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2016 Kia Sorento Test Drive Review
The all-new 2016 Kia Sorento gets a new turbocharged engine and plenty of interior refinements that make it a very appealing crossover.
Look and Feel
Form and Function
The 2016 Kia Sorento is all new this year with changes everywhere you look. It’s grown up with a more upscale appearance, a refined interior, and a new turbocharged engine option.
Look and Feel
Saying a car is all new is one thing, but the 2016 Kia Sorento actually delivers on that billing, starting with an exterior that still looks like a Sorento, just one that has evolved in a more upscale direction. Its profile is very close to the previous generation's, but look at it from the front, and it’s suddenly a different story.
The new Sorento has narrower headlights, a lower air intake, and fog lamps that stand out for their unique design, making this crossover look different than all the other CUVs on the road. The Sorento has also grown to a 109.4-inch wheelbase that marks a 3.1-inch increase that you can see. It looks beefier and makes a stronger impression.
Inside the changes come from more soft-touch surfaces that have a better texture and quality and make this feel like a higher-end car. It is modern, updated, and very upscale. That bigger size on the outside translates to a roomier interior as well, with cargo volume going up to 73.5 cubic feet overall. Passengers in the second and optional third row also score an extra half-inch of room with an additional 1.5 inches of boarding room for anyone squeezing back into that third row.
The engine lineup has also grown with the addition of a new 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder as an option for select trims. It puts out 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque, and although it’s not the most powerful engine available, it does prove peppy thanks to that turbocharging.
Eight different trims are offered, starting with the base L, which comes in at $24,900 and is still a very well-equipped trim. Standard features include solar-control glass, variable intermittent wipers, projector-beam headlamps, heated rear glass with a timer, and a rear spoiler.
Inside it has AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM, Bluetooth wireless connectivity, 40/20/40 split second-row seats, and steering-wheel-mounted audio, hands-free phone, and cruise-control buttons. A USB/auxiliary jack, 12-volt power outlets, tilt and telescopic steering column, and remote keyless entry are also standard in every Sorento.
The L has a 2.4-liter inline 4-cylinder (I4) engine with a 6-speed automatic transmission providing 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque. Front-wheel drive is standard for this and all trim levels. Once you move up to the LX, Dynamax all-wheel drive, a locking center differential, and torque-vectoring cornering control become options and remain optional throughout the rest of the range.
The LX trim adds UVO eServices infotainment, low-profile roof rails, a shark-fin antenna, sound-absorbing windshield glass, and a rear camera with optional back-up warning. Other options include an auto-dimming mirror, 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, and a 50/50 split-folding third row. Heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, and a leather and wood-style gearshift are also offered as options in the LX.
Those looking for a bigger engine can choose the LX V6, which gets a 3.3-liter V6 offering 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque. The third row becomes standard in this trim, and rear air conditioning becomes an available option.
Breaking the $30,000 price point takes you into the EX, which adds sound-absorbing front window glass, fog lights, and options including smart welcome lighting, power-folding mirrors, a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade, and power liftgate with programmable height adjustment. The sound system also gets a boost with optional Infinity Surround Sound with Clari-Fi, 10 speakers, an external amplifier and subwoofer, and HD Radio. Voice-command navigation with an 8-inch display, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert are optional, while the back-up warning system becomes standard.
Additional optional features for the EX include a supervision meter cluster with a 7-inch TFT color LCD display, push-button start, LED map and room lights, and integrated second-row sunshades. Dual-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, an 8-way power-adjustable driver’s seat, leather seat trim, and leather and wood-style accents become standard.
The EX is also your first chance at the new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4, which is standard in this trim. The EX V6 offers a similarly equipped version of the Sorento with the more powerful V6 engine and brings back the third row and rear air conditioning, which are not available on the EX trim.
The SX V6 sticks with that V6 engine and turns the optional features on the EX V6 into standard features. It also adds body-color accents, rear combination LED headlamps, reverse tilt-down outside mirrors, memory driver’s seat, and a leather-and-black deco gearshift.
