2015 Kia Sorento Review

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The Car Connection Expert Review

Marty Padgett Marty Padgett Editorial Director
May 27, 2015

The 2015 Kia Sorento gets a little better each year, and its combination of elegance, versatility, and value makes it a great pick for families.

The 2015 Kia Sorento is a thoroughly modern mid-size crossover, and it's fair to say that while Kia's cars have improved in pronounced steps along the way, the Sorento has gotten there on more of a constant improvement plan. Nearly every year has brought a set of incremental changes.

While a fully redesigned 2016 Sorento already waits in the wings, the 2015 Sorento builds a bit on the extensive makeover it got inside and under the hood last year. when nearly 80 percent of the parts were claimed to be redesigned or new.

Inside, the classy cabin look and feel took a big step in an elegant new direction—one that's now been reiterated in the new Cadenza and K900 sedans. Although its sheetmetal looks essentially the same as it has for the past several years, the Sorento's interior feels fresh and contemporary. It's been relieved of most of the inexpensive-looking plastics that worked well enough for the past few years, and covered in finer, soft-touch materials, polished off with thin, spare metallic trim.

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There are some exceptions on the outside. For 2015, the Sorento gets a somewhat different grille design, with either an anodized silver-metal or black mesh look; the lower valance also has been opened up and gets a cross-hatched look, while LED front lamps and projector headlamps have a new look and the available fog lamps have been pushed farther out to the corners.

Most 2015 Sorento models are powered by an all-aluminum 3.3-liter GDI V-6, making 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. A 191-hp, 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder engine is standard, but likely to be rare--and rightly so, since the V-6 almost matches it on gas mileage, and far outpoints it in pure power. The Sorento delivers its power to the road with the help of a well-sorted six-speed automatic transmission; it's either configured with front-wheel drive or with an enhanced torque-vectoring version of the all-wheel-drive system. The Sorento gets speed-sensitive electric power steering that on some trims is driver-adjustable through a range of three modes (Comfort, Normal, and Sport), to nominal effect. With a more rigid body structure, a front strut-tower brace, and a new independent front suspension with an H-shaped sub-frame cradle--plus new bushings for the multi-link rear suspension--Kia made some major advances in ride quality and responsiveness with last year's revamp.

The 2015 Kia Sorento comes in four versions: LX, EX, SX, and SX-L. LX models are offered in four-cylinder or V-6 versions, while all LX, EX, SX, and SX-L models are equipped with the V-6. The fold-away third-row seat is optional on four-cylinder LX models but standard on the rest of the model line. All-wheel drive is on every model.

All versions get standard Bluetooth, satellite radio, and power features; a panoramic sunroof is a new option. The top Sorento SX Limited adds some of the top-lux features gained by the Optima SX this past year; it includes Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, plus a soft-touch headliner. On the outside it’s distinguished by its HID headlamps, red-painted brake calipers and special 19-inch chrome wheels.

Automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and UVO can all be had, bundled together, in the base LX. It's a smartphone-driven setup that can offer Google mapping and helpful functions like service scheduling and a parking-lot finder, all free of charge. For 2015 you no longer have to upgrade to Infinity audio and the enhanced UVO system in order to get navigation.

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2015 Kia Sorento

Styling

The Sorento gets a refreshed look in front for 2015, to match the contemporary interior upgrade it received last year.

Last year, the Kia Sorento showed off some major change, with a classy new cabin that took a big step in an elegant new direction--one that's now been reiterated in the new Cadenza and K900 sedans.

Although its sheetmetal looks essentially the same as it has for the past several years, the Sorento's interior feels fresh and contemporary. It's been relieved of most of the inexpensive-looking plastics that worked well enough for the past few years, and covered in finer, soft-touch materials, polished off with thin, spare metallic trim. Last year's changes included a somewhat reshaped instrument panel that makes room for a larger LCD screen; likewise, the gauges are recast so that an LCD screen will fit there, on more expensive models. Although the woodgrain trim you'll see on some trims still comes down on the inauthentic side, there's now a substantial feel to the interior that does match the way the Sorento has gradually creeped upward in market position (and price) the past several years.

