Compromise: Still, I foresaw less-than-happy Sturgis Kids. The back rows in both are cramped and not for the faint of heart (or the middle of age). The Kia Sorento matches many third rows in vehicles of its genre, putting my knees in the air and discomfort everywhere.
But the Outlander rear row goes where few have gone before. When Sturgis Kid 1.0 described the seat as a piece of cloth stretched over a board, I thought she was kidding. No. Well, technically, the seat is a piece of cloth stretched over a metal bar, but the idea is similar.
So, truly, these are not for families like mine, featuring kids 1.0 through 4.0, but for those with a couple or even three kids, and the need to squeeze in a pal or a mother-in-law on occasion.
Setting it up: Getting the backseat into place in the Sorento was unremarkable. Pull the seat up and into place, much like other SUVs.
The Outlander adds a bit of drama. A strap sticking out by the liftgate is the only real clue a seat rests underneath the cargo bay. Pull it up and the seat goes about halfway out. An Ikea-worthy drawing left me a little puzzled, and half searching for a special Allen key to finish the job. But dig out the other strap, give it an Outlandish tug, and whump! the seat springs into place, with enough force to scare the already car-phobic Sturgis Aussies 2.0 and 3.0 half to death.
Getting back there: The Outlander's middle seats moved out of the way, so at least getting to the derriere-numbing aft was less painful. The Sorento required more of a scramble over the middle row.
Storage: Both vehicles feature a nice storage compartment behind the second row. But when the third row is in use, luggage space in the Kia is merely a wish, even worse than the GMC Yukon Denali I moaned about back in the fall. The Outlander, surprisingly, has room for a few small bags, slightly more spacious than, say, a Mazda5.
First two rows: Both the Sorento and the Outlander make the first five occupants feel right at home, though. The comfortable leather seats really set up a caste system.
The Outlander as tested featured a touring option that for $2,900 covers the first two rows in leather, further separating the Fab Five from the Terrible Two.
Both models also come in five-passenger versions. The Kia pretty much looks the same from edition to edition.
But the Outlander comes in Sport SE trim, which I also tested for a week. The test model featured a 2.0-liter in-line four-cylinder engine up front and a much smaller cargo compartment behind, its roofline dramatically trimmed from the seven-seater.
Performance and mileage roughly matched the GT.
A new year: Though Kia switched the Sorento over to the 2013 model year in late winter, the crossover received only packaging adjustments, not a revamping.
Next week: How the two crossovers match on the road.
Touareg touch-up: In last week's review of the Volkswagen Touareg, I mistakenly said the luxury SUV sat out the 2011 model year, just like the Beetle. The Touareg actually was revamped for the 2011 model year.
Contact Scott Sturgis at 215-854-2558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.