The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2014 Kia Sorento are two family-oriented SUVs that offer a little extra something that makes them stand out among today's crop of smaller SUVs: a third-row seat.
While that last row is best left for kids, the ability to carry seven passengers is a good thing to have when your children show up with an unexpected friend. The third row is now standard in the Outlander and optional in the Sorento. That passenger insurance alone gives these two SUVs an X-factor among strong competitors such as the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Ford Escape, which are limited to five passengers.
Both vehicles are also new for 2014, with the Kia on sale now and the Mitsubishi slated to hit dealerships at the end of May. Both have good road manners, a 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, and offer a lot of value for the money with starting prices in the mid-$20,000 range. Each comes standard with a fuel-efficient 4-cylinder engine and has a powerful V6 as an option. But for all their similarities, each is very much its own vehicle with features exclusive to themselves and, in some cases, the class.
Here are three highlights that make these 3-row SUVs stand out from the crowd and each other:
2014 Mitsubishi Outlander
More than just the contemporary, rounded sheetmetal is new for the 2014 Outlander. While powertrains carry over, the Mitsubishi is available with commendable tech and safety features.
1. Forward Collision Mitigation This safety feature has been available for a few years on premium vehicles like the Volvo XC60, but now it is starting to trickle down to mainstream cars. The system can prevent collisions in slower speed, stop-and-go situations by first alerting a distracted driver of a potential crash with a vehicle or object ahead and then, if necessary, automatically apply the brakes.
2. Fuel economy The 2014 Outlander offers impressive fuel efficiency helped in part by its lightweight design. Four-cylinder models come with a refined CVT automatic that is rated up to 31 mpg, while the V6 version that is mated to a 6-speed auto is rated up to 28 mpg.
3. Super All Wheel Control Just about every crossover SUV has an all-wheel-drive system, but the Outlander's is notable for its sophistication. In addition to varying power front to rear, an active differential can further split torque between the two front wheels. The system is particularly adept in the snow.
2014 Kia Sorento
The Kia Sorento's exterior is a smidge larger than the Outlander's but offers similar interior cargo capacity. It boasts creature comforts not found in the Mitsubishi, such as a power passenger seat, Nappa leather trim, and a larger center display with more robust smartphone integration.
1. Comfort The Sorento has the edge here with seats made from plusher leather and that have the option of heat and ventilation. Drivers with long commutes will especially appreciate these finer touches.
2. More power The Sorento's 4-cylinder and 6-cylinder engines are stronger than those of the Mitsubishi, with the Kia's V6 feeling especially strong. With more than 60 extra horsepower than the Outlander's V6, the Sorento feels downright spry despite the vehicle's heftier design.
3. FlexSteer This ingenious feature enables the driver to adjust steering sensitivity on the fly. So when you find yourself on a twisty road, tighten things up with Sport mode. Back on the highway, toggle back to Normal or Comfort for a more relaxed experience.
The 2014 Mitsubishi Outlander and 2014 Kia Sorento are both competent and comfortable family haulers that won't break the bank. We laud the Outlander's unexpected safety features, refined powertrains and savvy all-wheel-drive system, but give the edge to the Sorento for its wider array of creature comforts, broader trim range, and more powerful engines.
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