Long-Term Test: 2016 Kia Sorento SX - Update 2

The Sorento is a pleasure to drive. I don’t mean that in a “for a seven-seat SUV” way, I simply enjoy driving it.

Odometer at pick-up: 427 km
Odometer Current: 6,725 km (6,298 by autoTRADER.ca)
Fuel Consumption: 13.1 L/100 km
Costs: $787.85 (gas $744.97; oil change $42.88)

I finally get to talk about the Kia Sorento’s driving qualities. Sure, the interior packaging is a far more relevant and crucial aspect of the vehicle in this segment, but Kia already had that sorted. The driving, not so much. Until now.

The Sorento is a pleasure to drive. I don’t mean that in a “for a seven-seat SUV” way, I simply enjoy driving it. I’m not claiming it’s any sort of Boxster or Hellcat, but for a daily driving family vehicle, it is perfectly enjoyable to drive. I would gladly pick this over plenty of sedans and hatchbacks (okay, not the Golf), because it is virtually equal in day-to-day drivability with all of the added utility we raved about in our first update.

At the heart of the Sorento’s performance is a 3.3L direct-injection V6 that powers the 1,860-kg ute with 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque, and even in modest Eco mode, the Sorento’s is lively and eager to move long with traffic. Eco mode moderates throttle response for more judicious, temperate acceleration and response, which I find acceptable as it also smooths out my often jerky inputs. It’s a mellowing influence, and I find myself in the right lane as often as not, just cruising along relaxingly, enjoying the fine stereo and steady, comfortable highway comportment.

There’s nothing like a road trip to experience a car’s highway manners, and Justin Couture’s trip to Montreal revealed the improvements in the Sorento’s road manners. “Road and wind noise are kept at bay, and considering the big 19-inch wheels were shod in typically noisy winter rubber, the Sorento was astonishingly quiet at speed. Very stable on the highway and at high speeds, feels solid and doesn’t mind clicking along at 130 or higher. Suspension damping, long a problem of the old Sorento has been cured – the dual-rate dampers soak up all manner of crumbling Quebec infrastructure without any harshness or crashiness. Thoughts of Volkswagen keep entering my head.”

Catch up on our Kia Sorento reports: Arrival, Part 1.

But there’s more to it than just a comfortable highway cruiser. Roughly the size of an Edge or Murano, the Sorento offers three rows of seating roomy enough for transporting six adults in a way that the Nissan Rogue or Mitsubishi Outlander can’t, yet, at the same time, it’s nowhere near as bulky or cumbersome as full-size three-row crossovers like the Pathfinder, Explorer or Traverse. For most, this makes the Kia a comfortable and functional “right size” choice. As one of the smallest in the mid-size segment, the Sorento is manageable in tighter quarters, and it’s quick, light steering make city driving easy on the arms. However, outward visibility is a bit of an issue, and my wife noted that “The A-pillar is to wide, making left turns a bitch, and the big mirrors don’t help.” She’s not the first one to note that Kia’s wide A-pillars cause difficulties in forward visibility, obstructing the view of pedestrians attempting to cross sometimes.

While mostly irrelevant to the average driver aiming to take home a well-equipped family utility vehicle, the Sorento can also tuck into corners with surprising aplomb. There was one S4 that was no doubt shocked to see me filling his mirrors at the end of one spirited run around our favourite onramp. Despite the tall stance and lumbering weight, the Sorento takes to a line and sticks it, even feeling composed and communicating the gradual loss of traction as you continue to push well past the minivan speeds it should really adhere to. Normally I wouldn’t, but my kids made me do it, yelling “Wheeeeeeeeeee, daddy, go faster!” all the way. That is my story and I’m sticking with it.

Another partner in the driving excellence is the straightforward but well sorted six speed automatic. Justin goes into detail here: “The automatic may not have as many speeds as in the Honda Pilot, but it swiftly dispatches the right gear and isn’t left hunting. The immediate throttle response off the line does take some time to get used to, and it really goes a way to reinforcing the Sorento’s power.” He must have had it in Sport mode or normal, because in Eco mode throttle response is mild, while in Sport it is markedly jumpy, and it is paired with a fairly aggressive transmission program that keeps you in the peak power band and ready for sudden bursts of acceleration at almost any speed.

That powertrain also showed that it is ready for towing duties. Rated to tow up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lb), it’s capable enough to manage smaller campers or boats. We met up with forum member Scott Buchanan, hitched up his camper (est. weight: 1,000 kg or 2,000+ lb), and we did a small loop, getting a feel for the Sorento’s behaviour under load. The engine was completely unfazed, even pulling strongly up a hill from a dead stop, and the Sorento displayed no unsettled or concerning behaviour at any time, only the hitch readjusting at drastic changes from acceleration to deceleration or vice versa. Although our distance doesn’t exactly validate this as an accurate sample, we noted 14.5 L/100 km on the trip computer.

This sounds decent, but take it with a grain of salt, as we have consistently seen low 12s and 11s on the trip computer (it resets at every fill-up), but our overall fuel consumption works out to 13.1 when calculated the old fashioned way.

As we crossed the 6,000 km mark on the odometer, we stopped in at our local Kia dealer, and were treated to a speedy and courteous oil change (I was offered coffee no less than three times while I was there). So far, the Sorento has been boringly reliable and utterly without issue. However, we’re handing the key over to Jacob, who will do his utmost to find fault and drill down on the infotainment system to see if he can reveal any flaws in this otherwise stellar SUV.

I’ll end with one final note about the Sorento’s driving experience, one that likely will matter to few consumers shopping the segment, but I’ll share nonetheless. The Sorento’s steering is much improved: quick but hefty, without being cumbersome, and with natural feel that adds to the feeling of piloting a smaller vehicle than the interior space suggests. It’s a revelation and, when combined with the firm but compliant ride and massive feature load, makes me feel like I’ve landed in a premium niche.

Pricing: 2016 Kia Sorento SX
Base Price (LX 2.4L FWD): $27,495
Base Price (SX V6 AWD): $43,195
Options: $476.98 ($200 Paint charge; $276.98 trailer hitch)
Destination: $1,715
A/C Tax: $100
Price as Tested: $45,486.98

I finally get to talk about the Kia Sorento’s driving qualities. Sure, the interior packaging is a far more relevant and crucial aspect... 2/3/2016 11:28:39 AM