ahead with its passenger volume, value for the price, and intelligently designed interior ergonomics. Add in its more nimble size and lighter weight, the Kia Sorento shines by making no compromises to passenger volume while still giving buyers a more efficient vehicle. All Sorento models offer seating for seven with a comfortable third row of seats, so use of space is highly efficient and designed with passenger comfort in mind.

When it’s time to purchase that new midsize SUV, remember to really zero in on what you want. There should be no reason to compromise anything on your wishlist. The 2020 Kia Sorento is a perfect example of a vehicle that can fulfill every one of your must-have items and then some.

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