2018 Kia Sorento: Kia’s Coming of Age

Kia used to be a footnote in the automotive industry. It made cars for people that simply didn’t care about cars — but times have changed. Kia has blossomed into a real contender as the Sorento is one of the best mid-range SUVs out there right now.

The South Korean manufacturer has stayed true to its principles of providing immense value for your money. The Sorento starts from just $25,800 and come with a seven-year warranty.

The Sorento is a stylish, jacked up SUV that gives you all the practicality of a minivan, without sacrificing your self-respect. A five or seven seat version are available for purchase and the sheer flexibility of the car means there are a serious amount of options.

The mid-range SUV market is brutally competitive, though, and Kia is a small car specialist. So how does this larger car stack up against the established masters?

Performance and Trim Levels

The base L and LX models are hardly powerhouses. The poverty-spec 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder pumps out 185 bhp through the front wheels, which is great for efficiency although isn’t enough to haul this 3704 lb machine down the road with authority.

The EX 2.0T offers 240 bhp and, crucially, 252 lb/ft of torque. That’s the same torque figure as the competition, which helps the standard six-speed automatic gearbox drive down the road in style.

Step up to the LX V6 and you get a more substantial 3.3-liter V6 with 290 bhp and 252 lb/ft of torque that propels the Sorento to 60 mph in a respectable 7.2 seconds.  That’s the ceiling when it comes to pure power, but you can still keep climbing the ladder with the trim choices and take the humble Sorento into a whole new price bracket.

The SX and the range-topping SX Limited take the fight to much more prestigious machines in terms of equipment, but if you hit the options list then you’re driving the Kia into direct competition with some serious cars.

The four-wheel-drive vehicles can tow up to 5000 lbs, which is solid for a car in this class and could swing the needle in its favor.

Fuel Efficiency

The Sorento’s base model will return 21 mpg in the city and 28 mpg on the highway and it goes downhill from there. The Sorento is not the most fuel-efficient car on the planet, but none of the pure gas-powered cars in this class are.

The V6 model provides a relatively paltry 18 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway and that’s in four-wheel-drive. With all-wheel-drive, you’ll get 17 mpg in the city and 24 mpg on the open road. So, the penalty for four-wheel-drive shouldn’t really be a factor. The fuel economy is lacking across the board, so this isn’t going to be a car you buy if you want to save at the pumps.

Image via Car and Driver

Safety and Infotainment Features

The Sorento’s bodywork includes 53 percent high tensile steel, together with an almighty frame, helped the Kia to near perfect star ratings across the board from the NHTSA and IIHSA. The only blot on the Kia’s record, if you can call it that, is a four-star rollover rating which doesn’t stop it getting five stars overall.

All-wheel-drive models feature torque vectoring, next level traction control that applies braking to the inside rear wheel as required to make sure the car tows the line through a bend.

Adaptive cruise control joins forces with autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection, lane departure warning system, and Kia Drive Wise Technology that provides a bird’s eye view of the car and a reversing camera to prevent expensive scrapes. This is all standard equipment, too, which is a huge deal and is a major plus for the Kia.

The 7.3 inches of ground clearance is a safety feature in its own right as this is a car that will get you through ice, snow, and very shallow rivers if you take the four-wheel-drive version.

A 10-speaker Infinity Surround Sound system hooks up to the seven-inch touchscreen that is Apple CarPlay and Android Auto ready. The interior fit and finish isn’t a match for some of the rivals in this class and the plastics on the dash won’t fill you with joy.

Kia has worked tirelessly on the user experience, though, and the vast amount of technology works relatively seamlessly, the buttons all fall to hand and the button heavy steering wheel is intuitive and simple.

How Does It Stack Up Against the Competition?

This is a hard-fought sector and the Kia Sorento heads into battle with the likes of the Mazda CX-9, Hyundai Santa Fe, Nissan Pathfinder, GMC Arcadia, Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, VW Atlas, Chevy Traverse, and many more.

Basically, everybody wants a piece of the SUV pie since it is one of the most lucrative sectors out there right now. Crossover SUVs are big business and a lot of us need the interior space of a minivan, but don’t necessarily like the connotations that come with owning a minivan.

So, can the Sorento compete with this illustrious crowd? When it comes to value for the money, absolutely, but there are some seriously strong contenders to consider that clean the Sorento’s clock in the other categories.

Both the Mazda and the Chevy edge it when it comes to style, the Jeep Grand Cherokee has the off-road heritage, and the VW could easily walk away with the crown if you can deal with the challenging looks.

The Ford Explorer and Honda are the ones that really puts the Sorento in its place. They look better, they’re more efficient, the interior has a premium feel, and its faster too. They are both more expensive, but it’s worth finding the extra money if you can.

Pros

  • Amazing levels of standard equipment, including the technology.
  • Seven-year warranty.
  • Infotainment is a cut above the car.
  • Entry-level car is a bargain.
  • Kia’s reputation is on the rise.

Cons

  • Fuel efficiency is lacking.
  • It faces serious competition.
  • Interior is outclassed by rivals.
  • Seven-seater version isn’t pretty.
Image via CarGurus