Used Vehicle Review: Kia Sorento, 2016-2018

Vehicle Type

Sorento attracted many owners with its sharp looks and honest pricing, with generous feature content and good driving manners helping to seal the deal.

Mid-size crossover

History/Description

Kia’s entry into the popular mid-size crossover segment is the Sorento – and the latest version of this high-value family hauler has now been on Canadian roads for some five years.

Launched in early 2015, the 2016 Sorento brought new engine options, new styling, and new feature content to customers. The latest Sorento also flaunted numerous tweaks and enhancements designed to turn in its best-yet combination of ride quality, comfort, and noise levels.

Look for front- or all-wheel drive (AWD), depending on the model selected. Various seating configurations were available, with two or three seating rows. Feature content may include a high-end Infinity stereo system, full multimedia connectivity, a back-up camera, power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, climate-controlled leather seating with memory, automatic climate control, and more.

Numerous awards for occupant safety, owner satisfaction, and overall value for the money help add appeal for the value- and safety-conscious shopper. Competitors are numerous, and include various models from Ford, Chevrolet, Honda, Hyundai, Mazda, Nissan, and many others.

The Sorento was offered in various trim levels, with L and LX at the lower end, and EX and SX as higher-end units. A full suite of advanced driver assistance systems were standard or optional – including lane-keeping assist, blind spot monitoring, and a forward collision warning system.

Engines

Engine choices included a 2.4-litre four-cylinder (185 horsepower), a 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder, or a 3.3-litre V6 (290 horsepower), depending on the year and model in question.

All units got an automatic transmission, and many included all-wheel drive (AWD) – though front-drive versions were available. If you’re set on AWD, be sure to confirm that the unit you’re considering has it equipped.

The clever and fast-acting AWD system allowed drivers to engage a “lock” mode at lower speeds, at the tap of a button, to increase traction ahead of use in extra slippery situations.

What Owners Like

Largely, it seems that the Sorento attracted many owners with its sharp looks and honest pricing, with generous feature content and good driving manners helping to seal the deal. Most owners report a cabin that’s flexible, upscale, and brimming with storage. The V6 engine is highly rated for its smooth and pleasing character, too.

Also noteworthy? Many owners say Kia’s touchscreen central command interface is easy to learn and use with minimal stress.

What Owners Dislike

Some owners wish for better fuel mileage, more seating space in the third seating row, and a sharper and more direct feel from the Sorento’s steering.

Pro Tip: Check the Electronics

The Sorento you’re considering has a generous list of features and technology, and your test drive is the right time to confirm that all of these are working properly.

Starting from the driver’s seat, plan to spend 10–20 minutes trying everything that runs on electricity – from the navigation system to the remote keyfobs to the power tailgate to the power seat adjustments. Don’t forget to confirm proper audio quality from the Bluetooth system, and to try the panoramic sunroof (if equipped), as well as all steering-wheel-mounted controls.

If any of the Sorento’s features or electronics are not working properly, now’s the time to know.

Pro Tip: Prevent Battery-related Problems

Some owners have reported problems caused by battery terminal crud buildup, grounding point corrosion, or parasitic battery draw while the vehicle is turned off. Each of these potential issues can cause problems with vehicle electronics and other systems.

To pre-emptively protect yourself from potential battery-related headaches, confirm that the battery terminals are clean and crud-free, and consider having a battery and charging system test performed by a professional – and replace the battery ASAP if it doesn’t pass with flying colours.

Further, in the event that you experience numerous random warning messages or warning lights appearing at once, a bad electrical system ground may be to blame. Remember to inspect and clean battery terminal connections, as per the instructions in the owner’s manual, for maximum peace of mind.

Pro Tip: Maintain Your Warranty

Remember that Kia’s lengthy warranty coverage means it’s likely there’s still some part of it in effect on the Sorento you’re considering. Just ensure that you’ll have access to all servicing records and receipts, proving that the vehicle was maintained regularly, as per the maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. If you’re unable to obtain full service records as proof of ongoing regular maintenance, your warranty may be in jeopardy.

Pro Tip: Don’t Forget the Software Updates

Sometimes, automakers release updated software that improves or corrects the operation of one or more systems. Software updates can prevent and avert numerous potentially frustrating problems. Ask your local dealer to see if any software updates might be outstanding for the specific Sorento you’re considering, and arrange to have them installed ASAP, for maximum peace of mind.

The Test Drive

Panoramic Sunroof Issues

If you’re set on a Kia Sorento with the panoramic sunroof, be sure to open and close the sunroof fully, several times, over the course of your test drive. Be on the lookout for any unwelcome noises, binding or straining of the roof panel, clicking or snapping sounds, or anything else that may suggest the sunroof is having trouble opening and closing smoothly and quietly.

