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2016 Kia Sorento SX-L AWD Review by Carey Russ +VIDEO


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Sorento

The new Sorento combines style with comfort and efficient performance

DRIVING DOWN THE ROAD WITH CAREY RUSS

       • SEE ALSO: Kia Buyers Guide


PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)
2016 Kia Sorento

The Sorento has been one of Kia's most popular vehicles since 2003. It has changed a bit since then… Originally a body-on-frame SUV with rear- or dual-range four-wheel drive, it became a front- or all-wheel drive crossover for model year 2011. Also at that time, production was changed from Kia's home in South Korea to a new facility in West Point, GA, all the better for the most important US marketplace.

The third generation Sorento made its debut earlier this year. While not as massive a change as between the first and second generations, differences are far from trivial and emphasize Kia's desire to take on not just domestic and Japanese brands, but Europeans as well. Kia has emphasized design more than most Asian automakers, and has much more European influence there.

The newest Sorento may be simple in overall shape, but it has plenty of interesting details, inside as well as out, without being too visually busy. It's a touch larger, with a 3.1-inch stretch in wheelbase. There's more interior space. The 2.4-liter four cylinder and 3.3-liter V6 engines continue, but are joined by a 2.0-liter turbo four. If its maximum 240 horsepower is a bit lower than the V6's 290, it beats the six on torque, with 260 lb-ft from 1450 through 3500 rpm compared to the six's 252 at a high 5300 rpm.

There is a Sorento for every mid-size crossover desire and budget, from the L at $24,900 through the Limited at S41,300 as of the time of writing. Engine and option availability vary. Front-wheel drive is the standard specification, with a full-time all-wheel drive system available.

My test vehicle for the past week was an SX-L with the turbo four. In that form, it also gets a more responsive electrically-assisted steering system, 19-inch alloy wheels with low-profile tires, a panoramic sunroof, and a host of other upscale features including a power liftgate that is programmable -- useful as before changing the programming it would automatically open when I walked around the rear to get to the driver's side of the car. There are times when it may be convenient to have it open automatically if you're nearby, but not necessarily all of the time.

As I have grown to expect from a Kia, the 2016 Sorento SX-L felt more European on the road, and looked it both inside and out. It was roomy and comfortable, and there was no shortage of power from the engine. Ever. The previous Sorento was not noisy inside at all, but this one is even quieter. With a two-ton plus curb weight, it's not going to be sports car agile, but it's not a sports car. The optional Technology Package had contemporary electronic aids like lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems that were pleasantly low in false positives (gotta love it when the computer squawks an annoying warning that a tree by the side of the road may be a hazard… this one fortunately didn't). It also had an entertaining and useful array of outside cameras for the Surround View Monitor. There is no excuse for hitting anything when parking with this.

Kia is not the best-known name in midsize crossovers, but that's no reason to ignore the Sorento if you're in the market.




APPEARANCE: Remember when crossovers wanted to look like trucks? This one looks more like a wagon that's been to the gym. The roofline and D (rear) pillars are familiar, if not exactly as before, but all exterior panels are new. The tabbed grille is larger and more rectangular. The lower opening has also grown, and stainless steel lower trim protects the lower front. The underbody cladding is less skid plate than for aerodynamic management. Four small foglamps on each side of the lower opening are a distinctive touch. A bit of indentation on the sides between the wheel arches adds character. A visor spoiler graces the trailing edge of the roof, with low-profile rails on the top. At the rear are familiar Kia taillights, a bit of faux-vent styling, and another stainless lower panel. Stainless steel is also used. usefully, for the scuff plates under the doors and liftgate.

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2016 Kia Sorento

COMFORT: Inside, the new Sorento is spacious and, in SX-L trim, pleasantly upscale. Virtually all upper interior surfaces are covered with textured soft-touch material, with piano-black and metallic plastic trim. In the SX-L seating surfaces are leather, with power adjustable front seats that are both heated and cooled, and two-position memory for the driver's seat. Comfort and support levels are high. Visibility is good and improved, especially in the corners when parking, by the Surround View Monitor. The steering wheel is manually adjustable for tilt and reach. It features a heated leather rim and controls for audio, phone, cruise, and information systems. Pushbutton start/stop and proximity un/lock are standard here. The electroluminescent instruments are easily visible and free from glare. A touchscreen at the center of the instrument panel controls the navigation, audio, phone, and information systems. The interface is reasonably intuitive. Audio choices are all current, and useful storage is found throughout the cabin. The front part of the panoramic moonroof tilts and slides open.