As for the exterior, it's only changed modestly in recent years. And overall, the Sorento's design impresses as simply drawn and minimally detailed, with some trim at the sills giving it a heftier look. The 2015 Sorento cuts a more rugged profile than most of the crossovers of its size, but it's met with some nice, refined details. For 2015, the Sorento gets a somewhat different new grille design, with either an anodized silver-metal or black mesh look; the lower valance also has been opened up and gets a cross-hatched look, while LED front lamps and projector headlamps have a new look and the available fog lamps have been pushed farther out to the corners.

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7

2015 Kia Sorento

Performance

Sophisticated ride and handling are strengths here--although the powertrains perform respectably.

The current generation of the Kia Sorento has been offering up well-rounded and thoroughly competent but relatively mild performance ever since it was first introduced in 2011. Although its relatively stiff ride has been one of its more obvious shortfalls, that issue was soothed somewhat last year, and especially in V-6 versions we now think the Sorento is a strong, sophisticated-driving crossover.

The direct-injection four-cylinder is still the base engine on the Sorento, however. As rare as it's likely to be, it's worth a look, given our past experience with it. The carryover four-cylinder has 191 hp and 181 pound-feet of torque, both lean figures for a vehicle weighing in at more than 3600 pounds. Coupled to the standard six-speed automatic, the four-cylinder is offered with front- or all-wheel drive, and hangs on to its slight advantage in price and gas mileage though it's unlikely to break the 10-second 0-60 mph mark with any more than one passenger on board.

Nearly all versions of the Sorento come with a 3.3-liter V-6, as shared with the long-wheelbase Hyundai Santa Fe. Here it makes 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, and it has plenty of gusto to move this family vehicle quickly, even with a full load. Fuel economy isn't far off that of the four-cylinder models, either.

As for that entry engine, it's perky enough most of the time, with 191 hp and 181 lb-ft f torque, but it can feel overwhelmed with a full load, and the six-speed automatic transmission doesn't feel quite as quick to react.

The V-6 works smoothly and efficiently that transmission; though there's a sport-shift mode hanging off the shift lever, it's not very likely you'll need to use it--especially with six other passengers.

Kia has made some meaningful improvements to how the Sorento connects with the road; last year the Sorento got better handling from a stiffer body structure, through variable-effort electric power steering, as well as additional bracing and more isolation in the suspension design. There's also a simulated torque-vectoring application for the anti-lock brakes that clamps down on an inside wheel to help tighten the Sorento's line through corners.

If you get one of the models with all-wheel drive (keep in mind this isn't an off-road-oriented system), the on-demand system can send torque from the front to the back wheels just as the fronts slip, with a locking differential fixes the split evenly for tackling the worst weather.

All versions have a detectable improvement in ride quality--no more pounding or thumping harshly over smaller road bumps, though new 19-inch wheels cut into that gain--and the SX versions with three-mode steering feel more engaging just from the presence of weight in Sport mode. We'd leave it in normal or comfort most of the time, but sometimes even a token gesture is a welcome one.

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8

2015 Kia Sorento

Comfort & Quality

Don't consider the third row for adults, you'll find plenty of adult-size space in the first two rows.

The 2015 Kia Sorento is a vehicle that's family sized, albeit modestly so. At around 184 inches long, riding on a wheelbase of 106.3 inches, it's shorter than most mid-size sedans, although there's plenty of room for five passengers in the base configuration. Get the available third-row seat and you'll have space for two more, but they'll need to be quite small.

Last year the Sorento didn't look much different on the outside, but it went through a quiet transformation inside and underneath. Kia claimed that the refreshed Sorento was 80 percent new, with modest improvements in legroom for those in the second and third rows, as well as dramatic improvements to interior trim and the dash layout. 

What hasn't changed is that Kia provides a very good driving position and passenger space in front. With good bolstering and wide cushions, as well as good adjustment range to the steering column, it's easy to find a comfortable position. No hard points make contact with the redesigned center stack of the dash, and the footwells are mostly flat. Step up to higher trim grades like the SX, and you get power adjustment, heating, and ventilation--all touches that have become increasingly common in today's premium SUVs but are still relatively rare in affordable models like this.

