It takes a keen eye to spy the only thing – the restyled badge in the grille – visually differentiating the 2013 Kia Sorento versions as they motor into the model’s third year.
And little has changed behind it, but that shouldn’t impede this good-looking crossover’s ability to remain one of the top sellers in the mid-size class.
The Sorento nameplate has been around since 2002, originally attached to a traditional body-on-frame SUV, but the current ones arrived as 2011 models sporting latest-tech monocoque structure, styling with eye appeal and plenty of features.
And their entry to the burgeoning crossover market coincided with Kia’s “arrival” as a front-line brand in Canada. In October, it celebrated 46 months of consecutive sales increases, with the Sorento its second-best-selling model for the month. And in November, it was 47 consecutive months of increases. So far this year, Kia’s numbers top long established names such as Volkswagen, Nissan, Mazda and Subaru.
With an overall length that puts it at the lower end of the mid-size SUV/crossover model spectrum, and doesn’t stretch out much further than some of the latest compact-class crossovers, the Sorento occupies a size frame that fits a lot of buyers’ requirements. Its ability to carry up to seven people also adds to its family appeal, as does a choice of engines, drive systems and features, that allows the price to span a broad spectrum.
The Sorento LX starts at $26,895 for a front-driver ($28,795 with AWD) equipped with a 191-hp, 2.4-litre four-cylinder engine and six-speed automatic, plus A/C, full feature audio system, tilt/telescope wheel with audio controls, Bluetooth connectivity, trip computer, heated seats, remote keyless entry, heated side mirrors with turn signal repeaters, fog lamps and roof rails. Stepping up to an LX with V-6 power costs a couple of grand more.
You can then escalate through EX versions to get to our test Sorento, a loaded to the belt-line SX priced at $41,295.
What this purchases is a made-in-the-U.S. crossover with styling it would be hard to find fault with, and to which the SX trim level ads a unique grille and front and rear bumpers, LED rear lights, chrome exhaust tip, 18-inch alloy wheels, rear spoiler, power folding mirrors and sunroof. And into which you can fit the aforesaid seven passengers or a maximum of 2,052 litres of cargo, or 1,047 litres with the rear seat occupied and 258 litres (think grocery bags) behind the third row.
Four passengers are well catered for room-wise, with the two in the rear sharing a centre armrest. Put three back there and they’ll rub shoulders though, and the rear pair will definitely find things a bit cramped. The panoramic sunroof keeps the rear area nice and bright.
The inside gets mixed reviews, with an attractive and easy-to-read instrument cluster, nice touches that include carbon-fibre-look trim pieces, alloy-clad pedals and touches of chrome here and there. But also a lot of plain plastic, on the doorcaps and centre stack. The leather on the steering wheel isn’t particularly finger-friendly and that on the form-fitting seats less than supple. Probably wears well, though. And the white stitching looks sporty. All this may sound like the interior looks a little cheap. It doesn’t, it’s just that there are things you can nitpick about.
And helping you to not notice these is a Kia cornucopia of equipment. A list that runs to: navigation, rear-view camera, Infiniti Premium audio, compass, automatic climate control, push-button start, remote keyless entry, ventilated driver’s seat, power passenger seat, heated steering wheel with audio controls and trip computer.
The power unit is a 3.5-litre V-6 that puts out 276 hp and 248 lb-ft of torque that a six-speed automatic directs to all four wheels through a fairly basic AWD system. Despite having to get two tons of machinery moving, acceleration is fine, aided by a proficient transmission that shifts quickly and smoothly to get the Sorento up to highway speeds, or past somebody on a secondary road, without strain. Getting to 100 km/h takes about nine seconds, and 80-120 km/h about six.
In most driving situations, this is a powertrain that gets the job done without impinging much on your consciousness. On the highway, however, even moderate hills will cause a shift from top to fifth, for which you can thank tall overall gearing that helps it score fuel economy ratings of 11.5 litres/100 km city and 8.2 litres/100 km highway. I averaged 9.8 litres/100 km for the test period and saw 9.6 litres/100 km at highway speeds.
The independent MacPherson strut front and multi-link rear suspension feels muscular, but the Sorento still exhibits noticeable body roll and, while it rides comfortably on smooth surfaces, it feels a little under-damped over potholes and broken pavement. The hydraulic power steering is hooked to a quick rack and effort isn’t bad – and steering response is okay – but it has an odd feel on-centre, as if a spring-loaded ball was rolling in and out of a shallow detent.
Overall, the Sorento SX is a vehicle that will look good parked in your driveway and likely serve you well on your life’s daily round. And what you get for $40k seems like decent value.
2013 Kia Sorento SX
Type: Mid-size crossover
Base Price: $41,295; as tested, /$43,045
Engine: 3.5-litre, DOHC, V-6
Horsepower/torque: 276 hp/248 lb-ft
Transmission: Six-speed automatic
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 11.5 city/8.2 highway; regular gas
Alternatives:Hyundai Santa Fe, Mazda CX-7, Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Equinox, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano, Mitsubishi Outlander