It's a garage filled with some of the most innovative cars ever to be built: a Tatra T87, a Citroën DS, and (of course) a Tesla Model S as the daily driver. I'm here to cover a few of these for a story or two, but at the end of the ride, it's time to grab something far more mundane to head back home, a mid-sized crossover from a Korean car known for its budget-based offerings.
It's a pretty ordinary car – but look how far ordinary has come.
Subaru made hay of this image before with an ad featuring a beige Kia sedan as the antithesis to the unique features provided by the Legacy. Well, joke's on them as the Legacy is a far more conservative car these days than the products coming out of Seoul.
Approach the car and the wing mirrors automatically unfold. Slide into the ventilated seats and hit the keyless start button. Hear the direct-injection 2.0L turbocharged four burst to life and dial up some tunes on the Infinity audio. There's no oleo-pneumatic suspension, no radical aerodynamics nor air-cooled rear-mounted flat-six, no all-electric powertrain with Ludicrous mode. It's a pretty ordinary car – but look how far ordinary has come.
On the face of things, you'll have to look pretty hard. While the 2016 Sorento has significantly massaged sheet metal on its exterior, and a longer, wider platform, it looks not entirely dissimilar from the old one. Also, I had a Sedona SXL minivan the week before this in a very similar dark burgundy colour, and my three-year-old couldn't tell we'd switched cars. Neither could my wife.
That's either a win for the minivan or a tie for the crossover, or a series of high-fives in the marketing department at the effectiveness of the Kia corporate grille. Again, bit of a bottle-opener, but with floating mesh and a big badge out in front, it's a handsome face fronting a car the company can be justifiably proud of.
More Sorento on autoTRADER.ca: 2016 Kia Sorento First Impressions
On this SX trim you get 19-inch alloys, and one can only hope the proliferation of 19-inch and 20-inch rims throughout the entire crossover segment starts driving tire prices down. Designers range-top everything with big rims these days, which adds ownership costs for the consumers down the road. Still, they look cool, and looking cool over functionality worked for Beats by Dre.
Inside, the Sorento is certainly roomier thanks to its lengthened dimensions, and in this five-seat trim should have plenty of space for your modern family of five who wouldn't be caught dead in a Sedona. Rear cargo space is an excellent 1077 L behind the second row seats, leaving plenty of room for active kids. Um, their stuff, not the kids. Unless you have tie-downs for the dog crates.
Compared to dedicated three-rowers like the Highlander or Pilot, the second row of the Sorento seemed a little snugger when placing in a rear-facing child seat. That's what happens when you have a single wheelbase to serve multiple seat configurations. However, overall it's a competitive size, and if Kia can just get those Toyota and Honda customers in the door to check out the other Korean competition, they'll be relatively impressed.
For front-seat passengers, the Sorento has moved up a class yet again. Yes, this means it's a more expensive vehicle than previously, but it looks it. While I can actually say that the previous week's Sedona SXL+ had a more upscale piano-black two-tone thing going on, the Sorento's interior looks easier to maintain and is a huge improvement over the previous generation.
Functionality is key in a vehicle like this, and there's plenty to please. I like the placement of the HVAC controls, the simple layout for the heated and ventilated seat surfaces, the clustering of drive mode functions down by the shifter, and the bright UVO infotainment system works well as per usual.
Poke around a bit and there's not much to complain about. The USB port is up front so you can bung your smartphone in the front bin. The steering wheel controls are rollers rather than buttons, making volume adjustments a little nicer. If you really squinted until your eyes watered, that steering wheel wouldn't look out of place in a Cayenne or Macan.
I guess the chrome surrounds for the side air vents do reflect a little too much in the side mirrors. Oh, the humanity. Get it together, Kia!
Overall then, a well-executed effort from a brand that seems to be full of them. And then there's how the Sorento drives.
Under that big hood is... mostly air actually. The 2.0L direct-injection turbocharged engine in this SX model makes a solid 240 hp and a hefty 260 lb-ft of torque, but it looks to be about the size of a toaster oven sitting way down there in the cavernous engine bay.
It certainly handles its business though – fitted with an unremarkable six-speed automatic transmission, the Sorento's considerable heft is child's play for the 2.0L to punt off the line, with 0-100 km/h coming in seven-point-something seconds. Considering I'm faced most days with a twenty-foot on-ramp designed by Evel Knievel, this torque-filled forward thrust is a very good thing indeed. If you're looking at the 3.3L Hyundai/Kia corporate V6 that provides power for seven-seater versions, its 290 hp should be plenty; however, the forced induction motor has more low-end oomph.
Bigger though it might be, the Sorento has been nicely stiffened, and is both a smoother and quieter affair because of it. Handling is perfectly acceptable, and the transition of the electric power-assist from steering column to steering rack has resulted in at least a modicum of feel. There are selectable drive modes, but these seem almost to have a placebo affect rather than anything else. Honda's terrain mode works a little better here.
However, for sheer driving competence and acceptable zip, the Sorento is better than fine. In comparison, the hefty Highlander ate a baby: it's more than 200 kg heavier.
The Sorento isn't exactly a corner-carver, but much like the new Hyundai Tucson, there's a level of competence here that'd surprise the heck out of anyone who grew up with sloppy-handling SUVs and dull four-cylinder Camrys. This is pretty darn good for a family hauler, and should make short work of the family road trip.
The one potential problem? As with Ford Ecoboost offerings, a heavy foot leads to heavier fuel consumption. Official ratings for the Sorento are set at 12.3 L/100 km city and 9.3 L/100 km on the highway; I've done better than official with the 3.3L V6, but this week seemed to hover in the 11s constantly – might have been the effect of all that air conditioning.
So, the evolution of the mainstream automobile to something capable and comfortable. Some of those more innovative machines died on the vine, some merely were assimilated and surpassed. As I drove back through heavy traffic, swathed in comfort, with adequate power under my right foot and solid tunes on the stereo, it was hard to wish for more than an ordinary life.
5 years/100,000 km; 5 years/100,000 km powertrain; 5 years/unlimited distance corrosion perforation; 5 years/100,000 km roadside assistance
|Model Tested||2016 Kia Sorento SXL|
|Price as Tested||$44,110|
$200 (Metallic paint)