Los Angeles – Planned as a brief respite from the heat that consumes Dallas-Fort Worth in August, we left D/FW during one of the coolest weeks (in late July) we can remember. And we landed, as you might guess, in a heat wave enveloping Los Angeles. Timing – of course – is everything, which brings us to Kia’s 2015 Sorento, a 3-row soft-roader that, for families young and old, has a great deal going for it.
First shown at the L.A. Auto Show in the fall of 2012, Kia described the upcoming ’14 Sorento as more than a refresh, with an all-new chassis, new GDI (Gasoline Direct Injected) V6, restyled interior, upgraded infotainment and Kia’s first-ever Blind Spot Detection. And while visually similar – or, to the Kia neophyte, essentially identical – on the outside, the argument that the ’14 was substantially new was pretty compelling. But not as compelling as a weekend behind the wheel, where Kia’s largest SUV seemingly hits the sweetspot as a comfortable, capable conveyance for three generations…and, of course, their stuff.
By stuff we mean ‘STUFF’, those items necessary for the care, feeding and transport of Rhys, our 16-month old grandson. The portable stroller is the big one, with additional room required for a car seat, suitcase, diaper bag, and bottle inventory; we could go on, but you get the gist. We had hoped the Kia 3-row might accommodate five adults, Rhys and our stuff, but the 9 cubic feet of cargo space with the 3rd row up cut short – literally and figuratively – that possibility. So, with the addition of a second car we spread out in the Sorento’s second row, while our baggage was effectively stowed – with room to spare – in the Sorento’s expansive hatch. While the Sorento obviously didn’t do the job we’d expect of a Suburban, neither did it test our parking skills (or lack thereof) in the congestion of Los Angeles.
From the outside Kia’s Sorento has an almost upscale – albeit anonymous – look. With sheetmetal combining Asian with a little Euro and a smidgen of global, the Sorento is a tad innocuous, but plays well with other kid carriers. Enjoying an overall length of just under 185 inches on a wheelbase of 106 inches, Kia’s largest CUV isn’t too far removed from the footprint once occupied by Accords and Camrys. Since then they – of course – have grown, making the argument for a midsize crossover in your all-too-crowded garage even stronger.
Inside, the Sorento did everything of it we asked…except, of course, carry five adults, one child seat and the kid’s stuff. Happily, Kia provides both 5-and-7-passenger variants, so you needn’t buy what you won’t often use. There’s still an argument for a tightly dimensioned 3-row (we think) when in-town trips require room for six or seven. But then, Odyssey/Sienna/Town & Country would provide that, also.
With a composed ride, responsive V6 and comfortable appointments, the Sorento seems to hit on all six cylinders…until we get to the window sticker. There is, for this writer, a very real disconnect when supposedly value-oriented brands (Hyundai, Kia and Mitsubishi) option platforms up to – or over – $40K. And that’s exactly what Kia’s press department did with our test Sorento. The SX AWD – fully equipped and with no options except destination (the alternative is to pick it up in West Point, Georgia) – came to $39,195. And if you suspect there are any number of Highlanders, Pilots and Durangos available for roughly the same coin and with better-established product reps and dealer networks you’re absolutely c-o-r-r-e-c-t. This is a lot to be spent for Korean, even when built in West Point.
Better, we think, to spec a V6-equipped Sorento LX with all-wheel drive, carpeted mats, rear bumper protection and tow hitch (think Jet Ski or bike rack), and be out the door – less taxes, title and license – for under $30K. That puts the midrange Sorento fully in line with an optioned CR-V or RAV4, gives you a V6 and far more room and refinement. Throw in Kia’s 10-year powertrain protection, and we think you have the makings of a winning value, with enough money left to invest in the latest high-tech stroller!
As this was written, Kia provided a preview of its all-new Sorento, presumably coming to the U.S. for the ’16 model year. Slightly longer, somewhat lower and predictably wider, the newest Sorento will do a better job than our test vehicle in accommodating young families and their stuff. But it still ain’t a Suburban…and for that, we should be thankful.