To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.
After three years, most car companies slap on a new nose, tweak some paint and trim options and call it good for another three years. At first glance it seems that Kia has done the usual, but the similarity is skin deep. The front and rear get tweaks of course, but its the chassis that’s been substantially changed with new floor stamping to improve interior room, new suspension subframes, different welding techniques, suspension geometry changes, additional chassis bracing in addition to a refreshed interior and exterior. In all, only 20% of the parts from last year remain. If you doubt the magnitude of the change, check out the curb weight which is down 250lbs vs the 2013 model, that’s no small feat.
As before, the Sorento offers your choice of 5 or 7 passenger seating, yet the Sorento still isn’t a large SUV at 184-inches long. That’s 15 inches shorter than a Durango, 7 inches shorter than a Pilot and even 6 inches shorter than the other 5/7 passenger “tweener” crossover, the Dodge Journey. The RAV4, CR-V and Sportage are a half step smaller putting the Kia and its Hyundai sister-ship in their own small category. (Remember, the RAV4 ditched its 7-seat option this year.)
Rounding out the refresh is a revised engine lineup. The 175HP 2.4L base engine is gone with the formerly optional 191HP, 181lb-ft 2.4L direct-injection four taking its place. The 16HP and 12lb-ft bump are minor, but a better torque curve made possible by the DI sauce combined with a 250lb weight loss make the difference noticeable. On the downside, fuel economy suffers from the upgrade dropping the AWD model from 21/27/23 (City/Highway/Combined) to 19/24/21. Some of the drop is likely due to changes in the way the transmission shifts, but also perhaps to Kia re-stating their MPG numbers to be more realistic.
Optional on the Sorento LX and standard on EX, SX and Limited is Hyundai/Kia’s newest 3.3L direct-injection V6 making its way across the lineup. Cranking out 290 ponies and 252 twists vs 273/247 for the old 3.5 mill, the difference behind the wheel is largely in the way power is delivered. Our tester scooted from 0-60 in 7.23 seconds, about 2/10ths faster than last year’s 3.5L model. If you go by the EPA scores, the new engine is simply an even trade with the same 18/24/20 MPG score as before. However, unlike the 2013 model, our Sorento averaged a better than expected 22.1MPG in mixed driving as compared to 19.5 in the old model on the same route. Adding the V6 increases towing capacity from 1,500lbs to 3,500lbs with or without AWD.
The Sorento is a textbook modern Kia. The exterior styling is unlikely to set your heart on fire, but it won’t offend anyone either. The interior apes the style and features of the next price class above, but casts it in durable, hard plastic. That makes the Sorento sound like a very average vehicle, but the key to Kia’s success is value. When you adjust for the standard features on the base LX model, the Sorento is a $1,500 better value than the Dodge Journey, often cited as the cheapest and most un-loved of the 7-seat set. Compare the Sorento to a comparable Ford Edge or Toyota Highlander and the Kia is $4,000-5,000 less. See why the hard dash plastics that other reviewers complain about don’t bother me? Because value speaks to me, and judging by the sales it speaks to a large number of shoppers. Toss in that long warranty and the only thing that surprises me is that the Sorento is only “7th” in the mid-size SUV class.
Music by Kevin MacLeod
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