By Barbara & Bill Schaffer
We?ve driven each new Kia model since the South Korean company opened their first four U.S. dealerships in Portland, Oregon in 1994. Initially the only car they offered was the compact Sepia sedan followed a couple years later by the Sportage compact SUV. While the major appeal of those early Kia models was their low price, little else was noteworthy. However, that has changed dramatically over the years; there are now 14 models and every time we drive a new one, we find dramatic improvements in features, performance, design and quality. And it?s working at the dealerships; too, Kia is now the 8th largest automotive brand in the U.S.
One of the latest Kia models to get a makeover is the Sorento. It originally debuted as a 2003 model built on a truck frame like most of the other sport utilities of that period. During the seven year run of the first generation Sorento it was constantly improved and refined building a very good reputation. In 2009, Kia made another major leap forward offering an unprecedented warranty which included 10 year/100,000 mile power train coverage.
The second generation Sorento was rolled out in 2010 and became the first Kia built in the U.S. at their new $1 billion West Point, Georgia plant. This new model was one of the first to have the Kia trademark Tiger Nose grille, the UVO infotainment system and it was built on a contemporary unibody platform.
The 2016 Kia Sorento (the third generation) arrived at the 765 U.S. dealerships earlier this year and we recently spent a week driving the SX-Limited all-wheel drive model. When we test an especially comfortable or interesting vehicle we think ?road trip?, and the new Sorento called out for a trip to the Oregon coast.
All new for 2016, the Sorento is Kia?s third best-selling model, just behind the Optima and Soul. The new design is evolutionary carrying some of the similar lines from the previous generation with a sampling of design cues from the Kia Cross GT concept that was shown at the Chicago Auto Show in 2013. The new design is slightly larger — three inches in length and wheelbase. These changes translate to more interior space for the three row configuration and more cargo space. The front end is distinguished with distinctive new LED positioning lights, and the overall look is more masculine and aerodynamic.
?The all-new Sorento has been passionately designed and obsessively crafted, delivering class-up premium materials and features in a more capable package,? said Orth Hedrick, vice president, Product Planning, KMA.? ?Increased use of advanced high-strength steel and additional structural reinforcement have resulted in improved torsional rigidity, which pays dividends behind the wheel in the form of better ride comfort and driving dynamics. ?Couple that with significant reductions in NVH and it?s clear that the 2016 Sorento sets Kia?s new standard for the blending of refinement and capability.?
We were impressed by the new plush interior. Cover the Kia badge on the steering wheel and shoppers would probably think it is one of the luxury brands. The rich Merlot Nappa leather seats in our test vehicle have a diamond perforated pattern and heated and ventilated in the front. The dash materials are stitched and the interior is accented with bright trims. Kia designers did a good job on control placement of the large, well-marked buttons on the center stack, console and on the steering wheel.
Second row seating has snug accommodations for three average size adults, and the third row (standard on V-6 models) is best suited for a couple of smaller passengers, even with the extra four-inches of legroom. The middle row seat backs are split (different configurations for different models) allowing the cargo space to be increased from 11.3 cubic feet behind the third row and 38.0 cubic feet behind the second row up to a total 73 cubic feet when the rear seats and seatbacks are folded.
The 2016 Kia Sorento is offered with three engine choices: a 185-hp 2.4-liter four-cylinder, a turbocharged 240-hp 2.0-liter four-cylinder and a 290-hp V-6. All three engines have aluminum blocks and cylinder heads with DOHC cam and variable valve systems. All three run on regular fuel and have an electronically controlled six-speed automatic transmission with a Sportmatic manual shifting mode. Front-wheel drive is standard on all models with an optional ($1,800) full-time all-wheel drive on all models but the L. The AWD system has a new Torque Vector Corning Control system to help cornering the ability. It is activated when sensors detected unwanted understeer.
Our test vehicle had the turbocharged four-cylinder engine which lists and EPA fuel economy of 19 mpg city, 25 mpg highway and 22 mpg combined. On our drive to the coast and back we averaged 23.6 mpg driving near the speed limit. Buff magazines list the turbo 0 to 60 mph acceleration at 8.0 seconds. The V-6 hits 60 mpg in 7.2 seconds and has a fuel economy rating of 18/26/21 mpg. The towing capacities are 2,000- 3,500- and 5,000-pounds respectively for the 2.4 liter, 2.0-turbo and V-6 engines.
The Kia Sorento handling is significantly improved thanks to extensive use of high-strength steel and a liberal use of industrial-strength adhesives which were used to stiffen the platform and body structure. Combined with redesigned suspensions this creates a more comfortable ride and quieter interior especially on smooth surfaces. The steering is positive with good feedback and the brakes were solid during quick stops. There is a little bit of body roll in tighter corners, but that?s normal for SUVs. Passing power is good with the turbo four-cylinder engine, but the V-6 would be much better and an obvious choice for more spirited driving.
Kia has zeroed in on most of new safety and convenience technologies like active cruise control, surround view monitor, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, electric parking brake, blind spot warning, power liftgate, rear cross alert, navigation and many others but they are only available as options on the Limited models.
The available UVO eServices adds a full suite of infotainment services including features like Siri? Eyes Free, Sirius XM Travel Link, music services like Pandora and many other entertainment and information sources. New to UVO this year is Geo-Fencing, Speed Alert, Curfew Alert and Driving Score which we assume are for parents who have children of driving age.
Sorento models include the L, LX, EX, SX-Limited, EX V6, SX V6 and SX-Limited V6. Pricing ranges from $25,795, including the destination charge, for the Sorento L with front-wheel drive up to $43,995 for the SX-Limited V6 with AWD. With all the available options the later model gets very close to $48,000, which is still a good price when compared with similarly equipped competitors.
The 2016 Kia Sorento is one of the best small SUVs on the market. It has good styling, workmanship looks good and it?s certainly comfortable, quiet and enjoyable to drive. Plus, how can you go wrong with the best warranty in the business.