2014 Kia Sorento Facelifted for Design Value

By Sue Mead, March 30th, 2013

For its four-year-old birthday, the current-generation Kia Sorento is getting the equivalent of a pony, a pi?ata party and a wardrobe of amazing, contemporary clothes.

strong>Among the new Sorento's gifts: a freshened chassis; a new V-6 engine; a more upscale-looking exterior; a redesigned interior; and some vamped-up, top-of-the-line features, including an additional high-end trim line.

Kia wants to be known for design, safety and value and buyers will find that the 2014 Sorento's facelift differentiates its design, while inside they get improved conveniences, upgraded materials, added safety features and more amenities, as well as an appealing price, up only slightly from last year's model.

As Kia's second-best-selling model, Sorento seats from five to seven (when ordered with the optional third-row configuration), and starts at $24,950, with destination included. It's built in Georgia, alongside its Korean cousin, the Santa Fe and shares the same wheelbase as the Santa Fe Sport.

Under the hood is a choice of the standard (on LX and EX models) 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine making 191 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque or an all-new, all-aluminum 3.3-liter V-6 delivering 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque. It's available optionally on the LX and EX and is standard on LX V6, EX V6, SX and SX Limited models. Both engines are mated to a six-speed automatic transmission.

Sorentos come in front-wheel drive and all-wheel-drive versions; the AWD can be locked with a 50/50 split of torque to the front and back to enhance traction. Fuel economy for the four-cylinder engine is rated at 20 mpg city, 26 mpg highway (FWD) and 19/24 mpg (AWD). The V-6 models get 18/25 mpg (FWD) and 18/24 mpg (AWD).

We drove a V-6 Sorento over a course of 125 miles, from the busy streets of Scottsdale, Ariz., to the rural high country outside of the city environs, with ample opportunity to assess its driving dynamics. Although it changed from body-on-frame to unibody with its last update four years ago, there are pleasantly notable differences in the new Sorento's drive -- it feels like a tighter package and is more responsive due to chassis changes and the move from hydraulic steering to electronic, power-assist.

Top trims get more discrete steering with three levels of steering effort that the driver can select: normal, comfort, and the more aggressive sport mode (our favorite for twisty patches of tarmac). We did experience a bit of slightly off-center steering feel in hard corners that we attributed to the 19-inch tires our vehicle rode on.

On the road, the all-new chassis increases torsional rigidity by 18-percent; independent front suspension incorporates a stiffer H-shaped sub-frame cradle and the rear suspension is a multi-link setup with new bushings and mounts for less noise and vibrations in the cabin, although one complaint was some wind noise on the open roads at higher speeds.

There are a lot of vehicles in the competitive compact and midsize crossover utility segment, where Sorento is marketed -- and they start to all look alike after awhile. Although Sorento doesn't look radically different from its contemporaries and is still somewhat boxy, it does have a few distinctive features that help it stand apart. Among them: a beefy grille and deep front air dam with black hexagonal grille inset behind chrome trim. Vertically-set, rectangular fog lamps offset sleek, slanted headlamps. The rear end sits high and is capped at the bottom by a kick plate with a sweet-looking oval tailpipe. The new 2014 Sorento rides on redesigned 17-, 18- or 19-inch wheels.

Inside, Sorento is refreshed with a new center stack layout -- buttons are easier to reach and feel good under your fingers. The cabin seats five comfortably in standard cloth seats; leather is also available, with high-end Nappa leather on the top-of-the-line grade. Steering wheel-mounted controls and an AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius XM stereo system are standard, as are power windows and locks and a second-row center armrest with cupholders. First and second row outboard seats can come with heat; driver and passenger seats can be cooled, as well, on upper trim levels.

Features we liked were Kia's mess-resistant Yes Essentials cloth seating that is now standard on all models; a power liftgate (absent in the previous model) and the integration of speed limit signs into the navigation screen, in a notable-but-unobtrusive manner.

Also new is a second row that now slides, reclines, and folds in a 40/20/40 configuration. A third row seat leaves a small 9.1 cubic feet of cargo space, whereas ordering the two-row version not only brings more stowage but also a nifty hidden storage area below the cargo floor and 72.5 cu.-ft., with the second row folded.

Specifications

Base price (as tested: $36,700)
Curb weight 3,894 lbs.
Displacement 3.3-liter
Epa mileage rating 18 mpg city, 25 mpg highway
Fuel capacity 17.4 gal.
Horsepower (net) 290 at 6400 rpm
Motor type 24-valve V-6 w/GDI
Overall length 184.6 in.
Torque (lb.-ft.) 252 at 5200 rpm
Transmission 6-speed automatic
Vehicle type 5-passenger AWD CUV
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