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2016 Kia Sorento

Four-cylinder Sorentos get a two-row, five-passenger configuration. That gives plenty of space in the second row, which features a 40/20/40 folding partially-reclining seatback, storage under the cushion, sunshades, and heated outboard cushions. The wheelbase stretch is marginal for a real third row -- and without it, there is a bit of hidden storage beneath the rear cargo floor. A space-saver spare lives outside under the rear.

SAFETY: All 2016 Sorentos have a full complement of airbags, rollover and side-impact sensors, and front active headrests. Brakes are four-wheel antilock discs with electronic brake-force distribution (EBD). Electronic stability control (ESC) and hill-start assist control (HAC) are also standard in all. AWD versions get Torque Vectoring Cornering Control. The SX-L has a backup warning system and blind-spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert. Lane-departure warning and forward collision warning systems and the Around View Monitor are part of the optional Technology Package.

RIDE AND HANDLING: It's a two-ton crossover designed and built for comfort, so don't expect sports-car cornering. Do expect a smooth and supple ride, even on poor surfaces, and a relaxingly quiet interior. The fully-independent MacPherson strut front, multilink rear suspension and full-time all-wheel drive system get the power to the ground without any fuss and the four-wheel antilock disc brakes stop surely and quickly. Steering response is good, and the electrically-assisted system is not overly assisted.

PERFORMANCE: Can a two-liter engine, even with a turbo, power a two-ton crossover? No problem! With torque peaking at 260 lb-ft from 1450 through 3500 rpm, the engine is at its torque peak in most driving situations, and the 240 horsepower come into play at higher revs. The six-speed automatic barely needs to downshift. As with an increasing number of manufacturers, Kia uses a combination of continuously-variable cam phasing, turbocharging, direct fuel injection, and a relatively high compression ratio (10.0:1 here) for efficient power production -- on unleaded regular, no less. It works very well. Acceleration, with a 0-60 time around seven seconds, is good enough even for short and nasty onramps, and fuel economy is impressive for a heavy vehicle. EPA estimates are 19 city, 25 highway, 22 overall. I got 18 in city use, with a bit of highway driving pushing that up to 22. The V6-powered 2015 Sorento I drove a few months ago was good for 20 in similar conditions.

CONCLUSIONS: Kia's newest Sorento combines style with comfort and efficient performance.

SPECIFICATIONS

2016 Kia Sorento SX-L AWD

Base Price $ 41,700

Price As Tested $ 45,095

Engine Type turbocharged DOHC 16-valve aluminum alloy inline 4-cylinder with direct fuel injection

Engine Size 2.0 liters / 122 cu. in.

Horsepower 240 @ 6000 rpm

Torque (lb-ft) 260 @ 1450-3500 rpm

Transmission 6-speed automatic with manual-shift mode

Wheelbase / Length 109.4 in. / 187.4 in.

Curb Weight 4303 lbs.

Pounds Per Horsepower 17.9

Fuel Capacity 18.8 gal.

Fuel Requirement 87 octane unleaded regular gasoline

Tires 235/55R19 101H Michelin Premier LTX

Brakes, front/rear vented disc / solid disc, ABS, EBD, ESC, HAC standard

Suspension, front/rear independent MacPherson strut / independent multilink

Ground Clearance 7.3 inches

Drivetrain transverse front engine, full-time all-wheel drive

PERFORMANCE

EPA Fuel Economy - miles per gallon city / highway / observed 19 / 25 / 22

0 to 60 mph est. 7.0 sec

Towing Capacity 3500 lbs.

OPTIONS AND CHARGES

SXL Technology Package -- includes: Xenon HID headlights, Lane Departure Warning System, Forward Collision Warning System, electronic parking brake, Surround View Monitor, Smart Cruise Control $ 2,500

Destination Charge $ 895