Which of these seven-seater Korean SUVs has the best blend of suburban stylishness and venture-everywhere performance?
THESE three sports utility vehicles prove how far Korean carmakers Kia, Hyundai and SsangYong have progressed. A decade ago, the SUVs these manufacturers produced not only look odd, they also do not off er much in terms of performance. Today, however, you wouldn’t be able to find a single stodgy model in their showrooms. The SUV with arguably the most modern design in this story is the all-new Kia Sorento. But the newcomer, which is the only SUV of this group with front-wheel-drive instead of four-wheel-drive, promises more than good looks – it also off ers greater roominess and refinement than the old model.
Keen to show that it, too, has both style and substance is the Hyundai Santa Fe. Like its corporate cousin, the Kia Sorento, the Santa Fe off ers plenty of standard amenities, including an all-wheel-drive system that provides added surefootedness. It may be an off beat choice in Singapore, but the SsangYong Rexton boasts the strongest road presence in this shootout. Apart from its imposing dimensions and tough appearance, it also has a turbo-diesel powertrain (the only contender so equipped), which should give it plenty of low-end grunt. Now, which Korean SUV in this rugged Gangnam threesome is the best? Continue reading to see what we think.
ENGINE: Hyundai’s 2.4-litre with 192bhp and 242Nm is the most powerful, but the least fuel-efficient.
ENGINE: Kia’s 2.4-litre unit with 188bhp and 239Nm is the quietest and sweetest of the three engines.
ENGINE: SsangYong’s 2-litre turbo-diesel with 155bhp and 360Nm has the most torque and is also the most frugal.
Six-speed automatic is as smooth as the Sorento’s, while its manual override is the most prompt.
Six-speed automatic is the creamiest transmission, but its manual override isn’t as quick as the Santa Fe’s.
Five-speed automatic has one less gear than the rest, but comes with two sets of manual override controls for easier DIY shifting.
COCKPIT: Most spacious and has the largest storage points of the three cockpits. It’s also the lone contender with a userselectable Flex Steer function. BACKSEAT: The plushest seats, with air-con vents in the B-pillars for better cooling, but Hyundai’s headroom is relatively low. Access to the third row is also the trickiest of the three cabins.
COCKPIT: Feels classier than the rest, thanks to its ventilated driver’s seat, attractive gauges and infotainment. It’s also the only SUV here providing three driving modes. BACKSEAT: Kia’s second row off ers the most legroom, plus a useful USB port and retractable sunshades. Its third-row seats are the comfiest and most road-trip-friendly, with a storage bin and cupholder on either side.
COCKPIT: Cockpit looks ordinary, but its layout and controls are the most intuitive. The tallest ride height of the bunch ensures the best overall visibility, too. BACKSEAT: SsangYong’s secondrow bench has the most headroom, but it’s too narrow for three adults sitting abreast. Access to the rearmost seats is the easiest, but the lack of headrests means it is strictly for kids less than 1.4m tall.
BOOT: Santa Fe’s 534- litre boot has a thoughtful 12-volt socket, but the high loading height makes it harder to load heavy items.
BOOT: Capacity of 605 litres offers the most convenience for frequent shoppers thanks to its tailgate, which has a handsfree opening feature.
BOOT: Rexton’s 500-litre volume is the least convenient, as it lacks the others’ powered tailgate, but it has the most organised underfloor storage.
The Rexton doesn’t have as many amenities as its rivals, but its simple cockpit nevertheless off ers great visibility and excellent headroom. Its turbodiesel 4x4 drivetrain, generous ground clearance and Land Roverish toughness also give it the best off -roading potential in this company. The Santa Fe’s cushy seats and practical cabin make it a good choice for families who enjoy jaunts up north. It’s an attractive and attractively priced SUV, whose only real drawbacks are its comparatively low headroom and restrictive access to the third row.
KEYS (From left) The Santa Fe’s device looks and feels the classiest, the Sorento fob’s buttons are the nicest to press, while the Rexton’s conventional key is the least pocket-friendly.
The Sorento may not have the Rexton’s off -roading potential or the practicality of the Santa Fe’s interior, but its space, refinement and performance make it a compelling choice for Hallyu fans who want a seven-seater Gangnam SUV.