Strengths and weaknesses:
- V6 engine
- hard to find any
2014 Kia Sorento
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - It’s sometimes dangerous to “fix” something when it ain’t broke, but Kia has bucked the odds with the 2014 Sorento and made a good ute into a darned good ute.
More than 80% new or improved, the new Sorento has all the latest techno and safety features along with a stiffer chassis that forms the basis for the Hyundai Santa Fe – a vehicle Kia makes no bones about taking aim at in the competitive set.
Sorento comes in a long list of trims: LX FWD, LX AWD, LX AWD Premium, LX V6 FWD, LX V6 AWD, LX V6 AWD 7-passenger, EX AWD and SX AWD. Each step up in trim level brings a longer list of features. Stand along options are rare.
The vehicle is longer than the 2013 version, making for more passenger legroom in second and third row positions. Refinements to the rear suspension have freed up some additional cargo space. Exterior changes don’t jump out at you, but front and rear fascia are new and the top-level SX trim gets taillights with a solid LED effect that presents a sophisticated look at night.
Sorento’s people space rivals that of many luxury marques. It depends on the trim level you choose, but you can get features like top-grain leather upholstery, heated and cooled front seats, heated second row seats, Bluetooth connectivity, navigation system with an eight-inch touchscreen, a reverse camera, rear side window sunshades and panoramic sunroof to go with all the usual power-operated goodies.
The new dash and centre stack feature soft-touch materials, giving it that upper-class feel.
Seating is firm but comfortable and rear seat passengers (those on the outboard positions anyway) will really enjoy being part of the privileged class when they turn on the seat heaters in colder weather.
Like most three-row crossovers, cargo area is pretty small when the rear row is in use.
But the proof of the pudding is in the handling and Sorento is a tasteful driver indeed.
Engineers have boosted the power with a new 3.3-litre V6 that replaces the 3.5-litre unit. It turns out 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque. It’s not a tire-screecher, but it’s smooth, has lots of low-end torque and is quick to respond when called on.
A second power choice, the 191-horsepower 2.4L four-cylinder, is unchanged from 2013 and is still the “standard” choice. It’s a competent, smooth powerplant that doesn’t provide any “oh crap” moments when you pull out to pass.
Both engines are hooked up to smooth-operating six-speed automatic transmissions.
Sorento handling has been tightened up with a stiffer chassis, new independent front suspension and reinforced multi-link rear setup. Cornering is accomplished with little body lean or dive. It’s not sports car aggressive, but for a utility vehicle, it’s superb.
Electric power steering - now standard - provides excellent feel and quicker reaction to driver inputs. The available FlexSteer system lets me choose Comfort, Normal or Sport steering feel. It’s a nice gimmick, but I find I’m leaving it in Normal after trying out the other two settings.
The new suspension handles everything the varied highway terrain can throw at it without heaving or tossing. Very little wind or road noise finds its way into the cabin, making conversation easy between passengers in any position.
On the safety side, the Sorento is the first Kia to offer an optional blind spot detection system. In addition to the six standard airbags, occupants are protected by a new, standard, vehicle stability management system that goes into action when it detects understeer or oversteer.
Sorento lets you pick all the luxury you want without running through a long list of options. Just pick the trim with the gear you want.
And get your luxury while keeping some dough in the bank.
2014 Kia Sorento
Trims available: LX; LX Premium; EX; SX.
MSRP range: not yet set
Notable options: heated and cooled front seats; heated second row seats; navigation system; rearview camera; rear side window sunshades; panoramic sunroof.
Configuration: front engine/ front or all-wheel drive
Available engines: 2.4L 4-cyl. (191 hp/181 lb.-ft.); 3.3L V6 (290/ 252)
Available transmissions: 6-speed automatic
Fuel economy ratings: not yet rated
Warranties: 5 years/ 100,000 km (comprehensive)
Competitors: Chevrolet Equinox; Ford Escape; Honda CR-V; Hyundai Santa Fe; Toyota RAV4.