2014 Kia Sorento EX FWD review: Nicely matured

2014 Kia Sorento EX

2013 Kia Sorento EX

“What a mature vehicle.”

That’s us, quoting ourselves. They’re the first words we wrote in our notes about driving a 2014 Kia Sorento EX FWD. We found it “comfortable, quiet and roomy.” And indeed, isn’t that why one buys a crossover/SUV?

We know we’re not going to get off that easy with our follow-up review of the Sorento. Buzzardette BJ Killen gave us the overall lowdown on the updated 2014 Sorento (following the first generation of the U.S.-built Sorento that debuted in 2011—see our full review of the 2012 Kia Sorento SX AWD here), but we were able to spend several days in Kia’s midsize crossover between Los Angeles and San Diego, with freeway jaunts on the I-405 and I-5 between those two burgs, plus local driving around Sunny D.

2014 Kia Sorento EX driver's entry

The interior of the 2014 Kia Sorento EX displays maturity of design. (click to enlarge)

Our test vehicle, as noted, was a Sorento EX with front-wheel drive. Normally those of us from the Snowbelt look at front drive in a SUV-type vehicle as akin to brogans in a blizzard. But there being precious few blizzards in SoCal, this modern variant on the family wagon does just fine hauling itself around by its front wheels. And because the all-wheel drive in the Sorento only activates rear drive when the front wheels slip—which they won’t very often in San Diego—having all those extra mechanical bits just means extra weight to haul about, added mechanical drag and reduced fuel economy.

As a Kia Sorento EX, our tester was the middle of the Sorento range, between the entry-level LX and the loaded SX, as driven in our first drive. There’s no mechanical differences between them, folks, other than the LX coming standard with a 2.4-liter direct-injection four-cylinder while the EX and SX are powered by the direct-injection 3.3-liter V-6. The new V-6 replaces the 3.5-liter V-6. Despite the smaller displacement, the new engine makes 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, compared to  276 horses and 248 lb-ft for the old 3.5-liter.

2014 Kia Sorento EX instrument panel

An information screen is centered in the middle of the 2014 Kia Sorento EX speedometer. (click to enlarge)

Although EPA fuel economy numbers are roughly equivalent for the two years (the 2014 Kia Sorento EX FWD rated at 18/25 city/highway), our on-road experience was significantly different. Caveats are AWD for our 2012 test vehicle versus FWD for the 2014, cold weather versus warm weather respectively, and probably more of a bias for highway for the earlier versus the latter, our observed mileage for the 2012 Sorento tested was 17.7 mpg, compared to 21.4 for the 2014 Sorento.

You can get into a Sorento LX for under $25k, while our test EX listed for $30,000 even. (What, not $29,995?) Standard equipment includes a power adjustable driver’s seat, pushbutton start with smart key, leather seating, dual-zone climate control, heated outside mirrors, Kia’s UVO telematics and rearview camera, satellite radio and more. What’s missing from the EX? Well, do you really need illuminated sill plates that tell you what kind of car you’re getting into?

2014 Kia Sorento EX multi-information display

The 2014 Kia Sorento EX multi-information display is full-color with crisp markings. (click to enlarge)

Our test Sorento, however, included the Touring Package. It’s a $4,000 bundle, but it’s a worthwhile checkmark on the order form, including navigation with an eight-inch screen, Infinity surround sound, ventilated driver’s and front passenger’s seat, blind spot detection, a four-way power front passenger seat, auto-dimming rearview mirror with Homelink, memory driver’s seat and outside mirrors, panoramic sunroof, power liftgate and, as a bit of nifty excess, and power-folding outside mirrors.

The navigation system is a good one, a system we’d suggest other manufacturers crib (or lose sales against something that sticks to the windshield). The markings are crisp and the pictographics that show signage and lanes are particularly useful, even and especially on Southern California’s multilane freeways. We also had the opportunity to use the system to find a hospital emergency room—don’t worry, everything’s OK—and it made us wonder exactly what we would have done without it. What did we do, back in the olden days?