If you are one of the 16,000 Canadians who bought a Kia Sorento last year, you are probably quite pleased with how you spent somewhere between $28,000 and $49,000 on a handsome SUV (sport-utility vehicle) that’s built to last and whose electronics are user-friendly.
Safe? The midsize Sorento is a Top Safety Pick of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).
Traveler? The Sorento is a very nice road warrior, with a super-stable highway ride. The steering is heavy and that’s good for a straight line, but the overall cornering responses are sluggish, certainly when compared to, say, a Ford Edge.
Most of all, however, what you will hear from Sorento owners is their distinct pleasure at securing a relatively affordable family wagon that if you absolutely load it up, is downright luxurious. One owner I spoke with traded the Sorento for an older Mercedes-Benz ML and remains pleased as a punch some 18 months later.
The problem Kia faces is that the brand remains down-market. The Kia logo signals, for many, a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 effort from a South Korean automaker that went bankrupt in the mid-2000s. Yes, the Kia brand is weak, but at some point, you would think that more than a decade of progress would begin to bear fruit on the brand-building front.
That is, Kia ranks top-five in J.D. Power vehicle dependability (behind luxury brands Lexus, Porsche, Buick and Infiniti) and Consumer Reports has rated the Kia brand the third-most reliable, behind BMW and Audi and tied with Infiniti.
Kia’s lineup, in fact, is dotted with modern designs and well-conceived interiors boasting excellent materials. The value story is deep, rich and wide. You want a lot of car/SUV for the money, look at a Kia and compare. Yes, the dealer network remains something of a work in progress, but because selling Kias is profitable, the customer experience is improving.
I can’t say the same about Kia Canada’s website, which is as clunky and unappealing as any of this sort in Canada. Really sub-par. Shocking in this age of online shopping. The online experience at Kia.ca is embarrassingly bad.
But the car, the Sorento, is good. Really good. My loaded black Sorento SXL (for Limited) V-6 (290 horsepower) clocked in north of $50,000 with taxes and fees, but was equipped with more bells than you can whistle at (from smart cruise control to Nappa leather). The Apple CarPlay sync was seamless. This is just as Apple-ites want it – all devices tied together, easily traced.
The instruments and gauges are perfectly sized, even if you need reading glasses in your day-to-day. The centre console readout, through which you punch up Apple and the rest, comes with simple, effective graphics and unlike so many vehicles these days, is positioned flat, not canted towards the driver. This allows the passenger to manage media and such, without a twist and a crane of the neck.
I’d like Kia to do a better job with seat padding; after 60 minutes or so, my bum went numb. But entry and exit are nearly ideal and visibility is what you’d want in every direction. The third row in back qualifies only as emergency seating for little people, but it’s there. The cargo hold has the usual storage spaces, though nothing clever.
That V-6 under the hood is a decent, direct-injection engine, but in an era of emerging and more fuel -efficient turbocharged mills, it seems a little old-fashioned. Fuel economy is acceptable for a V-6, but not special: 12.5 city/9.7 hwy (litres/100 km).
The SUV marketplace is awash in contenders. Enjoy the shopping and be certain to test and price-out a Sorento. It’s a good-looking value pick.
2019 Kia Sorento SXL V-6
Base price: $$49,165. Delivery and destination charge: $1,785.
Engine: 3.3-litre V-6 (290 horsepower/252 lb-ft of torque).
Transmission: eight-speed automatic.
Fuel economy (litres/100 km): 12.5 city/9.7 hwy (using regular fuel.