2014 Kia Sorento SX FWDPosted on June 11th, 2013
Seven-passenger crossover gets mid-cycle refresh
By Nina Russin
The first Kia Sorento was a midsized four-wheel drive sport-utility vehicle that expanded on the capabilities of the compact Sportage. Kia had developed a reputation for off-road prowess early on when Darren Skilton drove the Sportage on the 10,000-mile Paris-Dakar rally and finished the race.
In 2011, Kia introduced a completely new Sorento, which would be the first car produced at its West Point, Georgia assembly plant. Unlike the original Sorento, the 2011 model was a unibody crossover, intended primarily for on-road use. While the market certainly seemed headed in this direction, making such a drastic change was a calculated risk.
It paid off. Within a year, the plant had moved from one to two shifts to keep up with demand for what had become Kia’s best-selling model. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the 2011 Sorento, and the 5000 new jobs it created, put West Point, Georgia, a town that seemed bound for oblivion, back on the map.
Product planners describe the 2014 Sorento as a new model, but it’s actually a major refresh of the 2011 car. Unlike Hyundai, that separates the five and seven passenger versions of its midsized crossover into the Santa Fe Sport and Santa Fe, Kia has kept both under the same umbrella.
The newest Sorento gains the 3.3-liter gasoline direct injection engine also available on the seven-passenger Hyundai Santa Fe. The 2.4-liter engine becomes the Sorento’s base block, with the two-liter version no longer available.
Because the new Sorento has an electric power steering system rather than the hydraulic unit on the outgoing model, engineers were able to add FlexSteer: a feature that allows the driver to modify steering effort for sportier performance.
Other engineering updates include a new H-shaped front suspension, revised body mounts, larger front brake rotors, a stronger body structure and stiffer front strut towers.
The all-wheel drive model features a torque-on-demand system with torque vectoring control that can transfer power between wheels on the same axle. The system can also apply the brakes as necessary to counteract understeer.
New convenience features include a programmable power liftgate, redesigned panoramic sunroof, ventilated front seats, standard heated second-row seats on the limited model and the newest version of Kia’s UVO infotainment system developed in conjunction with Microsoft.
Test drive in Phoenix
This week I had the opportunity to drive the sporty SX front-wheel drive model, with the 3.3-liter V-6 engine. The upscale grade comes loaded with safety and convenience features, including keyless entry and push button start, dual-zone automatic climate control, UVO, navigation, Bluetooth interface and streaming audio, leather trim, a rearview camera, blind spot detection, panoramic sunroof, a power liftgate and rear spoiler.
Base price is $36,000. The optional third row of seating adds $1,000 and a cargo net $50. With the $850 destination charge, final MSRP is $36,900.
There is no doubt that Kia and Hyundai offer customers the best value in the industry, delivering what is essentially a luxury car at a much lower price. The reason the Sorento has become the go-to car for so many customers is versatility. From an active lifestyle stance, the Sorento is bicycle-friendly and meets our ALV minimum towing standards.
Average fuel economy on my 150-mile test drive was 26 mpg: a mile-per-gallon better than the EPA estimate for pure highway driving. The V-6 engine provides ample power as a test in the Superstition Mountains earlier in the year demonstrated.
The six-speed continuously variable automatic transmission doesn’t have the crispness of a traditional step unit, but seems well mated to the engine. With the exception of a chuggle on a 110-degree) afternoon, I didn’t notice any clunky downshifts.
Blind spot detection is a welcome addition to the Sorento’s safety features, making it much easier to monitor traffic in adjacent lanes. Because of its thick B and D pillars, there are some significant blind spots to the sides and rear of the vehicle. The rearview camera projects a wide-angle view to the back of the car when the driver shifts into reverse, so he can see objects that would otherwise be below his sightline.
Although the new FlexSteer feature enables the driver to make the steering heavier, there is still some lag in on-center response: a problem common to electric power steering units. On the flip side, a 35.8-foot turning circle is quite good for a car with a 106.3-inch wheelbase.
The high level of standard convenience features makes the newest Sorento a very comfortable car to live in, be it the daily commute or longer road trips on the weekend. Driver’s seat memory makes it easy for multiple family members to share the car.
The UVO system enables owners to access a variety of Internet radio options on top of the standard satellite radio. Engineers did an excellent job of isolating passengers from wind, road and engine noise so they can enjoy the upscale audio system.
The second row can easily hold three adults. The Sorento doesn’t have a floor tunnel that protrudes into the passenger compartment, so there is a reasonable amount of legroom in the middle position.
I am concerned about the proximity of the third row seats to the back glass. They are right up against it, making me wonder about the safety of those passengers in a rear-end collision.
Product planners provided plenty of 12-volt power points throughout the car for passengers to recharge electronic devices. A power point in the cargo area comes in handy on a weekend camping trip.
The programmable power liftgate can be adjusted the open at different angles, preventing it from hitting a low garage door.
The Kia Sorento comes with front, side and side curtain airbags, active front headrests, traction control, electronic stability control, antilock brakes, hill start assist and tire pressure monitoring.
Kia’s ten-year/100,000 mile factory warranty includes complimentary 24-hour roadside assistance for five years or up to 60,000 miles.
The 2014 Sportage is on display at Kia dealerships nationwide.
Like: The Sorento continues to be an industry-leading value in its segment, with a powerful engine, high level of convenience and safety features and seating for up to seven passengers.
Dislike: Lag in on-center response from the electric power steering system. Third row seats seem dangerously close to the back glass.
Model: Sorento SX FWD
Base price: $35,000
As tested: $36,900
Horsepower: 290 Hp @ 6400 rpm
Torque: 252 lbs.-ft. @ 5200 rpm
Antilock brakes: Standard
Side curtain airbags: Standard
First aid kit: N/A
Bicycle friendly: Yes
Fuel economy: 18/25 mpg city/highway2014, Best Value 2014, Active Lifestyle Vehicles, auto review, Kia, performance, pricing, standard safety
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