2019 Kia Sorento

Handsome and sophisticated



  • 박재승 (james@koreatimes.net) --
  • 07 Jan 2019

By James Park


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   Remember the Sorento commercial featuring Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal? That first-generation model was a traditional body-on-frame utility vehicle with real off-road capabilities. Perhaps not in the same league as Wrangler or Defender, the Sorento, however, was comparatively inexpensive that the owners did not mind getting banged up as much going over mountains and whatnot.

   Over the years, just like other vehicles in the Kia lineup, the Sorento has also gone through significant transformation, resulting in the present iteration that is far more sophisticated, more dependable, more luxurious, more stylish and inevitably, more expensive.

   Also, the Sorento is now a crossover utility with front-wheel biased AWD system. Not as sure-footed off-roader as the first-gen go-anywhere mule but probably more than ninety-nine percent of North American consumers who purchase SUV/CUVs do not care if their vehicles are Rubicon-rated or not.

   They want relatively luxurious, stylish, roomy and dependable family hauler with AWD for ‘perceived’ traction benefits in foul weather conditions. These consumers would be more than satisfied with the present-generation Kia Sorento.

 

   Mind you, the reputation of Kia for reliability was far from that of say, Lexus or Porsche. This is no longer the case. For the last two or three years in running, in J.D. Power and other quality surveys, Kia is fighting for the top spot. 

   Kia is also turning heads these days with its halo model, the Stinger. This four-door grand-touring sedan has power, handling prowess and eye-catching styling that enable it to go toe-to-toe with some of the best German sports sedans.

   But of course, the consumers these days are looking for utility vehicles and while they might drool over Stinger at the dealers, it is more likely they would purchase a Sorento in the end.

   The Sorento is a mid-size CUV and it is roomy enough to be ordered with third-row seats. From the second-generation onwards, the exterior styling has been an exercise in evolution with the designers tinkering with front fascia, headlights, taillights etc, but leaving the overall silhouette largely alone. The exterior styling does not really stand out, but the Sorento is a handsome vehicle nonetheless and it gives off vibes of maturity and quality.  

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   The Sorento’s cabin also makes one nod his or her head with approval. Seats are comfortable, visibility is excellent all around, dashboard and gauge layout is simple but elegant, fit and finish looks to be above average and Kia’s infotainment system is one of the best.

   As mentioned, price has steadily increased over the years, but the base LX model with front-wheel-drive can be had for just $27,995 before taxes and mandatory fees. Check the box for AWD and the price goes up to $30,295.

   The Sorento lineup goes up from LX to LX AWD, EX, LX Premium V6, EX V6, EX Premium, SX V6 and the top-of-the-line SXL that demands $48,865.

   Two engine choices are available. The base 2.4 litre naturally aspirated four-cylinder is good for maximum 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. The 3.3 litre V6 mill is also found under the Stinger’s hood, but in Sorento’s case, it breathes normally to produce 290 horses and 252 lb-ft of twist. Both engines are mated to smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic transmission. The 2.0 litre turbo four option, sadly, has been discontinued.

   The SXL test-model provided to this writer is all-singing and all-dancing with equipment list comparable with something costing 20,000 to 30,000 more loonies. Everything from panoramic sunroof, Harman/Kardon premium audio, heated and cooled leather seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, dual-zone auto climate and power lift-gate is included.

   The vehicle also comes with impressive list of expected electronic nannies as blind-spot monitoring, lane-keeping, forward collision mitigation and so on.

   In the last few years, 2.0 litre turbo fours have become as ubiquitous as tofu in vegetarian restaurants. So, it’s good to see a genuine V6 option, which is a rarity these days.

   In case of Sorento, however, the six cylinder engine, while everyday powerful enough, does not particularly want to be hurried. That is, the reaction one would expect when depressing the go-pedal is not as immediate. Among Eco, Comfort, Sport and Smart drive modes, only Sport makes any difference in getting more urgent reaction from the motor. Thankfully, the eight-speed transmission shifts seamlessly and does good job of staying in the powerband.

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   The vehicle is also quiet and its ride is never upsetting when going over bumps and potholes. Handling is probably on par with its competitors. It is no Porsche Macan, but the buyers of Sorento would probably not count maneurability as their number one priority.

   All in all, the Sorento is a roomy, comfortable, quiet and unexpectedly luxurious mainstream family utility vehicle. It is equally adept at everyday commuting as well as long-distance camping trips. (James Park is a member of the Automobile Journalists Association of Canada.)

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2019 Kia Sorento SXL

Price: $48,865

Engine: 3.3 litre V6

Power: 290 hp/252 lb-ft

Transmission: 8 spd auto

Drive: AWD

Fuel: 12.5 litres per 100km (city), 9.7 litres (highway)

Best: luxury atmosphere, infotainment

Worst: unhurried engine response

Competition: Hyundai Santa Fe, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Ford Edge

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