Kia Sorento benefits from a major update for the 2014 model year. Technically, the 2014 Sorento represents a mid-cycle freshening; the previous generation made its appearance for the 2011 model year. But even though the Kia marketing people refrain from employing the term all-new, the 2014 Sorento rolls into showrooms with a list of revisions that's much more extensive than the usual facelift. All told, Kia reckons the Sorento's new or re-engineered content at 80 percent.
The 2014 Kia Sorento benefits from cosmetic updates front and rear, a new V6 engine option, a chassis sufficiently re-engineered to be characterized as new, a new electric steering system, a number of suspension revisions, improved braking, upgraded interior appointments, and new infotainment and telematics.
Like every vehicle in this class, the Sorento is a unibody design, basically front-wheel drive with an all-wheel drive option.
Although it continues to offer the smaller Sportage, Kia targets the Sorento against the compact crossover crowd, where it has a size advantage. The Kia Sorento is substantially bigger than the Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Mazda CX-5, and Toyota RAV4. Sorento's larger size pays roominess dividends.
The 2014 Sorento continues to offer the option of a three-row, seven-passenger configuration. However, adding the third row consumes a bit of cargo space and continues to be very snug in terms of third-row leg room. Kia and Mitsubishi are now the only players in this segment to offer a third-row option. We think Sorento is better as a two-row, five-passenger vehicle.
The 2014 Sorento's new V6 engine is a rare option in this class. The Mitsubishi Outlander is the only competitor with a V6 option. Kia's 3.3-liter V6 uses direction injection to produce 290 horsepower, 252 pound-feet. The new 3.3-liter V6 replaces the previous 3.5-liter V6. Fuel economy for the 3.3-liter V6 is an EPA-estimated 18/25 mpg City/Highway, 18/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. It comes with a 6-speed automatic. Regular gasoline is recommended for all models, so no need to buy Premium gas.
Only the base Sorento LX comes with a four-cylinder engine. New for 2012, the 2.4-liter four-cylinder with GDI direct injection is rated at 191 horsepower, 181 pound-feet of torque. (The previous port-injected 2.4-liter four has been dropped.) Fuel economy for the 2014 Sorento LX with 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 6-speed automatic is an EPA rated 20/26 mpg City/Highway, 19/24 mpg with all-wheel drive. Although the V6 option adds $1600 to the bottom line, it doesn't carry much of a fuel economy penalty, especially when all-wheel drive is ordered.
Structural improvements to the 2014 Sorento include what Kia calls an all-new chassis, with a subframe supporting the strut front suspension, stiffened front strut towers, larger bushings in the multilink rear suspension, and a higher percentage of high strength steel throughout the bodyshell. Kia engineers cite an 18 percent increase in torsional rigidity, an area of chassis construction where more is always better, contributing to more precise handling and first rate crashworthiness. Kia expects that the Sorento will once again score top marks in the latter category.
The inner Sorento has also received comprehensive attention, with higher grade materials throughout, a redesigned instrument panel, an electric steering system that affords the option (Flex Steer) of three driver operating presets, and of course enough electronic connectivity to connect with colonies on Mars the minute they're established.
Hyundai and Kia have made huge strides with quality, and the Sorento has the feel of solid goods. And like other products from the two companies, which are joined at the hip, the Sorento comes to market with a goodly list of standard features even in basic LX editions.
Kia Sorento LX ($24,100), LX AWD ($25,800); LX V6 ($25,700), LX V6 AWD ($27,400); EX ($30,000), EX AWD ($31,700); SX ($35,000), SX AWD ($36,700); Limited ($38,000), Limited AWD ($39,700)
The Sorento is the bigger of Kia's two compact crossovers (the smaller one is the Sportage). The Kia Sorento has many structural and powertrain commonalities with the Hyundai Santa Fe.
However, while the Santa Fe is available with two different wheelbase editions for 2014, the Sorento model range is confined to the 106.3-inch wheelbase of the Santa Fe Sport. (The longer Santa Fe has a 110-inch wheelbase and offers three-row seating.) The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is five-passenger only, whereas the Kia Sorento continues to offer the option of a three-row, seven-passenger configuration.
Kia's front and rear styling updates are aimed at giving the 2014 Sorento a wider, more aggressive appearance, but the effect is subtle and the most visible distinction is a semi-circle of LED lights flanking each projector beam headlamp.
Fog lamps (optional) have been gone from horizontal to vertical, and moved to the edges of the bumper, enhancing the impression of added width. LEDs also handle turn signal and back up lighting duties at the rear.
The Kia Sorento is marketed as a compact crossover utility, but is big by the standards of the class. There are positives and negatives associated with this positioning. On the negative side, those dimensions add up at the scales, making the Sorento portly by compact standards, with curb weights crowding the two-ton frontier. Mass is never a dynamic asset, nor is it a plus in terms of fuel economy, where the Sorento scores lower EPA ratings than its predecessor and lower than all the leading compact competitors. Mass also contributes to a driving experience that is essentially competent but pretty bland.
The plus is a roomy cabin, with lots of cargo capacity: 72.5 cubic feet with the middle seats folded flat, almost 40 feet behind the middle seats in five-passenger configuration. The second row offers adjustability and respectable leg room. However, roominess notwithstanding, it's hard to view the cramped third row option as a plus. We recommend against the third row.
