The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2016 Kia Sorento Review By Steve Purdy

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)


Review By Steve Purdy
Detroit Editor
The Auto Channel
Michigan Bureau

Our tester this week is Kia’s three-row, all-wheel drive crossover Sorento SX. We’ve recently tested competitors like Pathfinder, Durango, Flex and Santa Fe finding them all competent, utilitarian and comfortable. So, what’s special about this one?

Well, it has one of the more powerful engines in the segment but otherwise not so much. It’s just a very nice and competent entry in a crowded field of large crossovers. The Sorento, though, has an unusually wide range of cost and content. (See all trim level specs below review)

The entry level “L” model comes with cloth seats, a decent level of equipment and begins at just $24,900, reinforcing Kia’s image as a value brand. That is really a lot of vehicle for the price. The really high-content, top level Limited V6 starts at $41,300. Compared to others in its class, not bad at all. Our test car SX V6 with all-wheel drive starts at $39,700 and is pretty well loaded including 19-inch alloy wheels, heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, panoramic sunroof, navigation system with 8-inch display, dual zone climate control, rear AC, premium Infinity sound system, leather seating, heated front seats, push button start, and a full slate of safety equipment and systems. Again, if you compare it to other 3-row crossovers you’ll find this one provides a lot of content for the money.

Sorento comes in essentially eight trim levels partially defined by the three available engines. The bottom end “L” comes with a 2.4-liter making only 185 horsepower. I’ve not driven this one but expect it would feel a bit underpowered on this two-ton crossover. On the upside it is rated at 29 mpg on the highway - amazing for this size of vehicle. The EX and Limited can be had with a 2-liter turbo making 240 horsepower good for an estimated 27 mpg on the highway. Then each of the otherwise distinct four trim levels can be had with this 290 horsepower, 3.3-liter V6 with 252 pound-feet of torque good for 26 mph on the highway. The turbo, by the way, has slightly more torque than the V6. All three get a 6-speed automatic transmission. Towing capacity is a good 3,500 pounds with the V6 so you can tow a decent size boat or camper if you like.

Exterior style and design breaks no new ground. Like the others in its class it’s big and boxy with rounded corners and a few creases for character. Up front this one sports a large grille opening with Kia badge and the brand’s characteristic chipmunk teeth. Projector beam headlights nestle within an LED-lined bezel. The roofline tapers rearward to a nearly triangular C-pillar (or do we call it a D-pillar on this big thing?) like most of its ilk and the rear view will turn no heads. Nineteen-inch, 55-series Michelins on stylish alloy wheels make it look poised but not athletic. The top level Limited gets a bit more stylish exterior trim.

The interior, as we would expect in a vehicle this size, will swallow up big people and lots of cargo. The leather seats on our SX and the broad dash show classy stitching. Other materials inside are very nice but not what we’d call elegant. Fit and finish will match anything in the class. Controls are easily managed though a significant learning curve will face a new owner who wants to take advantage of all the functions available. But that can be said of just about every car these days. My experience leads me to believe the Kia will be one of the more intuitive. Kudos go to the interior designers for locating the two 12V outlets, auxiliary outlet and USB within the shallow bin at the base of the center stack where they are easy to get at. So many brands still hide those deep in the console where you can neither see nor get at them.

On the back side of the center console we find more outlets: a USB, a 12V and a 110 – again, easy to access. Rear seats slide forward and the backs fold 60/40 for access to the third row seat where two seating positions will accommodate up to medium sized people. Access to the third row is not as easy as some others in the segment. On the left side, we found the seatback return-to-upright is a two-hand process as is returning third row seatbacks to upright from rear passenger openings. A simple spring load would make that much better. Few things are more annoying and unnecessary than seatbacks that require two hands to operate. Cargo capacities are 73.0 cubic-feet behind the first row, 38.0 behind the second row and 11.3 cubic-feet behind the third row. Tucked in below the rear floor we find some extra storage space and if you choose the 5-passenger version of the Sorento you’ll find lots of sectioned storage below the floor.

Kia has an optional automatic tailgate opener one step better than the Ford system. Ford’s system requires us to wave our foot under the rear bumper to actuate the opener, but our Kia just requires we stand close to the tailgate and wait a few seconds for the beeps. Then it just opens up. I would probably tip over if my arms were full of packages and I had to stand on one foot waving the other under the bumper.

Kia’s new car warranty covers the whole car for 5 years or 60,000 miles and the powertrain for 10 years or 100,000 miles.

We put nearly a thousand miles on the Sorento this week with a good road trip and lots of routine driving around town. We easily managed 25.5 mpg on a road trip to Traverse City with equal parts freeway and scenic northern Michigan country two-lanes while getting a good 23.5 in our mixed driving environment.

Sorento’s cabin lets few extraneous noises intrude even on bad pavement. Seats fit us well and were firm enough for long hours on the road without fatigue. That darn multifunction screen glowed so brightly during night driving that I was squinting until I figured out how to dim it.

Our bottom line is that the Sorento would be an easy and handy vehicle to live with, particularly if you need lots of room for cargo or extra people. Whatever trim level or powertrain you choose will provide a good value. It handles nicely, feeling more agile than you might expect given its size.

ęSteve Purdy, Shunpiker Productions, All Rights Reserved