Kia is hoping the 2016 Sorento fits the bill for family types for whom the five-passenger Ford Escapes and Nissan Rogues of the world are too small. They also think the Sorento will appeal to buyers who think seven-passenger rigs like the Hyundai Santa Fe XLs and Honda Pilots are too big. So the Sorento is an in-betweener.

This makes it a gamble. The car market is not often a place for hard-to-classify products, for vehicles that are neither this nor that. That said, Kia’s strategy is sensible: Canadians bought 375,386 compact SUVs last year and another 164,366 midsizers.

The 2016 Kia Sorento starts as a front-wheel-drive SUV, but for $2,000 more you can get all-wheel drive.

The 2016 Kia Sorento starts as a front-wheel-drive SUV, but for $2,000 more you can get all-wheel drive.

Why not play in both places with the Sorento? That theoretically puts you on the shopping list of nearly one-third of all Canadian vehicle buyers.

What’s clear is that all SUV types want four/all-wheel drive, value and reliability. That’s there an

The 2016 Sorento is sized for buyers who believe a compact SUV is too small and a midsize SUV is to big.

The 2016 Sorento is sized for buyers who believe a compact SUV is too small and a midsize SUV is to big.

d more in the latest Sorento. For an extra $2,000 you can turn a base $27,495 front-drive Sorento into an AWD mudder. As for value, we compared five uniformly equipped rigs and found the Sorento had price advantage in the range of $2,200-$7,400 over the Pilot, Santa Fe XL, Mazda CX-9 and Toyota Highlander.

For reliability, in the latest J.D. Power and Associates Initial Quality Study Kia was ranked second overall, just behind Porsche and well ahead of Toyota, among others. Consumer Reports’ brand report card has Kia ranked ninth-best overall, ahead of BMW and 19 others. Kia is making solid vehicles now, period. The Sorento? Tops among ALL midsize SUVs.


This Sorento is a perfect illustration of what Kia is doing right, why Kia is winning awards, even though the brand itself remains second-tier among many, many consumers. From the 2016 Sorento’s in-your-face grille to sculpted sides, chrome door handles and rear spoiler, this truck looks expensive. On some models you can get LED lightbar taillights, 360-degree camera monitoring, quad LED fog lights and even 19-inch polished alloy wheels.

The design is handsome but understated.

The design is handsome but understated.

Inside, the Sorento has more space, though not as much as the Santa Fe XL, Ford Edge, Nissan Murano and Highlander. The differences are marginal. What the Sorento lacks in room is more than made up for by the sophisticated cabin.

You won’t struggle to decipher the infotainment system and the seats are comfortable for hours. The piano black trim might be tricky to keep de-fingerprinted, but it looks good. Five-passenger versions have a clever under-floor organizer in the big cargo bay. And at high speeds, the silence is deafening.

Yes, Kia’s suspension engineers need to catch up with the best, but ride quality is quite alright. If you care about precise steering, pay extra for the rack-mounted power steering. The best compromise for power and fuel economy is the 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder engine (240 hp/260 lbs-ft torque) over the base 2.0-litre four (185 hp) and the 3.3-litre V-6 (290 hp).

The third-generation Sorento is very, very good. Now Kia must overcome the brand’s still-downmarket image. This rig will help. It is handsome, reliable and modern. And it’s also a very good value.

All the good points should add up to a test drive, whether you’re chasing a compact SUV, or something slightly bigger.

THE LOOK: This Sorento looks the part of a pricier SUV and is a massive leap from your grandpa’s first-generation (2003) version. Up front you get that honeycomb grille and dual projection headlights. Low-profile roof rails are smart, and a panoramic sunroof is a feature often found on much more expensive rigs.

THE DRIVE: The most effortless power comes from the V-6, but the best compromise for power and fuel economy is the turbo four. Kia claims a 5,000-pound max tow rating. The steering and ride quality are good, not great, but the cabin is wonderfully quiet even when noise is all about.

THE NUTS AND BOLTS: Quad LED fog lights, available? Check. A 360-degree camera? Check. Smart power rear liftgate? Check. And smart cruise control, advanced infotainment, 115-V rear charging ports and air cooled front seats? Check, check, check, check. All very modern stuff here.

THE CABIN/STORAGE: If you’re comparing the Sorento to other midsize SUVs, this rig holds its own on the key points of headroom, legroom and hiproom. The materials overall are excellent and the seats very, very good. A third row of seats is optional and the infotainment is workable even for the brain-dead. The cargo hold has more space than the Nissan Murano and Ford Edge, less than the Santa Fe XL and Highlander. A clever cargo bin is under the floor of five-passenger models. And you can get seating for seven.

THE BRAND: Many, many shoppers believe Kia is a down-market brand. There’s no getting away from that fact. But times are changing because Kia keeps winning awards and contests for quality and design excellence.

WHY BUYS? The Sorento is as mainstream as a vehicle gets. Mid-market families top the list of buyers, but nearly one in three car/light truck shoppers chooses a compact or midsize SUV, so it’s impossible to pigeonhole one group of buyers.

Price range: $27,495-$46,695

Engines: 2.4-litre four-cylinder, 2.0-litre four-cylinder turbocharged, 3.3-litre V-6.

Transmission: six-speed automatic.

Fuel economy (litres/100 km) for AWD versions: 11.4 city/9.2 highway for the 2.4; 12.3 city/9.3 hwy for the 2.0-litre turbo; 13.4 city/9.4 highway for the 3.3-litre, all using regular fuel.

Comparables: Toyota Highlander, Chevrolet Equinox/GMC Terrain, Mazda CX-9, Honda Pilot, Ford Explorer, Kia Sorento, Hyundai Santa Fe Sport/XL, Dodge Journey, Ford Edge, Nissan Pathfinder, Jeep Grand Cherokee, Ford Flex, Dodge Durango, Mitsubishi Outlander, Ford Explorer, Chevrolet Traverse, GMC Acadia, Honda CR-V, Ford Escape, Toyota RAV4, Mazda CX-5, Nissan Rogue, Subaru Outback and Forester and Volkswagen Tiguan.

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