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2018 Kia Sorento Review

2018 Kia Sorento Review
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The 2018 Kia Sorento ticks all the crossover-SUV boxes, especially in turbo-4 form.

The 2018 Kia Sorento is a mid-size crossover that's sweet like honey—with the same long shelf life too. It hasn't changed for the past couple years and we don't mind.



We have a lot of good things to say about the 2018 Kia Sorento, which is how we arrive at a 7.5 overall score.

No matter which 2018 Kia Sorento you choose—L, LX, EX, SX, or SXL—Kia’s biggest crossover has a generically handsome silhouette that weaves itself right into the big tapestry of modern utility-vehicle design. It’s smooth, not jagged; well-detailed, but not too blingy. It’s outfitted with a soft-touch cabin organized in neat, easily parsed regions. We’d let the same crew redecorate our house, which is either high praise or a cry for help, or both.

Power comes from a lowly 4-cylinder in base models. We prefer the 240-horsepower turbo-4 new to this generation, but it can’t be ordered with a third-row seat. The big V-6 comes off less eager than the turbo-4, yet it’s 50 hp stronger, without much of a drain on fuel. All come with a well-tuned 6-speed automatic, and the turbo-4 and V-6 can combine with all-wheel drive, with a locking center differential.

Inside the cabin, the Sorento makes its best impressions. It acts more like a plush luxury SUV, with soft-touch plastics, handsome leathers, and supple front seats. The second-row bench needs more work than the available third row: its low bench cushions don’t have the right support or shape. The cargo area’s more usefully shaped and larger than before, but still not vast unless the third-row seat is absent or folded.

Crash-test scores are very good, and the Sorento offers the latest safety technology on most models. Other features include touchscreen infotainment, big chrome wheels, and higher-end audio, as well as surround-view cameras.

Styling
The latest Kia Sorento strikes its best visual balance yet.

With the Sorento, Kia cues up all the correct crossover-SUV lines and surfaces, without going rogue in any direction.

It’s attractive enough to earn a 7 out of 10 for styling.

The elegant, neat look of the latest Sorento made its debut with the 2016 model year.

It melts right into the crossover-SUV mainstream, with its semi-prominent grille, its upscale and mature levels of chrome detailing, and its softer sculpting. LED lighting accents the corners, and though the front end looks a bit bluff, it’s nowhere near as overstated as the grilles on some of the more adventurous Asian and American utility vehicles.

The Sorento’s cockpit has the polish and organization it lacked in prior generations. The cabin’s awash in soft-touch trim, and on top models, lovely leather. Controls are grouped and cordoned off into logical zones, and the dash wraps around it all in a cohesive way. It’s attractive and functional, altogether, and it feels that the dash itself is a bit lower than before while critical controls are actually placed higher.

Performance
The Kia Sorento has composed handling and perky acceleration; we like the turbo-4 best.

The Kia Sorento could be accused of being all over the map, but we like the half-full-glass view. All its models have a well-controlled ride, and well-behaved powertrains, and that merits a 7 for performance.

The base 2.4-liter inline-4 will be tough to find on lots. With 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, it’s only offered in L trim, only with front-wheel drive and a 6-speed automatic.

We’d steer you to the recently introduced turbo-4, in any case. It’s rated at 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque, and has a perky driving feel that overcomes slight initial turbo lag. It’s forgivable, since it makes peak torque at 1,450 rpm and works well with the standard 6-speed automatic without too much 4-cylinder groan.

The V-6 has more power on paper, at 290 hp and 252 lb-ft, but its peak torque arrives later. It feels best off the line, then accelerates without drama. We’ve observed some 6-speed shift shock with this engine, a sensation we didn’t have in the 4-cylinder models, but with all engines the automatic tends to shift smoothly.

Kia fits a drive-mode selector with Eco, Comfort, and Sport tuning for the powertrain, but don’t get your hopes up. Shift points and steering get tweaked but throttle doesn’t. It doesn’t need to; it’s a little too sensitive as it is.

Traction and handling
The Sorento is no hardcore off-roader, but all-wheel drive is an option. It has a differential lock that fixes its power split at 50/50, and with 7.3 inches of ground clearance, the Sorento does about as well as most medium-grade crossovers, like the Explorer. The Sorento’s all-weather system works with an electronic torque-vectoring function that applies brakes to help the Sorento steer more accurately.
An independent suspension and well-tuned electric steering with great tracking and easily modulated brakes give the Sorento a fluid driving feel. The ride is well-damped, and it goes down the road with more confidence, surefootedness, and control than before.

The Sorento can tow, too. It’s rated at up to 5,000 pounds with all-wheel drive, or 3,500 pounds with front-wheel drive and the turbo-4.

