After having a fun week driving the 2016 Mazda CX-5, the car agency dropped off a 2016 Kia Sorento and I have to say that from the first moment I opened the driver’s door, I was impressed. The Sorento in this configuration — SXL AWD — is one of the most luxurious SUV’s I’ve ever sat in, with its plush leather seats, beautiful interior color scheme and big, bright, eminently capable touch screen navigation and control console.
Of course, it has a price tag to match: the configuration I had, with Surround View Monitor, Xenon headlights, Panoramic Sunroof, etc, had a manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) of $44,200.00. Out the door at a typical dealership that can translate to around $40k if you’re a really good bargainer or over $46k if they have lots more demand than availability. The Sorento, it’s worth mentioning, has a base configuration MSRP of $24.9k. That’s a lotta upgrades to almost double the sticker price.
But ya know what? This 2016 Kia Sorento SXL is worth that price.
Let me show you some of the things that really impressed me, starting with the exterior itself, a solid, no-nonsense crossover SUV design:
Truth be told, most all SUVs look the same. There’s only so much a designer can do with the basic engine-in-front boxy design of a big headroom four door with hatchback, but I like how the rear glass is designed to make it almost look like it’s just a sedan. It’s a very solid feeling vehicle and drives very well, quiet and comfortable.
The interior is where the Sorento really shines:
The most common reaction I got from people getting into the car to try it was “This is a Kia??” It’s sufficiently luxurious and well designed that I could be in a Porsche or BMW sports-ute, and that’s a nice thing for a vehicle that’s quite a bit less pricey than those premium auto brands.
As a gadget person, I love all the modern console entertainment and display systems, and the Kia had what appeared to be an Android-powered touch interface that was crisp, eminently readable and easy to navigate. Here you can see it routing me to a destination in Broomfield, Colorado:
While the nav system displayed the current posted speed limit on whatever road I was driving, unlike the Mazda CX-5, this navigational system had no indicator when I was exceeding that speed, a lack that might have just been a setting I needed to tweak, but a disappointment nonetheless.
What the navigational system did have was the smarts to also have an abbreviated turn-by-turn direction display on the main dashboard area in front of the driver, as shown here:
Yes, I took this photo while driving 65mph. The only way to get the on-dash nav display was while being in motion. Not the best example of safe driving, I know, but sometimes you gotta sacrifice for your art.
What’s really smart about the on-dash directions is that if the main display console is in a non-navigational mode (think listening to the radio) the directions aren’t displayed, so it’s an easy way to have the passenger be able to find just the right song while the driver ensures they don’t veer off course.
There’s also a split-screen “home” mode that offers both the entertainment data and map, as shown:
The sound system, by the way, is terrific, with rich bass and an all enveloping audio, as is common in so many modern cars with premium sound. I found myself listening to a lot of XM radio and while I wished for a multi-CD changer for audio books, I imagine I’m the 1% of car drivers who still listens to CDs at all when there are options for iPods, smart phones and even SDcards from the console.
The plush interior was impressive but what really had my kids excited was the rather amazing double sunroof that made it feel remarkably like we were in a glass-ceilinged car. You can see how it stretches on and on in this selfie:
Kia rather aptly calls this the Panoramic Sunroof and it’s really great. I just wish we’d had a single sunny day so that the sky would have been blue in the photo, not gray. But you can certainly imagine!
While fuel efficiency wasn’t as good as my 2008 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, it was pretty darn close for the Sorento, as shown in this post-trip fuel display:
Why every single car on the road isn’t getting an additional 10-15mpg I don’t really understand, given all the amazing advances in both engine design and lighter materials, but 25.8 for a full size SUV with luxury features isn’t too bad.
The only thing I found a bit lacking on the Sorento was the voice interface system. After having been very impressed by the Mazda system, I found it really frustrating that I couldn’t set a destination by simply stating where I wanted to go. “Set destination” would produce the error “destination not set” rather than a prompt to specify the desired address, and when I tried the suggested “find <address> in <city>” it had no idea what I was saying. Maybe that’s something that a typical owner would figure out in a short period, but given how everything else was so well designed, it was a surprise to find that the voice system couldn’t understand the single most useful command you can speak.
In summary, I really loved the Kia Sorento far more than I expected. I also was skeptical of the Kia brand, expecting something more akin to an economy type SUV, just to be surprised and delighted by the luxury interior, bright, powerful entertainment and navigation system, endless sunroof and solid road handling. I just have to say, I like it. I’m almost ready to upgrade from my existing 2008 Highlander, actually! I’d just need to figure out how to pay for it. 🙂
Disclosure: Kia Motors loaned me the 2016 Kia Sorento for an extended evaluation for the purposes of this review.