The new-for-2016 Kia Sorento is a vehicle to watch in the booming midsize SUV segment. With a first-ever turbocharged 2.0-liter engine, the Sorento easily competes against its rivals in terms of fuel efficiency, ride and handling, exterior design, interior quality, and – perhaps most importantly – bang for your buck.
The Kia Sorento has been completely redesigned inside and out for the 2016 model year. The exterior brings with it a sportier, aggressive appearance while the interior gains more premium features.
With eight trim level options, ranging in base MSRP from $24,900 to $43,100, Kia wants every consumer to have an opportunity to get into the Sorento no matter their price point. Engine options are almost as varied, with a base 2.4-liter four cylinder model and a mid-level model with a new turbocharged 2.0-liter four-cylinder engine. There’s also a 3.3-liter V6 for those dead set on six cylinders, more luxury-minded features and the possibility of hauling seven passengers, their stuff and something attached to a tow hitch. All engines are available with all-wheel drive and mated with a six-speed automatic transmission.
While presenting so many offerings may be beneficial for the manufacturer and their dealer network, it could translate into decision overload for the consumer.
Also for the 2016 model year, an additional 3 inches of wheelbase earns the new Sorento a roomier second and third row, adding to the appeal of hauling around seven passengers whether regularly or on occasion. A third row, however, is not an option on models with the lower-powered, turbocharged engine.
The new aesthetics of the 2016 Kia Sorento help it compete in a crowded segment of SUVs. While the design isn’t overly unique, the sleeker lines and carving job the design team did help the Sorento shed the pounds, if not physically, at least visually. Smoothing out the corners and providing a more interesting line for the eye to follow gives the new Sorento a much more updated look that can carry it through the remainder of its lifecycle.
We appreciate the toned-down alloy wheels, replacing the chromed-out version on the outgoing model, which gives the new Sorento a more polished, refined look.
Also worthy of note is the panoramic moonroof / sunroof combination; Kia has been wowing us for years with its expansive sunroofs, and the 2016 Sorento is no exception.
Another feature we are quite fond of, are the new LED accent lights that differentiate the Sorento’s front fascia from its competitors. They are functional, yes, but the quad of lights is another visual point of interest from the new design.
Kia may be an affordable brand, but the company is not cheaping out on interior materials and finishes. The instrument panel, center stack and door panels are flush with soft-touch materials to provide a more premium atmosphere for driver and passengers. Hard plastics have their place in the interior, but they have been limited to low-traffic areas.
The setup for driver and passenger is straightforward, with controls and vents located comfortably within arm’s reach. Our test vehicle came with navigation, which we found quite easy to operate – both by voice command and traditionally interfacing with it.
The plastic trim that surrounds the navigation and air vents, however, somewhat detracts from the clean, minimalist dashboard. This detail could lead to the Sorento’s interior appearing outdated sooner than it really should.
Consumers can opt for front seats with both heat and ventilation – a feature we are glad to have seen Kia bring to many of its vehicles – and even heated seats in the second row. The Nappa leather-surfaced seats are comfortable and provide enough leg and back support thanks to the 14-way power driver and 8-way power passenger seats, not to mention thigh extension support for the driver.
Overall, the 2016 Sorento feels spacious inside, especially with the moonroof exposed. We had no trouble finding a comfortable driving position and settling in for a decent drive that included twists and turns in addition to straightaways.
Cargo space can be customized depending on how many passengers are riding inside the cabin (the Sorento can hold up to seven). If it’s just the driver, then the options are pretty large for hauling anything from furniture to pets to building materials.
Kia addresses a pet peeve of ours (i.e. storage room behind the third row) by giving the Sorento 11 cubic feet behind the last two seats (up from 9 cubic feet). Folding the second and third rows brings the total cargo capacity to 74 cubic feet. One feature we really appreciate is the ability to release the second-row seats without having to open the rear doors. Kia has given the Sorento a lever to solve that challenge.
We tested both the 2.0-liter turbo and the 3.3-liter V6 engines and found both to be capable. However, we preferred the punch and the smoothness of the turbo model. Six shift points do not seem to be quite enough for the six-cylinder engine, causing acceleration to feel a bit choppy. At times, the V6 seemed to struggle to select the appropriate gear, temporarily abandoning the motor in no man’s land.
