For Kia’s next trick, they’re introducing their recently completely revised Sorento. It is available in 11 trims (yes, 11), with three different engines, two different seating arrangements, and in a price range that varies from an affordable $27,495 all the way to $46,695.
I believe this qualifies as “something for every family.” Essentially, the new-for-2016 Kia Sorento is punching a hole in its important segment and leaving nothing to chance. The presence of the 2.0L TGDI 4-cylinder highlights the fact that families are not really interested in less power. They do, however, desire to stay away from fuelling stations as often as possible.
The new Sorento is impressive on every count. In a vehicle lineup that includes the likes of the Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Chevy Traverse, Honda Pilot, and Toyota Highlander, staying on top of the heap is difficult to do. It may be that Kia has done so, at least for the moment. The new Mazda CX-9 is on its way and it is definitely bringing it’s A game.
The softer look
The big ute’s styling is fresh and modern with plenty of family styling cues, starting with the large front grille. The new Sorento is softer looking than the previous truck, aligning itself closer physically with the Sedona minivan. Despite that, it remains a handsome SUV especially in higher trims thanks to 19” wheels, HID headlights and funky quad-bulb LED foglights.
Although the cabin has changed, the fact that the big Kia provides loads of kit for the price has not. Heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, power tailgate, Infinity audio, leather, and panoramic sunroof are all yours for just over $42k with the 2.0L turbo SX.
Top marks go to ergonomics and fit-and-finish. Unlike some vehicle where we need to wait for the infotainment system to come online, the Sorento has a horizontal bar below the HVAC controls with the important (for winter) heated seats and steering wheel buttons. The bug here is that HVAC modes and fan speeds only appear on screen -- settings can be changed before you even know what position you’re in.
The seats are comfortable, both front and rear. I did not make my way to the 3rd row, but I did load up the capacious 1,077-litre trunk with some IKEA fun. The interior remains reasonably quiet on the highway, favouring naps and pleasant conversations.
Confident and powerful operator
The other big story with the new Sorento are the aforementioned powertrain choices, and more specifically the turbocharged 2.0L TGDI 4-cylinder. This mill comes from the Optima turbo, but tuned for utility. It puts out 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, more than enough for the job. In fact, it’s got more torque than the 3.3L V6, but it is down 50 horsepower.
Other than being a little smoother and able to tow more, there no longer exists a reason to purchase the V6. The engine/transmission combo work in unison, maximising the available power for passing and acceleration -- never did I feel wanting for more. 100% of the available torque is on tap from 1,450 to 3,500 rpm.
The standard 6-speed automatic generally functions well, however, has the annoying habit of dropping into 1st gear at the very last second, which translates into a very jerky start from a near stop. Fuel economy is good at around 11.5L/100km, about 10% better than the V6.
AWD is available in all trims, standard with the SX. A centre-differential lock mode is offered in order to get you out of very sticky situations. The fully automatic Dynamax system seamlessly distributes power where traction is present. As a daily tool to negotiate snow-covered roads or the trail to the cottage, it’ll never let you down.
The ride is excellent, as the vehicle feels tight and solid. All manner of controls are refined and work very well. The suspension is calibrated for equal parts comfort and handling -- this large CUV is rewardingly competent.
Steering can be a little heavy at slower speeds, but we quickly adjusted to that. The available drive modes sharpen the driving experience, but are ultimately unnecessary in this vehicle. Sport mode sharpens throttle, transmission, and steering response but ultimately Normal is best. An Eco mode also exists, if you want to try it, but I seriously doubt you’ll notice a tangible improvement in fuel economy.
The Korean factor
The other trick with Kia is that initial impressions are spectacular. Quiet, well-assembled, and oozing overall quality, the Sorento felt upscale in every manner possible. It’s no small wonder why it’s the “Highest Ranked Midsize SUV in Initial Quality in the U.S.” as named by J.D. Power… The question is: “Will the impression last?”
I’m sceptical given my recent experiences with some Korean products in the last 3-4 years. The bottom line is that when new, the latest edition of the Sorento is a value-packed and well-behaved turbocharged family utility vehicle.