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.