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Review: 2016 Kia Sorento SXL T-GDI


William Maley

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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.

 


2016 Kia Sorento SXL T GDI 11


The interior of the Sorento looks and feels like something you would find in a more expensive crossover. Most surfaces in the Sorento are soft to the touch and have some decorative touch such as contrast stitching. The dash layout is very clean and controls are in logical order. The SX Limited comes with Nappa leather for all of the seats, though you would be hard-pressed to tell a difference between this and the standard leather used on lower trims of the Sorento. The front seats come with power adjustments, along with heat and ventilation. I found them to be quite comfortable once you figured out what adjustments needed to be made. The back seat has plenty of legroom thanks to a three-inch increase in overall length and the ability to slide the seat. Headroom is on par with the class, even with the SX Limited’s panoramic sunroof. The Sorento does have the option of a third-row, but it isn’t available on the Limited Turbo. You'll need to opt for a model with the V6 to get that.

 

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.

 


2016 Kia Sorento SXL T GDI 7



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

 

Year: 2016
Make: Kia
Model: Sorento
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)

 

Options:
SXL Technology Package - $2,500


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Guest Jones215

Hmmm...  I own this very vehicle (same color and everything) and never noticed any turbo lag in my 2300 miles thus far.  I know some of this can be down to software tuning or bugs, so it may be worth checking out.  But this car pulls nicely from a dead stop.

 

Secondly, most people aren't buying the Limited.  Mine was built in 3/15 and sat on the lot until 1/16 when I bought it.  That said, it's a poor man's RX350.  Also, this thing has had $3000k lease cash on its hood for quite some time, so that brings the price back down to earth.  Not everyone wants a Luxo brand vehicle.  We feel this car was a solid value for what it offers and didn't balk at the price at all vs the competition.  The Murano and Edge turbo are the main competitors to the Limited Turbo.  The Murano SL is a little cheaper and the Edge Titanium 2.0T about the same when both are equally equipped.  So within the competitive set, the pricing is not outlandish.  If you aren't a brand snob, the current car market is awesome.  

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Nice write up, glad to see they are improving the auto so much. 

 

Wonder if because this was a loaner for auto reporters if the car is not on an older version of software or if the car was just trashed on by other drivers so the turbo is confused?

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I keep hearing the same thing about the Kia/Hyundai 2.0T engines! I experienced the first gen 2.0T in a '12 Optima and had similar experience. It revved up and made power like a...well like a slightly larger naturally aspirated 4-cylinder. I thought the new 2.0T would get fresh tuning and solve the power delivery issues, but apparently not.

 

If I was buying this, it would need the V6 and a lighter colored interior because the one pictured looks stark and dreary.

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It's pretty good product, I'd not get the 2.0T, I think the 3.3 is a must, but I wish they wouldn't force you to get a 3rd row to get the engine.

 

I think many publications have iterated that the interior is very good for the class, and finally getting in one myself, I can attest to that.

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Hmmm...  I own this very vehicle (same color and everything) and never noticed any turbo lag in my 2300 miles thus far.  I know some of this can be down to software tuning or bugs, so it may be worth checking out.  But this car pulls nicely from a dead stop.

 

Secondly, most people aren't buying the Limited.  Mine was built in 3/15 and sat on the lot until 1/16 when I bought it.  That said, it's a poor man's RX350.  Also, this thing has had $3000k lease cash on its hood for quite some time, so that brings the price back down to earth.  Not everyone wants a Luxo brand vehicle.  We feel this car was a solid value for what it offers and didn't balk at the price at all vs the competition.  The Murano and Edge turbo are the main competitors to the Limited Turbo.  The Murano SL is a little cheaper and the Edge Titanium 2.0T about the same when both are equally equipped.  So within the competitive set, the pricing is not outlandish.  If you aren't a brand snob, the current car market is awesome.  

I've noticed the advertised lease payments for these lately has appeared to be low.  I suppose then that is due to some good lease cash.

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      Both of the Sonatas on test came in the Limited trim which means a bountiful selection of technology. It begins with a 10.2-inch TFT display for the instrument cluster which provides all of the key information needed at a glance. A clever trick is when you engage the turn signal, the respective 'dial' brings up a camera mounted underneath the side view mirrors to provide a blind-spot view. I found this system to be helpful as it gave me an extra set of eyes whenever I needed to change lanes.