The base, 2.4-liter inline-four gets an EPA-estimated 21/29 mpg city/highway, which is the same as the 2.0-liter turbo model.
The 3.3-liter V6 garners 18 mpg in city driving compared to 26 on the open road.
The 2016 Kia Sorento handles exceptionally well for an SUV priced so affordably. Steering is direct, lacking that “floating” feel where the driver becomes uncertain of how the vehicle is responding to his guidance. Cornering is impressively tight; the Sorento faces turns confidently, braking steadily ahead of tight twists and full stops.
The larger V6 engine, while not our performance favorite, may make more sense for buyers looking to haul family, friends and a boat. When paired with Kia’s all-wheel drive system, the V6 comes with towing capabilities of up to 5,000 pounds.
As a brand, Kia is on-par with its technological offerings, providing consumers the options they want without overdoing it. The 2016 Sorento is a practical vehicle for everyday use, making enhanced technology features a desired – but perhaps not necessary – item for consideration.
Navigation from the 8-inch display in the center stack is optional on most trims, while standard on others at the higher end of the spectrum. As mentioned before, the navigation system functions well with a variety of commands – both vocal and tactile – and the audible directional guidance from the system comes in clear.
We found Kia’s UVO system easy to use thanks to a simple interface that operates in an intuitive manner (likely one of the biggest challenges facing today’s infotainment systems). Parents sharing the Sorento with novice drivers will appreciate UVO’s latest forward-thinking features, such as geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert and driving score.
Kia’s “Smart Power” liftgate communicates with its Smart Key, enabling the driver to simply walk up to the rear of the car – and without requiring hands or feet – open the liftgate. The height of the liftgate can also be programmed for ease of closing it or to be customized within a garage.
We are not particularly impressed or disappointed with the 2016 Sorento’s tech options; simply said, this Kia CUV packs enough technological punch for the money, making its offerings reasonable at each step in the price scale.
Driving the Kia Sorento certainly felt safe, and the professionals at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will back up this feeling with science and data. The IIHS awarded the 2016 Sorento “Good” ratings, its highest classification, across the board for crashworthiness and included the vehicle on its list of Top Safety Picks.
The outgoing model received high marks from NHTSA as well, garnering an overall rating of 5 stars. Results for the 2016 model have not yet been released, but we would expect the Sorento to retain its high ratings.
All Sorento models come standard with active safety features such as Electronic Stability Control (ESC), traction control, brake assist, hill-start assist, and anti-lock brakes. All-wheel drive models also get rollover mitigation and cornering brake control for improved safety.
Optional safety equipment includes forward collision warning, smart cruise control, blind spot detection, rear cross traffic alerts and a surround-view monitor.
Kia has long been known as a bargain brand. But what car buyers may not realize is that this Kia is not the same brand as 10 years ago. The Korean-based car manufacturer has gone to great lengths to compete in the U.S. market, and it has done well to price its vehicles competitively, yet not too aggressively, and option out models so that consumers can self-select what vehicle trim level and options meet their budgetary needs. Bottom line, Kia is a brand that is conscious of buyers’ pocketbooks.
The base Sorento offered at $24,900 is likely pretty bare bones (we did not have this model available for testing), while the topped-out SXL V6, pushing the $41,300 mark, screams luxury brand with its creature comforts.
We find that if you are in the market for a new seven-seat utility vehicle, then the Kia Sorento should definitely be on your list. No matter where your budget falls, depending on the vehicles you cross-shop, there’s likely a Sorento in there to meet your needs.
The question becomes, can the consumer strip away any preconceived notions of the young brand? If they can look at the specs, reviews and data objectively, then we believe the 2016 Kia Sorento will take care of the positive emotional connection during a test spin.
The 2016 Kia Sorento shines on the road, making its affordable price tag and above-average performance a winning combination. We prefer the turbocharged four-cylinder to the V6 due to its smooth performance and shifting in various real-life driving conditions. With the option of front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive and a third row for extra passengers, the Sorento may just be the Goldilocks of today’s midsize SUV market, giving each customer a “just right” option that suits their needs.