Topping out the range are the Limited and Limited V6 at $41,300. The Limited is the only other trim to offer the 2.0-liter turbocharged I4. It also gets optional HID projector-beam headlights with auto-leveling, standard LED fog lights, optional surround-view monitor, and optional safety features, including advanced smart cruise control, forward-collision warning, lane-departure warning, and an electronic parking brake with auto hold. The Limited V6 once again offers the V6 engine as well as the third row with rear air conditioning, which are not available on the Limited.
If there’s one thing the Sorento offers, it’s plenty of choices. At its most basic this is an attractive, full-featured crossover with plenty of style and, thanks to its increase in size, plenty of room for the family and cargo. The optional third row gives it what many crossovers lack with seating for 7 passengers. It also does this very affordably.
The starting price of $24,900 gives those with a tighter budget the chance at this stylish crossover, while those with around $40,000 in their pocket can get all the bells and whistles for thousands less than they could from competitors. Kia is not known as an upscale brand, but it delivers an upscale experience for a heck of a lot less than most competitors. If you don’t need an expensive badge on the hood to impress your friends, then the Kia Sorento is a great choice.
The 2016 Kia Sorento Limited features the new 2.0-liter turbocharged I4 with 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque and, as tested, came with Dynamax all-wheel drive. There may be more horsepower in the V6, but the 2.0-liter turbo is no slouch. It was responsive in all kinds of traffic, whether accelerating at highway speeds or managing side roads. The only time its bulk became truly noticeable was off the line, when the response wasn't quite as quick as expected with just a small amount of turbo lag.
The drive can be tweaked with Drive Control, which offers Eco, Comfort, or Sport modes. Flipping through the options adjusts shift points and steering, but not dramatically. The differences are very subtle between Eco and Comfort and more noticeable in Sport with tighter steering and a better throttle response.
The cabin is very quiet, thanks partly to the sound-absorbing windshield and front glass. Road noise is minimal, and so is wind noise. Even with the panoramic sunroof open, it’s easy to carry on a conversation with those in the second row.
Steering is much improved with better weighting that lends to a better sense of control for the driver. This is a large crossover, but there was never a time that the steering felt sloppy or poorly controlled. Braking was confident with minimal nosedive and a very solid pedal feel.
This isn’t really the kind of car you’ll go off-roading in, but 7.3 inches of ground clearance and the available locking center differential will let you leave the pavement with confidence. It also has a 3,500-pound towing capacity, so you’re able to take a little extra on your travels. Switch to the V6 and you’ll get a 5,000-pound tow rating.
The Sorento takes regular unleaded gas and is rated at 19 mpg city/25 highway/22 combined, which is impressive for a turbo with AWD. I averaged 21.0 driving a good mix of city and highway roads with not much in the way of cargo or passengers.
Form and Function
The most significant improvements to the 2016 Kia Sorento are in the car’s interior, making it a very nice place to spend time. Trims look and feel better, and there are soft-touch surfaces throughout. There’s an extra half-inch for second- and third-row passengers and a larger access space for those getting into that third row, which help make it comfortable no matter where you sit.
Leather seats are supportive with moderate bolstering that is perfect for long drives. The driver gets a 14-way adjustable power seat, while the passenger gets an 8-way adjustable seat. The driver especially can make things soft as a marshmallow or stiff as a board depending on his or her preference. Heated and ventilated seats make hot summers and cold winters more bearable, and the heated steering wheel will keep your fingers warm.
Steering-wheel controls are all nicely positioned with enough space and difference between the buttons that you’re not accidentally changing the radio station when you only intended to turn up the volume. Buttons are similarly well-positioned for the infotainment system. Everything is within easy reach and clearly marked to help you keep your eyes on the road.
There is plenty of storage with a large center console and glove box, lots of those precious cup holders throughout, and even places to hold bottles on the front and rear doors. Cargo capacity has increased this year with 38.8 cubic feet behind the second row or 73.5 cubic feet with the second row folded flat.
