Stylish new Kia Sorento offers content and value



Photo by Ben Castle. The 2016 Kia Sorento.

By Ben Castle

The Neepawa Banner

Traditionally, Kia vehicles have offered high levels of standard equipment and an industry-leading five year/100,000km bumper-to-bumper warranty for the price of a used vehicle from a more established manufacturer.  For this reason, it’s easy to see why Kia has seen such a meteoric rise, particularly in the last 10 years.

The trade-off has typically been vehicles that are a generation behind their direct rivals in terms of design, quality and engineering.

However, the new for 2016 Kia Sorento has recently been awarded the top spot in the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada’s (AJAC’s) $35,000-$60,000 SUV/crossover category. As tested, the MSRP of this SX V6 seven-seat model supplied by Planet Kia in Brandon is $43,395 and it has many features usually associated with luxury brands, such as 19 inch aluminum wheels, pearl effect paint, premium leather, heated and air-cooled front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, navigation, Infinity premium audio, smart power tailgate, panoramic sunroof, blind spot and rear cross traffic detection and HID Xenon headlights.  It comes with a 3.3 litre V6 24v direct injection gasoline engine with 290 horsepower and 252 pound foot of torque, that offers class-leading power and, with the standard six-speed Sportmatic torque converter automatic transmission, is towards the top of the class in terms of fuel efficiency too.  

Ex-Volkswagen/Audi stylist Peter Schreyer, one of the world’s top automotive designers, is Kia’s chief design officer and the latest Sorento features his signature “tiger nose” grille and in my opinion, with its chunky good looks, is one of the most handsome vehicles in its class.  

This style is continued inside with the use of good quality plastics, well laid-out controls and a very comfortable, spacious cabin. To reduce wind, road and engine noise inside the cabin, Kia have used 200 per cent more rubber cladding underneath the vehicle, foam insulated body panels and a noise- reducing windshield. A 14 per cent stiffer bodyshell, combined with a 2” lower roofline, contributes to a low for class curb weight of around 1,900kg, improved handling and better fuel economy.  Kia claim 9.3L/100km highway, although I only achieved an average of 11.3L/100km on test but that isn’t bad for a near two tonne AWD vehicle on mainly off-highway driving.  Both the length and wheelbase are up 3” from 2015, which means more space for second and third row passengers.  The second row also splits 40/20/40 to give better flexibility when carrying a combination of cargo and passengers.  Towing capacity has now been uprated to 5,000 pounds on V6 models, which is more in-line with the competition.

One unusual feature of the SX model is that it has the power assistance motor for the steering on the rack rather than on the column, which means increased steering feel and greater precision.  The steering also has a “Sport” mode, which adds weight to the steering, giving you more confidence when driving on twisty, bumpy roads.  The engine pulled really strongly when required, with the transmission shifting smoothly and sounding pleasingly tuneful under hard acceleration. 

For a mid-size SUV, the Kia Sorento has genuine driver appeal. On AWD models, the torque split is primarily front-wheel-drive biased for optimum fuel economy but torque can be transferred to the rear wheels as and when required. A manual override allows you to lock the AWD into a 50:50 split up to 36km/h in very slippery conditions and this will automatically disengage at 36km/h to reduce wear on the transmission components.

The Sorento comes in four levels of trim: LX, LX+, EX and SX.  All models come with air conditioning, aluminum wheels, rear parking sonar, auto lights, fog lights, power windows/mirrors/locks, heated front seats and cruise control as standard.  AWD is standard on EX and SX models and a $2,000 option on the 4-cylinder LX and LX+ models.  Entry level price for the five-seat LX model with front-wheel-drive is $27,495 MSRP and it comes with a 2.4 litre engine with 185 horsepower.  Next up, for an extra $3,200 the LX+ model benefits from a more powerful 240 horsepower 2 litre turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, leather-trimmed steering wheel, upgraded infotainment system, backup camera, push-button start and power driver’s seat. If you want leather seating, dual-zone climate control and heated steering wheel amongst other features, pay an additional $2,900 for the EX model. If you want seven seats, then you get the V6 engine and AWD as standard for an additional $1,100 to $1,200 on LX+ models and above.  The SX model is a hefty $6,500 premium over the EX but comes as standard with the many features of our test model. 

All trim levels offer excellent value but, as is often the case, the mid-range LX+ and EX specs seem to offer the best combination of value and features.  At $33,895, the LX+ V6 AWD with seven seats could be all the family car that you ever need and if seven seats are not required, the five seat LX+ and EX models also offer excellent value.  Servicing is set at relatively frequent 6,000 km intervals, but costs promise to be low due to the use of low maintenance items such as the engine timing chain, which should be good for 300,000 kilometres before it needs replacing

In isolation, the prices don’t look like the bargain that Kias used to be, but when you consider the level of equipment that you get for your money, the competition spec-for-spec are on average 14 per cent (over $5,000) more expensive across the range. For instance, a similarly equipped GMC Acadia Denali AWD to our test model has an MSRP of over $57,000!  So, put your prejudices aside, the American-built 2016 Sorento still offers the traditional Kia virtues of good value and a long warranty, but is now more than a match for the domestic, Japanese and even European competition in terms of quality, driver appeal, design and engineering.