2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD : Current Models
Korean automaker Kia approaches the fringes of the luxury market with the ★★★ 2016 Sorento SXL, a midsize SUV priced and equipped to compete with vehicles ranging from the Chevrolet Equinox to the Lincoln MKX.
The refinement of some of the Sorento's features doesn't match the leading competitors – even non-luxury models like the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge – but the striking SUV compensates for that with a long list of features.
The Sorento is one of the biggest midsize crossover SUVs, big enough that some models offer an option of three rows of seats for up to seven passengers.
The Sorento's primary competitors are five-seat SUVs like the Acura RDX, Equinox, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, Jeep Cherokee, Lexus RX, MKX and Nissan Murano.
That's a wide range of vehicles, but the Sorento has an exceptionally broad model line. In addition to either five or seven seats, it comes with front- or all-wheel-drive and a choice of two four-cylinder engines or a V6. All Sorentos have a six-speed automatic transmission.
Sorento prices start at $24,900 for a front-drive model with a 185-hp 2.4L four-cylinder engine. All-wheel-drive models start at $26,800 with the same engine. A powerful 2.0L turbo generates 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque from prices starting at $31,100 with front-drive and $32,900 with AWD. A 290-hp 3.3L V6 tops the lineup and starts at $31,700 for FWD and $33,500 with AWD.
I tested an AWD SXL with the 2.0L turbo that was very close to the top of the model line. It had two rows of seats, a large sunroof, Bluetooth audio and phone compatibility, voice recognition, navigation, adaptive cruise control, Nappa leather upholstery, lane departure warning and much more.
It stickered at $44,200. All prices exclude destination charges.
The Sorento's prices are generally at the low end of its competitive set, but it's among the largest midsize SUVs inside and out.
The front seat is roomy and has plenty of storage cubbies. The gauges are big and easy to read. A big touch screen and plenty of conventional buttons and dials make it easy to control audio and climate. The voice recognition system's understanding of contact names and navigation instructions is not as fast or accurate as the best competitors. The audio system crashed my USB-connected iPod Classic, a problem I've consistently had with Kia's UVO system. It worked fine streaming audio from my iPhone 6, however.
The interior of my vehicle was trimmed in appealing materials. The dash and doors were soft to the touch. Brushed chrome and black glossy plastic completed the package.
The rear seat is comfortable and roomy. The cargo compartment is bigger than all the competitors except the new Journey, RX, and the new 2015 models of the Edge and Murano.
The Sorento's exterior design is handsome, with a snub nose, sleek roofline and flared fenders.
The 2.0L turbo is powerful and fuel efficient. The transmission doesn't always shift fast enough to maximize the engine's potential, but its broad torque curve and high output make the Sorento a capable cruiser.
The Sorento rated 19 mpg city, 25 highway and 22 combined in EPA tests. The key combined figure trails only the 2015 Edge's 2.0L turbo among four-cylinder engines and the V6 Cherokee and Murano, both of which benefit from advanced transmissions. The Sorento's turbo-four also runs fine on regular gasoline, giving it an edge in affordability over the RDX, which scored the same combined mpg but uses premium.
The Sorento's ride is very comfortable. The suspension absorbs bumps from rough road surfaces with aplomb. The steering is very light and numb, providing very little feedback to the driver. That's the only drawback in an otherwise competent chassis.
Midsize SUVs buyers are increasingly driven by styling and features. The Sorento combines those virtues with a very competitive price to present an appealing package.
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