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Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Kia Sorento


When you think of seven-passenger mid-size crossovers, do you think of the Kia Sorento? Perhaps not--there are better-known vehicles in the segment that have been around far longer--but Kia is working aggressively to change that. Sharing some underpinnings with the Hyundai Santa Fe lineup (which now comes in short and long wheelbases), the Sorento has evolved from its past as a traditional...


When you think of seven-passenger mid-size crossovers, do you think of the Kia Sorento? Perhaps not--there are better-known vehicles in the segment that have been around far longer--but Kia is working aggressively to change that. Sharing some underpinnings with the Hyundai Santa Fe lineup (which now comes in short and long wheelbases), the Sorento has evolved from its past as a traditional sport-utility vehicle with a separate frame to a more modern car-based crossover. All-wheel drive is still offered, of course, as are both four- and six-cylinder engines.

It faces off against a raft of competitors in a couple of sizes, from Chevrolet's Equinox and larger Traverse, Ford's Edge and larger Explorer, the Nissan Murano and Pathfinder, the Toyota Venza and Highlander, and trailing the pack, the Dodge Journey. And, of course, its half siblings, the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport and seven-passenger Santa Fe. In line with the competition--or perhaps slightly below it--prices for the current Sorento start at about $24,00, though a heavy hand on the options list will drive that above $30,000 quickly.

The all-new 2011 Kia Sorento was the one that switched from old truck-style body-and-frame construction to a car-based platform. Many of its mechanicals are now closely related to those in its corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe. It’s also now built in Georgia. And like many of its competitors, it now offers a choice among two four-cylinders and a V-6, rather than two sizes of V-6. The 276-hp, 3.5-liter V-6 with six-speed automatic is rated at up to 26 mpg highway. The 175-hp, 2.4-liter four is rated at up to 29 mpg highway and comes with either a six-speed manual or six-speed automatic, while a direct-injection version, new for the 2012 model year, has 191 hp and EPA-rated highway mileage of up to 30 mpg. Front-wheel-drive is standard, with all-wheel drive available on all except the base manual-transmission version.

All 2013 Sorentos are well-equipped, with air conditioning, cruise control, satellite radio, and tilt/telescoping steering wheel standard. A third-row seat is now standard on V-6 models. The EX model adds 18-inch wheels, and a host of electronics, including push-button start, backup sensors, automatic headlamps, leather seating, and a power driver’s seat. Options include navigation, a better audio system, a sunroof, a DVD entertainment system, and Kia's voice-command UVO system.

While outward appearance doesn't change much, the 2014 Kia Sorento gets a substantial mid-cycle refresh. Updates include a re-engineered body structure, a new 290-horsepower, 3.3-liter direct-injected V-6 engine (in addition to the 191-hp four), improved versions of the available all-wheel drive system, and a long list of new features. The front and rear end have been restyled, and the Sorento's infotainment systems have been upgraded. The new systems offer eight-inch screens, Infinity premium audio, real-time traffic info, and next-gen UVO eServices features.

For 2014, a top Sorento SX model also adds Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, as well as HID headlamps and more on the outside. Other new features include second-row sunshades, ventilated seats, and a power inverter. All Kia Sorento models are assembled at the carmaker's first U.S. factory in West Point, Georgia.

The first-generation Sorento, offered from 2003 to 2010, offered good value for money but fell down in aspects that are often important to family buyers. Unusually in this category, it was not a car-based crossover, but rather a traditional sport-utility vehicle built on a separate frame, like a truck. This gave it good towing capacity as well as a four-wheel-drive option, but it hurt the handling and ride. One of two V-6 engines—a 242-horsepower 3.3-liter and a 262-hp 3.8-liter—was matched to a five-speed automatic transmission. Four-wheel-drive capabilities were offered on both, but the system for the smaller engine was part-time rather than full 4WD. Towing capacities were 3,500 and 5,000 pounds, respectively, for the smaller and larger engines. Fuel economy, however, was just 16 mpg city, 22 mpg highway with the smaller engine, and a dismal 15 mpg, 20 mpg with the larger.

 Four-cylinder versions of the 2012-2013 Sorento are among a set of vehicles found to have overstated fuel-economy numbers. Kia initially submitted figures of 22/32 mpg (25 mpg combined) with 2WD and 21/28 (23 combined) with 4WD to the EPA, which allows automakers to self-certify fuel economy. On a confirmation check of several vehicles, the EPA found the Sorento's actual tested fuel economy to be 21/30 mpg (24 combined) with 2WD or 20/26 (22 combined) with 4WD. Owners can register with Kia to receive reimbursement for the gas consumed above and beyond expected levels; more details are found at KiaMPGInfo.com.

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