The 2014 Sorento offers a sonar-based blind spot monitor system, a first for Kia. Like other blind spot watch dogs, the system tracks vehicles lurking in the Sorento's rear quarters and provides visual alerts, followed by audible warning if the driver begins to move into the occupied lane.
Wheel/tire choices are unusually extensive. The basic Sorento LX comes with 7x17-inch wheels wearing 235/65R17 tires. The range also includes 18- and, for the first time, 19-inch aluminum alloys.
Kia Sorento interior materials and design have a quality feel and appearance, a definite uptick from the previous generation (2010-12). For 2014, a new instrument binnacle embraces seven-inch LCD screen that augments an analog tachometer, fuel readout, and coolant gauge with a digital speedometer, as well as trip information and navigation info (in models so equipped).
The center stack is dominated by a new eight-inch touch screen that's home for the navigation system, as well as controls for the Sorento's updated infotainment. Kia calls it UVO eServices, and it includes a broad range of connectivity options.
Upper trim levels include upscale features such as ventilated leather power front seats, front and rear dual zone auto climate control, premium audio pushbutton starting, heated and ventilated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, second row sliding sunshades, illuminated door handle pockets, and a 115-volt power inverter.
As you'd expect, higher trim levels include a large power sunroof, with a power-operated shade, and Kia has added a programmable power rear liftgate.
We found the seats are relaxed-fit comfortable (the word sporty does not come to mind) and widely adjustable, with or without power adjustability.
The 2014 Sorento continues to offer the option of a three-row, seven-passenger configuration. However, adding the third row consumes a bit of cargo space and continues to be very snug in terms of third-row leg room. Kia and Mitsubishi are now the only players in this segment to offer a third-row option. Toyota bowed out in its latest RAV4 redesign (model year 2013) due to miniscule third-row take rates. (The Hyundai Santa Fe with 110-inch wheelbase offers a third row, but it is a longer vehicle.)
Five-passenger models (with just two rows of seats) get a storage compartment under the rear cargo floor.
The menu is long, and the takeaway is this: Kia may claim to target the compact class, but the Sorento's inventory of standard and optional features goes well beyond the rest of the CUV crowd. As does its pricing ladder.
Our initial hands-on impressions were gleaned at the wheel of loaded Kia Sorento SX with all-wheel drive. The venue was Arizona, a too-brief run from Scottsdale east to Globe on smooth roads that offered little in the way of challenge aside from some elevation changes and microwave bombardment from local law enforcement officers bravely defending the public by wielding radar guns.
We found the 3.3-liter V6, a new engine that made its initial appearance in the 2012 Hyundai Azera sedan smooth and generally quiet, sounding a little busy only at full throttle. Smooth also applies to the operation of the 6-speed automatic, which manages downshifts for passing or hill-climbing without calling much attention to itself.
A well equipped all-wheel drive Sorento weighs in at about 3900 pounds, according to Kia, which is considerably heavier than others in the compact crossover posse. There were no four-cylinder LX models available at the Arizona event, but we emerged with the impression that the Sorento will make owners much happier when equipped with the V6 engine. The 3.3-liter isn't going to produce face-distorting acceleration, but it does generate respectable stoplight getaway and enough punch to take at least some of the drama out of passing on two-lane highways, very desirable in a vehicle designed for family transportation.
Designed to automatically and instantly transfer power to the wheels with traction, up to 100 percent to either end of the vehicle, we presume the sophisticated all-wheel drive system to be essentially transparent in operation. The presumption, rather than certainty, is rooted in the nature of the Arizona drive route, which was on dry roads. If the all-wheel drive system found any reason to operate in anything but its front-drive default mode, it wasn't apparent.
Ride quality is creamy, though firm enough to convey a sense of competence. The new Flex Steer option does manage to convey some approximation of on-center tactility, particularly in Sport mode. After experimenting with all three settings, we simply left it in Sport, and while there was no real sense of actual road feel the higher effort associated with this mode delivered the best accuracy. The foregoing is something we'll see in almost every new vehicle coming down the pike, as carmakers switch to electric power steering as part of the scramble to meet mounting EPA fuel economy standards.
While the Sorento driving experience is generally bland, there are a couple of strong suits. For one, the chassis and body engineers have done a very good job of noise suppression. The previous Sorento drew demerits for interior noise at freeway speeds; this new one deserves plaudits. For another, the bigger brakes have gratifying power, and the system provides excellent pedal feel and easy modulation.
Substantially revised for 2014, Kia Sorento is among the largest of the compact crossover utility vehicles. Sorento boasts a roomy cabin, with lots of cargo capacity. We recommend Sorento as a five-passenger vehicle; it really isn't big enough for three rows of seats. Ride quality is smooth. We found the V6 smooth and quiet and recommend it over the four-cylinder because the Sorento is on the heavier side of the class. All-wheel drive is a smart option for wintry conditions. Hyundai and Kia have made huge strides with quality, and the Sorento has the feel of solid goods. Overall, Sorento offers a good value for buyers who can resist moving up the model line and adding options.
Tony Swan filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Kia Sorento SX.