Expert Reviews

Long-Term Test: 2016 Kia Sorento SX - Update 1

Odometer at pick-up: 427 km
Odometer Current: 4,694 km (4,267 by
Fuel Consumption: 13.1 L/100 km
Costs: $524.27

A reasonable size for most any family, whether it’s just a single child with bulky child gear up to an active family of five with the occasional in-law along for the ride.

As eager as we are to dive into our driving impressions on this redesigned Sorento, the first order of business with any larger SUV has to be its practicality and interior packaging. It may not be as sexy as horsepower and handling, but this is where the Sorento has long been a value leader in this right-sized seven-seat SUV and crossover category. The Sorento is a big seller in Canada (consistently selling about 14K for each of the past five years) and the States (over 100K each year for the past six), and the recent refresh of the Sorento should serve it well in this popular category and should help it grow its market share.

This is no tiny little ute, so it is a reasonable size for most any family, whether it’s just a single child with bulky child gear up to an active family of five with the occasional in-law along for the ride. The Sorento is shorter, narrower and with a shorter wheelbase than competitors like the Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot, Nissan Pathfinder or Explorer, yet it matches or exceeds them in legroom and interior passenger volume. Seating is supremely spacious in the first second rows and similarly cramped as most others in the class in the row three.

Production Editor Andy Lin braved the third row, and found the seats reasonable aside from the typical squatting position, though headroom may be tight for an adult. Third-row occupants are even treated to some storage trays, cupholders and their own vents. The second row has more than enough room for most any size, with perks like seat heaters, reclining seatback, vents and a charging port for your devices.

Adults installing child seats or children will be happy with the wide door opening, easily accessed LATCH anchors and easy maneuverability of the seat itself for attaching the tether, whose anchor is mounted conveniently high on the seatback. Many parents will also appreciate the rear window sun shades in hot summer months.

The front seats are more of a mixed bag. They are power adjustable in several ways, including four-way lumbar support, and the head rest can be raised and lowered and moved fore and aft. The seat is comfortable and supportive, but I have issues with the headrest – even at its rearmost position, it is too far forward and feels like it is pushing my head forward, an issue exacerbated by hooded winter jackets and scarves. It has quite literally caused a pain in my neck that has been lingering for the past month. When I had occasion to spend several days in another vehicle over the holidays, the pain gradually dissipated, only to return in full force upon the Sorento’s return.

First Impressions: Long-Term Test Arrival: 2016 Kia Sorento SX

However, it seems only fair to provide a different perspoective as my experience is likely to be an exception rather than the rule. Justin Couture borrowed the Sorento for his annual holiday family road trip to Montreal and foind the seating exemplary in many regards: " It’s easy to get comfortable in the driver’s seat. Although editor Yarkony finds the head rests protrude uncomfortably forward, they worked fine for my 5’10” frame. I had no issues finding a suitable driving position either with a steering column that generously adjusts for reach and rake, and a driver’s seat that’s not merely heated, but cooled and with a power operated thigh support. Over the five-and-a-half-hour drive, I found these to be fatigue free — as good as any other European brand. I’m a big fan of the chunky HVAC knobs and the tabs to control the heated steering wheel and seats – it’s proof you can have functionality and style simultaneously. If only the infotainment system functioned as nicely as it looked; it’s easy to use and input directions into the navigation system, but it consistently failed to recognize my iPhone when plugged in to the USB port. Rear-seat passengers loved the fact that there were roller blinds and heated rear seats."

That generous passenger space comes at the expense of cargo space. As with most any other SUV in this mid- to large-ish segment, once you deploy the third row cargo capacity is severely limited, but the Sorento’s 320 L of space with all seats up and maximum 2,066 L of cargo space with all rows stowed. In its most common five-seat configuration (at least in our four-person household that is how it spends 90 percent of its time), the seven-seat Sorento offers 1,077 L of cargo space behind a raised second row, and a handy sliding tonneau cover that can be stowed in a dedicated slot in a nifty hidden storage compartment. What the Sorento lacks for in overall storage (it’s really no better than a Honda CR-V), it makes up for with 50/50 split-folding third row seats and 40/20/40 split second row that also slides fore and aft for slight variation in cargo and passenger space.

For cargo other than hockey bags strollers and Costco packages, the Sorento provides ample space and cubbies for the clutter of life. Cupholders in the console, bottle holders in the front and rear doorpockets and more cupholders in the rear armrest and even third row should be enough to keep everyone hydrated. USB ports are placed in the phone-sized tray ahead of the shifter the wide armrest hides ample console storage with its own handy tray, and there’s a glovebox for other odds and ends and a sunglasses holder in the overhead console with the controls for the sunroof and powerful yet focused LED reading lights. There’s also a teensy change tray behind the shifter and a wide, shallow tray that is also perfect for tucking away a phone that might be charging in a non-distracting location.

After sampling Carplay for the first time recently, it’s hard not to wish that feature was available on Kia’s system to increase integration and reduce the temptation of checking a message or update when that notification pings.

Anyhow, later this winter, we will go into greater detail regarding Kia’s UVO interface, but for now we are pleased and have no complaints other than the touchscreen’s response to gloved hands, which is poor with any glove and completely non-responsive to thick winter gloves.

While I may take slight issue with the screen, the rest of the interior is extremely touch-friendly, from the soft-touch plastics on the dash to the sturdy yet appealing durable plastics in remote areas, well damped buttons and switchgear and quality leather seats (cooled and heated in SX trim), steering wheel (heated, we might remind you). Visually, some gloss black plastic looks good when clean, but highlights even the most minor of smudges, prints or dust, so tuck a shammy away in the glove box or console storage. Being downright nitpicky, however, the steering wheel leather feels like it’s lifting or separating at the inside stitching at about five o’clock, and it’s the kind of thing I can’t help picking at and obsessing over.

Justin, having spent many hours at the wheel on his road trip, also had much time to contemplate Kia's much-improved materials and execution, which have come a long way in just a few short years: "From the driver’s seat, it feels like a genuinely high-quality machine – and it has the look to match. The gloss black trim that wraps around the upper dashboard and into jauntily angled door trim looks like a cross between the Jaguar XJ and Audi A7.

"You learn a lot about a vehicle on a road trip, where attention to detail pops out. The biggest surprise for me was in the Sorento’s interior lighting. Somewhere between Kingston and Montreal, in the depths of the night, I reached for the dimmer. I was delighted to find that it isn’t just the instrument cluster that dims, but all the various buttons and indicator lights, too. In many a car, you’ll have a pleasantly dark cabin punctuated by distracting dots of bright light. Not so in the Sorento. A fiddly, nit-picky commentary? Perhaps, but it’s an easy to appreciate detail on a long night-time drive."

When it comes to the Sorento's interior, Kia got it right, from the big picture practicality and flexibility, features galore, truly appreciated qaulity materials, right down to the many little things that make it easy to live with for a family and on the grueling gauntlet of a road trip.

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