I got to drive the 2019 Kia Sorento for two weeks over the Holidays.
We drove a fair amount, the family and I, hauled bags of gifts, the stroller, did the Costco runs – in other words, I lived with Kia’s current largest SUV.
By day 3 or so, I’d grown accustomed to my loaded $48,865 SXL V6 tester despite some annoyances that would normally drive me bonkers. Be it because I was supposed to be “off”, tired (baby #2 was 5 weeks old), jet-lagged (had just returned from 4 days in Germany) or any combination of these, I’d simply given in.
The naughty list
To put it briskly, the Sorento’s steering’s on-center feel is completely off, the ride’s not comfortable enough, it’s generally noisy at all speeds and throttle and transmission response are on snooze most of the time and yet, I’d get in, start the engine, turn the heated steering wheel and seat on and go.
Not ever really being able to shut “off”, I came to realize before day 3 was over that this is what it’s like for the vast majority of Canadian families. We’ve got school/daycare, family activities, work, chores and the like and the car is nothing more than a means to an end. I swear to you this is the first time I’ve come to this realization.
Cars as a simple tool has been a foreign concept to me as I always look for something from the vehicle, other than utility. Nissan’s done an amazing job delivering very average vehicles in all respects which explains its success.
Kia, and Hyundai, have developed a knack to bejewel something that is no better than average but make it seems as though it’s better than it actually is – this is skill. In fact, from the most basic AWD $30,995 2.4-litre Sorento, that heated steering wheel (along with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, wireless phone charging, 7-inch display, and smart key with push-button start) are all included and overshadow whatever may be wrong or lacking with the vehicle.
Good enough powertrain
Not that there’s much wrong with it to begin with. While the driving experience might be average to below average because of its steering and spongy brake pedal, the 3.3-litre V6 and its 290-horsepower get the job done. The 8-speed automatic transmission’s generally fine and the AWD system has proven to be effective in most situations. There are drive modes but ultimately, are all but useless. The Sport mode forces the engine and transmission to rev higher and hold gears with no positive effect on performance.
Once underway, there’s little to complain about. The fully independent suspension is unnecessarily firm and provides no upside handling-wise. Through the urban mess of roads, passengers are jarred more than they should be.
Big and loaded
The cabin is functional with a simple layout. The 8-inch display (SX and SXL trims) is easy to configure and navigate. The same goes for the HVAC controls with immediately accessible heated/vented seat and steering wheel controls. The overall presentation, materials and attention to detail meets expectations.
The front seats are large, firm and comfortable. The rear bench, occupied by the kids’ seats, reclines and slides which is necessary to access the third row. When stowed, the boot provides 1,077 litres of volume which came in very handy, and this even with the stroller back there for the duration of the loan. Throughout the cabin, storage is decent.
Early in 2018, a friend of mine was in the market for a new 3-row crossover. I went over the usual suspects (Toyota Highlander, Honda Pilot) and included a few must-sees such as the Mazda CX-9 and VW Atlas. Only a few days later, he contacted me and asked for my thoughts on the 2018 Kia Sorento. In fact, he wanted to see with me if he’d made the right choice as it was already in his driveway. The deal was impressive plus he was smitten by Kia’s 5-year warranty.
The point of this story is meant to highlight that aggressive pricing and marketing campaigns will more often than not get consumers to sign on the dotted line. My buddy’s intention is to keep the vehicle for a prolonged period of time and this is how the long warranty fit in his plans.
As I’ve stated numerous times in the recent past, Korean products do not age as gracefully as equivalent Japanese vehicle and tend to deteriorate at a much quicker rate. With 11,500+km indicated on the clock, my tester with its noisy cabin and occasional small rattle seemed to be holding out ok.
If you’re in shopping the Sorento, I’d suggest the LX AWD at $30,295 or the LX V6 trim at $34,795 – best bang for the buck in my opinion.