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First Drive: 2016 Kia Sorento SXL 2.0T AWD

Kia Sorento SXL_03

There was a time when people used to turn their noses if just the word Kia was mumbled – now Kia has them turning their heads for a second glance. For the last decade, we have been watching the Sorento grow from this rough-n’-gruff body-on-frame SUV into this family friendly soccer mom crossover usually found in the Starbucks drive-thru. Now, 2016 marks a whole new generation for the Sorento adding a stronger chassis, a refined interior and a tougher attitude.

It is easy to see that Kia has grown its mid-sized-ute into a proper family crossover – it’s not only more mature but more technically advance than before. Our sampled SX Limited Sorento puts up a brawny bull-nose fascia carrying its Kia signature grille and flashing some elegant looking quad-LED fog lights. The 19” alloy wheels fitted to our tester added a sporty, attractive crossover stance to its bulky size and is finished off quite nicely with some body wrapping LED taillights.

The biggest change next to the body and fabulous new interior is the power plant under the hood. Using the same 2.0-liter turbo four-cylinder engine found in the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, the Kia Sorento develops 240-horsepower through a smooth-shifting six-speed automatic. Paired to our optioned active all-time All-Wheel Drive platform, this transmission is an absolute peach with a quick, eager to please responsiveness. With its weight nearing the 4000lb mark, the Sorento is no light weight, however delivers its power efficiently for a smooth ride to 60 mph in about 7 seconds and with the added weight from the AWD, it feels more solid and planted to the surface which ultimately shows in its handling dynamics.

The Sorento goes to show massive improvement in all counts of drivability. Kia has tweaked the steering system adding heaviness – that’s a good thing – it feels more lively and responsive, giving the driver decent feedback – at least by crossover standards. Acceleration is decently quick and smooth – there isn’t a brash thrust but more so eases you into the morning rush hour. Even the braking feels stable and competent for its size – it did take some time to get used to the sticky brake pedal though.

Kia also tampered with the Sorento’s chassis adding strengthening beams giving it a German-competitive feel. The suspension is rather firm but forgiving over rough surfaces – its dynamic and controllable when the turns get fierce and provides that subtle presence you’re on road and not a cloud of marshmallows.

To be frank, the photos don’t do the interior any justice. Our featured Merlot Red Nappa Leather interior combined with our Titanium Silver exterior made for an exceptional contrast of colors. With a good use of high-quality soft touch materials; it felt like we were not only driving but experiencing first class treatment. The multi-way power adjustable heated and cooled front seats were firm but supportively comfortable. The rear seats featured a multi-way recline feature that provided as much comfort as the front with a manual sunshade feature.

Of course being the top-of-the line SXL trim, our Sorento came with a long list of standard features to keep just about any driver satisfied with their purchase. Items such as the 8-inch touch screen Navigation which happens to be one of our favorites in this class. Next to the blind-spot monitoring, dual-zone climate control and ventilated front seats the best feature hands down is the full panoramic glass sunroof and hands free smart power lift tailgate.

Only one available option is offered at this trim level, the SXL Technology package ($2500). Covering all the bases of premium technology, the SXL Tech Pack offers up Xenon HID Headlamps, Lane Departure Warning, Forward Collision Warning, Electronic Parking Brake, Surround View Monitor, and Radar Guided Smart Cruise Control. Some packages aren’t worth the extra weight in dollars; however, this one is – especially when you’re already laying 42-grand on the table. Everything works quite smoothly, and the Surround View Monitor is amazingly clear.

We don’t typically cover trunk space as every vehicle usually has a decent size cargo hold. Because our tester didn’t feature the optional third-row, our trunk capacity was exceptionally generous; add the folding 2nd row seats and you’ll have more room than you know what to do with.

Opting for the four-cylinder helps optimize fuel economy. EPA rates this new 2.0-liter turbo at 19/25/22 (city/highway/combined). During our week we recorded 21 mpg combined using regular unleaded fuel. Since it uses less gas to move about, the Sorento will easily do about 430 miles on a single tank.

With our tester here nestled at $45,095, it’s a hard price to chew, especially for a Kia. However, Kia has climbed its respectable ladder, and with this much improvement packed into the Sorento, it’s a check we wouldn’t mind writing.

Price (As Tested):
2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD 2.0T $41,700
Destination: $895
Featured Options:
SXL Technology Package: $2,500
Grand Total: $45,095


  1. I didn’t drive this one, but I was impressed with its looks for sure. It even had sunshades on the back windows? Kia’s latest offerings are really raising the bar…

    • For only being a four-cylinder it is impressive to drive, but you didnt miss much. Unfortunately the more they raise the bar, the more their prices go with it.

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