Here we have two fairly different models that nonetheless cater to the same target clientele! The 2019 Mazda CX-9, which we just reviewed for you, is a midsize, three-row SUV, while the Sorento is officially a compact utility model – though it too offers three rows of seats. We wanted to test out which if these two models is best suited to meet the needs of a young mother like myself!
Priorities change when we become parents, that’s not really a surprise for anyone who has already become one. One of the things that changes is that the visual aspect of a vehicle drops rapidly down the list of priorities, shoved there by considerations regarding practicality, fuel economy, reliability and safety. That said, it’s still nice to be able to benefit from a ride that reflects one’s lifestyle. And even though the trend on the market these days is towards vehicles that resemble one another just a bit too much, it’s still possible to pick out differences.
The 3-row CX-9, as per its midsize status, is in reality bigger than the Sorento. The Mazda benefits from contours and lines that are well-balanced and timeless. Which means that its look is not likely to appear too dated over the years! The CX-9 offers generous ground clearance, but not so much that its occupants have to “climb” to get in it. At the same time, it is higher overall than the Sorento, which for example can complicate things a bit when it’s time to clear the snow off the roof.
Like the CX-9, the Sorento is not drastically different in 2019 than it was in 2018, except for touches like new alloy wheels and a modified front fascia. But we found its look overall to be less dynamic than the Mazda SUV, which features 18-inch alloy wheels on its base model, in comparison with the 17-inch wheels the Sorento is shod with.
We like the: CX-9
Interior finish and comfort
Inside, the CX-9 is very well configured. The three rows of seats are well-balanced in the space they take up, even if the comfort level drops by the time you get to that third row – a common problem in this segment. Once that third-row bench is folded down, moreover, you have yourself some pretty substantial cargo space.
Throughout the cabin, things are pretty much where and how they should be. This interior, while not spectacular exactly, provides everything you need. The finishing is good and the seats are comfortable, no matter which trim you choose. The base model GS (starting price $38,710, including transport and preparation fees) is impressively well-equipped before you even add any packages, and includes heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.
We have to be careful here to use the right trim of the Sorento as a point of comparison. To get the 7-seat configuration, you need to take the LX version with V6 engine (starting price $36,695, fees included). This version also comes with heated front seats, leather-wrapped steering wheel and gear knob and an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat.
Unsurprisingly, third-row space is small given the Sorento’s compact-SUV dimensions, but in reality the difference with what the CX-9 offers is not substantial. The CX-9 is slightly more comfortable for those stuck in that last row, yes, but the Sorento offers just as ample a cargo area once the third-row bench is folded down.
In terms of finishing, the Sorento is actually surprisingly refined. The manufacturer has upgraded its product to make of it an almost-premium SUV that is still affordably priced. And as it offers the same basic standard features as the CX-9 while being slightly less costly, we give the edge to the Sorento in terms of the quality of the interior finishing and of the comfort and convenience features.
We like the: Sorento
This vehicle comes with an impressive array of standard equipment in terms of technologies. Here’s some of what you get in a base-model CX-9:
- Intelligent braking assist
- Blind spot monitor
- Rear transversal traffic alert
- Backup camera
- 7-inch colour touchscreen with MazdaConnect
- Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility
By adding the available all-wheel-drive system (bringing the starting price to $42,010, fees included), you also get all the features and functions of Mazda’s i-ACTIVESENSE package, among them the very practical cruise control and stop/start system.
Le multimedia screen is one of easiest to use that we’ve come across. The menu is clear, simple and efficient, and I really liked the positioning of a wheel dial on the centre console, which allows for a more natural arm movement.
The Sorento is no slouch on the technology front either, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the CX-9. You do get a 7-inch infotainment screen, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto integration and a backup camera.
You’ll have to move up to the EX version (starting price $40,265, fees included) to benefit from technologies on a par with the CX-9, but with that the Sorento also gives you leather seating! The multimedia screen is fine and relatively easy to use, though I have to say I prefer the CX-9 system.
We like the: Sorento
The AWD version of the Mazda runs on a 2.5L 4-cylinder SKYACTIV engine wedded to a 6-speed automatic transmission with manual mode. Output is 227 hp and 310 lb-ft of torque, and regular unleaded is sufficient (though you can boost the horses up to around 250 by using higher-octane gasoline). This engine works very well, on the understanding that you don’t push it too much.
All versions also come equipped with the i-ACTIV all-wheel drive system, except for the base model, the GS, on which it’s an available option.
Official fuel consumption for the FWD GS trim is 8.4L/100 km on highway; that climbs to 9.1L/100 km with all-wheel drive. Overall, acceleration is sprightly and power easily called up. On the down side, towing capacity is a middling 3,500 lb.
The Sorento can be had with one of two engines for 2019, starting with 2.4L 4-cylinder with an output of 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, working in tandem with a 6-speed Sportmatic transmission. All-wheel drive is standard on all trims except for the LX, and here too it can be had as an option.
Official highway fuel consumption for the Sorento is 8.2L/100 km with FWD.
The second engine Kia is offering with its 2019 Sorento on the LX versions and up is a 3.3L V6 delivering 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, bolted to a new 8-speed automatic transmission; with this configuration highway fuel consumption is 9.7L/100 km. This is the model we tested, and we found that it didn’t necessarily deliver the power needed to ensure strong acceleration. We even wondered if perhaps the transmission was badly adjusted, or even if the engine was not properly balanced.
The CX-9 was superior in terms of performance, with one caveat: the Sorento has a towing capacity of 5,000 lbs, although I fear what highway passing must be like when pulling that much weight with the Sorento.
We like the: CX-9
Safety and awards
The CX-9 SUV, like the Sorento, offers an impressive range of safety features. In that respect, there’s little to differentiate the two models. But as we had to make a choice, we went with the CX-9 from Mazda, by a whisker. Its on-road performance is more enjoyable, the vehicle reacting more crisply to commands than the Sorento does. I also give the nod to the i-ACTIV all-wheel-drive system.
The CX-9 has been named Best Large Utility Vehicle by AJAC, and the best midsize SUV buy for 2019 by the Annuel de l’automobile. It has also earned its way onto the shortlist of finalists for Auto123.com’s 2019 Midsize SUV of the Year award.
This, however, does nothing to diminish the capabilities of the Sorento, which has for its part earned the best possible Top Safety Pick+ rating from the IIHS, and a five-star rating from the NHTSA.
What’s more, it has placed first among midsize SUVs for initial quality in the United States for the past two years.
We like the: CX-9
My choice is that the extra few thousand dollars the CX-9 requires is worth it. That new unlimited-mileage warranty that Mazda is now offering gives the model a further edge. The Sorento has no shortage of fine qualities, but for my part it’s not worth sacrificing that extra bit of interior space in comparison with the CX-9.
Mazda has done good work with the CX-9 this year; the model is a worthy choice in its segment and I don’t hesitate to recommend it.
Our choice: the Mazda CX-9