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2020 Kia Sorento Review

LIKES
  • Upmarket feel inside and out
  • Terrific ride quality
  • Responsive, natural steering
  • Strong value and warranty
  • Solid, quiet feel
DISLIKES
  • Second row sits too low
  • Don’t bother with the base engine
  • Mediocre fuel economy
BUYING TIP
  • The Sorento SX gets feel-good driving hardware, but stick with the S V6 for the best value.


The 2020 Kia Sorento skimps on third-row seating, but in all other respects it’s a more than respectable crossover SUV.

On the playing field of crossover SUVs, the 2020 Kia Sorento checks in at shortstop. It does nearly everything well, rarely wins MVP attention, and watches while its big-bank colleagues like the Telluride take home all the glory.

Revamped into a lineup of L, LX, S V6, EX, and SX models, the 2020 Sorento puts in major-league efforts in style, comfort, space, and safety, which earns it a TCC Rating of 6.5 out of 10.

Updated last year front and back, the 2020 Sorento has the shimmery wide-angle grille common to the latest Kias, sculpted body sides, a carefully draped roofline and pert taillights. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but its design benefits from great proportions and well-placed details. The cabin’s fashioned from low-gloss plastic and nice leather on the top models, and dressed up with oval-ish cues that lift it above its family-wagon station in life.

Skip the 4-cylinder, front-drive Sorento L and its LX kin, and go directly to the V-6 and 8-speed automatic found in the Sorento S V6, EX, and SX. It’s rated at 290 horsepower, and has a friendly growl that goes well with its ample but not angry power. Gas mileage isn’t great, but the Sorento V-6 never feels like it’s gulping for air, as the former turbo-4 did. Ride’s the strongest performance facet the Sorento offers, but the SX’s steering is pretty delightful for a crossover SUV with a front-drive origin story.

The 2020 Sorento comes only with three rows of seats, but only the small will endure in the wayback; the Sorento is better at carrying four or five adults in fair comfort. Front-seat passengers have excellent support, but the middle bench sits low and lacks support. The Sorento has 73 cubic feet of storage space behind the front seats, but just 11.3 cubes behind the raised third row.

Safety scores are excellent, provided you pay for a Sorento with standard automatic emergency braking, which also eliminates the 4-cylinder models. Every Sorento has Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and a shiny 5-year/60,000-mile warranty, but only the most expensive models have leather upholstery, adaptive cruise control, and cooled front seats. Spend about $35,000 and the 2020 Kia Sorento shines; above that, we’d shop a 2020 Telluride and hope to find one in stock.

Styling
With the Sorento, Kia shows its SUV style is no fluke.

Kia upsized and unboxed its crossover SUV first with the Sorento. It’s a handsome SUV that’s been rendered somewhat invisible by the big, glam Telluride—but it still wears a winning look, inside and out.

We give it a 7 out of 10.

The dashing lines of the Sorento wear bits and pieces of what has become the Telluride, in a discreet way. Last year Kia tweaked its front and rear ends, but didn’t change what’s made this generation of Sorento so well-balanced in its design. It’s not ostentatious at all, with its thin but heavily chromed grille and its swept-back headlights (LED on top trims). From the side, the Sorento’s carefully draped to avoid controversy, with a roofline that echoes a lot of other SUVs (Venza?) but does it in an artful way. The high-mounted taillights cause no uproar at the back. It’s all carefully groomed and moderately interesting from a couple of angles.

Well-organized and pleasant, the cockpit of the 2020 Sorento doesn’t dare with much  nor audition new themes. It just dresses well, with bright displays, a 7.0-inch touchscreen mounted high on the dash, and an oval-ish bank of climate controls punctuated by toggle switches. Warm in some available earth tones, fine in basic black, the cabin pulls off a difficult task that looks easy on the surface: It looks appropriate for almost any event.

Performance
Ride comfort rules the 2020 Sorento’s performance portfolio.

Slower than it needs to be in base form, the 2020 Kia Sorento powers ahead strongly in V-6 versions. It’s blessed with an absorbent ride, no matter which powertrain sits up front. We give it a 7 for performance, with points for both of those positive traits.

The Sorento’s base engine is a 2.4-liter inline-4, and it’s not very common in showrooms. This year, it’s also limited to the two lowest-priced versions. With modest output of just 185 hp and 178 pound-feet of torque, it’s coupled to an older 6-speed automatic. We’ve only driven this version briefly, but it’s clearly the less popular Sorento given its wheezy performance.

It’s not much more of a monthly payment to get into the V-6 Sorento, and it’s a choice we recommend. The 3.3-liter V-6 builds up impressive acceleration with 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque on tap. It pairs well with an 8-speed automatic, powering ahead with little drama and infrequent griping. With all-wheel drive and the option, the Sorento can tug up to 5,000 pounds worth of trailer.
Every Sorento above the base version can be outfitted with all-wheel drive. The system has a lock mode for snow and mud, and the vehicle itself has up to 7.3 inches of ground clearance. Still we’d hesitate to take it off groomed trails; it’s a better all-weather device than an all-road champion.

