Review: 2016 Kia Sorento offers upscale flavours for a happy meal price
Upscale crossovers seem a dime a dozen these days. After all, they’re even wearing the names of non-upscale brands like Kia.
On paper, the Kia Sorento sounds like just another mid-size crossover in an already-crowded field, but this actually one surprised us in ways we didn’t expect.
Kia made the Sorento longer for 2015, making the optional third-row seat more spacious and increasing the car’s utility as a seven-seater. It wears the added size well: the extra length masks its height and gives it the look of a big station wagon in profile.
A handsome exterior might make other people think you spent a lot of money on a car, but a nicely-finished interior like this one makes you feel better about the money you’ve spent.
The Sorento starts well below $30,000, but many of the things that made us appreciate our tester only come along once you’re ready to spend half again that much on upgrades.
Still, a driver-configurable gauge cluster is a nice touch, and very well done. The entire dash is well-assembled from quality materials that would not look out of place in a BMW X5 or Audi Q7.
Complaints are few. One however is that, while the second row seat moves out of the way to ease access to the third row, it only does so on the right-hand side; most (if not all) other mid-sized crossovers allow third-row riders to get in through both rear doors.
The Sorento’s available tech includes that digital gauge package, but a fully-loaded SX+ version also brings Xenon headlights, power-folding side mirrors, rear-seat air conditioning, navigation, an upgraded stereo, 115-volt power outlet, adaptive cruise control, intelligent keyless entry, power tailgate, heated steering wheel, ventilated front chairs and heated second-row seats, 10-way power driver’s seat, and eight-way power front passenger adjustment. The safety kit includes a 360-degree exterior camera setup, rear cross traffic alert, blind spot detection, lane departure warning, and front collision warning.
That’s a long list of goodies for a mid-priced crossover.
Kia offers three engines in the Sorento, including a 2.4-litre four-cylinder, a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder in mid-range models, and a 3.3-litre V6 that’s limited to higher-end trims. While the V6 is the most powerful of the three, that’s not why we like it. Instead, it appeals for its smooth soundtrack and the seamless way it delivers its power. The turbo (an engine used in a wide range of mid-size Hyundai and Kia models) is strong, but can be a bit peaky. The V6 has a relaxed feel that fits with the rest of the upscale feel Kia has built into high-end versions of the Sorento. Couple that with a six-speed automatic transmission that never missed a beat in a week of driving, and it’s hard to find fault with how this big crossover moves.
The V6 is also the thirstiest engine in the Sorento line though, with ratings of 13.4/9.4 L/100 km (city/highway); my tester averaged 14.7 L/100 km in mostly city driving, in cool early-spring weather. That average was far higher than the 11.7 L/100 km indicated by the car’s on-board computer, which is clearly an optimist.
There’s less of an emphasis on tight handling here than in luxury SUVs built by the Germans or Japanese, but the ride is comfortable, and the Sorento’s cornering abilities are perfectly acceptable in a vehicle that will rarely be tested that way in the wild.
All is not perfect, even for a car facing relatively low performance expectations: the steering is vague, and the lack of feel through the wheel as to what’s happening at pavement level can be a detriment to gauging traction levels in wintry conditions. In a similar vein, the mushy brake pedal doesn’t communicate confidence in the Sorento’s ability to stop safely in a hurry. In reality, the Sorento does stop well, but a nice, firm pedal inspires far more confidence than a soft, spongy one.
If you want loads of features in a vehicle that can carry your family around in plenty of comfort, the Sorento is a good choice: even an Acura MDX (a vehicle known for strong value among upscale crossovers) can’t touch the Sorento’s value-for-money proposition. The Sorento even rivals the over-the-road refinement of some of the most desirable luxury mid-size utilities. That said, $47,000 is a lot of money, regardless of what you’re getting for it. Among its seven-seater variants, we’d call the EX V6 AWD model (it happens to be the least-expensive three-row Sorento) the sweet spot, for $10,000 less than our SX+ tester. At that price, it won’t have all of the high-tech goodies, but will offer the same pleasant driving experience.
Kia continues to make a point of packing in lots of equipment for the price tag attached to its vehicles, but we’ve reached a point where that’s not the most attractive thing about them, and this latest Sorento is the perfect example of that.
Instead, this Kia is a mid-size crossover that would look just fine parked next to the Acura or BMW crossover in your driveway—or in place of it. Overall Rating: 8.1/10