The sheer size of the Sorento means it’s a relaxing choice for an extended voyage with four on board.
Last year, we spent a few months with a Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, and came away with the conclusion that it’s one of the best family buys out there. The Santa Fe’s sister from within the Hyundai-Kia family, the Kia Sorento, has brought out similar reactions from our team. In previous years though, we have only tested 3.3L V6 models of the Sorento, so my choice for a road trip to Chicago was a little bit unique. Amidst the Christmas holidays, I snagged the keys to a 2016 Kia Sorento SX Turbo with just 26km on it, and set off on my voyage to the Windy City.
The Sorento is easily one of the best looking crossovers out there. It’s a conventional design but elegant enough to be easily mistaken for any high end SUV. During my week with it, I was asked twice if it was a Lexus. When I replied with “No, it’s the new Kia Sorento”, both parties were surprised and wanted to take a closer look. It has LED lighting all around as well, and the fog lights are a four-LED setup which could look cheesy for the very conservative. My tester also came riding on 19” alloy wheels wrapped in sticky winter rubber. With the 19s, wheel gap is minimal for a crossover and the truck looks sharp.
Since we’ve already driven this generation of Sorento, what’s important here is the powertrain. The Sorento now shares the Santa Fe Sport’s 2.0L turbocharged four-cylinder engine. Versions of this motor are now a staple in the Hyundai-Kia family, with other applications such as the Optima, the Sonata, and Sportage. It has direct injection and is one of the smoothest 2.0L motors in the industry – this isn’t an easy feat to accomplish considering nearly every single manufacturer has a turbocharged-four with that displacement. The Sorento is good for 240 horsepower at 6,000RPM and 260 lb-ft of torque, which is available at just 1,450RPM.
I like the V6 Sorento, but the 2.0T has its merits. Power delivery is smooth and immediate, though a little bit of turbo lag is evident. The torque curve is versatile and hustles the Sorento to 100km/h in about eight seconds flat. We also found this model to be quieter than the V6 too, and during some acceleration situations you can vaguely hear the turbocharger spooling. The Sorento’s quietness was appreciated greatly by myself as well as my passengers on the grueling nine-hour drive to Chicago; there were points when I was the only one awake because everyone else had dozed off in utmost comfort.
The sheer size of the Sorento means it’s a relaxing choice for an extended voyage with four on board, with plenty of space for luggage. There’s plenty of headroom and legroom, and the rear seats also have major adjustments to accommodate for people of varying sizes. The V6 can be had with three rows of seats, but the four-cylinder and Turbo models are two-row only. I’m personally okay with this, because if I wanted three rows and V6, I might check out the competing Toyota Highlander or even the new Honda Pilot. Ride quality is exceptional too, with an excellent suspension that can be dynamic when corner-carving and supple when dawdling down the Interstates.
Most manufacturers that offer boosted four-cylinders do so for those who want to save some fuel over their V6 counterparts. When we put nearly 10,000km on the Santa Fe Sport with this motor, we averaged 9.9L/100km over the entire test, with an even mix between city and highway commuting. This road trip obviously consisted of 80% highway driving, with 20% enduring the rush hour grind in Chicago’s clogged downtown core. The overall average was 10.6L/100km, with four passengers and full use of heat the entire trip. The Kia will accept 58L of fuel – regular 87-octane is acceptable but premium is recommended. Our test was conducted using premium fuel, but it’s important to remember that the engine was not even close to being broken in, so numbers should be a little bit better for owners.
Speaking of comfort, this SX model came equipped with all of the niceties we’ve come to expect on vehicles up to double the cost of the Sorento. In fact, with standard features on this model like HID xenon headlights, heated front and second row seats, cooled front seats, and voice-activated navigation, the Korean entry out-classes almost all of its rivals. The seats in our car were also upholstered in a nice perforated leather, and the cabin was lined with soft-touch materials throughout. Certain trim levels get a lacquered wood piece on the rim of the steering wheel; a particularly upscale touch that neither Toyota nor Honda offer in this segment.
Our tester, the 2016 SX Turbo is priced right in the middle of the Sorento lineup. The base LX with the 2.4L four-cylinder starts at $27,495, and does not include all-wheel-drive at this price point. The most inexpensive Sorento available with AWD is the LX AWD, which starts at $29,495. Those wanting the turbocharged motor and all-wheel-drive will be out at least $32,695. Our SX Turbo comes with standard AWD and stickers at $42,095. This is the highest trim available without opting for the V6. An optioned-out SX+ V6 AWD with three rows of seating is $46,695.
After spending the two weeks of the holidays, plus an extended road trip with this enticing crossover, a few things have become evident to me. For one, the 2016 Kia Sorento SX Turbo is easily one of the best value-oriented buys currently available. Its challenge lies in the fact that a fully loaded Hyundai Santa Fe Sport with the same powertrain is available for about $4,000 less. The Sorento is a little bit more upscale and in my opinion better looking, but if value is at the top of the priority list, it’s worth taking a look at its sibling. To its advantage though, the Kia boasts enough room for the family, plenty of pep, decent fuel economy, great looks, and a spec sheet that would put many of its more-expensive German rivals to shame.