By Shari Prymak
Kia has traditionally been known for being positioned as a value alternative to the more established players such as Toyota and Honda. The brand, however, has made a strong effort to dramatically improve its lineup and change that perception. Some of their latest models, such as the incredibly popular Telluride crossover, are now impressive enough to go head to head with the best in just about every measure. Kia is hoping to replicate that success on a slightly smaller scale with its popular mid-sized crossover, the Sorento.
Positioned between the smaller two-row Sportage and the full-sized three-row Telluride, the Sorento is designed for those seeking a middle ground in terms of space and size. Like the Telluride, it comes standard with three-rows, only with a choice between six or seven passenger seating depending on the trim level. The third row, however, is incredibly tight and mostly suitable for children or adults in an emergency. The cargo area is quite small as well, but expands to quite a generous size with the third row folded flat. The second row folds and slides for easy third row access and all three rows offer USB ports for connecting devices.
The available features and technology are one of the more attractive qualities of the Sorento. The touchscreen infotainment system is very well designed and easy to use. The top SX trims comes with an extra wide touchscreen display plus an attractive looking digital gauge cluster with neat animations and customizations. The Sorento also offers a wide range of active safety features such as Kia’s excellent highway driving assist, which gives you semi-autonomous driving capability on the highway.
The Sorento offers a choice between three drivetrains, all of which come standard with all-wheel drive. Lower models come with a naturally-aspirated 4-cylinder engine, matched to an 8-speed automatic transmission, with 191 horsepower and 181 lb-ft of torque. Higher trim levels receive a much more powerful turbocharged 2.5L engine with an 8-speed dual-clutch automatic that produces 281 horsepower and 311 lb-ft of torque. Although fuel economy is not that great, the additional power is addictive and turns the Sorento into quite a quick SUV. If the priority is fuel economy, the third option is a hybrid drivetrain which matches a 1.6L turbo engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission and an electric motor.
Pricing for the Sorento ranges from an MSRP of $33,995 for the LX+ trim up to $47,495 for the top trim SX model. For an MSRP of $36,495, the LX Premium seems to offer the best compromise between value and practicality. Although it comes with the less powerful drivetrain, the less complicated naturally-aspirated engine and regular 8-speed automatic are preferable from a long-term repairability and reliability standpoint. The base LX+ and LX Premium are also the only way to get the more practical 7-seater configuration with the second row bench rather than the second row captain chairs with a total of only six seats.
As far as mid-sized SUVs go, the Sorento is a well-designed, sensible option. The pricing does get a bit steep on the top end where it begins to overlap the more substantial and still better Telluride crossover, but the lower and middle trim levels do offer pretty good value for money. It also comes with Kia’s 5 year 100,000km comprehensive warranty which is a bonus as well. For those who are looking for the practicality of a three-row crossover but don’t want to stretch into something as large and expensive as the Telluride or its rivals, the Sorento is a solid choice.