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By Katrina Ramser
San Francisco Bureau
The Auto Channel

Completely redesigned for 2016, the Kia Sorento grows – quite literally – into a desirable five- or seven-passenger SUV choice with increased interior and cargo space. High quality materials, cutting edge technology and a choice of three engines including a turbocharged 2-liter four-cylinder engine with 240 horsepower is what makes the Sorento so appealing to families.

I drove a 2016 Kia Sorento with the turbocharged 240-horsepower 2-liter four-cylinder engine coupled to an automatic Dual Continuously Variable Valve Timing transmission with a Sportmatic Sports Shifter and optional all-wheel drive. Available in five trims – the base L, LX, EX, SX and Limited, my Limited trim came with the following standard features: Nappa premium leather upholstery; dual-zone climate control; an upgraded Infinity audio system; next-generation UVO eServices; multi-view rear camera display; XM Radio; Bluetooth; heated and ventilated front seats; push-button start; leather-wrapped steering wheel; Blind Spot Detection System; fog lights; self-leveling Xenon headlights; panoramic sunroof; power liftgate; rear spoiler; nineteen-inch alloy wheels. Total price as described came to $41,700.

Main competitors include both two- and three-row crossovers able to produce an impressive top-of-the-line trim that are more impressive than luxury brand base-level vehicles – based on my recent test drives, that includes the redesigned Honda Pilot, Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander. However, the Mazda CX-9 and Mitsubishi Outlander are also economical buys in this segment.


Stylish But Comfortable Results: The Sorento has come a long way, converting my initial dislike for this vehicle into love over the years, especially now that the 2016 model is brawnier with a more planted stance. Yet all the ruggedness is left outside, as the interior on my top-of-the-line SX Limited trim is a sea of soft-touch cream leather nicely contrasted against a black dash.  Kia’s UVO eServices sync your phone instantly for touch and voice commands – the system also features a nifty Parking Minder app that can actually help you located your car in a busy parking lot. The pop-up third row is best for kids (I have cited in the past the Mazda CX-9 accommodates two adults better). You do have to pay up for much of this and opt for the $2,500 Technology Package, which now includes Land Departure Warning and Forward Collision Alert.

Reliability & Safety Factor: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) names the 2016 Kia Sorento as a Top Safety Pick for a mid-size SUV. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) gives the vehicle a 5-Star rating. Standard safety equipment includes an advanced airbag system, traction control, electronic stability control, hill-start assist, and a revised independent front and rear suspension.

Cost Issues: The Sorento starts reasonable $24,900 for the base L trim with the standard 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Yet when at the higher trims and loaded with options, expect the Sorento to reach $45k. But keep in mind its refinement, style and performance rivals the cost of many entry-level luxury brands like the Acura MDX and Lexus RX 350. The base Honda Pilot EX starts at $29,995 and highlights at this trim include a rearview camera and push-button start.

Activity & Performance Ability: For a three-row vehicle, the Sorento is extremely maneuverable in tight spaces. If you’re going to constantly put to use that third row, I advise working over the system a few times to get comfortable with the setup – it’s rather tedious and requires using the sliding second row before folding flat in order to pull-up third row seats that are best employed from the cargo area. And then there is the issue of your participants squeezing through the small entry space. Having also driven the 290-horsepower 3.3-liter GDI V6 engine, I can attest the turbocharged 2-liter also just of an impressive gallop and quick reaction to commands of high speeds. I would say the road noise during highway speeds is more pronounced than expected. One of the most notable changes about the Honda Pilot’s performance is the switch to a push-button shifter – not good for those who want to shift gears in a hurry as a pausing occurs between each command. However, the smoothness of the Pilot’s nine-speed transmission makes up for it.

The Green Concern: The turbocharged 2-liter engine delivers 19-city and 25-highway for a combined 22 miles-per-gallon. The 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine has a fuel economy of 20-city and 27-highway for a combined 23 miles-per-gallon – typical for the vehicle size but not that great; and the larger 3.3-liter V6 gets 17-city and 34-highway for a combined 19 miles-per-gallon with all-wheel drive.

The 2016 Kia Sorento stays competitive in the three-row crossover segment by producing a sleek and capable machine quite desirable when fully loaded and available with a choice of three outstanding engines. Additional safety tech features, Kia’s easy-to-use telematics system, and outstanding interior fit-and-finish assure all the edge and ruggedness is left in the performance.

©2016 Katrina Ramser

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