When the Kia Sorento crossover SUV debuted in 2002, it was a coarse product getting its bearings in a tough market dominated by American-made utility vehicles. They pushed aside this upstart as an unworthy newcomer. Undeterred, the second-generation Sorento debuted in 2009, evolved and more stylish while making a huge value statement. And now the third-gen, the 2016 Sorento, is a confident graduate that is bigger, quieter, smoother, more efficient and packed with technologies that help without frustration or over-complication.
Kia calls the 2016 model “all new” with a stiffer body structure for reduced noise, vibration and harshness and for a more compliant ride. It has three engine choices, including a new 240-horsepower, 2.0-liter four-cylinder, all of which use a six-speed automatic transmission.
The new model is longer by 3 inches and has a wheelbase stretched by 3.1 inches (to 109.4) and wider by a tad to 74.4 inches. But the new dimensions redistribute the interior room and allow more efficient packaging, Kia says. The Sorento now compares more with such contenders as the Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer and Chevrolet Traverse, but it still is a little smaller and more nimble. Its turning circle of 36.4 feet is anywhere from one to four feet tighter than the competition.
There are four trim levels, in front- or all-wheel drive, with starting prices that range from about $26,000 for the entry L model, with 185-horsepower, 2.5-liter four-cylinder, to $44,095 for the SX-Limited V6 AWD; pricing includes the $995 freight charge from West Point, Georgia.
Today’s tester, a SX-Limited V6 AWD, had a sticker of $48,695 — and it had the feel of entry-level luxury. If there is a technology not included on the SX-Limited it hasn’t been invented. Sit back and enjoy the stitched and aromatic Nappa leather-trimmed upholstery, an acoustic (soundproofed) windshield, smart-key locking with push-button ignition, heated and cooled front seats, a heated steering wheel and just about every form of electronic cyber hook-up, ports and connectivity.
The 290-hp, direct-injection, 3.3-liter V-6 has good and conscientious power, returning AWD fuel economy (on 87 octane) of 17 mpg city, 23 highway and 19 mpg combined; I was averaging closer to 23 mpg. The V-6 has a tow rating of up to 5,000 pounds.
The mid – range 240 – horsepower, 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder has gobs of low-end power — 260 foot-pounds of torque — at a steady flow from 1,450 to 3,500 rpm; with 20/27/23 mpg. This package should work well for most who don’t plan to tow. The standard 2.5-liter four-cylinder (with 178 foot-pounds torque) may not have the oomph desired for go-go drivers on the deadline commute (21/29/24 mpg).
Braking is confident from the 12.6-inch vented front discs and 12.1-inch solid rear discs. Other standard safety features include six air bags (with side curtains), traction and stability controls, hill-start assist and blind-spot monitoring.
The Technology package ($2,500) adds lane-departure warning, forward-collision warning, smart cruise control, surround-view monitor, electric parking brake and HID headlights.
The styling has strong lines and stance without trying to cut us with edginess or exaggeration. The Snow White Pearl paint is a $200 upgrade and a handsome contrast with the interior’s black, fabric headliner and panoramic roof, which has a sunroof and a rear fixed pane. Materials and assembly, inside and out, are high quality with precisely aligned panels and seams.
The driving position is commanding with good sightlines made even better with the surround-view monitor, with front and overhead views. The gauges are large and easily viewed in all lighting conditions. There are plenty of cup holders, a tray for a phone or two with charging ports and a locking, lighted glove box. The visors extend and have lighted mirrors. The seats are comfortably bolstered and all-day comfortable. Front head and leg room dimensions are generous at 39.5/44.1 inches. And the ride height allows gracious entry and exits for nearly all sizes of drivers.
The 60/40-split back seat is also comfy with up to 39 inches of legroom, supportive seats with reclining backs and a flat floor, though the center seat is perched and narrow for grown-ups. The SX includes heated window seats and window sunshades.
The easy-fold 50/50 split third row allows for flat storage in the cargo area — good for a kennel crate and enhanced with third row air conditioning. There also are remote releases for the second row seatbacks and some usable subfloor storage.
For less than $50,000, the Sorento SX Limited is a luxury car that happens to be a crossover SUV with a 5,000-pound tow rating, all-wheel-drive, seating for seven and fuel economy that beats the EPA rating.
Kia is now beating the American brands at their best game.
Mark Maynard is online at email@example.com. Find photo galleries and more news at Facebook.com/MaynardsGarage