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I recently switched from driving a 2016 KIA Sorento SXL to a 2020 Hyundai Palisade Limited. After driving the Palisade over 2,000 miles, I thought I could provide some perspective that might help others considering either car or their respective cousins the Hyundai Santa Fe or KIA Telluride.

So far the Palisade is a very nice upgrade over the 2016 Sorento, but not the overwhelming upgrade some journalists have made it out to be. Most of my satisfaction has to do with how much driver assistance has improved over the past four years, but there are several features on the older Sorento that are still not found on the Palisade. In fact, had the 2021 KIA Sorento model with the same ADAS features been available, I might have bought that instead. Here’s a non-exhaustive rundown of the differences that matter to me. Many of them have received little or no coverage in other reviews.

  1. Digital instrument cluster -- Advantage PALISADE because of animations, blind-spot monitoring and greater flexibility. Interestingly, the Sorento shows the adaptive cruise control speed setting and actual speed graphically on the speedometer where the Palisade does not.
  2. Heads-up display -- Advantage PALISADE because you can't get it on the Sorento yet, and it's amazingly convenient and kind of cool. I was pleasantly surprised to find that I can see it wearing my polarized sunglasses too -- something some reviewers said didn't work for them.
  3. Center map / infotainment display -- Advantage PALISADE for the larger display with more fluid graphics.
  4. Lane following and adaptive cruise control -- Advantage PALISADE for a driver assistance package so good, I feel almost like I’ve been relegated to the role of backup driver on long highway runs.
  5. Parkability -- Advantage SORENTO since it’s a little smaller.
  6. Power folding side mirrors -- Advantage SORENTO. They’re not available on the Palisade, but are on the Telluride.
  7. Front seat comfort -- Advantage SORENTO. The Palisade is plenty comfortable, but I find the Sorento seats more supportive, and the passenger seat in the 2019 Sorento is a 12-way adjustable seat. The armrests in the Palisade also seem a little farther away.
  8. Rear seat comfort -- Advantage PALISADE. Sorento has heated rear seats, but Palisade has heated AND cooled seats with more legroom.
  9. 3rd Row access & comfort -- Advantage PALISADE for the button seat release, increased legroom, and power reclining 3rd row seats.
  10. Seat cooling effectiveness -- Advantage PALISADE. The Palisade seat cooling is much more effective than the Sorento’s for me.
  11. Moonroof -- Advantage SORENTO. The Palisade split moon roofs with only a small front one that opens is a step back from the Sorento’s very large openable moon roof and large wind-net.
  12. Remote start -- Advantage PALISADE for having the button on the remote.
  13. Mobile App -- Advantage PALISADE. I don't think I've ever found a use for the KIA app, but the 3-year free Blue Link service app has already notified me several times that I left the car unlocked and then let me lock it remotely.
  14. Overall capacity -- Advantage PALISADE (obviously).
  15. Cargo capacity with 5 passengers -- Advantage SORENTO since second row in SXL has three seats.
  16. Interior fit and finish -- Advantage SORENTO. The Sorento’s metallic black nappa leather feels richer than the Palisade’s plain black nappa leather, and some of the Sorento’s materials just feel a little more substantial or hide fingerprints better.
  17. Exterior fit and finish -- Advantage SORENTO. Door handles and doors feel a little more solid, and the shiny chrome doesn’t seem to show the fingerprints as much as the brushed chrome.
  18. Ride & handling -- TIE. I know the journalists have been singing the praises of the Palisade and Telluride, but for me in everyday driving, they’re all fine. Maybe I can tell the Palisade is a little better than the Sorento in the corners and over bumps, but I might be imagining it. I might give an edge to the Sorento for around town driving and the Palisade for highway driving, but honestly, they're both fine for either if you're a mellow driver like myself.
  19. Price -- Advantage SORENTO since dealerships have good supply and will come down on price. As of July, 2019, both Tellurides and Palisades are still hard to come by.
Total score: Palisade +10, Sorento +8

You will probably weight these differently than I did. I cared most about the updated ADAS features and was willing to sacrifice other things I love about the Sorento, like the panoramic moonroof and parkability, to get them. So far, I’m loving the Palisade and feel it will meet our needs for years to come. I hope this helps others find a car that fits their needs as well as or better than the Palisade fits ours.
 

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I forgot one more tiny advantage for the Sorento. All four of the power window switches near the driver have auto-down modes whereas only the front two of the Palisade include auto-down. I know I'm being super picky to point this out, but we get so used to the idea that a new car will be better in every way that it's a surprise whenever there's a step back. There are other Palisade advantages over my 2016 Sorento that I left off too. LED headlights are the first that come to mind. I love the Palisade as an upgrade and have no regrets.
 

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There is one single item preventing me from buying a Sorento XL - the lack of air conditioning vents in the rear. Note to all - if you live in a climate that gets hot any time of year and plan on regularly transporting living beings in the back, don’t get the Sorento. Learned my lesson on this with a Buick Rendezvous some 14 years ago after the birth of our son. Poor thing would be sweaty when I got him out of the car seat in summer. Went from the Rendezvous to a Saturn Outlook. She left me stranded two states away a couple weeks ago. (God rear her soul). I can’t believe it, but for the first time in my 45+ years of life, and over a dozen vehicles I’ve owned, I’m hoping to buy my first non-GM vehicle, the Palisade. (Well done, Hyundai, well done.)
 
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