Comfort & Quality
It’s not the largest three-row SUV, but the Kia Sorento seems like the right size for most drivers.

If you haven’t driven the latest Kia Sorento, you might not recognize its solid feel and its reasonably sized third-row seat. In 2016 Kia redesigned the crossover SUV and moved it smartly up the sophisticated scale.

The changes are remarkable in the front seats. Kia’s leapfrogged most rivals with seats sculpted like those in Volvos. The seats have wonderfully supportive cushions, extending thigh supports, and on upper models, a power tilt/height-adjustable passenger seat.


The second row doesn’t fare as well. The three-across seat sits close to the floor and sits low. The bottom cushions don’t have enough contouring for adults, either. Try a Nissan Murano on for size and you’ll see what we mean. Head room is tight on Sorentos with the widely available panoramic roof. The seatbacks fold down for better access to the cargo hold or the third-row seat, which is better than it might have been. It’s not too difficult to climb into the third row, though leg room isn’t as good as vehicles like the Dodge Durango or Ford Explorer. Third-row seats can’t be ordered with the turbo-4 engine, either.

Expensive versions get a power-fold third-row seat and a power tailgate with a proximity sensor that opens it when the fob is near, no foot-swipe needed. Cargo space isn’t narrow or shallow with the third-row seat in use, but it’s still rather small. A couple of roll-aboard bags will fit.

Maybe the most impressive aspect of the latest Sorento is the sense of solidity. Kia uses more high-strength steel and acoustic glass, and it reveals itself in quiet poise on the highway. Interior materials are well-coordinated and fitted, especially at the $40,000 end of the Sorento lineup.

Safety
The Kia Sorento’s robust safety scores and gear make it a great choice for families.

Safety features and crash scores put the Kia Sorento among the best crossover SUVs.

This year, the IIHS called it a Top Safety Pick with all "Good" scores in crash tests, and "Acceptable" headlight performance in top trims. Lower trims only manage a "Poor" score in the headlight test, so getting that TSP designation requires an SX or SXL model with a V-6.

The NHTSA gave the Sorento five stars overall this year, with only a four-star rollover rating keeping it from a perfect score.

All Sorentos have a rearview camera and Bluetooth, and a host of advanced safety technology—adaptive cruise control, forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, and blind-spot monitors—are available on almost every trim for a reasonable price.

Blind-spot monitors are standard on some models, but surround-view cameras only can be fitted to the Sorento SXL.

Features
Lots of features and a great warranty put the Kia Sorento on the crossover leader board.

From the Sorento L, to Sorento SXL trims, Kia outfits its biggest SUV with ample standard features and plenty of options, even on the base version you’ll rarely see on dealer lots.

We give it a 9 out of 10 for its solid set of features, its simple infotainment, and its strong warranty coverage.

Sorento L crossovers come with the base 4-cylinder and front-wheel drive. LX versions offer a naturally aspirated 4-cylinder or V-6; EX editions swap the base 4-cylinder for a turbo-4. SX Sorentos have a V-6, while SXL models get the turbo-4 or V-6. All but the L can be configured with all-wheel drive. The third-row seat is available on many models, but not on those with the turbo-4.

On the Sorento L, Kia offers power features, AM/FM/XM/CD audio, Bluetooth with audio streaming, and a rearview camera.

The LX adds USB ports, an acoustic-glass windshield, automatic headlights, and a roof rack. Options include a 7.0-inch touchscreen infotainment system and forward-collision warnings with automatic emergency braking, lane-departure warnings, adaptive cruise control, and blind-spot monitors (which, oddly, are standard on some mid-grade trims, optional on others).

The Sorento EX gains 18-inch wheels, leather seats with a power driver seat, and dual-zone automatic climate control. An option package bundles a power moonroof and a power tailgate.

Sporty SX Sorentos get a 14-way power driver seat, 19-inch wheels, and an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation. At the SXL level, the Sorento piles on better leather, chrome wheels, surround-view cameras, and a woodgrain-trimmed steering wheel.

All Sorentos have an extensive 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, and a 5-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty.

Fuel Economy
The Kia Sorento fares reasonably well in EPA testing.

The Kia Sorento doesn’t offer fancy stop/start systems or hybrid editions, but its fuel economy ratings are fine for its kind, thanks to efficient 4- and 6-cylinder engines.

At the entry level, the 4-cylinder front-wheel-drive Sorento earns an EPA rating of 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined.

The turbo-4 versions can get 20/27/23 mpg with front-wheel drive, but adding all-wheel drive generally drops the ratings by 1 mpg.

With the V-6, the all-wheel-drive Sorento is rated at 17/23/19 mpg.

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