2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD Road Test Review

By : Trevor Hofmann
  Before you spend too much for a premium branded CUV check out the latest Kia Sorento in top-line SX trim. For just over $42k you get a stylish midsize SUV with a 240-hp turbo four, AWD, stainless undertrays, auto HID headlamps, quad LED fogs, LED taillights, 19-inch alloys, proximity access, pushbutton start, stainless doorsill plates, alloy pedals, 2-zone auto HVAC, 8-inch infotainment, nav, Infinity audio, perforated leather, heated and cooled powered front seats, heated rear seats, a garage door opener, a Smart powe.......
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
                   
       
 
You know how some companies just have a thing for good design? Apple has long been noted for its style leadership, as has Jawbone,
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Bang & Olufsen, Dyson, Braun, and the list goes on. We can now add Kia to this list, but to be perfectly candid with respect to this South Korean brand, style wasn't an inherent trait. A look back to some of their previous models is all that's needed to remind anyone of that fact, although the Sorento has been one of their more appealing products since it arrived in 2003.

I dubbed the 2003 Sorento "great looking" in a review that followed its Canadian launch program, and even recommended it to my brother and his wife who purchased a fully loaded one and enjoyed it for more than a decade without problem. After testing the second-generation 2011 model I called it an "extremely stylish design." True, not my most creative literary work in either case, but at least straight to the point and notably positive. My notes for this all-new third-generation model are similarly clear and concise
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
albeit a much bolder claim, stating that, "From front to back it's as pleasing as mid-size crossover SUVs get."

I doubt many would argue against the redesigned Sorento's styling, which is well proportioned from all angles, elegantly shaped with just the right amount of curvaceous muscle albeit not so much as to offend those who appreciate equal doses of feminine grace, while it's not overdone when it comes to details. Certainly it doesn't fall short of impressive bling, but it somehow delivers a level of confidently understated design that's normally the stuff of pricey premium players.

Kia actually offers a rear-wheel drive full-size luxury sedan named K900, which does a fairly good job of targeting luxury-branded four-door models like the Audi A8,
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
BMW 7 Series, Lexus LS, and Mercedes-Benz S-Class, not to mention its own familial Hyundai Equus, while posing a much more alluring prospect than large luxury car wannabes such as the Acura RLX, Buick LaCrosse, Cadillac XTS and Volvo S80, but the true litmus test for Kia luxury is this Sorento, being that only a handful of K900s (31 during the first 11 months of 2015) and not many more front-wheel drive Cadenzas (167, this model going up against Toyota Avalons and the like) have been sold in Canada.

Comparatively, Kia attracted 13,496 Sorento buyers throughout that same 11-month period, which will come very close to a Canadian record if as-yet undisclosed December sales continued at the model's most recent 1,200-unit average monthly pace. The old 15k-plus record was set in 2011, the first year of full
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
sales for the previous model, so who's to say what 2016 will bring as we haven't yet seen a full year of third-gen sales, this model having arrived only partway through last year.

Even if Sorento sales grow by 25 percent its numbers won't be anywhere near as large as the Hyundai Santa Fe's 30,925 combined five- and seven-passenger XL sales during the same 11 months, or the 23,389 Dodge Journeys sold, but it certainly could edge past the 18,324 Nissan Murano and Pathfinder sales during that same period, or the 17,762 Ford Edge and Flex deliveries. All said, Kia is in a comfortable fourth place, even if you add up all three of General Motors' mid-size CUV sales numbers, the GMC Acadia leading its Lambda-based relatives with 5,886 units sold, the Chevrolet Traverse next with
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
3,773 deliveries, and Buick Enclave last with 3,173, GM's total being 12,832 mid-size CUV sales, while from January through November Toyota only managed to purvey 9,643 Highlanders, Honda a mere 7,488 Pilots, Volkswagen a paltry 1,964 Touaregs, and Mazda a minuscule 1,068 CX-9s. Some of these brands have new entries for 2016 so their numbers will likely rise, but I can't see any of them growing to the heights of the Sorento, at least not quickly.

The Sorento is a critically important vehicle for Kia. Not only is it the biggest seller in the brand's Canadian lineup, this reality due to Rio subcompact sales that dropped off a cliff during 2015 (albeit such was the case for the entire subcompact segment, the Rio still ahead of every direct competitor except for Hyundai's Accent), but sales numbers aside its price point allows for decent profits too. The 2016
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
Sorento with FWD starts at $27,495, which makes it one of the more affordable crossover SUVs in its class but still a great deal more than a Rio, while when loaded up like my tester and it quickly escalates into $40k-plus territory. This is par for the course in this class, my $42,295 Sorento SX T-GDI AWD with optional Dark Cherry metallic paint still a steal compared to most similarly equipped rivals, and you can still move up to SX V6 AWD 7-Seater status for $43,195 sans paint, or the same power and drivetrain with SX+ trim for $46,695, plus freight and dealer fees across the line.

