2016 Kia Sorento - The Car Connection

   
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The Car Connection Expert Rating Breakdown



The Car Connection Expert Review


Bengt Halvorson

Bengt Halvorson

Deputy Editor


  • Likes
  • Composed, quiet ride
  • Responsive, economical new 2.0T
  • Impressive interior trims
  • Tight, "vault-like" feel
  • Dislikes
  • Short, bench-like second-row seats
  • Third row not available with turbo four
  • Limited availability of active safety features

The 2016 Kia Sorento grows a little bit larger, and grows up a lot.


Though the Kia Sorento has been completely redesigned and re-engineered for 2016, it looks like the exterior only modestly evolved. The 2016 model is both significantly roomier and more refined in nearly every way.

There’s some meaningful change all around the 2016 Kia Sorento actually, with every bit of sheet metal and every piece of trim changed. A new body structure, an available turbocharged 4-cylinder engine, and redesigned seating—plus some new active-safety features—add up to tremendously meaningful change once you take it all in.

The 2016 Sorento still offers a third-row seat, to bump its capacity from five up to seven if you so desire. And the Sorento should be a bit more usable now whether you opt for it or not, as all models are about 3 inches longer, with a wheelbase more than 3 inches longer, and slightly taller, than the 2015 model. Call it a realignment, as Kia pulls the Sorento away from the odd-one-out size where it’s been for a number of years—a tweener that was only slightly larger than "compact" crossovers like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV4—and focuses it directly at the Jeep Grand Cherokee and Toyota Highlander.

The Sorento melts right into its area of the family-crossover tapestry, and that could be a positive or a negative depending on your own priorities. It’s understandable why someone, not knowing that, would step up to the new Sorento and think that the 2016 model gets merely some new shine on an old design. From the outside, the redesign is so evolutionary that it’s easy to let your mind fill in the lines, if you’re familiar with the outgoing 2015 model. From all but the side, the Sorento’s proportions look quite familiar, yet with a more prominent version of the Kia grille, some cleaned-up more mature, upscale details in front and in back, and a little more softness to everything in between.

Inside, the redesign is a lot easier to see at first glance. The cabin of the 2016 Sorento has been quite dramatically tidied-up and made more sophisticated, with more soft-touch trims all around—wherever front occupants are expected to typically touch—and climate and navigation/audio controls are cordoned off into nice, neat control pods.

From the driver’s seat, it’s easy to feel that there’s been major improvement in the way this re-engineered model responds and performs. Steering is much-improved versus the previous Sorento, and previous Kias in general, and in particular there’s better tracking on center, plus better brake feel, a suspension that keeps a firm, composed ride, and an all-new body structure that’s far stiffer, with more than double the high-strength steel. Altogether, the Sorento has what Kia set out to achieve: a vault-like, German-style ride and the a heftier, more confident feel in general—even though the lineup has lost some weight.

The Kia Sorento carries over its two engines from last year—a 185-horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-4 and a 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6—but for 2016 it adds a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 making 240 hp and 260 pound-feet of torque. All three powertrains include a 6-speed automatic transmission and can be equipped with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. While the V-6 might have 50 more horsepower, the 2.0T model is the one that actually felt perkier in most types of driving—all but off-the-line acceleration.

Off-roading isn’t entirely in the Sorento’s playbook, but it has all the right moves for "soft roading" or snowy conditions—including 7.3 inches of ground clearance, and a diff-lock mode that splits the power 50/50. All models of the Sorento are up for towing; and for V-6 models, that’s up to 5,000 pounds.

Seats have been redesigned all around, and in front the driving position relative to the dash has changed. In top SX and SX-L models, the driver’s seat now has extendable thigh bolsters—definitely of use to taller drivers. Second-row accommodations are essentially the same for two- and three-row versions, although you get an underseat storage system in two-row models. In any case, it’s a little too hard and short for adults to be comfortable over a long day—although the third row will do just fine for a quick dinner outing for those under 5-feet-10-inches tall.

Value and features for the money have always been a big deal for Kia. Yet with the introduction of the Cadenza and K900 sedans, and with upper trims of the Sorento, Sedona, and even Optima as of late, Kia is clearly reaching upmarket. There’s still a base Sorento L, offered only with the 2.4-liter engine and front-wheel drive, but it’s a different animal than the upper-trim models, omitting things like UVO audio, roof rails, and acoustic glass entirely; but it’s offered for a very low $25,995. LX and EX models are the heart of the market, it seems, and EX models can be had with the new turbocharged inline-4 or the V-6. SX models are only offered in V-6 trim, while top Limited models are built in 2.0T or V-6 versions. At the top of the lineup, the Limited gets a Nappa leather interior, a leather-and-piano-black steering wheel, and 19-inch chrome-finish wheels

SX and SX-L models get a new Infinity 10-speaker sound system that’s been tuned to get the best sound out of digital files, while upper trims get a full navigation system with live traffic and most models in the lineup come with UVO eServices capability, with apps for Yelp, Pandora, and other services. Lane departure warning, frontal crash warning, surround-view cameras, and adaptive are all available, but only in a package on the top Limited.

