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2019 kia sorento review 2018 toyota highlander compari

2019 Kia Sorento SXL and 2018 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum Front Ends

Can the 2019 Kia Sorento defeat the 2018 Toyota Highlander? (Christina Chee / Freespeak Media LLC)

BY Brian Chee


Tuesday, October 30, 2018, 12:30 PM

We call her Stink.

It’s quite an affectionate term, as strange as that seems. Our 2013 Toyota Highlander has just been through so many family adventures that the olfactory part of the story sometimes still resonates.

For example, there was that time we went to the wild animal park, and a young buffalo cow stuck its head inside the cabin – then proceeded to drool everywhere, shaking buffalo spit all over the interior.

Whew. That was stinky!

There have also been approximately 570 soccer games and corresponding sweaty shin guards inside poor old Stink. I know this because they eventually get shoved in my face, to a cacophony of giggles and shouts.


I am also pretty sure that around two years ago, a “not to be named” daughter forgot about/allowed a creature to die inside the vehicle. Either that, or someone forgot their Five Guys bag.

Ah, family life.

Point is, if you’re reading this you know all about the spills and travails of messy children and harried adults. You also know that finding a vehicle that can withstand that sort of abuse is like hiring a good housekeeper. Score!

2018 Toyota Highlander Limited Platinum and 2019 Kia Sorento SXL Front to Front

The Kia Sorento and Toyota Highlander offer two different shades of family fun. (Christina Chee / Freespeak Media LLC)

So, when it comes to comparing family vehicles, it’s a natural to compare all comers to the Highlander. After all, it has a reputation for being a most boring yet “perfect” family appliance – the SUV you buy after your children have crushed your soul, your sense of fun, and desire for adventure.

Which is what makes the 2019 Kia Sorento and 2018 Toyota Highlander so notable. With apologies to the dying minivan, there is arguably no better way to transport a family than with a midsize SUV.

Of course, family travel isn’t just about drool, smells, and grubby hands. In fact, family transportation requires a blend of all things good about vehicles: performance, safety, efficiency, cargo room, and interior resilience. As such, these 3-row SUVs, both luxed-up and offering all-wheel drive (AWD), are meant to be an alternative to the minivan. As such, they must provide a versatile and durable experience.

So, which one is best able to handle the stinky responsibilities of the family ride? Let’s find out.


2019 Kia Sorento SXL Silver Front Right Quarter

The 2019 Kia Sorento is a capable alternative to the Highlander. But it isn’t better – yet. (Christina Chee / Freespeak Media LLC)

Total Points: 168/200
Overall Rating: 8.4

It feels like Kia has been chasing automotive leaders like Toyota forever. And it’s got to be a little frustrating, right? To roll out great vehicles, attach a super warranty, yet watch as the same old thing happens. It’s a bizarre example of the blind power of branding, and the slightly unbelievable habit car buyers have of choosing conservative choices.

Or maybe too many people remember the Kia Spectra.

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