All SX models are a cut above, mind you. Gloss black surfacing gets added to the bumper cap, lower grille and this model's distinctive quad LED fog lamp surrounds, while genuine stainless steel undertrays enhance both front and rear valances,
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
plus a similar treatment makes the bumper-top and exposed lip of the load floor appear more Audi-like than Korean budget brand. Back up front, the LED-infused twin HID headlights look impressive too, as do the opposing LED lightbar taillights that are particularly attractive at night, whereas the wheel arches and door garnishes are body-coloured in this trim, and metal brightwork surrounds Kia's trademark grille while covering the door handles, window surrounds, roof rails and sweet looking dual oval tailpipes. The SX is finished off with stylish Y-shaped five-spoke alloys with grey painted pockets, the same grey used to embellish the uniquely detailed front grille insert, incidentally. A set of 235/55R19 Michelin Premier LTX all-seasons round out the package, framing unique black-painted brake calipers no less, the entire SUV looking as good as, if not better than anything in the mid-size class, including most premium players.

Get
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
ready to be impressed with this near-premium crossover SUV's interior too, because it will leave you wondering why all automakers don't do as good a job with design or materials quality. The SX gets filled with upscale detailing such as a French-stitched leather-look dash top and a full soft-touch instrument panel, only the glove box lid done out in harder plastic, but Audi and Buick don't go any farther to embellish their glove box lids either, plus they don't add the soft padded synthetic to the sides of the lower console, which Kia does liberally with the Sorento. The Sorento also covers the door uppers with the same high quality pliable plastic, all the way down past the armrest grips, which I might add are finished in the same stylish high-quality French-stitched leatherette as the dash top, while each pillar is fabric-wrapped just like the luxury brands. Even nicer, all the satin-finish aluminum-look trim throughout the cabin looks authentic and some of it even feels real too, particularly the big chunky glove box handle.

Kia
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
uses piano black lacquered plastic to add richness to the cabin, and I must say it's really done nicely in this model, only highlighting trim pieces you're not likely to touch all that often including a thin strip that circles around the entire front portion of the dash below the windscreen before melding into the door panels, where it immediately grows in size before tapering to a point before reaching each door's two-third's point, plus another thin strip that runs across the instrument panel ahead of the front passenger. The only glossy black panels I tended to smudge up a bit were the ones surrounding the power window and lock switches, but these looked nice and glossy most of the time.

Ahead of the driver, a well organized primary gauge package doesn't try to wow with
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
sensational graphics even though its fully digital at centre, but rather provides clear, highly legible readouts of critical info, whereas a neat and tidy array of redundant buttons on the leather-wrapped steering wheel's spokes provides easy access to features most often used. My tester's large full-colour high-resolution infotainment touchscreen was even more impressive and filled with features such as a backup camera, navigation plus the usual audio, climate, phone and vehicle settings, and it performed flawlessly throughout my weeklong test, but I must say its touchscreen and array of flanking buttons weren't the first place my hands went when entering the car.

The weather was cold and therefore the leather was equally icy, or at least it felt that way, so I reached for a row a toggles on the same centre stack albeit under the
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
dual-zone auto HVAC interface, making sure to press the two heatable seat buttons first, as well as the one for the heatable steering wheel, the two switches with the fan pictographs required for seat ventilation, certainly the wrong time of the year for that bit of kit, although without doubt a feature I'd appreciate in the summer months.

All of that switchgear fits together extremely well with nice damping for an upscale feel, while much of it is large enough to use with thick winter gloves. This same theme permeated the rest of the cabin, with amply large buttons for the interior dimmer switch, blind spot detection, 115-volt household socket on/off button and stability control off switch found on the dash panel to the left of the steering column, or just below that the gas cap and power liftgate buttons. Only the
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
infotainment and audio controls back on that centre stack are on the smaller side, but these are very nicely done and quite sleek looking.

The SUV itself is very spacious in its front and middle rows, the second one also being the final rear row of my tester as seven-seat occupancy is only available with V6-powered AWD models. Instead five-seat models get a removable cargo floor with a large compartmentalized stowage area below, something I'd have a great deal more use for than an extra row of seats. This said reporting on the Sorento's third-row roominess will have to wait for another test vehicle.

