Kia Sorento is now a crossover stunner

By Aida Sevilla-Mendoza Philippine Daily Inquirer June 26,2019

The Kia Sorento has a 16-year history, longer than many of us thought.

In 2003, Kia Motors introduced the Sorento as the bigger alternative to their Sportage compact SUV, and as a budget-priced SUV with off-road capabilities.

In 2011, the Sorento unofficially became a family hauler when Kia redesigned it with a third row seat.

Since then, the Sorento has evolved from a purely economic choice, to an upscale, solidly competent, well-rounded seven-seat midsized crossover with a premium feel inside and out.

The third generation Sorento is so subtly revised in styling that the new features and tweaks do not transform it into a totally new from- the- ground-up vehicle.

Nonetheless, the 2019 Sorento has a clean, classy exterior that cuts a dashing, if boxy presence on the road.

The Sorento’s 2.2-liter, 200 ps CRDi diesel engine is paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission.

It sports new front and rear bumpers, a large, chrome-heavy iconic tigernose grille flanked by swept-back LED headlights with LED DRLs underneath, bold LED fog lamps in front, a semi-high beltline, high-mounted LED taillights integrated into the power tailgate, and 18-inch alloy wheels in the 4×4 model.

If you’re willing to fork over P300,999 more for the 4×4 Sorento, you get extra goodies like smart entry with illuminated start pushbutton, 8-way power adjustable and 2-way lumber adjustable driver’s seat, silver skid plate, aluminum scuff plates with illumination, rear camera display with static guidelines, 18-inch alloy wheels, power tailgate, leather upholstery, LED front fog lamps, LED daytime running lights (DRLs), and LED rear combination lamps.

In both the front wheel drive and all-wheel-drive versions, peak 200 PS output and max 441 Nm torque are delivered by a 2.2-liter, inline 4 DOHC CRDi (common rail direct injection) E-VGT diesel engine paired with a new 8-speed automatic transmission. The powertrain operates so smoothly, without the NVH of diesel engines, that you tend to forget that you are driving a diesel.

SOLID STABILITY. The Sorento’s 7.3-inch ground clearance rides high enough, providing good foul-weather grip especially with the 4×4 variant. The Sorento has enough grunt to tug up to 5,000 pounds of trailer.

The reinforced monocoque body of 53 percent advanced high-strength steel, newly tuned steering, and changes to the suspension provide sound, secure handling, a solid sense of stability even at high speeds, and a pleasant experience behind the wheel in everyday driving.

Due to the smooth, serene suspension and more sound damping materials, the ride is quiet, refined and comfortable, although in this complaisance, some agility and sporting pretensions are compromised. The well-damped ride, on the other hand, adds confidence even over rutted roads.

The new 8-speed A/T, up from 6, should improve engine responsiveness and fuel economy, although this is countered by the tranny’s slowness to downshift. The ride is soft, the steering is light, so the driver sometimes yearns for more feel from the steering.

Leather upholstery, soft touch materials and a 7-inch infotainment touchscreen dominate the cockpit.

Aside from excellent driving manners, the new Sorento offers a roomy, well-organized cabin with an attractive dash, plenty of soft-touch materials, a 7.0-inch infotainment touchscreen with hands-free, voice control Bluetooth connectivity, Apple Carplay and Android Auto, four speakers and two tweeters.

USER FRIENDLY. The infotainment system is user-friendly, with volume and tuning knobs, and clearly marked HVAC buttons logically arranged, making it easy to navigate the menu hierarchy.

The audio system is listed as including AM/FM Radio, CD, MP3 with USB and Aux-in ports, but the 4×4 Sorento I was test driving had no CD player.

With its 4,800 mm (189 inches) overall length, the Sorento is at the short end of the midsize crossover segment. Interior space therefore is not as generous for 7 passengers (including driver) and cargo, compared to rivals like the Mazda CX9 and Honda Pilot. On the other hand, its smaller dimensions make the Sorento easier to maneuver in bumper-to-bumper traffic and tight parking spaces.

SEATS AND SPACE. The front seats are well-sculpted and supportive, with the driver’s seat power- adjustable in the 4×4 model.

The second row seat is split 40:20:40, sliding with armrest. Although the second row tilts forward for access to the third row, the space between the second and third rows is too small for easy ingress to the rearmost seat.

The second row can be reclined, but when it does, legroom and knee room in the third row are further reduced. As it is, the third row can accommodate only small adults or children, and for short trips only. The third row seat, which splits 50:50, does not recline.

LED rear combination lamps are integrated into the power tailgate of the Sorento.

With all seats in place, cargo area behind the rearmost seat is limited to 11.3 cubic feet. With the third row folded down, the space increases to 38 cubic feet, and with both the second and third rows stowed, 73 cubic feet of cargo space is available.

SAFETY. In other markets, the 2019 Sorento is equipped with an extensive airbag system (average 7), Traction Control System, Rollover Sensor, Auto Light Control, 3-point seatbelts (all seating positions) with LATCH anchors, LED positioning lamps, aside from the usual safety features listed below.

But in the Philippines, probably to make its SRP more affordable, the Sorento has as standard safety features only two front airbags, ABS with electronic stability control and brake assist, vehicle stability management, and hill start assist. To get the rear camera display, you have to buy the top-end 4×4 model.

With a price tag of P1,895,000 for the 4×2 A/T Sorento and P2,195,999 for the 4×4 A/T model, surely Kia PH can throw in more active and passive safety features? Even the much lower-priced Toyota Vios has 7 airbags.

BOTTOM LINE. Despite this shortcoming, the 2019 Kia Sorento is a strong upscale competitor in the crowded midsize crossover segment. It offers superb ride quality, smooth driveability, a neat, well-organized interior, and solid stability.

The Sorento won’t bowl you over and leave you speechless, but it does everything well as an all-around, capable, subtly impressive seven-seat diesel crossover.

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