On the Road Review: Kia Sorento X-Line SX-Prestige

Georgetown is like many coastal Maine towns, with multiple villages comprising the expansive waterfront community. From Bay Point to Robinhood, and Georgetown Island to Five Islands, there are coves, inlets, ponds and three major rivers — Kennebec, Sasanoa and Sheepscot — to feast your eyes upon, as well as to pursue your leisure activity. Add Reid State Park’s expansive sand beaches and Georgetown is an aquatic dream.

Except — down every road is limited, if any, public access to all of this water. Other than a large seasonal marina and one kayak ramp for residents only, accessing Georgetown’s H2O is a challenge. It makes one think of the old Downeast saying “You can’t get there from here.”

The same can’t be said of Kia’s redesigned Sorento. Slightly smaller than the previous edition, lighter too, this midsize crossover excels at every requested task. Still equipped with a third row of seats — which can actually fit adults — the Sorento is a polished, smooth driver with lithe road manners, a supple suspension and responsive steering. It wasn’t always this good with Kia.

All tarted up in top X-Line SX-Prestige trim — with virtually the whole portfolio included — the Sorento’s sticker price ($45,120) is $2,000 less than the average new car transaction price in America. Easy to say here — this is a real-deal bargain.

After probing the leafless byways of Georgetown, the rest of the week included engaging drives into the woods of Amherst and Great Pond for hiking, a parts run to Hamilton Marine in Searsport for boating supplies, plus the usual forays into Ellsworth and up and down the superslab. Realized fuel economy from the refined, and potent, turbocharged 2.5-liter engine (281 hp) was 25 mpg — right in the middle of the EPA estimates of 22/27 mpg for the AWD wagon with its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic.

Kia’s all-around improvement in chassis functionality is perhaps the most notable differentiator in its recent offerings like the Telluride, Stinger and this Sorento, yet buyers will be just as impressed by the layout of the interior. Excellent attention to subtle detailing is evident throughout, from the textures and materials to the comfort and the quietness, while something as basic as the tactile feel of controls and switches is clearly a point of emphasis. Again, a clear value quotient.

Small points that impress abound, from the rear wiper neatly tucked under the upper lip of the liftgate — always free from dirt and ice — to the one-touch button to flip the heated second-row bucket seats forward for third-row access. Who hasn’t attempted this exercise with one arm fully engaged in another activity and then cursed the clumsiness of needing both hands for a simple chore?

There are USB ports for all six seating positions. There are eight multidirectional vents in the front dash. SX trim adds blind-spot cameras in the dash — if you ever run over anything next to you with these, you are a horrible driver.

Base LX, front-drive pricing starts at just over $30,000 with the non-turbo 191-hp 2.5-liter-four. Add $3,000 for S trim, while the base hybrid model, front-drive only, starts at just over $35,000 with 227 hp and EPA ratings of 39/35 mpg. Later this year, a plug-in hybrid model joins the lineup, with standard AWD and 261 hp via a larger electric motor. Kia promises 32 miles of electric only operation with a 79-MPGe rating.

Besides the expected luxuries with SX-Prestige trim — two-tone leather seating, giant dual-panel sunroof, selectable drive modes for the AWD, 360-degree view rear camera, remote starting and access, power liftgate, LED lighting, plus navigation and a plethora of electronic driving aids, X-Line trim includes 20-inch matte finish wheels, roof rails, Bose premium audio, perforated leather seating upgrade, heated front and rear seating plus steering wheel, ventilated front power seats as well as front and rear parking assist electronics. Wolf Gray Paint, $445, plus X-Line interior trim accents (to match the luscious seats), $200, and all-weather mats, $210, round out the Sorento.

Buyers will compare Sorento size-wise and features to the Jeep Grand Cherokee, Chevy Blazer, Ford Edge, Honda Passport or even the Lexus RX. Only the Sorento offers third-row seating in base trim, and no rival has a plug-in hybrid offering; only the Lexus has a hybrid powertrain of any type right now vs. the Kia. The Sorento’s content, warranty and base price outpace every rival.

Pleasant to drive, nice to ride in and easy to look at and live with, the Sorento — one of my 10 favorite vehicles from 2021 — is admirably relevant in a sea of choices.

Next week: BMW M440i xDrive Gran Coupe

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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