With a refined V6 and amicable fuel economy, it can be equipped with all the latest bells and whistles.
With the arrival of fall, we’ve been treated to Toronto’s first full week of gloomy, wet and dark weather. With this miserable weather the thoughts of many enthusiasts, mine included, turn away from sports cars and towards comfortable and capable SUVs. There is no shortage of good crossovers to choose from thanks to a recent resurgence in the category, but it’s also very easy to spend a lot of money and end up with something that doesn’t quite suit your needs. We got some time with one of the more cost effective mid-sizers, the 2019 Kia Sorento SXL V6, to see how it would handle the foul weather and a longer road trip.
Currently in its third generation, originally launched as a 2015 model, the Sorento receives a minor facelift for 2019 with a new front grille, fascia and revised lamps all the way around. It takes well to the updates and while it’s not exactly a standout against its competitors in the styling department, it is understated and handsome in its own right. Our top-trim SXL tester got LED lighting all the way around, including interesting four-LED foglights, which combined with the LED headlamps are enough to generate daylight ahead of you.
The SXL, and SX for that matter, also receive very well executed polished aluminum accents on the front and rear bumpers as well as on the lower portions of the doors. These accents really pop against the Ebony Black paintwork, and do lend the Sorento a more upscale look than it otherwise has, aided by the 19” chrome wheels standard on the SXL.
The interior in our tester was also black, and the SXL benefits from softer Nappa leather seating, a nice black felt headliner and more of the bright aluminium accenting carried into the cabin. As expected, the space is dark, unless you open up the large panoramic sunroof to let in some extra light. Part of the reason it’s so dark is because Kia uses a matte finish soft black plastic for most of the dashboard and interior panels, which does a great job absorbing light, and while not necessarily an upscale material, doesn’t come off as cheap either.
Controls are simple to use and understand, including Kia’s visually pleasing infotainment system. It’s simple to navigate and supports both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. As the top-trim model our tester also benefited from a long list of luxury-level features including heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, heated steering wheel, adaptive cruise control, dynamic LED headlights and the full suite of safety and driving aids such as blind spot monitoring, lane keep assist, rear cross traffic alert and 360-degree view camera.
The Sorento comes in both five and seven passenger configurations, but only the base model LX is available in the former. All other trim levels get the third row, which is certainly nice to have in a pinch but would be tight even for teenagers on a longer trip. That said, if you’re not using the third row it folds flat to reveal a large cargo area, and if that’s not enough, the split second row seats fold flat as well. The second row seats are downright luxurious with the ability to slide back and forth as well as recline to help rear passengers find that perfect seating position.
The front seats are also very comfortable and supportive in all the right places, even after a six-hour round trip in the Sorento my back felt great. Storage up front is critical in an SUV and the Sorento delivers here as well with big cupholders in the console as well as in the door pockets, a decent sized storage bin at the front of the console, and an even bigger storage area in the console armrest. It’s a good use of available space.
There are two engine options available for the Sorento. Lower trim levels get the naturally aspirated 2.4L four-cylinder good for 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft., and the high range models get the 3.3L V6 making 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft. at 5,200RPM. The four comes with a six-speed automatic while the V6 gets a new eight-speed automatic unit. Undoubtedly, the V6 is the engine to have and is actually one of the better engines in the segment. Despite its lack of low-end torque, the 3.3L delivers power exceptionally smoothly, responds quickly, and feels refined with no unwarranted noise or harshness.
It’s an engine that is very comparable to the Chrysler Pentastar V6, which we also hold in high regard. The Sorento isn’t fast by any means, but it has enough power to get out of its own way and cruises nicely at highway speeds. If anything lets the Sorento down it’s the eight-speed transmission, which is much slower to respond than the V6 demands and tends to be resistant to downshifts, which occasionally results in frustrating acceleration.
The Sorento is rather true to the SUV mission of comfort and capability; so don’t expect anything sporty. The steering is very light, and the suspension is soft, which keeps the ride comfortable. What you’re left with though is an SUV that’s not trying to be something it isn’t, rather focusing on what it is; a comfortable, quiet and composed family hauler. Additionally, the Sorento offers some real capability in the form of a 5000-pound tow rating and, in all but the most basic trim, Dynamax™ Intelligent All-Wheel Drive with an electronic locking transfer case. There are four different drive modes you can select; Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart. “Smart” is the newest addition to the set and it anticipates current conditions and driving style.
Our week with the Sorento happened to be a particularly busy one that included two road trips; all highway and both in rainy conditions. In both scenarios the Sorento proved a great place to pass the time and melt away miles with its quiet cabin, comfortable ride, and handy adaptive cruise control. It handled the adverse weather with confidence, including some very heavy rain and pooling on the highway well before sunrise. The lack of rain-sensing wipers does seem like the one glaring omission from the otherwise well-equipped option sheet.
The all-highway trips caused the Sorento to return a 9.2L/100km fuel consumption average, besting the rated highway consumption of 9.7L/100km. During my typical daily commute it returned an average of 10.6L/100km. These are impressive numbers for this segment, especially with the V6 and the AWD platform. Looking back at our recent comparable road tests; these numbers are better than the V6-powered Grand Cherokee which returned 12.4L/100km, as well as the Lexus RX 350 (reviewed here) which came in at 11.5L/100km, both on the same daily commute. I anticipate that the Sorento’s fuel economy is going to be difficult to beat in this category, especially when you include the fact that it’s happy on regular-grade fuel.
Now, I started this review by naming the Sorento as one of the more cost effective mid-size SUVs available, and that is true, especially with the lowest price of entry at $27,995. If you want the AWD and the V6 (and trust me, you do), you can opt for a fairly basic LX V6 for a thrifty $34,795. From there you can configure four higher trim levels depending on what exactly you want (and what you’re willing to spend), up to the top-line SXL at $49,204. At almost $50,000, that might not sound like much of a bargain, but I’d challenge you to find a comparably equipped, V6 powered, AWD, seven seater for less money.
The 2019 Kia Sorento SXL V6 is a truly comfortable and capable family hauler. With a refined V6 and amicable fuel economy, it can be equipped with all the latest bells and whistles; all for a price lower than the competition. It’s hard not to like the Sorento, and if you’re in the market for a family hauler it needs to be on your shopping list.