Monday, October 20, 2014

Can the Kia Sorento edge out the Edge?

For 2014, the Sorento gets a slight visual update, a slightly upgraded interior, and a more potent V6 powerplant. The 4-cylinder found in the base model last year has been dropped, leaving the 2.4 liter 4 cylinder as the entry-level motor. Ride quality as well as steering feel have also been improved, as has the UVO voice system. Lastly, a range topping SX-L trim level bows.

     The Kia Sorento has been one of my favorite crossover SUVs in recent years. With optional V6 power, loads of features, and a rather roomer inside with an optional 3rd row, the current gen Sorento is a pretty good option for the shoppers that want something a little bigger than your typical crossover. The updated 2014 Kia Sorento has all the same draws, but the significant improvements help keep it in the race.

     Kia touts the 2014 model as being heavily redesigned, but in the absence of hardly any styling changes, it has the look of a refresh the more you look at it. Even on the inside, you would have to put a 2013 next to a 2014 to spot the differences. However, Kia has stiffened the body structure, fitted a new front suspension, and retuned the rear to improve things like ride comfort and handling. They even had the kind thought of adding more power, too. A new direct-injection 3.3 liter V6 produces 290 horsepower, up from last year's 276.

     Like before, the 2014 Kia Sorento is one of the few vehicles in its class to offer a 3rd row. Kia also loads the Sorento up with features. For example, even the midrange EX model comes with such things like leather upholstery and heated front seats. Kia has also updated UVO for more accurate control and added a bigger touchscreen with improved menus and graphics that give the Sorento arguably one of the best interfaces in this price slot. The center gauges can even feature an optional LCD that digitally replicates an analog speedometer and provides some additional trip computer info.

     The five-passenger 2014 Kia Sorento is offered in LX, EX, SX and SX-L trims. Standard LX features include 17-inch alloy wheels, air-conditioning, full power accessories, 40/20/40 split-folding rear seats, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, Bluetooth and a six-speaker sound system with a CD player, satellite radio and USB/auxiliary audio jacks.

     The EX adds 18-inch wheels, automatic headlights, foglights, a rear spoiler, roof rails, keyless ignition/entry, rear parking sensors, dual-zone automatic climate control, leather upholstery, heated front seats, an eight-way power-adjustable driver seat (with power lumbar support), ambient interior lighting, LCD gauges, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, rear-seat sunshades, Kia's Uvo voice activation system and a rearview camera.

     Optional on the EX is the Touring package, which adds a power liftgate, a panoramic sunroof, a blind-spot-monitoring system, driver memory settings, ventilated front seats, an 8-inch touchscreen display, a navigation system and a 10-speaker Infinity surround-sound system.

 The Sorento SX receives the contents of the Touring package and gains 19-inch wheels, selectable steering modes, rear air-conditioning and a four-way power front passenger seat. The SX-L tops it off with chromed wheels, xenon headlights, a heated and wood-trimmed steering wheel, heated rear seats and upgraded leather upholstery.

     Folding 50/50-split third-row seats (with rear air-conditioning) are optional on all Kia Sorentos.

     You can get the 2014 Sorento with 2 different engines. Standard on the LX is the earlier mentioned 2.4 liter 4 cylinder that makes 191 horsepower, and 181 lb.-ft of torque. Optional on the LX and standard on all other trims is the also earlier mentioned 3.3 liter V6 that produces 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft of torque. All Sorentos now come standard with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and front-wheel drive. All wheel drive is optional.

     In performance testing, the tester, which was an EX AWD with the V6, reached 60 mph from a standstill in about 7.6, which, given the size, is an impressive number. The 4 cylinder front wheel drive Sorento clocks up an EPA rated 20 city/26 highway mpg, and the AWD 4 cylinder comes in at 19 city/24 highway mpg. Fuel economy for the V6 front wheel drive clocks in at 18 city/25 highway, and 18 city/24 highway. These ratings are average, and could be better, but hey, you need room to improve somewhere, right?

     Standard safety features include ABS, stability and traction control, hill start assist, front seat side airbags, side curtain airbages for the first 2 rows, and active front headrests. A rearview camera and parking sensors are standard on all EX and SX models, and optional on the LX. A blindspot monitoring system is standard on the SX, and optional on all other trim levels. In brake testing, the test unit came to a stop from 60 mph in about 120 feet, a better than average distance for the class. Minimal pedal fade was noted, but no confidence lost after several 60 mph stops.

     Even in base trim, the 2014 Sorento boasts a heaping amount of standard features. I am more than happy to note that many of the high end options are made available throughout the model lineup, so you aren't forced to purchase a fully loaded model.

     The quality of cabin materials is accpetable, however if you go for the SX or SX-L, you may find too much hard plastic for your liking. The new, slightly larger touchscreen for the 2014 model includes a more intuitive menu structure, better graphics, and a very hand secondary control knob that combined, make for one of the best interfaces I have used in a test vehicle thus far. Augmenting that is the UVO system, which is Kia's take on Ford's Sync system. UVO can be just as adept at recognizing voice commands for phone and entertainment systems. You can say that it allows true hands free operation.

    Adult passengers will also more than likely find ample head and legroom in the second row, but getting to the 3 rd row is a bit tricky. Cargo space is quite generous with 36.9 cubic feet behind the middle row of seating. Folding the second row will expand it to a cave like 72.5 cubic feet of cargo space.
Front passengers will be sure to enjoy a commanding view of the road ahead, with seats that are comfortable, and most importantly, supportive.

     If you are like most drivers, you will find that the 2014 Kia Sorento feels a bit underpowered when equipped with the 4 cylinder engine. If you consider the very minimal hit in fuel economy, the V6 engine is more than worth the price, assuming your budget allows such. When driving, the Sorento is almost exceptionally quiet with barely a whisper of road noise. I would also like to make a note that given the size, it handles well. While far from sporty, you should find it sure-footed enough for a family vehicle that you can also flick around the mountain back roads. Adding to that, the suspension soaks up all but the harshest of bumps with ease.

     Like most people, if you have to navigate the confines of a parking lot, the Sorento feels a touch smaller than it really is, and it is a bit more maneuverable than its size might belay. Poor rearward visibility can make baking out of a space more of a chore, but the rearview camera and sensors help with that task to a great degree.

     If you, like most people think you can get all of theses features for a low, bargain basement price because of the name, you may just want to think again. The entry level LX starts at around $25k, but higher trim levels can easily push $40k. Since the Sorento is closely related to the Hyundai Santa Fe, which you can read my review on, deciding on the big Kia gets a little bit harder to do. But rest assured, whether you compare it with the Hyundai, or other competitors such as the Dodge Journey and Ford Edge, the 2014 Kia Sorento is a must see, and a must test drive, especially if you need to seat seven in a pinch.

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