While their northern neighbours have been concentrating their engineering efforts on altogether more explosive exploits, the South Koreans have been quietly beavering away to produce what would seem to be some pretty decent motors.
Kia’s most recent Sorento (pictured left) and Hyundai’s Santa Fe (below, right) are no exception. Both based on the same platform (Hyundai owns a 49% stake in Kia) and sharing many components such as engines and gearboxes, there’s not much to choose between the two. Although not identical, these twins take some telling apart.
One area where they definitely don’t differ is build quality. You’ll struggle to find better built cars anywhere. In fact this duo put the likes of Land Rover, Ford and Nissan to shame. The plastic trim lines up millimetre-perfectly, the doors give a satisfying clunk and there isn’t a rattle or squeak to be heard.
Both Kia and Hyundai are clearly working to put their reputation as cheap marques behind them.
Both seven-seaters use the same 2.2-litre, 194bhp, four cylinder common rail diesel powerplant and drive through a choice of either six-speed manual or auto box.
It was the stick-shifter that we tried out and it was impressive, with 1st proving low enough to pull away easily with a fully loaded cattle-box and 6th making light work of low-revving 70mph+ motorway cruising.
Although near-identical, one twin manages to out-run the other. While both have bags of power, torque and consequent pace, it is the Hyundai that has the edge with the trailer. In fact, stomp on the two-stage throttle and the Santa Fe sits up and bolts like a startled hare.
But then in our opinion it falls down in the looks department. Although neither are likely to top the podium in a beauty pageant, it’s the Kia that has the sharper, edgier styling.
So which to choose?
You won’t find better value for money. With both hovering around the £23,500-mark, there’s little in it price-wise. Hyundai has probably got the better-respected name and therefore the Santa Fe might hang on to its second-hand value more tenaciously. But the Kia has another trick up its sleeve – a full seven-year warranty, something no premium brand is brave enough to offer.
These low-budget 4x4s might not top the list as first choice mud-flingers but anyone looking for a comfortable soft-roader with reasonable towing capacity and the ability to clamber through muck and mud, these two are as good as you’ll find.