Tested: Should the 2016 Kia Sorento SXL Be Your Next SUV?

Value, reliability, and world-class features make the new Sorento a strong contender.

Has the stigma of Kia being a “cheap” brand that can’t compete in the United States gone way of the dodo bird? While some people’s opinion will always center around how the Korean brand just can’t compete—lack of information and naïve statements complete their thought process—there’s a great argument for why they most certainly can.

The new Kia Sorento shows you what can happen when you pack the newest safety, gadgetry, and, yes, performance, inside an affordable family SUV. While the new Sorento isn’t cheap (in monetary terms), it’s packaged to the brim, maintaining value and staying competitive without paying the “luxury” tax so common with other brands. The heart of the new Sorento revolves around its matured, grown-up exterior. Stretched, widened and sculpted with handsome attributes, the Sorento—though classified as a midsize CUV—has about as much interior cargo space as a new Chevrolet Tahoe. Packing in people and gear, especially in the LX models where you can fit seven, isn’t a problem with the sizeable hauler. 

If you do find yourself packed to the brim, the Sorento’s standard 2.4-liter 4-cylinder might have you doing your best Flintstones feet dance to get up sizeable hills, and wishing for the six available on the LX V6 models or the 240 horsepower 2.0-liter turbo 4-cylinder on EX models and up. With less than 200 horsepower, the 185 horsepower that the 2.4 is equipped with will show limitations once added mass arrives. The V6 offers plenty of pick up when needed, reserving high-revs for passing power, and in our opinion, is worth the $2,600 premium when going up the model rank.

Our SXL AWD was equipped with the 2.0-liter turbo and not only did we find it had plenty of power, but it actually has more torque than the V6 with smoother powertrain delivery mated to the 6-speed automatic (standard on all models). Plus, there's better gas mileage thanks to a fuel-efficient turbocharger.

The SXL comes standard with Nappa leather (something that most luxury SUVs costing thousands more don’t come with as standard) in the first and second row, and it makes a big difference in comfort the longer your rear coddles them. Kia has made it a goal to appoint their cars with higher-grade, quality products in order to compete in the very competitive SUV market. The Sorento even has great tricks up its sleeve, like turning the fans down when you get a call over Bluetooth, which helps you hear the conversation rather than the arctic blast of A/C.

All of the standard electronic safety equipment reads off like an acronym cookbook: ABS, TCS, ESC, HAC, TPMS, and BSD. This cookbook guarantees your safety with things like Blind Spot Detection, Tire Pressure Monitoring and more, again, making the Sorento compete with SUVs of a, technically, higher class: BMW, Mercedes, Porsche, Audi, etc. However, this is without the price tag often approaching the $60k mark.

We won’t say that the Kia is inexpensive by any means, as our model tested just crested the $45k mark. Though, there’s obviously a lot of value. And we know getting over the Kia name is the biggest hurdle with most buyers’ decision process, but it really just takes a test drive to squash any doubts. Granted, a German SUV will feel more expensive with greater sound deadening, and doors that shut like the front of a club on Saturday night if you’re caught wearing Jordache jeans, but the Kia can do 8/10ths of the chores with substantial value included. Kia won’t be tapping into the luxury market with the Sorento. Instead, it will fill the void between luxury and value. You’re a smart buyer getting into a Kia, because you value buying power over the outright bragging rights of an expensive luxury car. And with one of the greatest warranties in the industry (10 years, 100,000 miles), you’re also getting peace of mind for the future. If getting more for your money is something you cherish, the Kia Sorento should be included in the all-important car-buying process.


Efficiency:    19/25/22 mpg (city/highway/combined)

0-60 MPH:    N/A 

Top Speed:    N/A

Horsepower:    240 horsepower

Torque:     260 lb-ft

Cost:         $41,700 (base) / $45,095 (as tested)

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