Passenger space in the second row is only habitable, although the Sorento doesn't have the twin captain's-chairs layout of the similar Hyundai Santa Fe. The bench seat does adjust to flex leg room between the second and third rows, and by Kia's reckoning, there's more than an inch of additional leg room behind the front seats--we think, primarily, from redesigned seats. The second-row bench has available heaters for the outboard positions (which also recline), and it's split 40/20/40.

As for the optional third-row seat, it's purely a kid zone. By interior volume, the 2015 Sorento is considerably smaller than any of the bigger three-row utes--the Pilot, the Ford Flex, and the Chevy Traverse--and it shows in the rearmost row, which has minimal head and leg room for even small adults. There's less than 10 cubic feet of space behind it for cargo; although if you keep that row folded down, as most are likely to do anyhow, that rises to about 36 cubic feet.

Thanks to last year's thorough rework inside, the cabin delivers a much stronger impression of quality than before; and that extends to noise levels as well. There's just a little tire noise audible from the back (the third row especially), while powertrain noises are nicely subdued on V-6 models and the materials are a finer grade, particularly on the pricey SX-L.

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8

2015 Kia Sorento

Safety

The 2015 Kia Sorento remains one of the best-rated models in its class for occupant safety.

Family vehicles need to ace all the safety ratings. And rest assured, the 2015 Kia Sorento has done exactly that.

In tests from both the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), it's earned nearly all top scores. In federal NHTSA testing, it earns five stars overall, with only a single four-star rollover-resistance rating keeping it from perfection. And as for the IIHS, the Sorento gets mostly 'good' ratings from that agency. The one thing that keeps it from doing any better than the '8' we've given it is its bottom-of-the-heap 'poor' rating in the IIHS small overlap frontal impact test.

The 2015 Sorento includes all the expected airbags, as well as an electronic stability system. It also has a driver knee airbag and Bluetooth as standard equipment, while a rearview camera is an option on the Sorento LX and EX. Although there's a caution for those who are holding specs up against some of the rival crossover models: Its third-row seat isn't covered by its curtain airbags.

But there are plenty of safety features that will help keep you out of trouble, and visibility is quite good from the driver's seat. Blind-spot monitors, which alert the driver if vehicles are approaching in out-of-sight places, are available on the LX and EX and standard on the Sorento SX. And parking sensors, another handy feature for close quarters, are an option on the LX and standard on all other trim levels.

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2015 Kia Sorento

Features

The 2015 Sorento offers an impressive array of features for the money--and now UVO connectivity and the navigation system can be had separately.

The 2015 Kia Sorento comes in four versions: LX, EX, SX, and SX-L. LX models are offered in four-cylinder or V-6 versions, while all LX, EX, SX, and SX-L models are equipped with the V-6. The fold-away third-row seat is optional on four-cylinder LX models but standard on the rest of the model line. All-wheel drive is on every model.

Even if you stick with the base LX model, you get quite the list of standard equipment. All models include conveniences like power locks, windows, and mirrors; air conditioning; cruise control; 17-inch wheels; Bluetooth; tilt/telescoping steering; steering-wheel audio controls; and a sound system with AM/FM/XM/CD, auxiliary and USB ports.

Automatic climate control, a rearview camera, and UVO can all be had, bundled together, in the base LX. It's a smartphone-driven setup that can offer Google mapping and helpful functions like service scheduling and a parking-lot finder, all free of charge. Although for 2015 you no longer have to upgrade to Infinity audio and the enhanced UVO system in order to get navigation.

On the Sorento EX, you get a large 7-inch LCD screen between the gauges for secondary display of navigation; 18-inch wheels; fog lamps; a leather-wrapped steering wheel; a 115-volt power outlet; and a power driver seat and heating for both front seats. Options include a panoramic sunroof, a power passenger seat, and ventilation for both front seats.

The Sorento SX gets 19-inch wheels; panoramic sunroof; roof rails; navigation; an Infinity audio system; ventilated front seats; and a power tailgate standard.

