Mute Ute: Quiet and Composed for 2016
Plenty of midsize crossovers surpassed the Kia Sorento in sales last year, including the Chevrolet Traverse, Ford Edge, Ford Explorer, GMC Terrain, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Subaru Outback, and Toyota Highlander. Although the Sorento is a dark horse, sales have gone up with the introduction of a third-generation model. We took the 2016 Sorento through a series of instrumented and real-world tests and found it to be an entirely new beast. That’s only in a manner of speaking, though, as the Sorento proved quite composed and refined on the road.
You’ll notice some of the biggest changes on the Sorento before you even step inside. Narrower headlights, ice-cube LED DRLs, and a more prominent grille boost the crossover’s curb appeal. Not only that, but the Sorento also is a little bigger, growing 3 inches in overall length and 3.1 inches in its wheelbase. Despite the increased dimensions and slightly more cargo space than before, the Sorento still isn’t as cavernous as most three-row competitors. Drivers who frequently lug around seven passengers might want to consider a larger vehicle, but the (optional) third row in the Sorento fits the bill for those times when you need just a bit more.
Nothing is more important in this segment than comfort and convenience, but for 2016, even bigger changes happen under the hood. This year, the Sorento offers three engines, one of which is all-new. The naturally aspirated, 2.4-liter four-cylinder and 3.3-liter V-6 return this year, and a new 2.0-liter turbo-four joins the lineup.
Kia says that 52.3 percent of 2016 Sorento buyers have opted for the base 2.4-liter engine at the time of this writing. So although it’s no longer the only four-cylinder option on the block, it’s certainly not a model to ignore. Horsepower drops from 191 to 185 ponies on this naturally aspirated model, and torque decreases from 181 to 178 lb-ft. To see how its performance holds up, we took it to the track to glean some numbers. Here, a front-wheel-drive Sorento with the base engine hit 60 mph in 9.1 seconds. That’s better than the 9.8 seconds we clocked on a 2014 Sorento with the 2.4-liter unit, although that model had all-wheel drive.
We spent a good while testing the all-new turbo-four on the road. Packing 55 more horsepower than the standard mill, the 2.0-liter turbo never feels underpowered. A delay in the throttle response hampers those first few moments of getting up to speed, but the Sorento feels sharp otherwise in the city and on the highway. Its tight turning saved us from making many three-point turns, and its braking came in a bit sharper than with the 2.4-liter engine at 122 feet instead of 130 feet. The turbo’s quiet nature disappears only when you press hard on the gas, revealing an engine brimming with personality. Somewhat surprisingly, the eager new engine didn’t perform much better in instrumented tests than the naturally aspirated four. It hit 60 mph in a negligibly faster 9.0 seconds. Even zero to 30 told a similar tale, with the base engine performing 0.1 second faster.
Fortunately, the turbocharged Sorento doesn’t need to be that fast to feel capable. It moves pretty confidently as long as you don’t floor it. “The trick I found with this crossover was to ride the torque,” said associate online editor Stefan Ogbac. “Revving it high and past 3,500 revs isn’t something you need to do, because everything is in the low end.” We think most customers will be satisfied with the turbo’s gusto, although according to Kia, only 13.5 percent of Sorento buyers are currently picking the engine. And perhaps for many there’s a compelling reason why. In our Real MPG tests, the 2.4-liter averaged 23.4/29.1/25.7 mpg (10/8/9.1 L/100km) city/highway/combined; the turbo averaged just 19.8/28.1/22.9 (11.9/8.4/10.3 L/100km).
The big-boy V-6 is next in line for examination. Despite its size, it never feels heavy on the road, maintaining the turbo four’s lightness. Although it doesn’t feel significantly different in its driving behavior, our tests found it reaches 60 mph much more quickly. At 7.2 seconds, the Sorento V-6 is faster than the last all-wheel-drive Chevrolet Traverse V-6 we tested at 7.7 seconds. It also undercut the 2015 Nissan Murano Platinum all-wheel drive, hitting 7.4 seconds, and the all-wheel-drive Hyundai Santa Fe Limited and Nissan Pathfinder SL 4×4 (both at 7.3 seconds). Towing was another plus for the Sorento, topping out at 5,000 pounds (2,268 kg) with the all-wheel-drive version. That’s more than the maximum 3,500 pounds (1,588 kg) offered on last year’s Sorento.
