It had been a couple years and three model years since I’d driven Kia’s Sorento, its large SUV that aims to be a family hauler and has migrated, in top-end trim, to being a luxury vehicle.
Luckily all the good stuff remains, including a standard third row seat, and a few new goodies have been added. But at its core, Sorento is a stout entry in this market and comes in enough flavors (trim levels) to satisfy any SUV cravings a driver may have.
The base L model with front-wheel drive starts at a bargain $26,980, but comes with a less than robust 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine that creates 185 horsepower. The good news, it is rated 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway.
My test vehicle was a top-level Snow White Pearl SXL with AWD, base price $46,490 including delivery. In between are LX, EX and SX models ranging from $28,490 to $40,980 in starting price. The EX is the first level to offer Kia’s strong 3.3-liter V6 as its standard powerplant, the EX listing at $36,580.
So finding a Sorento near your price range should be easy and all are well equipped.
Let’s focus on the tested SXL for now.
Ride and power are as good as many competitors such as Nissan’s Pathfinder or Toyota’s Highlander. The Kia boasts a powerful 3.3-liter V6 with direct injection and delivering 290 horsepower. Getting onto the highway or away from a stoplight quickly is easy. And Sorento has three drive modes, Normal (the default), Sport and Eco. Pretty obvious what those are for, and the SUV’s new 8-speed automatic shifts smoothly.
I used the engine’s Sport mode occasionally and it punched up the acceleration, but the steering feel became too heavy for my liking and seemed over boosted at the same time, delivering a blah feel. So I stuck with Normal mostly as it felt better, but still vague in road feedback. Some competitors deliver better handling.
Ride though is extremely comfortable and the cabin is luxury level quiet, both good traits for a family hauler. Our bumpy area roads never upset the text Sorento’s occupants as the suspension here is well tuned for Midwestern pavement, providing some cushion, but still feeling in tune with the road. The vehicle’s 109.4-inch wheelbase helps the ride to be sure.
Braking is fine too with all the usual aids and this model featured all-wheel-drive, so would be able to handle sloppy roads in winter.
Inside, the tested Sorento featured a pleasant black interior with charcoal gray perforated Nappa leather seats with gray stitching, which also was repeated in the door panels. There’s black gloss trim on the dash, doors and console with brushed metal look trim on the air vents, steering wheel hub and around the info screen.
Everything felt soft, smooth and luxurious in Sorento. Plus the dash is well laid out and simple to see and figure out while driving.
There are a bunch of key controls to the left of the tilt/telescope steering wheel. For instance the blind-spot warning system, lane departure and two memory seat buttons are here, plus there are inside gas and rear hatch releases.
The SUV’s thick leather steering wheel’s hub has buttons to control the smart cruise control, info systems, phone and radio. The wheel also is heated. To the wheel’s right is the wiper stalk with rear hatch wiper control and down below are metal-faced pedals.
Dash layout is simple and easy to use while driving. There’s dual climate controls, a somewhat small info/radio screen that features a split screen, but with simple controls, and the SXL upgrades to a fine harmon/kardon sound system with Clari-Fi. A navigation system is standard.
Overhead the visors slide to block side sun, and there’s a giant panoramic sunroof with power shade, plus manual side window sun shades for row two passengers. While in back the hatch is powered and the third row seat will split and fold down, as will the second row.
Seating is comfortable and the leather soft. Front seats have mildly contoured bottom cushions but grippy sides and backs. They also are heated, cooled, and powered. Head and legroom are generous in the first two rows, but the third row is for pre-teen riders and short hops around town. It would not be comfortable for a long trip, unless its occupants are in infant car seats.
In the bin below the dash’s center stack are two 12-volt outlets, plus USB and auxiliary outlets and wireless charging for cell phones.
Lest you think I love everything here, I should point out one failing common to most SUVs and larger crossovers. The A-pillars are wide and can block your front-to-side view. Glad there are all the safety devices here like blind-spot warning, lane departure, backup camera with rear cross-traffic alert and front collision avoidance with pedestrian recognition. All are standard on the SXL.
Gas mileage also remains poor. When I drove the 2016 Sorento I managed just 19.6 mpg and only improved that slightly to 20.3 mpg this time, again in roughly an even mix of city to highway driving. The EPA rates the V6-powered model with AWD at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway.
The overall price also was concerning at $48,765. That’s about $50 grand where I come from. This starts at $46,490 with delivery and the test ute added just minor options, including improved interior lighting for $450, puddle lights for $240 and $395 extra for the cool pearl white paint job.
But as I mentioned earlier, you can keep your costs more in line with the average sale price of a car these days, but opting for a lower trim level.
That base L still includes cruise control, keyless entry, 17-inch alloy wheels, rearview camera, 7-inch touchscreen plus Bluetooth, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto for your smart phones.
The LX is the first trim to offer AWD as an option, and the V6. Standard though is the blind-spot warning system and an acoustic windshield to provide a quiet interior. If you move up to the LX with a V6 you also get the new 8-speed automatic tranny, up from a 6-speed, and dual-zone climate controls.
EX, may be the best bet. It comes with leather seats that are heated in front, push-button start, navigation system, fog lights, 18-inch alloy wheels, a power front passenger seat and upgraded safety systems. Those include forward collision warning, lane departure, smart cruise and automatic emergency braking.
Remember too that all Sorentos come with Kia’s five year/60,000 mile bumper-to-bumper and a 10 year/100,000 mile powertrain warranty.
FAST STATS: 2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD
Hits: Standard third row seat, good acceleration (3 drive modes) and comfortable ride, plus AWD. Quiet interior with power heated/cooled seats w/2-memory driver’s seat, panoramic sunroof power hatch, nice dash layout and controls.
Misses: Blah handling, poor gas mileage, wide A-pillars and pricey at upper trim level.
Made in: West Point, Ga.
Engine: 3.3-liter, GDI V6, 290 horsepower
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Weight: 4,211 lbs.
Length: 189.0 in.
Wheelbase: 109.4 in.
Cargo: 11.3 cu.ft., (38 cu.ft. third row down, 73 cu.ft., second/third row down))
Tow: 3,500 lbs.
MPG: 20.3 (tested)
Base Price: $46,490 (includes delivery)
Snow white pearl paint, $395
Cargo net, $50
Cargo cover, $150
Interior lighting, $450
Puddle lights, $240
Test vehicle: $48,765
Sources: Kia, www.kbb.com
Photos: Mark Savage