The Car Connection Kia Sorento Overview
The Kia Sorento is a mid-size crossover SUV with seating for up to seven passengers in three rows of seats.
The Sorento is offered in many configurations, with a choice of 4- or 6-cylinder engines and optional all-wheel drive.
Over its lifespan, the Sorento has evolved from its traditional SUV roots to become a more modern, car-like crossover SUV. It's the same switch made with its Hyundai cousins, the Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport.
The Sorento faces off against a raft of competitors including the Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge and Explorer, the Nissan Murano, and the Dodge Journey. Of course, its half-siblings, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe, should be considered as well.
MORE: Read our 2017 Kia Sorento review
The new Kia Sorento
Kia introduced a new Sorento at the 2014 Paris auto show. The third-generation model arrived in the U.S. as a 2016 model. Styling is an evolution of the previous model, with all of Kia's latest brand cues mixed in.
The Sorento's engine lineup has expanded to three choices: an improved version of the 2.4-liter 4-cylinder, the same 3.3-liter V-6 from before, and a new 2.0-liter turbocharged inline-4. The wheelbase has been stretched 3.1 inches, and the chassis has been reinforced and strengthened to improve handling and ride. The new Sorento also carries additional standard and optional features, such as a surround-view camera system, power-adjustable second-row seats, and several advanced-safety items.
Initial impressions are that this model is much more refined than its predecessor, with a very nicely finished interior and improved materials. The styling has also become more cohesive, owing some to the fact that Kia's brand identity has finally reached a point of maturity. Like other new Kias, it offers three driving modes: Sport, Normal, and Eco. They tailor engine, transmission, and steering settings based on the selected mode.
In line with the competition—or perhaps slightly below it—prices for the current Sorento start at about $26,000, though a heavy hand on the options list will drive that above $30,000 quickly and the top models go for more than $40,000.
Kia Sorento history
In its first generation, which was sold from 2003 to 2010, the Sorento was a body-on-frame SUV instead of using a carlike unibody to create a crossover. This decision hurt the model some, as many families prioritize the interior space, ride, and handling of a crossover over towing and off-road capability offered by a traditional sport-utility and its truck-like frame.
One of two V-6 engines—a 242-horsepower 3.3-liter and a 262-hp 3.8-liter—was matched to a 5-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive capabilities were offered on both, but the system for the smaller engine was part-time rather than full 4WD. Towing capacities were 3,500 and 5,000 pounds, respectively, for the smaller and larger engines. Fuel economy, however, was just 16/22 mpg city/highway with the smaller engine, and a dismal 15/20 mpg with the larger.
The 2011 Kia Sorento switched from old truck-style body-and-frame construction to a car-based platform. Many of its mechanicals were closely related to those in its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe. Production also moved to Georgia. And like many of its competitors, it offered a choice among two 4-cylinders and a V-6, rather than two sizes of V-6. The 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with 6-speed automatic is rated at up to 26 mpg highway. The 175-hp, 2.4-liter four was rated at up to 29 mpg highway and came with either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic, while a direct-injection version, new for the 2012 model year, had 191 hp and EPA-rated highway mileage of up to 30 mpg. Front-wheel-drive was standard, with all-wheel drive available on all except the base manual-transmission version.
All Sorentos in this generation came well-equipped, with air conditioning, cruise control, satellite radio, and a tilt/telescoping steering wheel standard. A third-row seat became standard on V-6 models. The EX model added 18-inch wheels and a host of electronics, including keyless ignition, backup sensors, automatic headlamps, leather seating, and a power driver’s seat. Options included navigation, a better audio system, a sunroof, a DVD entertainment system, and Kia's voice-command UVO system.
While its outward appearance didn't change much, the 2014 Kia Sorento got a substantial mid-cycle refresh. Updates included a re-engineered body structure, a new 290-hp, 3.3-liter direct-injected V-6 engine (in addition to the 191-hp inline-4), improved versions of the available all-wheel drive system, and a long list of new features. The front and rear end were restyled, and the Sorento's infotainment systems were upgraded. The systems offered 8.0-inch screens, Infinity premium audio, real-time traffic info, and next-gen UVO eServices features.
For 2014, a top Sorento SX model added Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, as well as HID headlamps and more on the outside. Other new features included second-row sunshades, ventilated seats, and a power inverter.