Numbers aside, the Sorento feels supremely comfortable to drive whether you pick four or six cylinders. Its commanding seat position left us impressed, as it provides the driver with a clear view of the road behind the wheel. The Sorento keeps wind and road noise at bay, so it’s easy to carry on a conversation inside the cabin. Driving over potholes and other road imperfections is no problem. Thank a revised suspension for that, considering the last Sorento suffered from some of ride quality issues. “Comfortable” is also probably the best word to describe the steering. Many drivers will find it a little too lax, and we found steering more responsive on competitors like the Ford Edge.
Comfort also reigns supreme when it comes to the cabin materials. In our SXL tester (packed with the 2.0 turbo), the optional two-tone red and black genuine leather seats cradle yet support, so much so that they almost rival the similarly designed seats of the Lexus NX. The Sorento also has one of the best infotainment systems in the industry thanks to the 8-inch touchscreen’s crisp graphics and user-friendly menus. Inputting navigation directions on the screen is as easy as texting on a smartphone, given the responsive nature of the touchscreen controls. Considering how frustrating infotainment systems can be nowadays, we’re pretty impressed with the Sorento’s unit.
Even our lower-level EX (V-6) model gets a host of creature comforts, including a smaller 4.3-inch display, dual-zone automatic climate control, heated leather-trimmed seats, SiriusXM, a rearview camera, and drive mode select. The seven-passenger setup on our tester came with 50/50 split folding back seats that folded quickly and flat to the ground with one pull of a lever. However, don’t try to fit anything more than a couple of small duffle bags behind the third row, because it’s quite tight back there even for its class. The third row seats are tiny, suitable mainly for small children.
When it comes to the competition, the Sorento doesn’t lead in sales or speed, but its stable and remarkably quiet ride do inspire confidence. In terms of cabin comfort, it has a leg up over a host of competitors with its quality navigation screen, soft-touch materials, and roomy seating for at least five adults. We can’t say if the Sorento will start asserting itself on the sales charts or if it even needs to. But we do know that it is a worthy crossover competitor, now more than ever.
|2016 Kia Sorento LX FWD||2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD||2016 Kia Sorento EX V6 AWD|
|PRICE AS TESTED||$28,225||$45,095||$37,045|
|VEHICLE LAYOUT||Front-engine, FWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||front-engine, AWD, 5-pass, 4-door SUV||Front-engine, AWD, 7-pass, 4-door SUV|
|ENGINE||2.4L/185-hp/178-lb-ft DOHC 16-valve I-4||2.0L/240-hp/260-lb-ft turbo DOHC 16-valve I-4||3.3L/290-hp/252-lb-ft DOHC 24-valve V-6|
|TRANSMISSION||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic||6-speed automatic|
|CURB WEIGHT (F/R DIST)||3,725 lb (57/43%)||4,153 lb (56/44%)||4,153 lb (56/44%)|
|WHEELBASE||109.4 in||109.4 in||109.4 in|
|LENGTH x WIDTH x HEIGHT||187.4 x 74.4 x 66.3 in||187.4 x 74.4 x 66.5 in||187.4 x 74.4 x 66.3 in|
|0-60 MPH||9.1 sec||9.0 sec||7.2 sec|
|QUARTER MILE||16.9 sec @ 82.7 mph||16.8 sec @ 83.4 mph||15.7 sec @ 89.6 mph|
|BRAKING, 60-0 MPH||130 ft||122 ft||126 ft|
|LATERAL ACCELERATION||0.78 g (avg)||0.79 g (avg)||0.77 g (avg)|
|MT FIGURE EIGHT||28.4 sec @ 0.59 g (avg)||27.5 sec @ 0.63 g (avg)||27.8 sec @ 0.61 g (avg)|
|EPA CITY/HWY/COMB FUEL ECON||21/29/24 mpg||19/25/22 mpg||18/26/21 mpg|
|ENERGY CONS, CITY/HWY||160/116 kW-hrs/100 miles||177/135 kW-hrs/100 miles||187/130 kW-hrs/100 miles|
|CO2 EMISSIONS, COMB||0.81 lb/mile||0.91 lb/mile||0.93 lb/mile|