The most fuel-efficient, front-drive, four-cylinder Kia Sorento manages 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. The least efficient, V-6, all-wheel drive Sorento scores 17/23/19 mpg. In the middle, the turbocharged four manages 20/27/23 mpg with front drive. Fuel economy generally dips by 1 mpg by adding AWD.

Styling
8.0

The 2016 Kia Sorento is handsome and nicely detailed on the outside, but not particularly adventurous; inside, it’s a new direction for Kia.


The Kia Sorento has a fresh look on the outside, although it’s a clear evolution and a nice, smooth integration of a lot of good ideas from rival models. Meanwhile its interior is classed up and cleaned up, with a neat, elegant look all around and new materials and trims that are both more attractive and more appealing to touch.

The Sorento melts right into its area of the family-crossover tapestry, and that could be a positive or a negative depending on your own priorities. It’s understandable why someone, not knowing that, would step up to the new Sorento and think that the 2016 model gets merely some new shine on an old design. From the outside, the redesign is so evolutionary that it’s easy to let your mind fill in the lines, if you’re familiar with the outgoing 2015 model.

Up close, Kia has narrowed the headlight array, while making the lower air intake and fog-lamp pockets stand out a bit more. LED positioning lights, taillights, and fog lamps punctuate the look, and in general the grille and sculpting add up to a look that’s more blunt—even if in truth the aerodynamics are improved.

From all but the side, the Sorento’s proportions look quite familiar, yet with a more prominent version of the Kia grille, some cleaned-up more mature, upscale details in front and in back, and a little more softness to everything in between.

Inside, the redesign is a lot easier to see at first glance. The cabin of the 2016 Sorento has been quite dramatically tidied-up and made more sophisticated, with more soft-touch trims all around—wherever front occupants are expected to typically touch—and climate and navigation/audio controls are cordoned off into nice, neat control pods.

There’s been a "horizontal plane" logic applied to the design, and the dash wraps from the front door trim around the top of the instrument panel. 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.

Materials and trims are top-notch, overall, and Kia has made an effort to make sure that soft touch materials line just about everything that the driver or front passenger might touch from their seats. If anything, the trims themselves could be a bit more adventurous, but their fit right in with what other mainstream crossovers offer in their top-of-the-line versions.

The 2016 Kia Sorento is handsome and nicely detailed on the outside, but not particularly adventurous; inside, it’s a new direction for Kia.

Performance
7.0

New turbocharged 4-cylinder models, a stiffer body structure, and better-coordinated steering and brakes make the 2016 Kia Sorento a better drive than before. It’s not sporty, but one of the more refined drives in its class.


Although the appearance of the 2016 Kia Sorento doesn’t tread all that much new ground, Kia has noticeably improved the way this re-engineered model responds and performs.

The Kia Sorento carries over its two engines from last year—a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine and a 3.3-liter V-6—but for 2016 it adds a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4.

Base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder models make 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque and, like all Sorento models, come with a 6-speed automatic transmission and can be equipped with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive (AWD). Turbocharged 4-cylinder models step up to 240 hp and 260 lb-ft, while V-6 models earn ratings of 290 hp and 252 lb-ft.

While the V-6 might have 50 more horsepower, the 2.0T model is the one that actually felt perkier in most types of driving—all but off-the-line acceleration. There’s a bit of turbo lag in some situations, but it’s entirely forgivable. And since the turbo engine makes its peak torque—and more of it than the V-6—at just 1,450 rpm, it’s far easier to squirt into a gap in traffic or ease your speed up without a dramatic downshift that’ll disrupt your passengers. There’s also more shift shock in V-6 models when ordering up a sudden, multi-gear downshift; other models tended to shift quite smoothly.

Don’t let the presence of a Sport mode get you too excited. Even with the turbo, this isn’t a particularly sporty or edgy vehicle to drive. Through a Drive Control button on the center console, near the shift lever, you can toggle Sport, Comfort, and Eco modes. They affect the Sorento’s transmission shift points and steering boost, but they don’t actually affect throttle tip-in. While we felt the transmission shifted a bit better and more smoothly in Normal, we would have liked a softer, more linear feel to the accelerator, which still feels too touchy in some situations.

The steering is much improved overall over previous versions of the Sorento, and it builds weight in a reassuring, predictable way. Straight-ahead tracking is also better than it’s been in the past. Brakes are now easier to modulate when you first apply your foot to the pedal, with shorter travel and a firmer pedal feel overall.

