2019 Kia SXL AWD Review

2019 Kia SXL AWD - The revised 2019 Kia Sorento promises to retain its top Kia sales slot


Price: $46,490

Pros-Attractive. Strong V-6. New 8-speed automatic. Smooth ride. Good handling. Nicely sized. Roomy. Third-row seat. Available all-wheel drive.

Cons-Steering needs more road feel. Tight third seat.    

Bottom Line-Worth a good look because of its many strong points.  

The Sorento SUV is Kia's top-seller for good reasons. While refined and roomy, the 2019 model is not too big, not too small, and has a wide price range and many safety features.

All Sorento models offer 7-passenger seating with their now standard third-row seat for all trim levels. However, I found that the last row was difficult to reach and is best suited to children.

The Sorento comes with front- or all-wheel drive (AWD). There's the base L, LX, EX, SX and top-line SXL. Prices range from $26,980 for the L to to $46,490 for the SXL with all-wheel drive (AWD). I tested the SXL AWD version.

Kia makes some really good vehicles, but many Americans still don't consider it to be a very prestigious or familiar nameplate. Rivals include the longer Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Volkswagen Atlas and Chevrolet Traverse. The Sorento is sized to fit in some garages that some of the others can't.  

Sorento engines are a a 2.4-liter four-cylinder with 185 horsepower and a 3.3-liter V-6 with 290 horsepower. My test Sorento's quiet V-6 provided strong acceleration and worked well with the new 8-speed automatic transmission. The four-cylinder comes with an improved 6-speed automatic.

The front-drive four-cylinder Sorento gets an estimated 22 m.p.g city and 29 highway, while my test SXL V-6 AWD delivers an estimated 19 city and 24 highway. With front-drive, it's 21 and 26. There's an 18.8-gallon fuel tank, and 87-octane "or higher" is recommended even for the four-cylinder.

The Sorento is nicely sized with an 189-inch length, but it weighs approximately 4,000 pounds, so I'd recommend test driving the four-cylinder model to check out its acceleration. It calls for a slightly higher-than-normal step-in, but occupants sit relatively high.

My test Sorento's handling was quite good, helped by stability control, traction control, large tires and the AWD system. But the rather firm, precise steering could use more road feel. The ride is almost Old-American-Car smooth, although it tightens a bit if a driver puts the car in "sport" mode. The brake pedal has a nice linear action for sure stops. The anti-lock brakes have electronic brake force distribution.     

There isn't a whole lot to visually distinguish the 2019 Sorento, but it does have a revised front end with a better looking radiator grille flanked by a new headlight configuration and also a newly sculptured bumper design for a more aggressive look. The rear fascia has a new buyer design, sleeker taillights, revised liftgate with a low, wide opening and "sportier" muffler tip. Too bad the Sorento doesn't have dual chromed muffler tips, which would slightly enhance its rather sporty styling.

Wheels continue to be a big deal for many vehicles, and the 2019 Sorento has three newly designed wheels. They range from 17 to 19 inches, depending on trim level. My test Sorento had sharp-looking 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, which really set off its $395 Snow White Pearl paint.

The SXL's quiet roomy cabin has supportive front seats, 40/20/40  second-row folding sets and 50/50 third-row folding seats. However, the third-row seats must be folded forward if a roomy cargo area is needed. Otherwise, there's only room for, say, a few pieces of soft luggage or several grocery bags. My test Sorento's power liftgate came in handy after a shopping trip in the rain.

The cabin has a panoramic roof with power sunshade and an array of upgrades and enhancements, such as a new, more tactile steering wheel and a revised instrument cluster with improved graphics. Alterations to air vents and center console design may seem minor, but result in a cumulative effect that provides a more attractive interior.

High grade soft-touch materials in the SXL may cause owners of older, more utilitarian Kias to say "This is a Kia?" My test Kia had an easily gripped thick heated and leather-wrapped steering wheel with a (manual) tilt/telescopic feature. It also had a push-button start, NAPA leather seat trim and power heated and ventilated front seats.There were plenty of deep cupholders and a fair number of cabin storage areas.

Buttons for the climate control system and other features were small but easily read, and there was a navigation system with an 8-inch touchscreen and rear camera that was easy to use. There also was a Harman Kardon premium audio system and Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration.  

Standard safety features included a nifty surround-view monitor, forward collision avoidance system with pedestrian detection, lane keeping assist, smart cruise control with stop and go, blind spot collision warning and rear cross-traffic collision warning that was especially helpful in tight parking spots. The power folding heated outside mirrors have turn signals.

The hood easily raises on twin structs and fluid filler areas can be quickly reached.

My verdict: The 2019 Sorento should further help erase Kia's old base-transportation reputation.



Dan Jedlicka

Dan Jedlicka's Website

Dan Jedlicka joined the Chicago Sun-Times in February 1968 as a business news reporter and was named auto editor later that year. He has reviewed more than 4,000 new vehicles for the Sun-Times--far more than any newspaper auto writer in the country. Jedlicka also reviewed vehicles for Microsoft Corp.'s MSN Autos Internet site from January, 1996, to June, 2008.

Jedlicka remained auto editor at the Sun-Times until October, 2008, and continued writing for the newspaper's AutoTimes section, which he started in 1992, until February, 2009. While continuing his auto writings at the Sun-Times, he served as assistant financial editor of that newspaper from 1970 to 1973, when he began his automotive column.

He has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including NBC's "Today," ABC's "20/20" and "The CBS Evening News." He was a host, consultant and writer for Fox-TV Channel 32's 1991 New Car Preview show and that Chicago-based station's 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1995 Chicago Auto Show Previews.

Jedlicka's auto articles have been printed in national magazines, including Esquire and Harper's. His auto columns have been reprinted in U.S. government publications and economic textbooks and he is profiled in the "World's Greatest Auto Show" history book about the Chicago Auto Show. In late 1975, Jedlicka was host and technical advisor for three one-hour television specials, "Auto Test 76," which aired nationally on PBS and were the first nationally televised auto road test shows.

In 1995, Jedlicka was the recipient of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago and Northern Illinois Inc.'s Consumer Education Award, given annually to a person who has gained distinction in the field of consumer education. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in the Media category and inducted into the Legends of Motorsports Guild at the Carquest World of wheels custom car show in Chicago in January, 2006.

Jedlicka was a member of the North American Car and Truck of the Year jury, composed of a select number of auto journalists from throughout the country, from 1995 until 2009. From 2010 to 2012, he was a member of Consumer Digest magazine's auto experts panel that gave Best Buy new vehicle recommendations.

He is a 1987 graduate of the Bob Bondurant Race Drivers School and later of the BMW "M" and Skip Barber Advanced Driving schools. He was a member of the U.S. team that participated in the 1987 1,000-mile Mille Miglia race/rally in Italy and has been a race winner at the Chicago area's Santa Fe Speedway.

Jedlicka has owned 25 classic cars, including 1950s and 1960s Ferraris and 1950s and 1960s Porsches, a 1965 Corvette, a 1967 Maserati and a 1957 Studebaker supercharged Golden Hawk. Jedlicka resides with his wife, Suzanne, in the Frank Lloyd Wright historic district of Oak Park. They have two children, James and Michele.

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