Quick spin: 2016 Kia Sorento EX AWD [Review]
The world of three-row crossovers is a crowded one. With a few exceptions (Volkswagen, and to an extent, Lexus), there are few players left in the U.S. market without an entry here. And to be honest, there aren’t too many bad choices.
Kia has been playing in this space with the Sorento for a while now, but its latest entry is its greatest–refreshed and ready to take the fight to the class leaders. This is not the first time Leftlane has driven the new Sorento, but we gladly took the opportunity to put its people-hauling capabilities to the test again. Does it still impress the second time around? Read on to find out.
What is it?
The Sorento is Kia’s largest crossover. Available in both two- and three-row configurations, it seats either five or seven passengers.
Our tester is an EX model and includes the optional third row. It is also equipped with all-wheel-drive and the beefiest of the three engines offered in this chassis. Two-row models can be optioned with the 2.4L GDI four-cylinder, and while the five-seater may be the lightest Sorento, we can’t imagine that’s a particularly sprightly configuration.
Opting for a third row limits you to either the turbocharged GDI two-liter or, as found here, the 3.3L “Lambda” V6. The six makes 290 horsepower at 6,400 RPM and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,300 RPM. And while it may give up a little bit of torque to its smaller turbocharged sibling, it delivers taut, linear power that suits this family hauler’s mission just fine.
The Sorento’s interior layout is fairly conventional. The second-row bench splits 60/40 for passenger ingress/egress and accommodating unusually long cargo. The third row is a fold-flat setup with its own split configuration.
What’s it up against?
The Sorento faces off against a robust and still-growing segment of three-row crossovers. Key competitors include the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Ford Flex, Chevrolet Traverse, Nissan Pathfinder, and Mazda CX-9, among others.
How does it look?
Few manufacturers try to reinvent the wheel in this segment, and Kia isn’t one of them. A few hold-outs like to keep their options boxy (Dodge and Ford, most notably), but the Sorento’s proportions are entirely conventional for a modern, three-row offering. It’s not too exciting and not too boring; not too square and not impractically swoopy either.
That’s not to say there aren’t any flashy elements. Kia’s new grille is nothing if not prominently featured here, looking as if it does double-duty as a feeding apparatus for marine Mammalia (judging by the number of dead insects it collected over the course of our late-September road trip, it could do the job). There are chrome bits here and there too–not too gaudy–and the expected smattering of LED lighting. All in all, it’s a solid effort–handsome, but not necessarily studly.
And the inside?
Kia learned years ago that a clean interior is a great way to demonstrate the effort engineers have gone to in the name of improving quality. The Sorento has shown well in this regard for a while now, and we’re pleased to say that Kia hasn’t stalled in its efforts to deliver a premium feel at a not-so-premium price.
Our tester came equipped with the EX Premium package, which jazzes up an already-above-average interior effort. The EX alone is enough to get you leather, but add-ons here include 110v power and auto up/down windows at all four corners.
We had few complaints about the Sorento’s comfort over the course of nearly 800 miles. Both the driver and passenger acknowledged lower-back fatigue at the conclusion of the return trip, but only after a long, exhausting weekend of wedding festivities. Two adult center-row occupants gave it no negative marks, napping several times along the way and feeling completely fresh upon arrival.
But does it go?
The Sorento is not a featherweight. At 4,343lbs, it’s not heavy for the class, but it’s still a substantial chunk of machine. If you’re expecting sedan-like handling, you simply won’t find it here.
The 3.3L six can hustle the Sorento into traffic or deliver plenty of grunt for a quick pass, but when the roads get narrow and twisty, the Sorento’s soft side comes through in a big way.
A brief digression: there are those who are puzzled by automotive journalists’ affection for crossovers like Mazda‘s CX-9. It’s old (and therefore dated), heavy and thirsty. It’s based on a sedan platform that hasn’t underpinned an actual sedan for years (Do they even still sell Besturns? That’s a real thing. Look it up.).
But when you put the big Mazda on a back road and ask it to turn, it does, and it does it without knocking its rear occupants’ heads together. The same can’t be said of the Sorento, which needs a healthy roll before settling into a turn, during which you and your passengers will find yourselves contorting to accommodate the slack in the suspension that comes before it finds that sweet spot.
In this segment, is poise really important? How often are the Honda Pilots and Toyota Highlanders of the world called upon to hunker down and haul the mail? Is it really such a tragedy that the Sorento operates best when pointed in straight lines? One could easily argue that it is not.
Leftlane’s bottom line
The Sorento is a comfy, quiet, quick-enough family hauler with just enough flash to make it stand out. Kias are not the screaming value they once were ($37,000 for a crossover without Nav? Wow.), but premium features and rising quality come at a cost. Put it on your short list.
2016 Kia Sorento EX AWD base price, $33,500. As tested, $37,045.
EX Premium package, $2,500; Carpeted floor mats, $150; Destination, $895.
Quick spin: 2016 Kia Sorento EX AWD [Review] Reviewed by Byron Hurd on October 1 We take another look at Kia’s three-row CUV. How does it handle a long haul? Rating: 3.5