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    Which Car Gets Your Vote, The Kia Sorento or the Volkswagen Passat?

    auto2Time to vote again! In both national and local races, there is the usual services vs. austerity debate. Each side found an analog in two recent test cars, the Kia Sorento Limited AWD and Volkswagen Passat TDI SE.

    VW’s TDI denotes a diesel engine, so you’d be right in guessing that the Passat would be the austerity candidate, while the Kia is a cushy crossover alternative. The Sorento and Passat hail from different classes, but they sell in almost identical numbers, and so there are about as many of each of them on the streets. Kind of like a close political race with two very different candidates.

    The Kia is the one still getting its name out there. It is funny that many of the clients whom I help to buy cars shy away from the Kia brand, and I get it. For instance, as a real estate agent, would you gamble that your clients would look past a marque’s uncertain reputation and see the goodness of the car you are ferrying them around in, all while a comparable Mercedes-Benz or BMW with a few miles on it is equally in reach and instantly connotes status?
    Volkswagen we all know, and like the candidate who has been proven untrue, VW is healing a dented image. It says it is serious about improving quality, and that is the only way it will achieve its world-domination sales goals.

    carBut it is also funny how many of my normally car-blind clients have ruled out Volkswagen, because they know someone who has had a terrible time with their 2000-something Passat or Jetta or Golf. It is like trying to pitch American cars, which by default seem to be verboten.

    The 2015 Passat does deserve consideration. It is notably roomy, and rear legroom in particular is limo-like. Nice, but the aforementioned severity does show up in plastics that are unkind to the touch. It is like the candidate who is attractive but not so relatable; the Passat looks good, but its hard surfaces remind you of the separation between you and what is around you.

    By comparison, the 2015 Sorento is as warm as a “Morning In America” Reagan ad. Climb in, and your knees come to rest against an armrest and center console that are both softly padded—just the thing for soothing them after the Passat’s hard ridges. The Sorento’s handling is less controlled than the VW’s, but it smoothes over bumps like a well-oiled PR machine. The VW does not gloss over things, while the Kia makes you feel like you’ve come home again.

    car2The trip computers in each read that the Passat’s diesel engine more than doubled the Kia’s guzzling nine-mpg average, which in fairness is in the range of other gas V6s on SF’s hills.

    An equal number of buyers are choosing Passats and Sorentos; these vehicles are very different, but an election between their personalities would be a nail-biter.
    See you at the polls on November 4!

    Philip Ruth is a Castro-based automotive photojournalist and consultant at Check out his automotive staging service at