Seems like every week the Chicago press pool supplies yet along another five-door crossover for evaluation. This week's no exception as a 2019 Kia mid-size Sorento arrived for a deep dive of testing.
No denying crossover popularity. This trend promises to continue as domestic brands including Chevrolet, Dodge and Ford have announced or already implemented the retirement of compact and mid-size sedans such as Taurus, Dart, Cruise and Focus, opening up assembly space for crossover production.
Sorento debuted in 2003 with a third-generation arriving in the 2016 model year. Our 2019 tester continues with this platform.
Sorento classifies as a crossover, not a sports utility vehicle since underpinnings derive from a unibody, or car-like structure. Heavier truck-based underpinnings serve as platforms of traditional SUVs built for trailer towing and off-road charades. Measuring in at the smaller end of the mid-size crossover spectrum, Sorento boasts garage-ability and drive-ability not always readily available in larger SUVs.
In 2019, Sorento pairs down decision making, now boasting three-row seating exclusively. In year's past, Sorento also offered a two-row, five-seat version. It's now one of a few mid-sizers with standard three-row seven-passenger seating. The number of powertrains reduces from three down to two with the retirement of a 2.0-liter turbocharged four cylinder debuting three years ago during the dawn of Gen Three.
Four returning trims include L, LX, EX, SX and top-tier SX Limited with scant few option packages to muddle through.
Two returning powertrains include a 2.4-liter naturally aspirated inline four cylinder generating a humble 185 horsepower and a more potent 3.3-liter V-6 hosting 290 horses. The four cylinder edition mates with a six-speed automatic transmission while V-6 variants up the ante to a newly available eight-speed automatic. Both engines offer front-wheel or optional (a $1,800 extra) full-time all-wheel drive. While the base L supports front-wheel drive solely, all remaining trims offer front-wheel-drive or all-wheel drive. The fuel tank holds a rather generous 18.8-gallons of regular, unleaded fuel.
All-wheel drive configurations automatically route power to the wheel with the most traction. In addition, selecting the 'lock' button between front buckets splits power evenly between front and rear driveshafts if desired.
If long-term plans include carting a cadre kids and accompanying cargo a majority of the time, upgrade to the V-6 as the extra oomph will prove welcome. Empty nesters or first-time-buying singles seeking cargo carrying options and occasional extra passengers could suffice with the four banger.
Until very recently, Sorento served as Kia's largest three-row crossover. That parameter updates with the introduction of the all-new three-row 2020-model-year Telluride, a vehicle Kia showcased at the 2019 Chicago Auto Show in a show-stopping manner with its own dedicated indoor test track. Kia's crossover selection now stretches to five when factoring in the Niro, Sportage and urbanly-hip Soul.
Adding to Sorento's value proposition is Kia's 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty, one of the longest the industry offers benefitting original buyers. West Point Georgia continues as Sorento's assembly home, sharing assembly time with Kia's mid-size Optima sedan. The facility opened for business a decade ago just east of the Georgia/Alabama state line.
The 2018 calendar year served Sorento well as sales improved 8 percent from the previous 12-month cycle. Total 2018 sales surpassed the 100,000 unit mark at 107,846.
Pricing starts at $26,290 for a base L trim with front-wheel drive and four-banger. Our tester, a V-6 SX Limited with all-wheel drive checked in at $46,490 before factoring the $1,045 destination charge.
The only two factory options the well-stocked SX limited offers is a choice of interior seat upgrades: black metallic nappa leather or terracotta nappa leather seats. Chrome-finished roof rails and long, panoramic sunroof come standard solely in SX and SX Limited.
While approaching fifty grand seems pricey for a conventional mid-size crossover, the V-6 powered SX Limited comes loaded with many of the same near luxury specs found in upscale-branded selections costing upwards of 15 grand more. This includes Sorento's new-for-2019 lane keep assist, a melodic Harman/Kardon premium audio system, heated and ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing front wipers and 360-degree view camera monitor.
Kudos for a nicely revised instrument panel with super-sized analog gauges containing just enough information to digest at a glance without incorporating overpowering distractions. A BIG circular center gauge with an analog outer rim serves as the primary speedometer with a half-circle (vertical style) tachometer to the left and quarter fuel/temperature gauges right side.
For those still in need of a digital fix, a left-side button on the four-spoke steering wheel's face summons a variety of scrollable digital tidbits including artful compass directions, all-wheel-drive indicator and digital speed readouts. Chrome tactile thumb tabs on the steering wheel aid radar-enhanced cruise control and sound/station preset audio controls.
Both SX and SX Limited feature a larger eight-inch multi-function touch screen built into the center dash. Other trims include slightly smaller varieties. Relatively straight forward touch commands ease the system's use and convenient twist dials operate on-off, volume and station select functions. Popular Smartphone interlinks Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard across the trim line board.
Our up-trim tester included dual HVAC temperature control dials with large, well-marked buttons in between summoning fan speed and direction. Soft-touch dashboard materials add an elegant touch to an already intuitive layout.
When open, the rear hatch allows ample head clearance for those standing under six-feet tall and allow access to third row seatbacks with a 50-50 split. These backs manually fold flat with a push and pull back up via an attached black strap. Second row backrests fold with 40/20/40 harmony.
Maneuvering into row three requires tilting row-two's right-passenger-side seatback forward allowing the entire seat/cushion unit to slide forward via a floor track. While this six-foot, 50-something adult managed his way into the two-person way back in pursuit of first-person evaluation, save the hassle and designate the area a 'kids zone' as big folks must perform a precision ballet with the front two rows to negotiate proper knee spacing for all.
A high side belt line and narrow windows carries a distinctive profile. The front 'A' pillar boasts svelte styling. A subtle front end face lift includes a new headlamp configuration with full LED style integration in upper trims, including our SX Limited tester. Wrap-around tail light housing upgrades with a sleeker wrap-around design. A power lift gate replaces a manual variety in EX, SX and SX Limited.2019 Kia Sorento
SX Limited AWD
Price as tested: $47,535
Wheelbase: 109.4 inches
Length: 189.0 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 66.3 inches
Engine: 3.3-liter V-6
Powertrain warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 19 mpg city 26 mpg highway
Assembly: West Point, Georgia