The rear seats, which split 40/20/40 for added convenience, fold via robust feeling handles on the sides of each lower cushion, and while it's a fairly basic mechanical setup compared to others in the class they seem very well made, clamping down into
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
place when fully flat. Each does likewise when being raised, although the seatbacks don't have a memory to go back where they were prior to folding, stopping early and therefore requiring more manual adjustment than some others in the class.

There's 1,099 litres (38.8 cubic feet) of cargo space behind those rear seats, incidentally, 22 litres (0.7 cubic feet) more than in the seven-passenger version, while a maximum of 2,082 litres (73.5 cubic feet) opens up when the second row is folded flat, which is 16 litres (0.5 cubic feet) more than the seven-seater's total cargo capacity. On the subject of hauling, the base model is good for the usual 907
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
kilos (2,000 lbs), whereas my turbocharged four-cylinder can manage up to 1,587 kilograms (3,500 lbs) of trailer weight and the aforementioned V6 can tow up to 2,268 kg (5,000 lbs).

Yes, there are three different engines on offer. All Sorentos get direct injection and dual-cam variable valve timing (D-CVVT) with the base model utilizing a 16-valve, DOHC 2.4-litre four-cylinder capable of 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque and available with either FWD or AWD, whereas my tester received a 2.0-litre variant boosted by a twin-scroll turbocharger for V6-like levels of performance equaling 240 horsepower and 260 lb-ft of torque, also available with FWD or AWD. The 24-valve, DOHC, direct-injected V6 displaces 3.3 litres and is good for 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, while it only comes with AWD. All engines are mated to a smooth shifting six-speed automatic transmission with manual mode.

As
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
for trim levels, Kia offers three including LX, EX and SX, while "+" variants within each trim level up the ante with yet more features. Standard with the LX is the 2.4-litre engine, 17-inch alloys on 235/65R17s, a black grille insert, bar-type LED positioning lights, fog lamps, integrated turn signals within the side mirror housings, chrome door handles, roof rails, a rear rooftop spoiler, remote keyless entry, powered heatable side mirrors, a tilt and telescopic multifunction steering wheel, cruise control, variable intermittent front wipers with a de-icer, a trip computer, a felt-lined and padded sunglasses holder housed within an overhead console that's nicely finished in dark plastic, illuminated vanity mirrors, filtered air conditioning, six-speaker AM/FM/CD/MP3/AUX/USB audio with a USB charging port
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
and satellite radio, Bluetooth hands-free phone connectivity, manual seat adjustment yet two-way powered driver's seat lumbar support, YES Essentials stain-resistant cloth upholstery, heatable front seats, rear parking sensors, all the usual active and passive safety equipment, plus more, while an additional $2,000 adds AWD.

For $30,695 with FWD, $32,695 with AWD or $33,895 with the V6, AWD and seven seats, LX+ trim adds the 2.0-litre turbo engine as well as a laminated windshield, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition, auto up/down powered windows all-round, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with an integrated
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
digital compass, a UVO infotainment system with a rearview camera, an eight-way powered driver's seat, and more.

The move up to EX trim starts at $35,595 and includes standard AWD, or you can opt for the seven-seat V6 version for $36,695, both building on LX+ features with 18-inch machine finished alloys on 235/60R18s, a glossy black grille insert, bulb-type LED positioning lights, silver painted skid plates, power folding side mirrors that automatically unfold as you approach the door, a seven-inch Supervision TFT LCD primary gauge cluster, a heated steering wheel, dual-zone auto HVAC with a cluster ionizer and auto de-fog, a 115-volt household-style power socket, leather upholstery, a 10-way powered driver's seat with four-way powered
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
lumbar support and memory, blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, second-row side window sunshades, and a cargo cover, while EX+ trim comes standard with the V6 and seven seats for $37,895 while adding LED interior lighting plus a panoramic sunroof.