The SX Limited tops off the lineup with 19-inch chrome wheels, red-painted brake calipers, and inside, Nappa leather seats, a wood-trimmed and heated steering wheel, and heated rear seats as standard equipment.

Infinity audio is optional on the EX and standard on SX and SX-L models. Other options include push-button start, a power tailgate, and blind-spot monitors and reverse parking sensors.

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7

2015 Kia Sorento

Fuel Economy

Mileage ratings are only average for the four-cylinder versions of the Sorento; but they're more impressive with the V-6, compared to those of rival models.

The 2015 Kia Sorento is mid-pack with respect to fuel economy, where its numbers are about on par compared with those of other mid-size crossovers.

That said, its powertrain changes last year phased in better mileage than this model had in the first half of its life cycle, with six-cylinder versions faring as well as other three-row crossovers.

Base four-cylinder models with front-wheel drive are rated at 20 miles per gallon on the EPA's city cycle, 27 miles per gallon highway, or 23 mpg combined when fitted with the four-cylinder engine and automatic transmission. The numbers drop to 18/25 mpg, or 21 mpg combined in the six-cylinder Sorento with the automatic transmission.

Compared to vehicles like the Toyota Highlander or the new Nissan Pathfinder, the Sorento's combined figures are in line, when it's outfitted with the six-cylinder engine. As a four-cylinder five-seater, the Sorento's simply pitted against more efficient and sometimes smaller-displacement offerings. Ford's Edge, for example, offers a turbocharged four-cylinder rated at up to 28 mpg highway; the Toyota Venza isn't far off that mark.

The all-wheel-drive Sorento is rated by the EPA at 19/25 mpg, or 22 mpg combined as a four-cylinder, and 18/24 mpg, or 20 mpg combined, as a six-cylinder.

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December 20, 2016
2015 Kia Sorento AWD 4-Door V6 SX Limited

I love my Kia!

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The 2015 Sorento is great! Fuel economy is surprising for an SUV, my only complaint is that there is no heat by your feet when your windshield heater is on
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February 2, 2016
2015 Kia Sorento AWD 4-Door I4 LX

I love my KIA..

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I previously owned a 2008 Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo and I thought that this vehicle was great, that is until I test drove the 2015 KIA Sorento lx with a 4 cyl. I instantly knew that I was going to buy this... + More »
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October 15, 2015
2015 Kia Sorento AWD 4-Door I4 LX

Disappointed!

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I bought a 2015 used Kia and already having problems with the power train and the warranty is only good for the first 3 months you own it. Should've bought another car!
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October 9, 2015
2015 Kia Sorento AWD 4-Door V6 LX

Fantastic SUV!!!

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Love this car. Safe and luxurious, lots of power. Great on the highway.
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July 29, 2015
2015 Kia Sorento 2WD 4-Door V6 LX

Comforable fit. easy to drive, goes where I want without a complaint ..what else is there?

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Kia is NOT a spectacular 0-60 in less than 2 secs, cannot reach 202 mph, cannot leap buildings in a single bound as Superman can type of car but it is reliable, comfortable, cabin is well put together, all... + More »
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June 10, 2015
For 2015 Kia Sorento

No worries.

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Sits up high, smooth performance. Has more balls and better gas mileage on premium fuel.
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May 12, 2015
2015 Kia Sorento AWD 4-Door V6 EX

Comfortable vehicle with horsepower, decent gas mileage and respectable towing capacity.

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I like the vehicle for the 3500lb towing capacity coupled with the decent gas mileage and it's reputable reliability that gets better year over year!
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April 21, 2015
For 2015 Kia Sorento

that 2.2 diesel is excellent.

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Love to drive it. Such comfy 4x4. Had Hyundai Santa Fe before and didnt want anything else, but managet to blow the engine, so had to.. and as Kia is from the same family but looks way better I went for it... + More »
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April 17, 2015
For 2015 Kia Sorento

Beautiful, reliable SUV

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Riding in the SX model KIA Sorento means being pampered right from the moment you push the start button. With soft heated leather seats and heated steering wheel, cold morning starts are a pleasure and the... + More »
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February 14, 2015
For 2015 Kia Sorento

everything for your money

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Overall excellent performance and ride and total safety. ..
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