Tremblant, QC — When it comes time to redesign your second bestselling product, you’re going to want to stick to the basics, to what works, and ensure your new version is as airtight and appealing as the outgoing model.
Well, Kia have had to do that with their brand new, third-generation 2016 Kia Sorento. We’ve all heard the saying, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And, well, Kia haven’t had to fix anything on the Sorento, so to speak, but they’ve managed to enhance an already enticing product in their lineup.
To highlight a new edition to the engine lineup, as well as shine a light on their Dynamax AWD system, we hit the back roads in rural Quebec on some fabulously twisty, snow-covered roads to get to know the brand new 2016 Kia Sorento.
The Sorento toes the compact CUV/SUV line successfully
Whereas certain vehicles are just confused (read: MINI Cooper Countryman), the 2016 Kia Sorento grew in overall size for this model year, however, it still competes with the likes of the Toyota RAV4 (price-wise, in its LX trim).
What’s really interesting is that if you move up in the lineup to the EX and SX trims, the Kia Sorento goes head-to-head with the Hyundai Santa Fe XL, Toyota Highlander, and Ford Edge (all of which have recently been revamped, as well).
In that vein, even the pricing spans a good range starting around $27,000 and reaching the $47k mark for a top-of-the-line SX model.
So, how do you make a good thing better?
Well, you give it more features and creature comforts the general public has come to appreciate and expect from vehicles on the road today. The 2016 Kia Sorento now features three alloy wheel sizes (17”, 18” and 19”).
Fog lights are standard across the lineup, however, only the SX model and above feature LED fog lights. For the first time, the 2016 Kia Sorento features an all-around 360-degree camera system that makes parking and maneuvering tight spaces a breeze.
Other gadget enhancements also include a Smart Power Liftgate. Simply stand behind your Kia Sorento for a few seconds with the key fob in your pocket, and the tailgate will lift automatically (no fancy footwork required); as well as an 8” entertainment screen (both on SX and higher trims only).
Good things come in threes
And so, Kia is now offering a third engine option in their 2016 Kia Sorento lineup: a 2.0L turbocharged GDI 4-cyl (which is also found in the Optima). Horsepower is rated at 240 ponies, while torque jumps up to 260 lb-ft. Why fewer horsepower? Kia wanted to ensure the engine was mapped appropriately for max torque, which gives it a 3,500lb towing capacity.
The other two engines are carried over from the previous generation: a 2.4L GDI (185 hp), and a 3.3L V6 good for 290 horsepower. Of note: If you’re in need of seven seats in your Sorento then you’ll have to settle for the V6 as it is the only engine available for the max seating capacity. However, along with place for seven, you’ll also be able to tow up to 5,000lbs.
Only one transmission is available: a 6-speed automatic.
Is it everything they said it would be?
After driving a 2015 GMC Acadia Denali to the Kia Sorento event, I was immediately struck with how stable and squat the Sorento was. Compared to the Acadia that felt like a skyscraper on wheels, the Sorento was planted. And despite an AWD system that will only split torque to a 50/50 maximum under 30km/hr, the Sorento managed to handle the snowy, icy bits with finesse and only minimal understeer (as the system rests with a 95% FWD bias at all times).
While the 2.0L turbo was fun to drive, it felt a bit sluggish and slow to get going when compared to the 3.3L V6. And where the 2.0L has a tinny, robotic sound to it, the V6 gives a matter-of-fact grunt when pushed.
And while the 6-speed automatic performed well, for the most part, I did find it odd that even in the top level Kia Sorento, there were no paddle shifters in sight; they could have added another dimension to the Sorento’s already long list of personality pros.
Design awards don’t lie
With over 50 design awards over the past five years, Kia – more specifically Peter Schreyer – is clearly doing something right. That “something right” has emerged on the latest exterior look of the 2016 Kia Sorento. With an updated grille that’s shared with the Sedona, the only difference you’ll find is a slightly different position of the Kia logo. The Sorento’s trademark D-pillar made the cut in this latest exterior look, much to my dismay as I find it a bit of an eyesore.
Inside, the centre console and gauge cluster are a lesson in less is more, as the simplistic layout is both functional and easy to use. While I find the centre stack to be a bit too bare (especially in the upper level trims where there’s just too much dead space), it is all extremely easy to navigate, and the use of soft-touch materials and quality buttons and knobs is noticeable and welcome.
Playing both sides of the field?
So, because of the Kia Sorento’s new dual personality as a 5-seater and 7-seater, will it win over buyers from both segments as the Hyundai Santa Fe has tried to do? I feel it’s positioned itself very well to offer some solid competition for the likes of the Rogue and RAV4, however, I’m not sure Highlander or Pathfinder buyers will feel the Sorento offers up enough space overall.