Rattling sounds from a partially open sunroof, while driving, may also be an indication of trouble.

Here’s some more reading. The owner’s community has documented numerous cases of sunroofs that may jam, bind, or fail to operate. This seems most common for model year 2016. Here’s some more reading. And some more.

Note that owners report mixed results in having dealers correct sunroof-related issues under warranty, and that out-of-warranty repair/replacement costs to deal with non-functional sunroof components can easily run into the thousands.

In some cases, lubrication of the sunroof’s slider mechanism is the answer – but owners of in-warranty Sorento models are advised to check the sunroof regularly, and report any issues to a dealer service advisor for documentation, immediately.

Skipping the panoramic sunroof, or opting for a 2017 or later model, may minimize your chances of sunroof trouble.

Check the Transmission

Some owners have reported the random manifestation of harsh, jerky, or abrupt shifting from the Sorento’s transmission, in certain situations. This may be experienced as a “slam” through the vehicle during a gear change, or a loud banging sound from beneath the vehicle.

Though reports of this issue are rare against overall sales volumes, it’s worth being on the lookout. Assess the refinement of the transmission as it shifts up and down during light, moderate, and full-throttle application. Shifts should be noiseless, smooth, and quick. If that’s not the case, have a technician inspect the transmission before you buy.

More often than not, this rare issue is solved (under warranty) with a replacement temperature sensor, or, a transmission software update. Here’s some more reading.

Note that Kia issued instructions to dealer technicians regarding a software update that may be also be helpful if the vehicle exhibits a stumble or “hesitation” at low to moderate speeds. If you detect this on your test drive, ask a dealer service advisor if Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) #SA387 may be applicable to help address it.

Check Seating Surfaces (Leather)

Many factors affect the durability and lifespan of a vehicle’s leather seats. Proper care, cleaning, and maintenance are among them. Still, some Sorento owners have complained of front seats that begin to show signs of wear early in their life. In some cases, seats may appear to be “splitting at the seams”, so be sure to check the leather seats in the Sorento you’re considering carefully before you buy.

The driver’s seat is most suspect here – be sure to follow all stitching where seams are joined to one another, and be on the lookout for signs of ripping, tearing, or openings in the seams between two or more leather panels.

Shakes and Squeaks

Though not reported with enough frequency against total sales volumes to warrant much alarm, shoppers should note that some owners have reported unwanted shaking and/or squeaking sensations from their Sorento, in certain conditions.

A shaking sensation, possibly centred around a certain range of cruising speeds, could have several causes – including a damaged tire, a bad CV axle joint, or a problem with a driveshaft or bearing in the driveline.

Further, squeaking or chirping sounds from beneath the vehicle could be signs of a suspension component that needs servicing, lubrication, or replacement.

During your test drive, be on the lookout for unwanted sounds or sensations like these, and take any you detect as a sign to have the vehicle assessed by a professional, before you buy.

Rear Seat Things

Spend a few moments sitting in the Sorento’s second-row seats, to confirm that everything nearby works properly. Check both rear power window switches, locks, and door handles for proper operation, confirm proper functionality of the rear-seat climate control system, and move the seats through their various positions, via folding and sliding.

Now’s the time to find out if there’s some problem with anything on (or in) the rear seating, including a possibly problematic seat release mechanism, that could prevent the rear seats from folding down properly.

Optional Maintenance?

Here’s one of several discussion threads where owners question the need to have certain maintenance items, outlined in the owner’s manual, performed at the specified intervals. In this case, a brake-fluid flush is recommended, and the customer questions whether or not this is “really necessary”.

Proper maintenance, as outlined in the owner’s manual, is vital to the long life of any vehicle. Moreover, it’s very much mandatory for the ongoing existence of the vehicle’s warranty. Avoid buying a used Sorento from any seller who considered maintenance to be optional.

Recalls

Here’s a list of recalls. You can check if any apply to the vehicle you’re considering by looking up its VIN on the Kia website.

The Verdict

Most owners report few if any issues from their Kia Sorento’s thus far – though shoppers may wish to skip the panoramic sunroof, and/or skip the 2016 model year, where feasible, to protect themselves from what appears to be the models most widely documented issue.

Aside from potential trouble with the sunroof and leather seating surfaces – both of which should be easily detected on a test drive – the owner’s community has reported little else worth major concern.

A healthy used Sorento from this generation – and especially one with a healthy charging system and no panoramic sunroof, can be bought with confidence.

Crash Test Results

IIHS: Top Safety Pick+
NHTSA: 5/5 Stars

Spacious hauler with few, minor, easily detectable issues. 7/18/2019 6:28:00 AM