2016 Kia Sorento: An underdog becomes topdog [REVIEW]

The all new 3rd generation 2016 Sorento has grown in every way to make it a truly formidable player in the midsize SUV market. While most dimensions grow fractionally, what really sets it apart is it’s styling and levels of refinement.

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While you may not realize it, the Kia Sorento has been around since 2003. In it’s early years the Sorento was a crude body-on-frame based but in 2010 it switched to unibody construction and grew into Kia’s first midsize SUV offering, albeit on the smaller end of the spectrum. Now the all new 3rd generation 2016 Sorento has grown in every way to make it a truly formidable player in the midsize SUV market. While most dimensions grow fractionally, what really sets it apart is it’s styling and levels of refinement.

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The first think you notice is the Sorento’s swanky exterior. Kia’s new design language imparts itself perfectly with muscular ranches and bold front and rear ends. Upscale design touches abound, metal- look trim, and large 20″ wheels really help to set it apart. The Sorento is debatably the best looking mid-size SU on the market now, although this segment isn’t going to win design awards anytime soon. Ironically it’s minutely lower and about the same width, which give the you the impression the Sorento is much sleeker and smaller than it is. Now 187in long, the new 3rd generation is 3-inches longer than the last generation.

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That translates into greater interior volume, especially in the rear. Combined with the new design duds, it’s a place you’ll definitely want to spend more time. The Sorento’s interior refinement has really leapfrogged the class. Soft-touch materials abound, aluminum accents and trim, two-tone leather, and thoughtful touches everywhere. Upper trim levels are also available with a panoramic sunroof, heated and ventilated front seats, power rear hatch, and touch-screen navigation with Kia’s UVO interface. Besides the great refinement the biggest change is that the 3rd row seat of the Sorento is big enough for full-sized humans. There may not be a ton of room behind the third row, but at least it’s split 50/50 and folds flat.

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Behind the wheel is probable the greatest different in the new Sorento. Where as it’s predecessor felt like it had rental car roots, piloting the new Kia is an entirely new benchmark. First off every moment and control is very well refined, reminding you of players costing twice as much. Noise, vibration, and harshness are all well muted, just like a luxury brand. Steering feedback is quite good considering this is an electrically assisted steering rack and we’re talking about almost a 2 ton SUV here. Overall the Kia drives like a much smaller vehicle, doesn’t protest on a winding a road, and is even fairly fun to drive.

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Powering the Sorento in my test vehicle was Kia’s new updated 2.0L 4-cylinder direct-injected turbo providing 240-hp and 260 lb-ft. of torque. With most of the torque available down low, sometimes launching smoothly without giving your passengers whiplash is something you have to focus on. Kia chose to use the generous amounts of high strength steel which definitely benefits the Sorento on the scales. Weight in at just under 4,000 lbs. it is easily 400 lbs lighter than the next competitor. While this relative light weight contributes to it’s tassel nature, it also pays divides at the pump. The EPA rates the Sorento with this engine at 20 mpg city and 27 mpg highway with a combined average of 23 mpg which is exactly what I netted with my week with it.

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The Sorento isn’t light on technology either. While many manufacturers have moved to dial and remote controls, the Kia remains simple to use with it’s touch-screen control. Meanwhile interface is well laid out and the learning curve is quick. Just about every driving aid is available, from active cruise control and blind-spot monitoring, to forward-collision warning and rear cross traffic alert is available. Most of these work great, but for those who don’t care for the electronic nannies, they can easily be disabled. Even smart lighting is available to greet and light the way when approaching the Sorento.

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All of this sounds expensive, but luckily the new Sorento is one the most price conscious midsize SUV’s available. The Limited that I tested start at $39,900, but more affordable versions are available starting $24,900. While there are many reasons to consider the new Sorento: it’s athletic good looks, upscale demeanor, refined driving dynamics, and above average fuel economy. With all those traits Sorento is currently my top choice among midsize SUV’s. Adding the price point the equation just further drives home my thoughts on this great SUV.