Featured Stories

Other Pamplin Media Group sites


2014 Kia Sorento: Restyling, upgrades keep midsize crossover competitive

by: KIA NORTH AMERICA - The Kia Sorento is both refreshed and upgraded for 2014.The Kia Sorento competes in one of the hottest automotive segments these days, the midsize seven-passenger crossover market. Although it is not the newest competitor, design changes and upgrades introduced for 2014 keep it in the hunt.

Not that long ago, if you wanted a vehicle that seated seven, you had to choose between a full-size sport utility vehicle like a Chevy Suburban or a van. But then manufacturers began introducing midsize crossovers with third rows of seats that fold down for extra storage or pull up for two more people.

This began happening in earnest when the manufacturers started building midsize crossovers on their own unique chassis. Until then, smaller crossovers were based on cars and larger crossovers were based on trucks. The smaller ones did not have enough room for a third row of seats and even some of the truck-based ones weren't configured properly to do it right. But once manufacturers started working with a clean sheet of paper, all that changed. Now it's sometimes hard to easily tell the difference between a compact, midsize and full-size crossover.

Our 2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD is a case in point. Although larger than Kia's compact Sportage crossover, it is still relatively small by historic SUV standards. But once you get inside, you realize it has an impressive amount of room for both front and rear seat passengers. And two children or small adults can actually squeeze into the third row of seats when they are folded up.

And yet our test Sorento didn't feel all that big on the road. The steering was light, the suspension floated over pavement cracks, and the optional 3.3-liter V6 offered quick acceleration. What's not to like?

Certainly not all the comfort and entertainment features in our fully-loaded SX version. They included a leather interior, dual climate controls, an Infinity sound system, and one of the biggest panoramic sunroofs on the market. Also included was Kia's UVO eServices Telematics, which features a larger touch screen and improved graphics for 2014. Despite that, the controls were all large and easy to fund and use.

Our Sorento was also equipped with all-wheel-drive with a locking center differential, which means additional traction in slippery driving conditions, like deep mud. On the other hand, we'd be reluctant to take the optional 19-inch alloy wheels too far off road — they'd be too easy to scratch. The AWD systems in crossovers like the Sorento are really designed for handling rain and light snow on pavement or dirt roads in residential areas, not crossing the Great Divide.

Kia has adopted an aggressive, angular exterior style for virtually all of their vehicles these days. It works well on Sorento, which received a larger front air dam, bigger taillights and more deeply sculpted side flanks this year. The result is both boxier and sleeker than last year's version, a rare combination. In fact, it now looks a lot like a slightly smaller version of the Jeep Grand Cherokee — which is more capable of serious off-road driving, but does not offer a third row of seats.

The interior is largely the same, which is to say, clean and contemporary, especially with the leather trim package. Almost all of the plastic is soft to the touch now, accented with dark wood-like plastic and tasteful metal highlights. The side in the front seats offer offer good support but might be too intrusive for some (i.e., wider) drivers and passengers. A lengthy test drive is recommended to make sure you can live with them.

The 3.3-liter V6 in our test vehicle was new this year. It replaced the 3.5-liter V6 in last year's model. Despite being slightly smaller, it offers more power and better mileage, a result of its direct injection technology.

Although all Kia's were once considered inexpensive economy cars, that's no longer the case. The base 2014 Sorento starts at $27,000 and our fully-equipped test model topped $38,000. That's not out of line with most competitors, however.

Facts and figures (all models)

• Model tested: 2014 Sorento SX AWD.

• Manufacturer: Kia.

• Class: Midsize crossover.

• Layout: Front engine, front- and all-wheel-drive.

• Styles: Five-door SUV.

• Engines: 2.4-liter inline 4 (191 hp, 181 lbs-ft); 3.3-liter V6 (290 hp, 225 lbs-ft).

• Transmission: Six-speed automatic.

• EPA estimated city/highway/mileage: 20/26/22 (4/FWD); 19/24/21 (4/FWD);18/25/21 (6/AWD); 18/24/20 (6/AWD).

• Price: Beginning at approximately $27,000 ($38,550 as tested).