Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Kia Sorento SX - Arrival

Odometer at pick-up: 427 km

It’s always nice to start out a long-term review with a little bit of good news, so now is as good a time as any to congratulate the newest member of our long-term fleet, the Kia Sorento, for winning its SUV/CUV $35K–$60K category in AJAC’s Canadian Car of the Year testing, making it eligible to win overall Utility of the Year honours.

So we haven’t even started, but it’s already a winner, and it doesn’t take much time to understand why it is award-worthy: fetching design, spacious, flexible interior, a variety of powertrain options, features at $50K that drive luxury cars to tens of thousands more and ease of use that schools its competitors.

Y’know, life, the real world.

However, while AJAC’s testing process gets input from dozens of journalists, they only judge based on a short test drive in the peace and quiet of the Ontario countryside. We plan to run it through the gauntlet of commuting from the suburbs to the office in the city, shopping at Costco, running errands, shuttling the kids to school and the rink and the pool, taking some buddies to hockey, installing child seats, going on family road trips, moving… y’know, life, the real world.

Let’s take a look at Kia’s Sorento lineup and see what we have for our test. The base Sorento is the LX trim, arriving with a naturally aspirated 2.4L four cylinder engine driving the front wheels at a starting price of $27,495 with a $1,715 Destination fee. Even the base car has the essential six-speeds automatic transmission, but power is a modest 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque, though in this trim it still weighs a fairly modest 1,680 kg (in top V6 AWD trim that rises to 1,860 kg). The standard feature list is painfully long, but feature content is one of the most appealing aspects of the Sorento, so bear with me. First, the big ticket items: air conditioning, 17-inch alloys, rear parking sonar, auto headlights and foglights, power windows, mirrors and locks with remote entry and heated front seats and side mirrors (with signal repeaters).

The tilt and telescopic steering wheel has controls for the cruise control and audio, which is a six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/Satellite stereo with auxiliary & USB input ports and Bluetooth wireless technology. Seats are covered in YES Essentials fabric, the driver’s seat is height adjustable and two-way lumbar adjustment and the second-row seat splits and folds 40:20:40.

Little things that make life easier include a trip computer, sunglasses holder, USB charger, dual front power outlet, rear cargo power outlet, tinted glass, map lights, illuminated vanity mirrors, express up/down driver window with obstacle detection, heated windshield wiper de-icer and variable intermittent windshield wipers. On the outside, the Sorento gets a rear spoiler, roof rails, front & rear mud guards, body-coloured sideview mirrors and chrome door handles.

All Sorentos come with essential safety equipment like six airbags (advanced dual front, dual front side and dual curtain), four-wheel ABS disc brakes, electronic stability control, vehicle stability management and Hill Assist Control.

The only option on LX models with the base powertrain is $2,000 for AWD ($29,495).

The $30,695 LX+ is the first step up the Sorento ladder, and you move up to the 240-hp, 260 lb-ft 2.0L turbo-four we see across the Kia and Hyundai range. For that $3,300 premium over the LX, you also get leather steering wheel and shift knob, UVO Audio Infotainment, back-up camera, proximity keyless entry with push-button ignition, eight-way power driver seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror, acoustic film windshield and express up/down and obstacle-detection on all windows. With another $2,000 for AWD, the $32,695 LX+ Turbo AWD is something of a sweet spot for mid-size SUVs, although the seven-seat LX+ V6 AWD is only another $1,200 for another row of seats for occasional six and seven person trips and a 3.3L V6 engine that is more than up to the task with 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque.

The V6 AWD combo is also the key to towing superiority, with 2,268-kg (5,000 lb) towing capacity when optioned with Class 3 hitch and fitted with trailer brakes. We’ll be looking for opportunities to test the Sorento’s towing capacity as we are so equipped with the V6 and towing hitch. The 2.0T maxes out at 1,588 kg (3,500 lb) and the 2.4 at 907 kg (2,000 lb).