Loading the Kia Sorento is easier thanks to the power liftgate, which can be closed at the touch of a button or pulled down with a well-placed handle. Even better, the height is programmable and can be adjusted so it's reachable for drivers of every height.
The Kia Sorento Limited comes with the UVO eServices infotainment system, voice-command navigation, and Sirius traffic. There’s a well-placed 8-inch color display for controlling features that are easy to find through an intuitive set of menus, and there’s Bluetooth wireless technology that allows for hands-free connectivity. Radio volume, channels, and phone calls can all be handled through buttons right on the steering wheel.
UVO eServices offers a suite of features with no additional subscription fees required. You can download the UVO app to your iPhone or Android device to easily stream music and use services like Pandora and Yelp right through the vehicle’s touchscreen. The system also includes Siri Eyes Free and Local Search for finding what’s nearby.
The Sorento also offers some great features for parents with teen drivers. Geo Fence, Curfew Limit, and Speed Alert will make sure you know what your kids are up to when you’re not in the car. An app can even help you find the car if you happen to forget where you parked. Additionally, the system can be set to give you maintenance notifications, perform vehicle diagnostics, and even schedule a service appointment.
AM/FM/CD/MP3/SiriusXM are standard in every Sorento. You’ll get a 3-month trial to SiriusXM before you have to decide if you want to pay for the service. Sound comes from an Infinity with Clari-Fi Surround Sound system that has 10 speakers, an external amplifier and subwoofer, and HD Radio. Clari-Fi is a new feature that adds back the details lost in digitally compressed music for a richer listening experience. Those teens you’re tracking with that Geo Fence are going to love this sound system.
A USB/auxiliary input jack is standard, as are up to four 12-volt power outlets. There are also two available USB 2.1 charger ports and a 110-volt power inverter for the top trim levels.
The 2016 Kia Sorento had not yet been evaluated by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) at the time of this review, but it has been rated by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). It received their top rating of Good in all tests and earned 2015 Top Safety Pick status for its performance in crash tests.
The list of safety features on the Kia Sorento is extensive, and most of them are standard for every trim level. There are dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted side airbags, and side curtain airbags for the first and second rows. Also standard is a rollover sensor, front-seatbelt pretensioners, 4-wheel disc brakes with ABS, vehicle stability management, electronic stability control, traction control, and electronic brakeforce distribution.
That’s a comprehensive list of standard features, but there are additional features that are optional or standard on higher trims. There’s a rear camera with an available back-up warning system, a surround-view monitor that provides a 360-degree view around the car when in reverse, blind-spot detection, and rear cross-traffic alert. Advanced smart cruise control, forward-collision warnings, and lane-departure warnings round things out.
Kia is known for producing affordable cars, but there was a time when that price required a sacrifice in quality. The company has worked very hard to change that perception both by introducing models like the K900 and by improving its existing lineup. The 2016 Kia Sorento has benefited from those improvements.
The Sorento is rated at 19 mpg city/25 highway/22 combined as a turbo I4 with all-wheel-drive, which are economical numbers, and it takes regular unleaded gas. The Sorento will not constantly empty your wallet at the pump. My average of 21.0 during mixed city and highway driving bears out those numbers and puts it in line with the rest of the segment.
The base trim levels are the most economical, as you’d expect, but price does start to creep up by the time you get to the top of the line. That leaves you plenty of room to get the features you want and are willing to pay for without having to spend too much.
Even opting for the most expensive Limited V6, you’re getting a lot of car. It’s got lots of technology and safety features and an interior that's borderline plush. Try that in other similar vehicles and you’re going to pay more at the dealership.
Warranty coverage on the Kia Sorento includes a 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, 5-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty, 5-year/100,000-mile limited anti-perforation warranty, and 5-year/60,000-mile roadside assistance plan.
Nicole Wakelin's passion for cars started on the day she went for a ride in a bright red Ferrari as a teenager. She writes reviews and covers everything cars for CarGurus, The Boston Globe, BestRide, and Be Car Chic and blogs all things geek over at TotalFanGirl.
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