Subaru Outback vs Hyundai Santa Fe vs Kia Sorento: Which high-riding diesel wagon/SUV should I buy?

28 May 2017 Car Advice

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Subaru Outback vs Hyundai Santa Fe vs Kia Sorento: Which high-riding diesel wagon/SUV should I buy?

Mick is after a diesel wagon/SUV that’s comfortable and perfect for a bit of touring.

Question: Doug

I’m in the market for a diesel SUV.  I love the Subaru Forester  and Outback Premium variants but read how the diesel needs long frequent runs to clean the 'particulate filter’ – I haven’t heard of this since the 70's!

As a past Subaru owner I like the torque and wet weather capability of diesel auto so I am having trouble choosing between one of those and the Hyundai Santa Fe Elite or Kia Sorento. The Outback has rear cooling and very importantly lumber support [I’m 79 years old] but the Subaru servicing/cost is a joke.

I drive around 10,000kms a year, but now intend to do more touring. I have been doing the research but have confused myself.

Budget: $60,000

Answer: Toby

Hi Doug, let's kick off with the diesel particulate filter issue, which is very real. The particulate filter is self-cleaning and burns off the harmful particulates once it gets hot, which is usually after about 20 minutes of driving above about 50km/h. So if most of your driving is short trips near home the diesel isn't for you. That said, a warning on the dash will instruct you to drive further.

That said it's no more of an issue in the Subaru than it is with other diesel SUVs and the 2.2-litre four cylinder turbo diesels in the Santa Fe and Sorento also has a particulate filter.

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As for the cars themselves, the Outback is a fine choice. It's sensibly sized for those who don't need seven seats, with plenty of room for five and a sizeable boot. It's also very comfortable, with suspension that is supple and refined. And the Outback is one of the better driving crossover off-roaders, with decent cornering manners and reasonable performance.

Don't limit yourself to the diesel, though, because the 2.5-litre four-cylinder petrol engine also works nicely in the Subaru. And for the kilometres you're travelling it might be worth saving some money on the car up front and spending a little more on fuel, all without having to worry about the particulate filter.

Turning to the Santa Fe and Sorento and there's plenty to love with each. The diesel engine is hearty and the road manners good, with the Kia slightly ahead. As you've noticed, the prices of the top of the range models are getting up there, although you do get loads of features, including side blinds and even heated rear seats.

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If you don't need the three rows of seats we'd be heading towards the Subaru for its all-round value and excellent packaging.

As for the cost of servicing the Outback, we agree it’s higher than many rivals. Another negative is the service intervals, which are six months in an era when most cars are 12 months or more.

Even with all that, we’d still have the Outback at the top of our list, partly because some of that cost is offset with a very competitive asking price for the car itself.