Higher trims get into more aesthetic and convenience features, and offer a bargain-rate luxury experience. The $35,595 EX Turbo AWD adds 18-inch alloys, glossy black radiator grille, silver paint skid plate, automatic dual-zone climate control with cluster ionizer, “Supervision” TFT LCD digital gauge cluster, 110V power outlet, leather seats 10-way power driver seat with 4-way power lumbar support and two memory settings, heated steering wheel, integrated 2nd row sunshades, interior mood lighting, cargo cover that can be stowed under the cargo floor when you need all the vertical space. On the safety front, the EX gets a blind-spot detection system and rear cross traffic alert. The upgrade to the V6 AWD seven-seater is only $1,100 on the EX, bringing it up to $36,695. An EX+ V6 AWD adds a panoramic sunroof (which is properly huge, like almost covering the entire roof!) and LED interior lighting for another $1,200 ($37,895).

The SX takes us well into the 40s, with the SX Turbo AWD five-seater putting a sporty twist on the appearance and loading up even more luxury and tech at $42,095. The grille is finished in a dark metallic effect the wheel arches and door trim is body coloured, skid plates are stainless steel, exhaust tips are dual chromed ovals, the roof rails are chrome and scuff plates are stainless steel and illuminated, with big 19-inch wheels with black painted calipers peeking between the stylish Y-spokes. Inside, we have premium leather seats, air-cooled front seats, eight-way power passenger seat, rear heated seats, eight-inch touchscreen interface, navigation, Infinity premium audio system, integrated garage remote, alloy pedals, acoustic film front door glass, auto-levelling xenon HID headlights, LED taillights and fog lights, “Smart” power tailgate and that monstrous power sunroof. For those that care about the driving experience, the SX switches to a Rack Mounted Motor Driven Power Steering (R-MDPS) setup, which theoretically offers better feel and responsiveness as opposed to column-mounted setup, which benefits efficiency and weight.

The V6 AWD is an $1,100 option again, adding that third row of seats in the process. But that’s not all folks! The top of the Sorento food chain is the SX+ V6 AWD seven-seater, coming in at $46,695, with luxurious (yes, they actually feel like real leather!) Nappa leather seats, 360–degree reversing camera, adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning system, front collision warning system and electronic parking brake.

When it comes to colours, Snow White Pearl, Sparkling Silver, Ebony Black, Titanium Silver, Regency Red and Dark Cherry are available on all trims, Blaze Blue and Graphite are only for LX and EX trims, and it should be noted that every colour except Ebony Black gets hit with a $200 paint charge. Cloth interiors are available only in black, while the leather can be optioned in grey for the EX in certain colours.

Kia have placed us in the penultimate SX V6 AWD seven-seater, $45,486.98 as tested with destination and A/C tax, and it is also equipped with winter tires and the trailer hitch ($276.98), so we’re looking for some sort of towing adventure above and beyond our daily grind and weekend routine and are open to suggestions. However, before settling into our long-term tester, we had the opportunity to test the SX+ on its stock all-season tire option so that we would have a baseline with which to compare its composure on winter tires. After a week with the 360-degree camera and adaptive cruise, my wife was completely spoiled and now reminds me of it every time she has to park or gets caught in a traffic snarl. She also noted that the SX, on winter tires, feels less sharp, inspiring less confidence in driving, but once the snow hits we’ll have far greater peace of mind with the added security of greater braking and grip.

My first impressions after the first week is one of pleasant contentment. The Sorento is just so user friendly. I can’t wait to talk about the slick UVO infotainment system, the various features that make a commute more bearable and travelling with kids more fun (and less stressful).

Pricing: 2016 Kia Sorento SX
Base Price (LX 2.4L FWD): $27,495
Base Price (SX V6 AWD): $43,195
Options: $476.98 ($200 Paint charge; $276.98 trailer hitch)
Destination: $1,715
A/C Tax: $100
Price as tested: $45,486.98