Mid-Size SUV Challenge
It doesn’t look like the trend of truck and SUV sales outnumbering car sales will be ending anytime soon. And, it’s more than just a reaction to cheap gasoline. It’s also about overall value and usefulness. And an ever growing variety of family trucksters, means there’s a perfect package for just about everyone. But, which one is the best fit for a modern family? Well, that’s what we’re about to find out.
It’s 5-passenger mid-size utilities that are our focus here. And we’re joining our friends at cars.com for this run through of five of the segment’s top sellers.
A price cap of $45,000 left plenty of room for features; and we had a mix of ’16 and ’17 models as well as traditional V6 and modern turbo-4 powertrains.
A quick drive north of Chicago, got us into Southern Wisconsin and away from urban sprawl, where we assembled our group…
the dynamic-looking Ford Edge…
the value-minded Hyundai Santa Fe Sport…
the rugged and ready Jeep Grand Cherokee…
the sleek and sophisticated Kia Sorento…
and the luxury lounge on wheels Nissan Murano.
As usual, we were joined by a local family to help us sort through these rides and offer a potential buyer’s perspective.
New wrinkle this time around, we’ve also factored in the latest IIHS crash test results as well. You can find the full scoring breakdown at cars.com, but here’s how they stacked up.
Much like the Olympics, finishing in last place here doesn’t make you a loser. That explains 5th place being occupied by the highly popular Jeep Grand Cherokee. Despite its well-established true off road credentials, a luxurious interior, and a strong V6; the GC also had a stiffer, truck-like ride, only adequate comfort and storage space, as well as the highest price at $44,760.
BRIAN ROBINSON: “The Jeep Grand Cherokee, as you might expect, has the most truck-like ride quality here, being a true SUV; which is great if that’s what you’re looking for. But, if you want more of a modern car-like ride, you’d be better off with one of the crossovers here.”
JENNIFER NEWMAN: “The Jeep Grand Cherokee remains true to its roots; it’s got this V6 engine that just chews up the highway and it’s really fun to drive. However, if you’re looking for refinement, you should look elsewhere.”
JOHN DAVIS: Despite its stylish update for ’17; the crossover Hyundai Santa Fe Sport fell to 4th here due to an interior short on comfort and a surprisingly harsh ride quality. Its 2.0-liter turbo-4 makes decent power, but it is noisy; and the combined fuel economy rating is no better than the Cherokee’s V6. However, not only did it make it under our price cap with all-wheel-drive and the highest trim level available, but it was 2nd least expensive in the test at $41,355.
MARK WILLIAMS: “The Hyundai was probably the most boring looking of our group; it’s got the most jellybean look to, which is very kind of middle-of-the-road vanilla. That’s unfortunate because there’s a lot of things that it does well.”
BRIAN ROBINSON: “The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, still a great value, just about every feature you could want for the money; ride quality is a little bit choppy, and it doesn’t have quite the refinement that most have here.”
JOHN DAVIS: Our top-3 starts with the Kia Sorento. It shares the 2.0-liter turbo-4 all-wheel-drive powertrain, and top crash score, with the Santa Fe Sport. But, its bigger size and more interior room, along with longer wheelbase for smoothing out the ride, moved it a notch higher. Not to mention the fact that it was also cheaper, as the least expensive ride in our test at $40,660.
MARK WILLIAMS: “The Kia Sorento, for me, is the most like a minivan; it’s got a big spacious interior. Unfortunately, the steering and the feel of it, even the booming of it when you go over some rough roads, just did not make me feel good inside.”
KELSEY MAYS: “The Kia Sorento is arguably the best looking vehicle in this bunch, both inside and out, really appealing until you drive it unfortunately; the ride quality is just kind of all over the place… there’s just a lot of suspension lift… a lot of body motion that’s going on…it just really gets chucked around by bumps and some of the others don’t.”
JOHN DAVIS: Our runner up, the Ford Edge, was the only front-wheel-driver in our test; yet at $44,175, its price came in 2nd highest. So, what do you get for all of that money? Well, it appears the Edge follows the Honda strategy of not being great at any one thing, but really good at everything; offering good ride quality, space, tech. features, and comfort.
KELSEY MAYS: “The Ford Edge is a real nice redesign, excellent ride quality, really good steering… …interior wise, really nice materials, really first rate multimedia system…”
JOHNNY & MARIANNE WALKER: “…the Edge was a very comfortable car when you sat in it; the controls, everything seemed to work very well… …then driving wise the car drove very, very well, it felt really nice to drive.”
JOHN DAVIS: That leaves the Nissan Murano as our winner. It may not have been the roomiest crossover here, but for a mid-pack price of $44,070 dollars you do get a strong 3.5-liter V6 engine with all-wheel-drive, a smooth as silk ride, an interior environment that’s pure luxury, and a high IIHS crash test score.
JENNIFER NEWMAN: “I love the Nissan Murano’s styling, it really sets it apart from the rest of the pack; and thankfully its V6 engine can back up those notice me looks with some power.”
JOHNNY & MARIANNE WALKER: “…for the Murano I just thought that for driving, because I do so much driving, that I felt it would be very comfortable, I sat in it really nicely…”
JOHN DAVIS: It doesn’t look like there is any end in sight for strong sport and crossover utility sales; and all of the vehicles here are truly worthy of the strong sales numbers they see. As they say, “to each, his own”; but as for our choice on which to own, it would be the Nisan Murano.
2016 Ford Edge
2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
2016 Jeep Grand Cherokee
2017 Kia Sorento
2016 Nissan Murano