On the Road Review: Kia Sorento SX X-Line

After the outstanding success of its Telluride full-size crossover, Kia has rolled out a vastly updated Sorento midsize family wagon that builds on the Telluride’s formula.

Still a three-row midsize crossover, despite being the same size as its two-row Hyundai Santa Fe sibling, the new Sorento offers revised powertrains, including a hybrid and plug-in hybrid model, as well as a sportier, beefier off-road prepared X-line trim, like this week’s test vehicle.

So far this year, the latest Sorento has helped Kia sell 43 percent more crossovers than last year — many of them made in the USA.

Pricing starts at just over $29,000 for a front-drive S model, topping out at $43,965 for our fully equipped SX AWD with X-line. In between there are LX, EX and SX-Prestige models using three engines; a 191-hp 2.5-liter is the standard motor, a 1.6-liter turbo-four with 227-hp is used for hybrid propulsion, while a turbocharged version of the 2.5-liter engine, 281 hp, is available on top trims. A plug-in hybrid version arrives this fall.

Wearing upgraded styling front and rear, including new-design LED lighting fore and aft, the Sorento gets chassis upgrades to its fully independent suspension (20-inch wheels, 1-inch lift for X-Line) as well as a handsome new interior. Subtle, but impressive additions around the cabin will please many buyers.

Up front, the detailing and finish work on our SX sample belies the vehicle’s price point. This interior would be right at home in the luxury segment.

There are eight distinct directional air vents — four for the driver, four for the front passenger — that push heated or cooled air right to where you want it. You get a wireless charger pad, a spacious and functional console, plus the concise, easy-to-use controls, buttons and knobs that Kia is smartly offering. The entertainment screen, with navigation, Bose stereo and numerous apps, is 10.25 inches wide and won’t tax your brain to utilize.

The second-row sliding, reclining captain’s chairs move forward for easy third-row access with one finger engaging the release button on top. There are USB ports in the back of each front seat, knee, hip and elbow room are ample, and the door sports a tall slot at the bottom for large bottles, while the armrest offers a second spot for a drink, phone or whatever. Overhead is a huge dual-panel sunroof.

While third-row seats will accommodate adults, it had best be brief. The cushions are very low, with your knees high, yet access is relatively simple, so the Sorento continues on as a medium-sized crossover with capacity for six in a sea full of much larger wagons. Under the power liftgate, the rear seats recline with a quick pull of a strap, creating a wide, flat load floor, plus you can lower the second-row seats from here as well, just by punching the release button on the sidewall. Very convenient.

Back at the helm, the Sorento SX offers Kia/Hyundai’s innovative Lane Change/Blind Spot Camera system. The dash displays whichever side of the vehicle corresponds with your directional signal, plus you get the full portfolio of Kia’s Drivewise Driver Assist technology: forward collision avoidance, Smart Cruise, Safe Exit, Parking distance sensors, lane change, Stop & Go, rear occupant reminder and more. The front leather seats are heated and cooled, the steering wheel is also heated and, of course, there is keyless ignition.

Equally impressive is the Sorento’s driving performance. Steering response is spot-on in this segment, with better feedback than most competitors. Body roll rarely rears its ugly head, while the ride compliance is very good. The 2.5-liter Turbo produces strong power whenever you summon the engine room for more forward momentum, while the Kia is serene at speed. The dual clutch eight-speed automatic is new and shifts smoothly. X-Line adds additional drive modes for snow, off-road, etc. as well as a locking center differential, while EPA estimates are 21/28/24 mpg, with a realized 26 mpg.

Two protests, however. Kia insists (along with other automakers) on reverting to standardized screen formats whenever you start your vehicle, and not retaining what you previously selected. And, many functions turned on, or off, also revert back to what someone wants you to have. I prefer that selections remain for what I want to do, not what the vehicle wants.

And a couple of times, there was a bit more hesitation than a harried driver trying to quickly merge in busy traffic might want, with the turbo slow to spool up, or the transmission slow to downshift — or both. But one could chalk that up to the newness of our sample vehicle and it not yet “learning” a particular driving style.

Nice new shape, nice proportions and space inside, great features and execution and still a shocking value, the new Sorento mirrors the Telluride formula to a T.

Tim Plouff

Tim Plouff

Columnist at The Ellsworth American
Tim Plouff has been reviewing automobiles in the pages of The Ellsworth American weekly for nearly two decades.

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