2015 Kia Sorento review: Are You Married…with Children?

2015 Kia Sorento SX AWD

Kia’s 2015 Sorento provides all the room a young family needs…if you don’t take the stroller!

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.

Kia Sorento Interior Second Row 2015

Sorento’s second row is expansive…

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.

2016 Kia Sorento

Kia’s ’16 Sorento will be slightly larger, more refined.

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.