As noted my tester was done out in SX trim, which for $42,295 included those gorgeous 19-inch polished alloys on 235/55R19s, the dark metallic grille insert, stainless steel skid plates, HID headlights, quad LED fog lamps, black painted brake calipers, chromed roof rails, LED light bar taillights, and chromed oval exhaust pipes I commented on earlier, whereas those headlamps were auto on/off as well as auto-leveling, and other features included illuminated stainless steel front doorsill scuff plates, noise reducing front door glass for an even quieter interior, cool looking alloy pedals, an upgraded eight-inch infotainment system with
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
voice-activated navigation that worked perfectly throughout my test week, a fabulous sounding Infinity by Harman audio system, softer perforated leather upholstery, an eight-way powered passenger seat, those power ventilated front seats mentioned before, and I must say the driver's seat was incredibly comfortable, with good lower back support enhanced by the aforementioned four-way powered lumbar support that was capable of locating the ideal pressure spot on my lower backside, plus heatable second-row outboard seats, a HomeLink universal garage door opener, and a Smart powered liftgate that only requires you to stand next to the bumper for three seconds before it automatically opens, so long as the proximity-sensing key fob is in your pocket or purse.

Along with that V6 and third row of seats, SX+ trim includes a number of features I have yet to try out with the Sorento, particularly an adaptive parking brake that removes the antiquated foot operated one, adaptive cruise control (a favourite feature during road trips), a 360-degree four-camera surround view system that no
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
doubt makes parking easier and safer, even suppler Nappa leather upholstery with deluxe interior trim, as well as front collision warning and lane departure warning.

Out on the road my 2.0-litre turbo AWD tester felt pretty tame in normal mode and thoroughly sedate in Eco mode, but Sport mode made it come alive, the engine responding with snappy acceleration and surprisingly strong all-round performance for such a large, substantive vehicle. And yes it is substantive, with doors that close with a premium-like thud and an overall solidity that feels miles more expensive than its price point. It doesn't feel overly weighty, however, with lithe and athletic handling that makes it seem sportier than most in its class. On that note you'll never know the AWD system is working away in the background until you need it, although Kia includes an all-wheel drive lock feature that will help
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
get you out of deep snow and other slippery situations that a less equipped SUV might otherwise get hung up in. The Sorento is also wonderful on the highway, its ride comfortable albeit on the firmer side, which lends a more Teutonic feel than the majority of Japanese rivals, more like an Audi Q7 thanks to its feeling of being rooted to the road. All round I like the way it performs. Really, as far as mainstream volume SUVs go it's fast become a favourite, having as much to do with the way it drives as its fuel economy.

To that end you can expect something similar to its claimed five-cycle EnerGuide rating of 9.3 L/100km in the city and 12.3 on the highway, as-tested. The Sorento efficiency leader is the base model, however, capable of 8.2 L/100km city and 11.1 highway, while the V6 is rated at a still reasonable 9.4 city and 13.4 highway,
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
whereas the SUV's 71-litre tank only requires regular unleaded no matter the engine.

If you're at all concerned about the Sorento's quality or the reliability of the Kia brand, take confidence in knowing this 2016 Sorento was given the highest ranking for a mid-size SUV in Initial Quality by J.D. Power and Associates in its most recent IQS, while Kia scored second out of 33 brands in that same study, only bested by Porsche, which puts it ahead of all other premium and mainstream brands including vaunted Lexus. This is a very good sign for future dependability too, being that this IQS surveys buyers who only recently purchased their vehicles, which is often times when problems occur. The same third-party analytical firm's Vehicle Dependability Study (VDS), which surveys owners of three-year old vehicles, places Kia slightly
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
below average, but now with such a high IQS score the Kia's future VDS ranking should improve a lot.

Also notable, the 2016 Sorento scored five stars with the NHTSA in recent crash tests, while models with the optional front crash prevention system earned a Top Safety Pick rating from the IIHS.

Additionally, the new Sorento earned the Automobile Journalist Association of Canada's Best New SUV/CUV within the $35,000 to $60,000 category, as well as many best in class awards from U.S. automotive press organizations and publications, plus international publications.

There's really nothing I don't like about the Sorento, but if you want me to get picky it could be made better if the power lock switch on the driver's door would illuminate
2016 Kia Sorento SX T-GDI AWD
Photo: Karen Tuggay, Canadian Auto Press
upon opening. When I had the lock set so that only the driver's side would open automatically, for safety's sake, my partner was forced to wait outside in the cold while I fumbled around to find it. Of course, if I'd been a gentleman and opened her door first there would've been no issue; how familiarity can affect chivalry. Add that one to the New Year's resolution list.

Lists in mind, if I were in the market for a mid-size crossover SUV I'd add the Sorento to the top of my shortlist. From its arguably class-leading style, to the impeccable way the interior is finished, it's amazing load of features and excellent overall performance the Sorento is a clear winner that should find many more buyers, possibly moving it up to third place in the mid-size class for 2016. We'll know that by this time next year, all we don't know is if you'll be one of the reasons its sales rise.
©(Copyright Canadian Auto Press)
 
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