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- Tight, "vault-like" feel
- Generous feature set
- Responsive, economical 2.0T
- Quiet cabin
- Short, bench-like second-row seats
- Can't get a third-row seat and turbo-4 engine together
- Active-safety features not widely available
The 2017 Kia Sorento stays true to its high-value roots, but it's grown up in refinement and comfort.
Last year the Kia Sorento received a full redesign, with completely new sheet metal, a new body structure, a newly available turbocharged inline-4 engine, plus modest gains in interior space and major gains in general cabin comfort and ride quality.
The catch was that the Kia Sorento didn't look all that much different than the model from the previous year; for so long now, the Sorento has been on such a lock-step evolutionary path that the changes fit right in with the series of minor updates the Sorento's had in recent years. For 2017, it's available in a wide array of L, LX, EX, SX, and SXL trim levels.
We give the Sorento a rating of 7.3 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Kia Sorento styling and performance
But it's a lot more than that, with every bit of sheet metal and every piece of trim changed. The exterior melts right into the family-crossover tapestry, and that could be a positive or a negative depending on your own priorities. From the outside, the redesign is so evolutionary that it’s easy to let your mind fill in the lines—from all but the side, perhaps. Inside, the redesign is a lot easier to see at first glance. The cabin of the 2017 Sorento has been quite dramatically tidied-up and made more sophisticated, with more soft-touch trims all around—wherever front occupants are expected to typically touch—and climate and navigation/audio controls are cordoned off into nice, neat control pods.
The 2017 Sorento still offers a third-row seat, to bump its capacity from five up to seven if you so desire. With a length and wheelbase about 3 inches longer than the previous 2015-and-earlier model, the Sorento at last graduates from the in-between size class it's occupied for more than a decade, somewhat larger than the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4.
The Kia Sorento has a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-4 and a 290-hp, a 3.3-liter V-6, or a turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 making 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. All three powertrains include a 6-speed automatic transmission and can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. While the V-6 might have 50 more horsepower, the 2.0T model is the one that actually feels perkier in most types of driving—all but off-the-line acceleration.
Kia Sorento comfort, features, and fuel economy
From the driver’s seat, it’s easy to feel that there’s been major improvement in the way this re-engineered model responds and performs. Steering is much-improved versus the previous Sorento, and previous Kias in general, and in particular there’s better tracking on center, plus better brake feel, a suspension that keeps a firm, composed ride, and an all-new body structure that’s far stiffer, with more than double the high-strength steel. Altogether, the Sorento has what Kia set out to achieve: a vault-like, German-style ride and the a heftier, more confident feel in general—even though the lineup has lost some weight.
Off-roading isn’t entirely in the Sorento’s playbook, but it has all the right moves for "soft roading" or snowy conditions—including 7.3 inches of ground clearance, and a diff-lock mode that splits the power 50/50. All models of the Sorento are up for towing; and for V-6 models, that’s up to 5,000 pounds.
Seats have been redesigned all around, and in front the driving position relative to the dash has changed. In top SX and S-L models, the driver’s seat now has extendable thigh bolsters—definitely of use to taller drivers. Second-row accommodations are essentially the same for two- and three-row versions, although you get an underseat storage system in two-row models. In any case, it’s a little too hard and short for adults to be comfortable over a long day—although the third row will do just fine for a quick dinner outing, if passengers there aren't too tall.
Value and features for the money have always been a big deal for Kia. The automaker is clearly reaching upmarket here; but there's still a base 2017 Kia Sorento L, offered only with the 2.4-liter engine and front-wheel drive, but it’s a different animal than the upper-trim models, omitting things like UVO audio, roof rails, and acoustic glass entirely; but it’s offered for about $26,000—a great value LX and EX models are the heart of the market, and EX models can be had with the turbocharged inline-4 or the V-6. SX and SXL models are only offered in V-6 trim. At the top of the lineup, the SXL gets a nappa leather interior and 19-inch chrome-finish wheels.
SX and SXL models get an Infinity 10-speaker sound system that’s been tuned to get the best sound out of digital files, while upper trims get a full navigation system with live traffic and most models in the lineup come with UVO eServices capability, with apps for Yelp, Pandora, and other services. Lane departure warning, frontal crash warning, surround-view cameras, and adaptive are all available on all but the L.