CAR REVIEW: KIA Sorento SXL

There is nothing like getting caught in a traffic jam on a two lane freeway in Alabama and leveraging a bit of technology to shave an hour delay. By hitting ‘detour’ on our KIA’s navigation system, we had the confidence to peel off the freeway and find a parallel country road.

Our family road trip from New Orleans through western Virginia and down to North Carolina was a perfect excursion to road test the 2016 Sorrento. We were impressed with the thoughtful design and attention to detail. Having become familiar with the Acura MDX and the Honda Odyssey over the course of myriad family road trips, we had a good basis for comparison.

We first noticed the Sorento’s moon roof, which gave almost 2/3 of the roof access to the sky. The multi-position slider could be set to keep the passengers shaded in the middle row and the front seats catching rays. When we were tooling through the Garden District in New Orleans, our daughters loved looking up through the roof at the huge trees providing shade to the glorious streets and homes. On the freeway, when it got too hot in front, the air cooled seats were engaged for relief. We will wait for a family ski trip to test out the heated steering wheel and heated front seats.

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 3.34.57 PMThe ride of the Sorento was uniformly smooth, whether navigating the endlessly repaired streets of the French Quarter or the foibles of Mississippi’s blue highways. We are becoming familiar with the little sister to the Sorento, Kia’s Sportage. The latter is a far tighter ride, given the reduced wheelbase. But the smooth power and luxury of the V6 all wheel drive Sorento continued to delight us.

The stretches of highway afforded me myriad opportunities to explore the cockpit controls on the Sorento. Most functions are intuitive, whether switching between cruise control or lane departure warning. I was initially perplexed when I changed lanes on the freeway and the cruise control decelerated the car. I then discovered it was the car’s forward collision warning system; even though the car in the lane I switched into was a safe distance ahead, the system slowed my car to provide adequate braking distance. Very cool.

Screen Shot 2015-07-11 at 3.35.20 PMIn fact, the hidden safety features of the Sorento make this car a solid choice for families. There are front and side airbags, and a rear parking sensor. I am informed that in government crash tests, the Kia Sorento earned a perfect five star overall rating and top ratings for its performance in front- and side-impact crash protection.

The all digital displays of the cockpit are super sharp, which makes scanning major functions quick and safe. I have never found a tachometer useful with an automatic transmission, but with only a quarter of the panel devoted to displaying RPMs it was not a distraction.

The steering wheel is becoming an important control center across all car brands. The Sorento gathers various functionalities there, including Bluetooth phone, cruise control and a clutch of features such as tire pressure and the like.

The Kia navigation system is flat out more responsive and intuitive than the current Acura MDX system. Leaving aside that the latter prevents any useful functionality while driving, the Sorento’s system sets out a handy array of data triggered to the trip. For instance, we barely noticed the fuel gauge (despite the bright fuel gauge and decent 21MPG on the highway). The navigation system helpfully reminded us of the dwindling fuel status and offered to find nearby gas stations.

The Infinity sound system was robust, sporting ten speakers arrayed throughout the cabin. We took turns playing DJ, lobbying for our favorite Spotify playlists. When my New Orleans playlist of Dr. John, The Meters, The Neville Brothers and Louis Armstrong became unacceptable for repeat listening (plus we had driven far from Louisiana), I shifted the music to the front of the cabin and let the girls retreat into their headphones and Hozier.

Recognition of speed limit signs was another clever feature. For many miles I assumed the speed limit displayed on the navigation system was built into the system’s database, but I think I am wrong. On the quiet streets of Abingdon, Virginia the speed limit shifts rapidly and the Sorento’s display changed as we passed a new speed limit sign. I therefore assume that a sophisticated camera and symbol recognition system is at work. Either way, this was a very useful function, which I expect to see replicated across other car brands.

We added a third child to our trip (our niece joined us for the final leg of the trip), and we were grateful for the split third row seat. The roominess of the Sorento did not cramp us despite the addition of another person and more luggage.

IMG_2946We covered many miles in the Sorento. The leather seats were fully adjustable, and the power lumbar support kept me comfortable for hours.

Overall, the Kia Sorento impressed us bumper to bumper. It is as stylish as any car in its class, and its bumper crop of features make driving a pleasurable adventure.

Sorento SXL 3.3 V6 AWD as road tested $46,720.

 


Brad Auerbach has been covering the media, entertainment and technology scene for many years. He has written for Time Out London, Village Voice, LA Weekly and once upon a time won a New York State College Journalism Award.

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