The story of the Kia Sorento can be best described as an ugly duckling to a swan. The first-generation was a rough and tumble, body-on frame SUV. It had some questionable choices in terms of interior materials and the engines drank gas like it was going out of style. The second-generation Sorento became a bit more mature in a number of key areas such as design, fuel economy, and refinement. But it still was missing that one thing, something that could put it over the top. Now we have come to the third-generation Sorento and Kia might have it figured out.
The Sorento's design can be described as aspirational. When I was walking around the Sorento after it was dropped off, I was thinking of how much it reminded me of the last-generation Audi Q7 in terms of overall look. A lot of this comes from the boxy shape with rounded corners. The front end gets a larger a tiger-nose grille and LED fog lights. Chrome trim running along the side windows and nineteen-inch alloy wheels only add to the overall aspirational impression.
On the technology front, the Sorento SX Limited begins with a color display in the instrument cluster that acts as the speedometer, along with a trip computer. The screen is easy to read thanks to clear text and vibrant colors. The only downside is the screen can be washed out if sunlight hits it. An eight-inch screen with Kia UVO eServices and navigation is standard on the Limited and optional on lower trims. Kia’s infotainment system is one my favorite systems to use as it features a simple interface and fast responses.
The Sorento’s engine lineup is comprised of a 2.4L four-cylinder, a new turbocharged 2.0L four-cylinder, and a 3.3L V6. My Sorento SX Limited tester came with the turbo producing 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque (arriving at 1,450 rpm). It comes with a six-speed automatic and the choice of either front or all-wheel drive. The 2.0L turbo is a bit of a disappointment as it has turbo lag, something I thought was banished with the current generation of turbo engines. Leaving a stop, there are a few seconds where you creep along before the turbo spools up and gets a punch of power. Once the turbo is working, the engine is quite responsive and willing to get up to speed at a decent rate. The six-speed automatic is the best part of the powertrain. Shifts are very smooth and the transmission is quick to downshift when you need a bit more oomph. The other disappointment comes in fuel economy as I only got an average of 21 MPG for the week, slightly lower than the 22.1 I got in the last-generation model equipped with the 3.3L V6.
Personally, I would go for the V6 as it offers a better spread of power and would likely achieve around the same fuel economy as the turbo-four.
Kia hasn’t messed with the Sorento’s ride and handling characteristics which is a very good thing. The suspension does an excellent job of isolating bumps and other road imperfections from those inside. On the highway, the Sorento is very quiet. No hint of road or wind noise came into the cabin. Steering has a little more heft, but some will complain they want more feel. But you need to keep in mind that Sorento is built for coddling passengers, not trying to be a sporty crossover.
But like the last Sorento I drove, this one has a big value problem. The SX Limited with the Turbo and all-wheel drive starts at $41,700. Equipped with an optional technology package that adds lane departure warning, smart cruise control, an around-view camera system, and a few other bits along with destination ran the price to $45,095. If you want a V6, you’ll need to add about $1,600. The SX Limited does come with everything, but how many people would be willing to drop that much money on a Kia?
The 2016 Sorento is a complete shock. Not only has Kia made a crossover that looks expensive, but they also made it feel expensive in terms of the interior and overall refinement. The value argument on the Limited models are quite hard to swallow and the 2.0L turbo needs a bit more work in terms of low-end performance. Hence is why I would recommend going for either EX or SX equipped with the V6. They both have that aspirational feel at a price that won’t make you faint.
Cheers: Handsome exterior and interior, Smooth ride, Value for money on lower trims
Jeers: Price of the Limited, Turbo Engine doesn't feel powerful, Fuel Economy
Disclaimer: Kia Provided the Sorento, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
Trim: SX Limited
Engine: 2.0L Turbocharged Direct-Injected Four-Cylinder
Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, All-Wheel Drive
Horsepower @ RPM: 240 @ 6,000
Torque @ RPM: 260 @ 1,450-3,500
Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 19/25/22
Curb Weight: 4,004 to 4,303 lbs
Location of Manufacture: West Point, GA
Base Price: $41,700
As Tested Price: $45,095 (Includes $895.00 Destination Charge)
SXL Technology Package - $2,500