The 2013 Kia Sorento vs. Mazda CX-5: Two Outstanding Options, One Difficult Decision

September 3, 2012

Kia Sorento Video

Mazda CX-5 Video

Choosing between two excellent crossovers is not easy, especially if they are the Sorento and the CX-5. Both offer good value, high fuel economy and sharp handling. The Sorento starts from $23,150 and the CX-5 starts from $20,695. The CX-5 has the advantage in fuel economy, but the Sorento offers more in standard features. Deciding which one to buy won’t be an easy decision, but that only means that they are both top picks.

Kia offers three trims for the new Sorento: the LX, EX, and SX. The standard engine for all trims is a 2.4L/175hp 4-cylinder with 169 ft-lbs. of torque. For those who want their crossover to pack a bigger power punch, there is also an optional V6 3.5L/276hp engine with 248 ft-lbs. of torque for the LX and EX: it is standard on the SX. All three trims have a standard 6-speed automatic transmission and front-wheel drive, and all-wheel drive is an available option.

Kia Sorento vs. Mazda CX-5

Fuel economy estimates by the EPA for the front-wheel drive LX are 21 MPG city and 29 MPG highway. The all-wheel drive version gets 21 MPG city and 27 MPG highway. The Sorento’s fuel tank will hold up to 18.0 gallons and it uses regular unleaded fuel. Thanks to Kia’s 5 year/60,000 mile warranty, the Sorento is impressively covered where the CX-5 is not.

There are three trims available for the new CX-5: the Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring. The standard engine on all three is a 2.0L/155hp 4-cylinder with 150 ft-lbs. of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard for the Sorento with the choice of either a 6-speed manual or a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is an option for all trims; however, it is restricted to only being available with the 6-speed automatic transmission.

There are no official recorded EPA fuel economy estimates yet, but Mazda documents the manual front-wheel drive Sport with 26 MPG city and 33 MPG highway. The all-wheel drive automatic model will get 25 MPG city and 30 MPG highway, and both sets of numbers rank the CX-5 number one in the class for fuel economy. The fuel tank holds up to 14.8 gallons of regular unleaded fuel. The CX-5 has Mazda’s basic 3 year/36,000 mile warranty.

Standard features are pleasingly plentiful in the Sorento. It has Kia’s Uvo system, which is similar to Ford’s Synch system and enables voice command control of tech devices such as cell phones. Air conditioning, turn signals in the mirrors, and retained accessory power are all standard. Power steering, cruise control, 12V front and rear power outlets and a tilt and telescopic steering wheel are also regular equipment. For entertainment the Sorento has an AM/FM in-dash single CD player with CD MP3 Playback stereo, Bluetooth, and a USB connection. Sirius XM satellite radio with three months of free service, auxiliary MP3 audio input and iPod integration, and six speakers round out the list.

Standard equipment for the CX-5 is good, though there is less of it than in the Sorento. Electric power steering, air conditioning, and turn signals in the mirrors are all standard features. Interior air filtration, a tilt and telescopic steering wheel, 12V front and cargo area power outlets and a trip computer are also included. Entertainment includes an AM/FM in-dash single CD player with CD MP3 Playback stereo, speed sensitive volume control and a USB connection. Auxiliary MP3 audio input and four speakers complete the standard list.

Important Stats2013 Kia Sorento2013 Mazda CX-5
Engine2.4L I-42.0L I-4
Horsepower175 @ 6,000 rpm155 @ 6,000 rpm
Transmission6-spd with OD6-spd man with OD
DrivetrainFront Wheel DriveFront Wheel Drive
Seating5 passengers5 passengers
Cargo Space72.5 cu.ft.64.8 cu.ft.
MPG21 City / 29 Hwy26 City / 35 Hwy
Warranty60 months/60,000 miles36 months/36,000 miles
MSRP$23,150 - $33,400$20,695 - $28,295

The Sorento is similarly well-equipped with safety features. A four-wheel antilock brake system, first and second row side-curtain airbags, and a remote anti-theft alarm system are all standard. Stability and traction control, tire pressure monitoring, emergency braking assist and ventilated front disc brakes are standard as well.

In government crash tests, the Sorento received a rating of four out of five stars, with four stars for frontal crash protection and five stars for side-impact protection. It also earned the best score of “Good” in frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The CX-5 has a similar safety list, with a few features the Sorento does not. Auto delay off headlamps and daytime running lights are both standard, as are front and rear head airbags and a four-wheel antilock brake system. Emergency braking assist, an engine immobilizer and tire pressure monitoring are also standard.

There is currently no government crash test information available for the CX-5. It earned the highest score of “Good” for frontal-offset, side-impact and roof strength tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the same as the Sorento.

The difference in exterior dimensions for these SUVs is minimal. The Sorento is 183.9 inches long, 67.3 inches high and 74.2 inches wide. The CX-5 is 179.3 inches long, 67.3 inches high and 72.4 inches wide. The Sorento has a cargo capacity of 37.0 cubic feet with all seats in place and a maximum capacity of 72.5 cubic feet. The CX-5 has 34.1 cubic feet with all seats in place and a maximum capacity of 64.8 cubic feet, nearly eight cubic feet less than the Sorento.

The CX-5 has slightly more seat space than the Sorento. Front head room in the Sorento is 39.2 inches and front leg room is 41.3 inches. Rear head room is 39.2 inches and rear leg room is 37.6 inches. Front head room in the CX-5 is 40.1 inches and front leg room is 41.0 inches. Rear head room is 39.0 inches and rear leg room is 39.3 inches.

The Sorento’s long list of standard features and lengthy warranty are strong selling points, as is the adult-friendly third-row seat. Steering is sharp and responsive and the engine options offer a choice for extra power or better fuel economy. Unfortunately, without that third-row seat the second-row seat does not slide. The base engine is a little lacking if the Sorento has a heavy load and the ride may be firmer than suit some passengers.

The CX-5 not only has outstanding fuel economy, it is one of the most responsive and engaging crossovers in the class to drive. It is stylish and has satisfactory space. If the tech systems were better, the CX-5 would be an even better vehicle. As it stands, however, the audio and navigations systems leave something to be desired and the lack of engine options means having to be satisfied with the 4-cylinder like it or not.

If these seem like minor downsides, it’s because that is all they really are. There are so many good points about both these crossovers; the few negatives are easily outweighed. If the highest fuel economy is the biggest draw for you, say hello to the CX-5. If loads of standard features are worth a few miles to the gallon, set your sights on the Sorento.


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Image Source Kia Sorento By U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ( [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Source Mazda CX-5 By IFCAR (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Category: SUV Comparison

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