Review: 2019 Kia Sorento
THE PROS & CONS
- What's Best: Some very comfortable seats
- What's Worst: Jittery lane guidance
- What's Interesting: One of just two vehicles I've ever seen with a cargo cover storage spot
The northeastern side of Nova Scotia is best known for the sunrises and wine of the Northumberland Shore and for being the gateway to Cape Breton. But in between those lies St George’s Bay. It’s a more quiet part of the province. With less tourism and less of a crowd. Not that there’s ever much of a crowd in this part of the country. It’s the perfect place to find a remote cottage and just get away from everything. And that means everything. The phone line stops at the end of the main road and while there might be cell service available it’s going to be a weak signal. Weak enough that you can tell the boss it’s not working.
That’s because not every vacation is about carving apexes on the Cabot Trail in a 911 or winding down the coastline looking for the squiggliest line on the map. This was a vacation about sipping wine by the ocean and relaxing. Not a sports car trip, a luxury crossover trip. Smooth riding over stiff suspension. Kia has come a long way in a very short period of time. They’ve even shown they can build a sports sedan that can hang with the best in the segment. But can they make an SUV that delivers when it comes to sedate, silent, and smooth travel?
Is the Sorento really a luxury crossover? Get in the Sorento, in SXL trim, and it certainly looks like it. The perforated leather seats look soft and inviting. There is piano black trim everywhere, including that unique strip that runs from the doors across the dash but sunken into a pocket in the dashtop. The price says it’s in the luxury realm too, with a sticker that knocks on the door of $50k. So can it deliver two of us and a dog through leaves and to shore in luxurious comfort?
While there are more twisty ways to make the trip from Halifax to Antigonish than the highway, they aren’t exactly more direct. And they don’t really pass through, well, much of anywhere. And the highway is where a three-row crossover is made or broken. There’s nothing like a three-hour drive to reveal a quirky ride, hard seats, or bad ergonomics.
Setting off, those heated and ventilated seats make it easy to find a comfortable driving position. The driver gets an adjustable thigh bolster, something all tall drivers should appreciate. This one certainly does. The perforated brown Nappa leather looks soft and inviting, and feels it too. The all-black dashboard in this model, though, feels a little low-rent compared with the rest of the interior. That’s made more noticeable by the silver plastic surrounding the infotainment system. A different colour garnish here, or maybe some more of that seat leather would go a long way.
On the highway, the Sorento is steady in its lane. Our travel was on a windy day, typical for fall in Nova Scotia, and the SUV feels planted on the road. As long as you aren’t using the lane keeping assist. Around these parts, the lines aren’t always straight. They can wander side to side in the lane. That might be the reason why the Sorento’s lane keep assist also liked to wander side to side in the lane. Turned off, the vehicle tracked straight. With it on, we were constantly moving left and right in the lane. Far from serene.
Even with that wind noise, though, the Sorento feels quiet inside. Buffeting is kept to a minimum, and the loudest sounds are the hum of the tires and the snoring from the dog.
While the province is still working on twinning all of the major highways, there are still long stretches of this road that wind through river valleys as two-lane roads. They aren’t sports car twisty, but there are still some bends you might not expect on a 100 km/h road. The Sorento definitely didn’t expect them. Body roll is heavy and the crossover felt very reluctant to corner at those speeds. That was a surprise given the suspension tuning that is firm for this class over dips and expansion joints in the road. While it doesn’t float over that type of pavement problem, even crashing over them to some extent, it behaves much less sportingly in turns. Since much of the remainder of the weekend was spent on rural 80 km/h roads this wasn’t always an issue, but it never felt comfortable with handling twisty sections.
We knew that our cottage would be at the end of a dirt road, but we didn’t realize we’d be driving across a beach road to get to it. The smooth stone road was a kilometre of essentially cobblestones. Here, the Sorento impressed with its build quality. When you have two rows of folding seats, it’s common for them to bounce, crash, and squeak over a surface half as rough as this one. Not a peep was heard from the seats, trim, or any other part of the interior. The ride, at speeds under 50 km/h on that road, was impressively smooth. Even the massive panoramic roof stayed silent. Open or closed. The deep sand to each side of the road made me glad to see the button for the Sorento’s locking centre differential as well. Not a feature you’ll need often, and one uncommon on any crossover, but one that’s a lifesaver if you do need it.
Saturday morning, we ventured into Antigonish for the town’s farm market. I was lured from vacation slumber at 8 am for one thing. A waffle truck. Chicken and waffles might be common elsewhere in the country, but the glorious combination of sweet and savoury is not easy to find in the Maritimes. Breakfast was delicious, but the in-town driving showed some strange behaviour for the V6 engine.
The 3.3L V6 offers up 290 hp. On the highway, it’s smooth and quiet, and the eight-speed auto does its best to keep rpm low. But in town, this crossover has very sluggish throttle response before abruptly taking off. Leaving every stop light or sign was a second or two of creeping forward followed by a sudden jolt of power. Putting the drive mode into Sport instead of Eco or Comfort fixed the problem, but Sport mode isn’t ideal for most in-town driving. The clever Smart mode that monitors your driving habits to automatically switch between variations of the three drive modes works surprisingly well on long straight stretches followed by a series of bends, but doesn’t fix the start off lurch.
Fuel economy on the Sorento is rated at 14.0 L/100 km city and 10.1 on the highway. With my almost entirely highway driving, and most of that at speeds around 80 km/h, I wasn’t surprised to see 9.8 L/100 km indicated by the computer. What I was surprised to see was the 11.3 L/100 km that my calculator indicated at the end of the trip.
In four days of rural touring, the Sorento was exactly what I was looking for. Quiet, smooth, commodious, and comfortable. While it wasn’t perfect, it’s certainly in the upper half of this segment. And as long as you aren’t planning to put a full-size adult in that third row it offers up a good-sized cabin.
With the Stinger, Kia showed that it could build a legitimate contender of a sports sedan. The Sorento might not have that car’s sharp styling, but it’s still a surprisingly complex form. It’s also a legitimate entry as an entry-level five plus two seat crossover. One that left us happy to listen to the waves, stare at the leaves, play some epic games of fetch, and not worry about the drive.
2019 Kia Sorento SXL
BODY STYLE: 7 Passenger Mid-size SUV
DRIVE METHOD: Front-engine, All-Wheel Drive
ENGINE: 3.3 L direct-injected V6 (Power: 290 hp @ 6400 rpm; Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5200 rpm)
TRANSMISSION: 8-speed automatic
CARGO CAPACITY: 320 litres behind 3rd row seating; 1076 litres with third row folded; 2,067 litres with 2nd row folded
FUEL ECONOMY: (Regular Gasoline ) 12.5 L/100 km city; 9.7 L/100 km highway; 11.2 L/100 km combined
OBSERVED FUEL ECONOMY: 11.3 L/100 km
PRICE: $27,995 LX, $30,295 LX AWD, $34,795 EX AWD, $34,975 LX V6 Premium, $38,365 EX V6, $40,865 EX V6 Premium, $44,865 SX, $48,865 SXL
AS TESTED: $50,850 including $1785 destination charge
WEBSITE: Kia Sorento
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