Subtle updates to the Sorento’s steering and suspension have given it a precise feel that gets amplified in the even better tuning on SX models. By the standards set by competitive three-row SUVs, the Sorento brims with driving confidence, if not exactly zeal. It has a wonderfully well-damped ride, and a sublime driving feel that links it directly to the bigger Telluride.

Comfort & Quality
The Sorento suits five best, and its well-fitted cabin seems richer than its price.

With the latest Sorento, Kia has upgraded the crossover’s ambiance and its front seats. The rear two rows are less lavish.

We give it 7 out of 10, for front-seat comfort and cargo utility.

Rank should be pulled when it comes to riding in the 2020 Sorento. The front seats fit best. Even in base versions, the buckets have good sculpting with excellent support. In the more expensive versions, they’re covered in leather, heated, and cooled; on the SX they’re adjustable 14 ways, though the nappa hides in the former SXL version are gone for good.

The second Sorento row drifts from the storyline. Wide enough to fit three people, it’s saddled with a low seat cushion that’s relatively shapeless. In EX and SX Sorentos, the panoramic roof cuts into head room, though knee and shoulder room are fine. The second row’s split to fold down for more cargo space, and it moves forward for better third-row access.

That third-row seat’s better left to the bigger Telluride; in the Sorento, row three can only suit two medium-sized passengers at best. It also can’t be reached easily if a car seat sits in the second row. 

Better to fold it down, and boost the Sorento’s 11.3 cubic feet of cargo space to 38.0 cubic feet. Fold down the second row too, and the Sorento carves 73.0 cubic feet of cargo space from its 189.0-inch overall length. It’s an easy fit into parking spots and garages.

Most versions of the Sorento have acoustic glass, tightly grained plastics, well-fitted trim pieces, and a pleasant low-gloss finish. Base vehicles don’t get the sound-deadening glass and have basic cloth upholstery, but the top Sorento SX has less in common with those base versions than it does with the bigger, beautiful Telluride.

Safety
The Sorento makes its crash-test mark, but skips standard safety tech.

If the 2020 Sorento came in all versions with standard automatic emergency braking, it would rise above its score of 6.

Kia has good news in safety here. The NHTSA gives the Sorento five stars overall, and the IIHS calls it a Top Safety Pick+. The latter only applies to Sorentos with automatic emergency braking and a package with LED headlights. Only the Sorento S V6, EX, and SX have the former, and the LED headlights are no longer featured—so the former IIHS nod seems to be no more.

Only the EX and SX get adaptive cruise control. And while outward vision is good, a surround-view camera system only makes the features cut on the Sorento SX.

Features
The 2020 Sorento drops its former top model, and still doesn’t come with the latest safety tech on all models.

The 2020 Kia Sorento offers five different versions, but the lower two lose out on some of the safety gear that’ll soon be mandatory on new vehicles. It’s also lost a top model this year as Kia launches the big, great new Telluride.

It still has good infotainment, a great warranty, and offers great value in middle trims, so we give it an 8 here.

On the base $27,735 Sorento L, Kia only offers the 4-cylinder and front-wheel drive. It omits automatic emergency braking entirely. Otherwise it’s reasonably well equipped, with cloth upholstery on three rows of seats, power features, and a 7.0-inch infotainment system with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility. The $29,035 Sorento LX adds blind-spot monitors, an acoustic windshield, and quick-charge USB ports, but no V-6 as it once did.
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Slotted in the middle of the lineup, the new $34,035 Sorento S V6 gets 19-inch wheels, three-zone climate control, blind-spot monitors and automatic emergency braking, heated front seats, reverse parking sensors, and keyless ignition. It’s our pick in the lineup, thanks to its standard safety equipment.

To get leather, a power tailgate, pedestrian detection for automatic emergency braking, a panoramic roof, and adaptive cruise control, you’ll have to spend up to the $36,335 EX, maybe a step too far for our tastes. Given the choice between the fancy new Telluride and the $41,035 Sorento SX—with its 14-way driver seat, Harman Kardon audio, front parking sensors, surround-view camera system, wireless smartphone charging, and 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation—we’d probably opt into the bigger Telluride, if we could find one. (The Telluride’s the reason the former nappa-leather-clad Sorento SXL is gone this year.)
Every Sorento gets a 5-year, 60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.

Fuel Economy
The Sorento’s gas mileage mildly disappoints.

Without any hybrid powertrain, the 2020 Sorento’s fuel economy slides to the low end of the crossover spectrum. We give it a 4 here.

Most versions of the Sorento fall below the front-drive 4-cylinder’s EPA figures of 22 mpg city, 29 highway, 25 combined. All-wheel drive alone lowers those figures to 21/26/23 mpg.

The V-6 Sorento falls further, to either 19/26/22 mpg with front-wheel drive, or 18/24/20 mpg with all-wheel drive.

Plans for a turbodiesel Sorento have been mothballed.


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