The five-door Sorento crossover has grown in step with its parent company, the South Korean automaker Kia.
During its debut back in 2002, Sorento measured in as a compact-sized offering based on a heavier, truck-based platform. Since then Sorento has undertaken three major model makeovers with the 2021 model year welcoming aboard a well-executed fourth-generation effort. This incarnation skews mid-size, while incorporating the popular uni-body, or car platform designed for on-road comfort, not necessarily off-road safaris. Generation four also includes three rows of seating standard appealing to growing families.
Back in the 2000 calendar year, Kia’s annual U.S. sales lagged at a mere 160,606 units. Two decades forward in the 2021 calendar year, that number ballooned to 701,416.
A key growth factor for both Sorento and Kia remains the no-charge, value-added, 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty exclusive to original owners, one of the longest coverages providing an extra peace-of-mind layer for shoppers.
Sorento circa Gen 4 matures with a wheelbase (distance between front and rear axle) growing by approximately 1.5 inches while dropping 120 pounds of unwanted weight. It’s a value-driven product chuck full of features at a very competitive price with more than a hint of upscale ambiance.
Sorento counts as one of many five-door car-based crossovers from Kia including its largest and newest, the three-row Telluride. Like Sorento, Telluride promotes itself as a mid-sizer, but tilting towards the larger end of the spectrum. Sportage, Seltos and the tall-standing Soul are considered compacts while the Niro subcompact features three different, alternative-powered systems: gas-electric hybrid, plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) and all-electric EV.
A V-6 engine option got dropped after Sorento’s Gen Three build while Gen Four brings forth a tempting buffet of propulsion offerings, including a gas-electric (non plug-in) hybrid and new-for-2022 PHEV (plug-in hybrid electric version). Those thirsting for a V-6-powered Kia crossover need to Telluride shop.
Also adding to the equation in 2021, the new X-Line off-road package slapping together standard all-wheel drive, one-inch lifted ride height, center-locking differential (delivering an even 50-50 split of all-wheel-drive power between front and rear axles with the push of a dial near the transmission shifter), roof rails and 20-inch matte-finished wheels
Also hard to miss; Kia’s new corporate logo, a cursive introduced to all Kia products in January of 2021. It’s minimalistic perspective appears on the grill, hatch door and steering wheel replacing the oval, block-letter design. Trim levels return unchanged from 2021 and include: LX, S, EX and SX.
In the 2022 model year, little changes save for a bit of content adjustment and the PHEV intro. The larger, upsized 10.25-inch touch screen with navigation now comes standard in all trims save for the base LX. Also, the X-Line appearance package is now offered in S and EX trims. In 2021 only the top-trim SX offered this package optional.
Two available internal combustion four-cylinder engines in 2022 include a naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) 2.5-liter four cylinder and our tester’s turbocharged 2.5-liter four cylinder delivering 281 horsepower. Both mate to eight-speed automatic transmissions with our turbo upgrading to a performance-oriented, quick responding dual clutch variety. Both engines include the choice of front-wheel or Midwest-friendly all-wheel drive. The center-locking differential dial also selects one of five drive modes via a twist. Top trim SX adds a snow mode not offered in lower trims.
The generous 281 horsepower turbo engine provided ample power with minimal noise entering into the cabin even when cruising at highway speeds. It’s plenty energetic although not as friendly with gas mileage as the naturally aspirated four or gas-electric hybrid. The engine start/stop function, sending the powertrain into a temporary sleep at prolonged stops before regaining consciousness when lifting the right foot off the brake pedal, remains relatively unintrusive. Long-term goals include reducing emissions while extending fuel economy. The system disengages with the push of a button aft of the sliding transmission shifter if so desired but defaults back to active when turning the vehicle off.
Starting prices sneak in below thirty grand at $29,950 for a front-drive LX which includes a decent array of the latest radar-enhanced safety technologies, not long ago the purview of luxury nameplates. Our full-loaded, all-wheel drive X-Line SX-Prestige landed at $43,090. Options included a premium wolf-gray exterior paint ($445), rust-colored interior accents ($200) and carpeted floor mats ($210) for a bottom line of $45,120 after $1,175 destination charge.
Inside, the eye-pleasing dashboard layout and quality materials create an inviting ambiance not always found in high-volume, mass-marketed entry-friendly crossovers. For example, the four air vents interspersed across the dash include a jewel-like design with both a top and bottom portion. Not only visually appealing, the design improves cabin air flow.
Our SX trim includes perforated leather trim seating, a comfort upgrade compared to the LX’s cloth variety and leatherette styling in S and EX. The lower dash HVAC system, nestled between the artful vent designs, monitors through a series of easy-to-interpret icons, push buttons and toggle touches below the 10.25-inch multi-function touch screen. No dials to turn although the flat touch screen directly above smartly includes volume and station-select twist dials. Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard across all trims as does Bluetooth wireless technology.
Seven-person seating comes standard in most versions with a three-rider second-row bench standard. Those opting for the turbocharged four enjoy a pair of captain’s chairs in row two.
Kia makes contorting into row three a pleasure, not a chore thanks to well-designed easy-slide row two seats with manual movement when tilting backrest’s forward. It’s all easily accomplished with the use of just one arm when pressing a top-side button. Preteens probably will bypass all this fun and just dart between second-row buckets. Even my creaky, aging three-score body was able to land in the two-person third row with relative ease, but the smaller set will find this area most accommodating during longer excursions.
With an overall length measuring in under 190 inches, Sorento accomplishes its goal of installing a functional two-occupant third row, a trick previous smallish crossovers found troublesome. Generous headroom in the first two rows contrasts with less noggin space available in the third.
The 50/50 split third row seatbacks fold forward with a simple mechanical push and stand back at attention with an assist from two handy low-tech but highly effective pull straps accessible from the open hatch region. With third seats prone, a minimalistic 6.6 cubic feet of space awaits, enough room for two rows of polyurethane food shopping bags.
Two vertical taillights resembling quote marks flank the hatch door hinged at the top and opening from the bottom up with ample head clearance for those six-feet two inches and shorter. Hatch doors operate with a power assist within SX and EX trims.
The SX trim includes a high-tech, easy-to-interpret blind spot view monitor working in tandem with the large 12.3-inch digital instrument panel/screen. With an assist from tiny cameras embedded near side-view mirrors, a live video stream showcases within instrument panel framework when activating turn signals. Top-trim Hyundai (Kia’s parent company) models also feature this visually appealing feature.
Assembly of gas-powered versions take place at Kia’s sole U.S. assembly facility in West Point Georgia along with the larger, Telluride three-row crossover and newly minted K5 sedan (once known as the mid-size Optima). Hybrid and EV Kias currently assemble in South Korea but that calculous could change as Kia’s parent company Hyundai Motor Group announced in May of 2022 construction of a dedicated full-electric and battery manufacturing facility outside of Savannah, Ga.
2022 Kia Sorento SX X-line
Price as tested: $45,150
Wheelbase: 110.8 inches
Length: 189.4 inches
Width: 74.8 inches
Height: 70.3 inches
Curb weight: 4,120 pounds
Engine: 2.5-liter turbo
Powertrain Warranty: 10 years/100,000 miles
City/Highway economy: 22 mpg city, 27mpg highway
Assembly: West Point, Georgia