      Next up is another 10.25-inch screen housing Hyundai's latest infotainment system. I like the three-window layout on the home screen that you can customize to your needs. Navigating around the system is a breeze with a response touchscreen and capacitive touch buttons sitting on either side. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard.
      The next two tech features are exclusive to the standard Sonata. First is what Hyundai calls a digital key. Using the BlueLink application on a compatible smartphone, you can use this instead of the key to start the car and drive away. At the time of this writing, this is only available on Android phones. Hyundai did provide a loner Samsung Note smartphone for the week to try this out. I did not have the best experience with this feature at first because I found you need to be pretty close to the vehicle to make a connection. Trying to connect from my room upstairs, just above where the vehicle was parked, the application would throw up a connection error. I found that if I moved to the living room or just outside the front door, the phone was able to make the connection. This sours some of the appeal of this feature. 
      At least using the phone as the vehicle's key does work a bit better. It only takes a few seconds for the phone to make the connection to the vehicle and you can start it up. Although, I found myself wondering wouldn't it be easier and faster to have the key. The only feature that makes any sense to me is the ability to share the key with other people, but lock down certain aspects.
      Second is Smart Park (or smart parkh as made famous by the Super Bowl commercial from last year). Using the key, you can have the Sonata move forward or back out of the parking spot to allow for easier access to get into the vehicle. It's simple to operate, just hold down one of two buttons for a few seconds; the Sonata starts up and goes into the correct gear to move in the desired direction. I can see the appeal in urban areas where space is limited. But in the current pandemic times all of us find ourselves in, this seems to be more of a gimmick.
      Power Selection
      Hyundai offers two engines for the regular Sonata; a naturally aspirated 2.5L four-cylinder or a turbocharged 1.6L four. A more potent turbocharged 2.5L four-cylinder is available on the upcoming Sonata N Line. My tester featured the turbo 1.6 which produces 180 horsepower and 195 pound-feet of torque. That puts it in line with some of the base engines found in the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry.
      I wouldn't call this engine quick, but it handles most driving situations with aplomb. This comes down to most of the torque being situated at the lower end of the rpm band. The only area where you might be wishing for more power is merging onto a freeway or keeping up traffic. The eight-speed automatic does an excellent job of maximizing the engine's output.
      Under the Sonata Hybrid's hood is a system comprised of a 2.0L four-cylinder and electric motor to provide a total output of 192 horsepower and 151 pound-feet of torque. The Sonata Hybrid feels just as fast as the standard Sonata around town and on country roads. It does struggle slightly on the highway due to the smaller torque figure. The six-speed automatic doesn't stumble when the change over from electric-only to hybrid mode like I have experienced on other Hyundai/Kia hybrid models.

      Opting for Limited on the Sonata Hybrid brings a solar panel for the roof which acts as a trickle charger for both the 12-volt car battery and 1.6-kWh lithium-ion pack for the hybrid system. Hyundai says that the panel can add an extra two miles of range with adequate sunlight. I can't attest to this claim, but will say the solar panel did add an extra bit of charge to the battery, even on an overcast day.
      Fuel economy for both models are as followed,
      Sonata 1.6T: 27 City/36 Highway/31 Combined Sonata Hybrid: 45 City/51 Highway/47 Combined My week saw an average of 29 mpg in the Sonata and 39 mpg for the Sonata Hybrid.
      Calm and Collected
      Hyundai has done some work on the Sonata's chassis and suspension to make it more rewarding to drive. It shows on a winding road as both versions show little body roll and feel more agile than the outgoing model. Steering feels direct and has a decent amount of weight. I will say the Mazda6 is still the one to beat if driving pleasure is your key goal.
      But the Sonata has an ace up its sleeve. It is also one of the most comfortable cars in the class. Driving over some of the roughest roads in Metro Detroit, the Sonata's suspension soaks up most bumps and imperfections to provide a serene ride. The minimal amount of road and wind noise that comes inside also helps.
      Rising To The Top

      The previous generations of the Sonata were always so close to being at the top of the class. But there always something that held it back whether it was the design, handling, or powertrains. But this new model shows how much Hyundai has put in. There is a nice balance between ride and handling; powertrains are very competent, and the interior is best in the class. Plus, the Sonata still retains Hyundai's trademark of offering a lot for not much money.
      Where most people will stumble on the Sonata is the exterior. It is very much a love or hate it affair. Plus, some of the tech features feel more like a party trick to show to friends than something you'll use. 
      Nevertheless, I think Sonata moves up to the top of the midsize sedan pecking order. 
      But there is one more question to answer. Between the regular and hybrid versions, which one I would drive away with. The answer which surprised me is the hybrid. I found it to be a little bit more well-rounded and deliver some excellent fuel economy figures during my time.
      Alternative:
      Kia K5: Like the idea of the Hyundai Sonata, but not to sure on the design? Then the Kia K5 may be the answer. Based on the same bones as the Sonata, the K5 takes a more evolutionary approach to the design. The basic shape may remind you of the previous-generation Optima, but its the little details such as a new grille and revised rear deck lid that help it stand out. From reviews, the K5 proves to be a bit sportier. We hope to get our hands on this challenger in the near future. Disclaimer: Hyundai Provided the Sonatas, Insurance, and One Tank of Gas
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata
      Trim: Limited 1.6T
      Engine: Turbocharged 1.6L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four
      Driveline: Eight-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 180 @ 5,500
      Torque @ RPM: 195 @ 1,500-4,500
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 27/36/31
      Curb Weight: 3,336 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Montgomery, AL
      Base Price: $33,300
      As Tested Price: $34,365 (Includes $930.00 Destination Charge)
      Options:
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00
      Year: 2020
      Make: Hyundai
      Model: Sonata Hybrid
      Trim: Limited
      Engine: 2.0L GDI DOHC 16-Valve Inline-Four, Permanent Magnet Synchronous Motor
      Driveline: Six-Speed Automatic, Front-Wheel Drive
      Horsepower @ RPM: 150 @ 6,000 (gas); 51 @ 1,800 - 2,300 (electric motor); 192 (total output)
      Torque @ RPM: 139 @ 5,000 (gas); 151 @ 0 - 1,800 (electric motor)
      Fuel Economy: City/Highway/Combined - 45/51/47
      Curb Weight: 3,530 lbs
      Location of Manufacture: Asan, South Korea
      Base Price: $35,300
      As Tested Price: $36,430 (Includes $975.00 Destination Charge)
      Options: 
      Carpeted Floor Mats - $135.00

      View full article
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