Tom Crosby: Kia aggressively markets new Sorento

Tom Crosby

Early this year when other car manufacturers were flooding the airwaves with 2015 models, Kia was touting its all-new 2016 Sorento, hoping to stem an annual decline in sales that began plummeting in 2012. Sales began in January and by April sales were more than 15 percent better than last year.

The 2016 Sorento’s sales sweet spot is due to improvements in design, a longer wheelbase, a better safety rating, competitive pricing, a new 2.0-liter turbocharged engine and an attractively outfitted interior with space that can be configured for seven. Sorentos come in five different trims — L, LX, EX, SX and SXL, marketed as a crossover utility vehicle (CUV) but government classified as a mid-size sport utility vehicle (SUV).

Our test drive was the EX all-wheel drive with the 3.3 liter V6 engine (a 2.4-liter four-cylinder is another choice). Using advanced high-strength steel and a new structural design, Sorento went from a poor to good rating and a top safety classification from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Interior noise has been reduced to whisper audibility, and improved stability in handling was particularly noticeable when negotiating twisting, cambered roads. Sorento uses the same platform as the Hyundai Santa Fe.

All Sorentos come with a smoothly reactive automatic transmission with manual gears on the center spine shifter. Steering feel was sharply responsive with just a minimal amount of road feedback. It also proved capable off-road. With redesigned front and rear suspensions, the ride was always composed, regardless of driving mode or road conditions.

Our test drive added a $2,500 Premium Package to include a third row (which hindered visibility); safety features such as cross traffic alerts and blind spot detection to aid rear visibility, and comfort with a hands-free rear liftgate, push button start, power folding mirrors and second row shade screen. Third row seating fits children, scrunches adults but when folded yields expansive cargo space.

Gauges are easily read and used, and improved UVO (short for Your Voice), Kia’s voice-activated telematics system, includes Bluetooth, iPod and iPhone connections. The 8-inch dashboard screen feels undersized but graphics are clean and inside driver ergonomics carefully designed for easily reached information, climate and audio controls. Soft-touch materials and leather trim on comfortable seats add to a premium, upscale cabin feel. Outside, the profile is sleek and clean with repositioned front fascia and other design touches. Towing capability is 5,000 pounds.

LIKES: Handling, ride, interior, versatility, price DISLIKES: Dashboard screen, tight third row
BOTTOM LINE: Sorento improvements push it up mid-size SUV food chain
Base price w/destination fee $34,395 ($37,045 as tested)
Vehicle curb weight 4,343 lbs
Wheelbase 109.4 inches
Length 187.4 inches
Width 74.4 inches
Engine specs 3.3-liter, DOHC, 24-valve, V-6
Horsepower 290 hp at 6,400 rpm
Torque 252 ft.-lbs. at 5,300 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic w/Sportmatic
EPA Rating 18 mpg city and 26 mpg highway
Range 18.8-gallon tank, regular
Performance 0 to 60 just over 7 seconds

Tom Crosby is a former journalist and communications director for AAA Carolinas. He has been reviewing cars since 1996, and has been active in traffic safety issues for more than 30 years. View more reviews at http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby & http://www.nvdaily.com/columns/tom-crosby.