It appears that Kia just can’t stop updating the Sorento. After switching to a unibody structure for the 2010 model year, Kia gave it a major refresh for 2014, adding a new V6 engine, a new platform, and 80 percent new or re-engineered parts. Now Kia gives us yet another new Sorento. A redesigned Sorento arrives as an early 2016 model, and it reflects all the work Kia has put into its midsize crossover over the past half-decade.
The 2016 Kia Sorento is three inches longer than the previous models, placing it squarely in the midsize class, while the last model could be viewed as compact. The increased size adds useful interior space, especially for front- and rear-seat passengers. As in the past, a third-row seat is available, upping seating capacity from five to seven. The third row is best used in emergencies or for children. The Sorento simply isn’t big enough for third-row passengers to be comfortable for long hauls.
Front-seat occupants will be comfortable, though, and they will find the interior environment to be attractive and upscale, even in the base model. The top-end model features luxury amenities such as soft Nappa upholstery, a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, and a state-of-the-art infotainment system.
That infotainment system, called UVO, is standard on all but the base model, and it offers such features as access to apps through owners’ smartphones, Siri Eyes Free voice control, geo-fencing and curfew alerts, and satellite services including real-time traffic, stock quotes, sports scores, and more.
The Sorento isn’t ahead of the curve in terms of vehicle dynamics, but it is competitive. Greater use of high-strength steel improves torsional rigidity, which aids handling and reduces interior noise. The Sorento also offers some advanced features such as rack-mounted power steering and torque vectoring control for its all-wheel-drive system. On the road, handling is controlled, and the ride is smooth and quiet.
The Sorento is quietest with its smooth and capable 3.3-liter V6. Kia adds a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine for 2016, and it has as much torque as the six, though not quite as much horsepower. Response when accelerating from a standstill is somewhat lacking, but the turbo four is quite capable at highway speeds. We think this new engine offers a fine balance of power and fuel economy, and it would likely be our choice. The base engine is a naturally aspirated four-cylinder that delivers fine fuel economy but little power.
The 2016 Sorento ranges in price from just under $25,000 to the mid $40,000-range. With its three available engines it can serve as a budget-minded purchase for a small family or a fairly luxurious crossover for up to seven. We think the sweet spot is in the middle, around $32,000, for a 2016 Sorento EX with the turbocharged four-cylinder engine. At that price, the Sorento is an attractive and wise choice among midsize crossovers.
The 2016 Sorento gets a new look that Kia says was inspired by the Cross GT concept that debuted at the 2013 Chicago Auto Show. That concept vehicle was far more aggressive than the Sorento, and the new look is really just an evolution of the outgoing model. That’s not to say it’s not better looking because it is. The grille is larger and more pronounced, additional chrome trim is tastefully applied, and the overall look is more modern and stylish.
Depending on the model, buyers get 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels, and alloy wheels are standard on all models. LED fog lights are standard, and the taillights use LEDs, too. Roof rails come on all but the base model.
The new Sorento is larger, too. The wheelbase is 3.1 inches longer and total length grows by three inches. The vehicle sits a half inch lower and the floor drops by two inches.
In addition to the center screen, higher end models also get a 7-inch screen in the instrument cluster to show trip computer, navigation directions, speed, radio station, and other types of information. We were annoyed that this screen also flashed a notice to tell us we had turned on or off the windshield wipers.
Higher end models also offer several other features not expected in this class, such as a 14-way power adjustable driver’s seat, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel, and a 630-watt Infinity audio system with Clari-Fi technology. Clari-Fi uses an algorithm to rebuild audio details lost in digitally compressed music. In our limited exposure, it sounds quite good.
The big news for 2016 is the addition of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine to fit between the naturally aspirated (non-turbo) four-cylinder and the V6. It has less horsepower but more torque than the V6, and it is excellent on the highway, delivering ready passing punch. From a stop, however, we found that the turbo four was slow to react to throttle application, likely due more to the otherwise smooth-shifting 6-speed automatic transmission than turbo lag.
Other than that minor issue, the turbo four is mostly a match for the V6, though it’s not quite as smooth. The price difference between the turbo four and the V6 is as little as $600, so buyers will have to decide if the V6’s slightly more willing and smoother power is worth the money and two miles per gallon overall.
Fuel economy for the 2.4-liter engine that comes on Sorento L and Sorento LX models is an EPA-rated 21/29 mpg City/Highway. The new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine offered on Sorento EX and Sorento SX Limited models is rated 20/27 mpg. The 3.3-liter V6 available on Sorento LX, EX, SX and SX Limited is rated 18/26 mpg.
One of the reasons the base engine isn’t wise choice is the fact that the Sorento is bigger this year. It grows three inches in length and is slightly wider. The new structure uses 115 percent more high- and ultra-high-strength steel, increasing rigidity by 14 percent. The suspension also gets front and rear H-shaped subframes, and longer control arms. The result is a smooth-riding, well-controlled crossover. That isn’t to say that the Sorento is sporty, but it’s as pleasant to drive as just about any rival. Kia has traditionally struggled with suspension tuning, but the Sorento’s dynamics are now right in line with the class.
All models have electric power steering, but only Sorento SX models get a rack-mounted system, which is the most expensive and provides the most road feel. Few drivers will notice the difference, and we found the steering had a natural feel in any model. A Drive Mode Select button has a Sport mode that adds a bit of heft to the steering (it also holds gears longer) that we prefer, but otherwise the steering is typical of a family crossover: a bit slow but direct.
The Kia Sorento keeps getting better. Larger for 2016, it has more interior space for the first and second rows, though the available third row is still just for kids. The interior environment is upscale, and it offers lots of amenities, including a state-of-the-art infotainment system. A new turbocharged four-cylinder engine offers a fine balance of power and fuel economy, making it the best engine choice. Thoughtfully equipped, the Sorento is a wise choice among midsize crossovers.
Kirk Bell filed this report for NewCarTestDrive after driving the Sorento in Lake Tahoe, California.