Combine that with a full suspension redesign, and a stiffer body structure with more high-strength steel, and the result is a Sorento lineup that goes down the road with more confidence, surefootedness, and control than before.

Off-roading isn’t entirely in the Sorento’s vocabulary, but it has the phrasebook and tool set to make sense of any kind of "soft roading" or snowy conditions. The available AWD system monitors the steering wheel angle, yaw sensor, and many other powertrain and stability inputs to send wheel torque where it can be used best, and can fine-tune delivery in milliseconds, not at all requiring slippage first. There’s also a stability-system-based torque-vectoring function that works with the AWD in slippery road conditions.

For the toughest conditions, like deep snow, mud, or sand, there’s a differential-lock mode that splits the power 50/50. All Sorento models have 7.3 inches of ground clearance, which is right in line with most other models you’d compare it to.

All models of the Sorento are up for towing. Even with the base inline-4, it’s rated at 2,000 pounds. Step up to the turbo model, which is very much up for towing, Kia officials confirmed, and you get a 3,500-pound rating. Sorento V-6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with AWD, and otherwise with front-wheel drive it’s also 3,500 pounds.

New turbocharged 4-cylinder models, a stiffer body structure, and better-coordinated steering and brakes make the 2016 Kia Sorento a better drive than before. It’s not sporty, but one of the more refined drives in its class.

Comfort & Quality
9.0

The Kia Sorento now offers a third row, and while seating space isn’t quite up to the standards of some rivals the ride and refinements are absolutely top-notch.


The 2016 Kia Sorento makes inroads in passenger comfort, with a newfound luxury-vehicle ambiance and refinement in the cabin. It also gains more interior space because of a somewhat larger interior that’s laid out to make good use of that space—mostly.

Front seats in the Sorento are tremendously improved versus previous models (we hear Kia targeted Volvo's seats, and they’re really not far off). In some versions they offer extendable thigh support, which will make a huge difference in comfort for taller drivers. Also, in top trims, the power passenger seat is now eight-way adjustable, which adds to comfort by making the lower cushion height/tilt adjustable.

The second row in the Sorento is a different story. While getting in is easy, the seats feel very low and close to the floor, as well as very short and firm in their lower cushions and not at all contoured for adults. Some vehicles, like the new Nissan Murano and yes, the Toyota Highlander, give outboard occupants a superior contoured seat; but this is a bit too benchlike—and perhaps sized as it is for seat folding.

On the other hand, that design does allow the second-row seat back to flip forward very easily and neatly—for more cargo, or for access to the third-row seats. On the top SX-L there’s also power folding, which provides controls within easy reach of the rear tailgate. To add even more convenience, on some models there’s a remote tailgate release that only requires the proximity key to be nearby—not stand on one foot and wave the other leg.

The Sorento’s third row is surprisingly good, given it’s a few inches shorter than the Highlander and many inches shorter than the Ford Explorer or Dodge Durango. Although access requires a little flexibility, it’s OK for short riders up to about 5-feet-10-inches tall.

One final note: In the second row, head room is noticeably tighter due to the panoramic moonroof (standard on SX and SX-L, optional on EX), so we’d recommend skipping the glass up above if carrying adults in the second row really is a priority. At a first-drive opportunity we were unable to drive any Sorento without the moonroof to confirm this, however.

However, the longer body and different packaging pay dividends in cargo space, which is still rather small, but no longer impractically tight with the third row up in place. As such, you can now fit a couple of carry-on suitcases on their side or three paper grocery bags.

Kia boasts that the Sorento is built on an entirely new body structure, made with more than double the amount of high-strength steel as before. That leads to less body boom during almost any type of driving, as well as more of a feeling of solidity. Kia has also paid attention to door closures and tried to make the Sorento a little bit more like German luxury models in these respects.

Based on an early drive, we can truly say that all the attention to body structure, noise suppression, and suspension has paid off. Inside, the Sorento now feels up with the best in this class in terms of keeping road and wind noise out of the cabin. It’s all done without the need for active noise cancellation, too. And that’s all while the ride quality is quite soft, yet very much under control.

The Kia Sorento now offers a third row, and while seating space isn’t quite up to the standards of some rivals the ride and refinements are absolutely top-notch.

Safety
9.0

With a completely new body structure, and many more active safety items, the 2016 Kia Sorento should put overwhelmed parents at ease.


Safety equipment on all 2016 Sorento models includes front seat-mounted side airbags, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, front active headrests, electronic stability control anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and hill start assist. With an all-new structure underpinning it all, the Sorento should make some steps forward in occupant safety.

