- WHAT’S BEST: Handsome, beautifully-finished interior; excellent driving dynamics for its class; at least a few proper round control knobs ...
- WHAT’S WORST: But still not enough of them; bothersome reflections in side-view mirrors; side-view mirrors incorrectly positioned; third row seats a bit cramped, but still beat walking home in the rain.
- WHAT’S INTERESTING: German engineering and Korean value making an impact in just about every segment in which Kia competes.
Kia has misspelled Sorento’s name since the first generation vehicle was introduced in 2002. Assuming of course the name comes from the Italian resort town, which is Sorrento — note, two Rs.
What else could they have had in mind?
The 2019 edition is sort of the third-and-a-half generation model, being a major facelift on the third-gen Sorento which has been assembled in Kia’s West Point Georgia plant alongside its Hyundai sister ship the Santa Fe, since the launch of the second-gen vehicle in 2010.
It is a mid-size five- or seven-seat SUV, smack in the middle of one of the market’s hottest segments. It is on sale now, starting at $27,995.
Now, that’s for the entry-level front-drive model. With the Michelin Premier all-season tires that came on my test car — same as I have on my Jetta wagon — you could easily get away with the front-drive variant.
Sadly, you don’t get those tires on the front-driver, so it’s a moot point.
Besides, I figure Kia will probably sell approximately zero front-drivers in Canada; that model is aimed primarily at the sunbelt States, although apparently they move a few in Quebec, which tends to be a more price-sensitive market.
An extra $2,300 gets you the full-time four-wheel drive system on the LX; it is standard on all other trim levels.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported for the digital dashboard in the 2019 edition of the Kia Sorento.
Dubbed DYNAMAX by Kia’s perhaps slightly overexcited marketing types, it detects which tires can give the best grip, and automatically assigns more torque to those wheels.
Two direct injection gasoline engines are offered at the moment, both transversely mounted. The 2.4 litre four, producing 185 horsepower at 6,000 r.p.m. and 178 lb.-ft. of torque at 4,00 r.p.m. is bolted to the carry-over six-speed automatic, and the 3.3 litre V6 cranks out 290 horsepower at 6,400 r.p.m. and 252 lb.-ft. of torque, albeit at a fairly lofty 5,200 r.p.m. It feeds into a new 8-speed autobox.
The 2.0-litre gasoline turbo has been dropped, and a new Diesel is promised later on.
My tester was the all-singing all-dancing SXL model which starts and pretty much ends at $48,865, plus taxes, etc. You can add some accessories to top that up if you wish, but this vehicle already comes pretty much loaded, including the much-loved during my hot June-July test period cooled front seats.
Sorento is a handsome vehicle, albeit not all that much different from most SUVs — how much difference can there be?
The interior is particularly nice, as most modern Kias are, reflecting the background of the company president Peter Schreyer, formerly an interior designer for VW/Audi. High quality materials throughout, beautifully executed.
In the range-topping SXL, the upholstery is a lovely Nappa leather. Normally I don’t like leather in a car — too hot in summer, too cold in winter, too slippery all the time. Those heated and cooled seats take care of the first two issues, and this particular cowhide provides nice grippy texture to the seating surfaces.
As noted, all but the very basest Sorentos are seven-seaters, although with the third row two-person seats in place there isn’t much room for anybody’s luggage. At least you have the option if the need arises.
The third row split-folds to increase the luggage/people carrying capacity options, and the second row slides forward to ease ingress and egress for those third-row occupants.
There are even cupholders in that third row.
I found the driver’s seat comfortable and supportive, with plenty of room in all dimensions.
As noted, the second row seats can be adjusted fore-and-aft to allow better accommodation for taller people than many vehicles in this class can offer.
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The SXL features Kia’s UVO digital dashboard, which means a long evening with the owner’s manual in hand, or maybe a session with your teenaged kid to figure out how it all works.
Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are both supported if you are into such things. Research suggest most of you are not, but no car company is prepared to not offer them.
One issue that is literally and figuratively a reflection of the interior design motif is that under certain ambient lighting conditions, the lovely matte-metallic finish on some of the dashboard components such as the outboard air vents reflects annoying and dangerously in the side-view mirrors.
Maybe they are trying to create a demand for the so-called “blind-spot monitoring” system which as regular readers and anyone who can drive properly already knows do not exist if you adjust those mirrors properly.
Which for me, you cannot do — they simply do not adjust far enough out, which is a serious error.
Much better is the 360-degree surround camera, which makes backing up a breeze.
There are steering wheel controls for various functions which pretty much by definition means they fall readily to hand. Once you get used to them, they are indeed handy enough.
Kia gets the headlight switch correct — turn the lights on when you buy the car, and never touch it again. Shut the car off, the lights go off; turn the car on, the lights come on. Why does anybody do it any differently? Why in fact is there even a headlight switch in any car?
Unlike other Kias I have driven, Sorento also gets door locks correct. You can set the car to automatically lock the doors if you like; you can also set the car not to automatically lock the doors if you don’t like.
Sorento’s vehicle dynamics are impressive. The car is quiet, performance is strong, the new autobox shifts imperceptibly, ride is excellent, handling is better than expected for a big vehicle like this — the Michelin tires on my tester surely are a big contributor here.
You can choose from a variety of driving programs via the Drive Mode Select switch, namely Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart.
I must say, differences between the various settings were marginal, although Sport did seem to firm up the steering a tad.
Taken as a whole, Sorento is handsome, capable, comfortable, practical and even a borderline-luxurious place to spend your driving time.
The third row split-folds to increase the luggage/people carrying capacity options, and the second row slides forward to ease ingress and egress for those third-row occupants
2019 Kia Sorento
BODY STYLE: 4 doors, 5/7 passengers, mid-size SUV. Full-time four-wheel drive.
LX FWD 4 cylinder — $27,995;
LX 4WD 4 cylinder — $30,295;
EX 4WD 4 cylinder — $32,495;
LX Premium 4WD V6 — $34,795;
EX 4WD V6 — $38,365;
EX 4WD V6 Premium — $40,865;
SX 4WD V6 — $44,865;
SXL Limited 4WD V6 — $48,865.
ENGINE: base — 2.4 litre inline four, double overhead camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, direct injection; available, as tested -3.3 l V6, double overhead camshafts, 4 valves per cylinder, variable valve timing, direct injection.
POWER/TORQUE, horsepower / lb.-ft: 2.4 litre 4 — 185 @ 6,000 r.p.m. / 178 @ 4,000 r.p.m.; 3.3 litre V6 — 290 @ 6,400 r.p.m. / 252 @ 5,200 r.p.m.
FUEL CONSUMPTION, Transport Canada City/Highway, l/100 km: 2.4 litre FWD — 10.7 / 8.2; 2.4 litre 4WD — 11.2 / 9.0; 3.3 litre 4WD — 12.5 / 9.7. Regular unleaded fuel.
COMPETITION: Ford Explorer; Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-9.
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