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2016 Kia Sorento Road Trip

Is The Sorento The New King?

Satish Kondapavulur
Dec 4, 2015
Photographers: Satish Kondapavulur, Courtesy of Kia
Since the introduction of the motor vehicle in the late 19th century, the criteria of buying the perfect road-trip vehicle hasn’t changed all that much. Buyers care about the amount of interior room to fit both people and cargo. They worry about the purchase price, maintenance cost, fuel economy, and the range from a full gas tank. Drivers care about visibility, ergonomics, and safety in the event of an accident. Passengers care about ride comfort, legroom, and the ability to keep themselves entertained on long trips. In some cases, the vehicle must be able to cross a stream, go through snow, traverse a desert, make it from New York to Chicago in less than 10 hours, or be adept at avoiding both pedestrians and cyclists in a densely populated city.
Photo 2/23   |   010 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Rear View Trees
Kia introduced the Sorento in ’03 as an answer to the midsize three-row crossovers and SUVs that began to flood the market, such as the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Nissan Pathfinder, and General Motors’ GMT360 SUVs like the GMC Envoy XL and Chevrolet Trailblazer EXT. The first-generation Sorento, which was actually built on a body-on-frame platform and offered a four-wheel-drive system with low-range capability, was fairly successful, considering it was Kia’s first time in the segment. It was in ’10 that the Sorento switched to a unibody platform and was manufactured in the United States at Kia’s Georgia plant. For ’16, Kia introduced a completely overhauled version of the Sorento, which is available with new drivetrains, a new infotainment system, and a redesigned interior and exterior. Kia intends for the new Sorento to compete head to head with the established seven-seat crossovers like the Explorer, Pathfinder, and Pilot, many of which are used for countless road trips each year.
Photo 3/23   |   017 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Road Trip Gear
To determine whether the Sorento was a suitable family road-trip vehicle, we picked up an SX Limited (also called SXL) model and drove from Portland, Oregon (which happens to be the first metropolitan area where Kias were sold in the United States) to Seattle, Washington. The Sorento experienced a good mix of urban settings and rural conditions. The journey had stops for both pedestrians and four-legged animals and traveled on asphalt, dirt, and gravel. By the end of the journey bugs (and one or two butterflies) populated the entire front clip and some of the windshield. When all was said and done, the trip counter indicated that we had covered close to 1,100 miles.
Photo 4/23   |   016 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Engine
Driving dynamics were a Sorento high point. Rather than putting in a CVT like some of its competitors, Kia stuck with a six-speed automatic with a manual-shifting mode. This helped tremendously when climbing and descending some steep roads in Mt. Rainier National Park. The power steering was light and didn’t give us any trouble, even on the winding roads, and we never had to question the amount of steering input needed for tight turns. The chassis was very predictable, and stability control didn’t cut in obtrusively. Kia gave the Sorento independent front and rear suspension, which likely helped with both handling and ride comfort. In addition, the Sorento has a Drive Mode Select feature, in which the driver can choose between Normal, Eco, and Sport modes. We largely stayed in “Normal” mode, as “Eco” didn’t deliver as punchy a throttle response when needed, and while “Sport” did sharpen up throttle response, average fuel economy went down.
Photo 5/23   |   019 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Interior Front Seat
Over the 1,100 miles we traversed, there were no complaints about the driver seat. It was always comfy and never felt stiff, even on jaunts when we had to drive over three hours in one sitting. The SX Limited trim of the Sorento has standard heated and ventilated seats, along with power-adjustable lumbar support for the driver. Additionally, the steering wheel controls were easy to figure out. Notable was Kia’s UVO infotainment system, which allowed us to stream music through effortlessly through our phone, find destinations using voice control, and also help find the car in a parking lot if the UVO app is installed on your smartphone. The navigation system was able to provide us with detailed directions in areas where cell phones couldn’t get a signal (which is all of Mt. Rainier National Park).
Photo 6/23   |   022 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Interior Middle Row
The rear seats are very comfortable for long trips, providing ample legroom for most adults, even those over 6 feet tall. Those familiar with sitting in the middle row of a new Nissan Pathfinder will prefer the middle row of the Sorento thanks to the legroom. While in Olympic National Park, we ended up giving some fellow hikers a ride (apparently they didn’t want to walk another half-mile to their van), and they fit easily into the middle row. Additionally, the Sorento provides a 110V power inverter, a 12V power outlet, and a USB rapid charging port for second-row passengers so everyone has a possibility to plug in their laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
Photo 7/23   |   021 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Infotainment Center
Visibility on the highway was very good. The blind-spot monitoring system, standard on our SXL test vehicle, performed as expected. However, whenever we were driving in city traffic, we found ourselves using the Surround View monitor more than expected due to the Sorento’s thick D-pillars. Portland, where you must stop for pedestrians or cyclists no matter where they are, ended up being a good place to put the cameras to good use to ensure we knew almost everything happening around the vehicle. Additionally, when parallel parking or driving through tightly packed parking garages, we ended up relying on the Surround View monitor and the parking sensors to ensure the Sorento could fit in certain spaces.
When it comes to powertrains, the Sorento SX Limited comes with a 2.0L inline-four that makes 240 hp. However, that engine is only available in a five-passenger configuration, resulting in a large cargo area. This made our tester comparable with entry-luxury crossovers such as the BMW X3 xDrive28i and the Audi Q5 2.0T that offer a turbocharged 2.0L engine and no third seat. The EPA-estimated mpg for our tester was 19 in the city, 25 on the highway, and 22 combined. We managed to get 24 mpg with the Sorento overall, with the fuel economy going up dramatically in situations where the speed was between 45 and 65 mph and dropping significantly when driving in the city centers of Portland and Seattle.
Photo 8/23   |   023 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited Interior Third Row
For families who will likely have to cart around more than five passengers, Kia offers a third seat as standard in Sorentos equipped with the 3.3L V-6 that makes 290 horsepower. The V-6 version with all-wheel-drive does sacrifice some fuel economy, at 17 mpg in the city, 23 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined, but offers more power and torque to haul seven passengers. The lower-end L and LX trim levels come standard with a naturally aspirated 2.4L inline-four that makes 185 hp, with the third seat optional in the LX. Those who plan on towing a trailer or a boat for their road trips may want the V-6 with AWD, as it has a 5,000-pound towing capacity.
In the end, considering Kia didn’t even make passenger vehicles when the interstate highway network came into being, it’s exceptional how good the Sorento is as a road trip vehicle. It offers features that were once the domain of vastly more expensive vehicles. Its performance is on par with the best crossovers out there, taking into account the available powertrains and the chassis tuning. Clearly, Kia didn’t build the Sorento to a price point, instead concentrated on making the Sorento a solid road-trip vehicle choice. Most importantly, the Sorento will perform what at least ninety percent of families need from a crossover such as a third seat, multiple USB charging ports, and suitable ride comfort while providing some features that they never knew they needed. Ultimately, the ’16 Kia Sorento is a solid answer to the new definition of the family road-trip vehicle.
2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited
Vehicle type: Premium Sport Utility Vehicle
Base price: $42,595
Engine: 2.0L turbocharged I-4
Transmission: 6-speed automatic
Horsepower: 240 hp @ 6,000 rpm
Torque: 260 lb-ft @ 1,450 rpm
Overall length: 187.4 inches
Turning diameter: 36.4 feet
Curb weight: 3,878 pounds
Towing capacity: 3,500 pounds
EPA mileage rating: 19/25/22

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