The Sorento EX, SX, and Limited have a back-up warning system and there are other more advanced active-safety features that have joined the lineup this year. The blind-spot warning system and rear cross-traffic alert have been included in the SX and Limited models (and optional on the EX).

Then on top models you can get several new features: lane departure warning, frontal crash warning, a surround-view camera system, and adaptive cruise control.

One issue we have is the way in which this equipment is made available. While we know it involves some expensive additional hardware, it’s only offered on the top-of-the-line SX-L, as part of an option package. So those who don’t want all the luxury items but want top safety, the Sorento is not a particularly good pick or strong value.

The forward collision systems in the Sorento, even when optioned, are only capable enough to earn the IIHS' "Basic" nod, which keeps the Soretno from earning a coveted Top Safety Pick+ mark. However, the Sorento achieves top "Good" crash-test results in all categories, as well as top five-star results from the federal government. Nonetheless, the Sorento earned the IIHS' Top Safety Pick designation, which is admirable.

With a completely new body structure, and many more active safety items, the 2016 Kia Sorento should put overwhelmed parents at ease.

Features
8.0

The 2016 Kia Sorento lineup offers versions that should please everyone—from cost-conscious families to those who want to pile on the features.


Value and features for the money have always been a big deal for Kia. Yet with the introduction of the Cadenza and K900 sedans, and with upper trims of the Sorento, Sedona, and even Optima as of late, Kia is clearly reaching upward.

The 2016 Sorento is offered in base L, LX, mid-range EX, and top SX and Limited models. The base L is only offered with the 2.4-liter engine, and it’s definitely equipped to a price point, omitting features such as UVO audio, roof rails, and acoustic glass entirely; but it’s offered for a very low $25,995.

LX models come in non-turbocharged 4-cylinder or V-6 versions, while EX models can be had with the 2.0T (turbo-4) or the V-6. SX models are only offered in V-6 trim. And then top Limited models are built in 2.0T or V-6 versions. And among all of those except for the base L, which is front-wheel-drive only, you can opt for all-wheel drive.

At the EX level, you add silver-painted 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather seats, interior accent illumination, and the chance to opt up to a full navigation system with 8.0-inch touchscreen, real-time traffic info, and a rearview camera display, as well as 10-speaker Infinity surround-sound audio. Kia notes with that premium audio system that it has a new "Clari-Fi" system that helps digital music sound better, according to the automaker.

SX and Limitied models step up to things such as a heated steering wheel, heated rear seats, heated-and-ventilated front seats, keyless ignition, an enhanced meter cluster, stainless sill plates, a power liftgate, 19-inch gunmetal alloys, and various interior trim upgrades. And the Sorento Limited in particular gets a Nappa leather interior, a leather-and-piano-black steering wheel, and 19-inch chrome-finish wheels, as well as an option package that can net a lane-departure warning system, forward collision warning, surround-view camera system, and adaptive cruise control.

UVO eServices, offered on all but the base L, now includes geo-fencing, a speed alert, curfew alert, and "Driving Score"—all features that might help a parent wanting to keep watch on a new driver. There are apps for Yelp, Pandora, and SoundHound for use with smartphones, as well as Siri Eyes Free compatibility and Google Local Search.

One other feature to keep in mind for large families traveling together: Separate rear air conditioning controls are the exclusive domain of V-6 models (optional in LX, included in EX, SX, and Limited).

In all, the lineup ranges up to $42,395 for the Limited V-6; and that’s for the front-wheel-drive version. With the AWD version adding $1,800, and the cost of the technology package, we estimate the top end of the Sorento to be around $46,000. That’s still less expensive than top models of the Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it’s actually above the top end of a Toyota Highlander.

The 2016 Kia Sorento lineup offers versions that should please everyone—from cost-conscious families to those who want to pile on the features.

Fuel Economy
6.0

Mileage numbers are up slightly in the 2016 Sorento, with the addition of a turbo-4 to the lineup, although there’s no hybrid or diesel on the horizon.


The 2016 Kia Sorento doesn’t have a hybrid version, a diesel variant, or any special technology like engine stop-start. It has a lineup of modern, direct-injection engines that are relatively fuel-efficient, which makes the Sorento land on par with other five seaters its size, or a bit better than most other models offering a third row.

Beyond powertrain, Kia has added fuel-saving measures such as front and rear air deflectors, and underbody aero panels help reduce the coefficient of drag.

The most fuel-efficient, front-drive, 4-cylinder Kia Sorento manages 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. The least efficient, V-6, all-wheel drive Sorento scores 17/23/19 mpg. In the middle, the turbocharged inline-4 manages 20/27/23 mpg with front drive. Fuel economy generally dips by 1 mpg by adding AWD.

Mileage numbers are up slightly in the 2016 Sorento, with the addition of a turbo-4 to the lineup, although there’s no hybrid or diesel on the horizon.




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