By on May 19, 2013

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Exterior, Front, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.

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After three years, most car companies slap on a new nose, tweak some paint and trim options and call it good for another three years. At first glance it seems that Kia has done the usual, but the similarity is skin deep. The front and rear get tweaks of course, but its the chassis that’s been substantially changed with new floor stamping to improve interior room, new suspension subframes, different welding techniques, suspension geometry changes, additional chassis bracing in addition to a refreshed interior and exterior. In all, only 20% of the parts from last year remain. If you doubt the magnitude of the change, check out the curb weight which is down 250lbs vs the 2013 model, that’s no small feat.

As before, the Sorento offers your choice of 5 or 7 passenger seating, yet the Sorento still isn’t a large SUV at 184-inches long. That’s 15 inches shorter than a Durango, 7 inches shorter than a Pilot and even 6 inches shorter than the other 5/7 passenger “tweener” crossover, the Dodge Journey. The RAV4, CR-V and Sportage are a half step smaller putting the Kia and its Hyundai sister-ship in their own small category. (Remember, the RAV4 ditched its 7-seat option this year.)

The Sorento has never been a flashy vehicle, that’s not Kia’s style. Instead we get slab sides reminiscent of the American competition and a front end that could easily have been turned into a new Saab 9-7x. Up front we get Kia’s new bow-tie/semi-kidney grille and our EX model came standard with the rather vertical foglights. Out back 2014 brings new tail lamps and new sheetmetal to the tailgate giving the Sorento’s rear as much style as any other mid-size crossover. Checking out that side profile you’ll notice the Sorento still sports a rather vertical hatch thanks to the 7-seat option. That means if you opt for the 5-seats you still get a cargo area that’s nice and square, making it more useful (but perhaps less sexy) than the sloping profiles of the 5-seat-only crossovers.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Interior, Dashboard, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Interior

On the surface the Sorento looks like any aspiring near-luxury crossover. Until you put your hands on the dashboard. While everyone else is doubling-down on squishy injection molding and stitched pleather, the Sorento’s trendy shapes are cast from hard plastic. Before we start drawing any Chrysler parallels, you should know that Kia’s plastics look attractive, they just don’t feel premium. Is that a problem? Not when the Sorento starts at $24,100, but it is something to keep in mind if you’re contemplating a fully-loaded 7-passenger Sportage Limited at $41,850. On the flip side, the Sportage offers a high level of equipment for the dollar and a 5 year/ 60,000 mile warranty with 10 year / 100,000 mile powertrain coverage. How much are soft surfaces worth to you?

Thanks to tweaked seat designs, the Sorento’s thrones no longer feel as if they are cast from concrete, but they still aren’t as cushy as GM’s seats. For $32,650, our EX heated and cooled my backside compensation. As with every other vehicle, seats get less comfortable as you move to the back. The middle seats recline and fold in a 40/20/40 fashion allowing you to carry long cargo and four passengers at the same time. Available heated seats and integrated sunshades round out the Sorento’s compensation for the plastics choices. While the middle seats are fine for long road trips, the $1,200 third row should be reserved for emergencies, enemies and mother-in-laws.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Interior, Rear Seats, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

When you’re a half step between the competition dimensionally but offer the same number of seats as the big boys, something has to give, and that’s the cargo area. With 36.9 cubic feet behind the second row, the Sorento lags even the smaller RAV-4 and CR-V (38.4 and 37.2). If you don’t get that third row, you get an additional 9+ cubes under the load floor, just under what’s required to hide a journalist. (Don’t know what that’s about? Click on that video.) If you put a pair of passengers in the third row, you’re going to need a roof-top cargo box or a trailer because the cargo area shrinks to 9 cubic feet, only 2 cubes more than a Beetle Convertible.

So is $600 a pop for two seats worth it? I’d do it, and here’s why. Despite being considerably smaller than the Highlander, Pilot, Durango and Explorer, Kia’s third row offers about the same amount of room with 31.7 inches of legroom and 35.7 inches of headroom. I wouldn’t recommend anyone’s third row for daily use, but it is handy in a pinch.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Center Console, Interior, UVO, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Infotainment

Base Sorentos come well equipped with standard Bluetooth streaming/telephone integration, SiriusXM Satellite radio, a CD player, USB/iDevice integration and six-speakers. I’m so used to saying “you won’t find one of these base models on the lot” that I did a double take when the Kia vehicle locator found 24 such examples (out of 174) within 50 miles of my location. The base system surprised with excellent sound for the price and if you don’t need navigation, there is little to complain about.

Most Sorentos on the lot will have Kia’s refreshed 8-inch touchscreen system (navigation is a further option, but standard on SX and Limited) and a large number of them will have the up-level 10-speaker audio system by Infiniti (Standard on SX and Limited, optional on all modes). For 2014 Kia has renamed and re-worked the software. “UVO eServices” must have sounded better than UVO two-point-oh. The software tweaks bring better graphics, faster response times and improved voice commands including USB/iDevice voice control. In addition to improving the system, Kia has integrated a number of smartphone apps with Google’s help. You can now download destinations to the car after looking them up on your iPhone (there is only an iOS app at the moment), find your lost car in a parking lot, use your phone’s data connection to run vehicle diagnostics/heath checks and the car will call 911 for you if the airbags deploy. None of this is revolutionary, putting UVO right in the middle of the pack. What is new is the price for the service: there isn’t one. Unlike Toyota’s Entune, Kia claims there is no fee for the service even after a few years. If you want to know more about the infotainment options, just click on that video at the top of the review.

While not strictly an infotainment device, EX models and above (optional on the base LX) get Kia’s oddly named “Supervision” instrument cluster. The 7-inch LCD disco dash looked good even in strong sunlight, but it will never be as readable as a regular old analogue gauge. Rather than going completely modern, Kia stuck to a red analogue needle against white numbers for the speedometer while the center of the LCD is used for vehicle settings, navigation directions, infotainment details and a trip computer. Unlike Chrysler and Cadillac’s latest LCD systems, this display isn’t very customizable as there are no alternative layouts or themes that can be applied.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Engine, 3.3L Direct-Injection V6, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Drivetrain

Rounding out the refresh is a revised engine lineup. The 175HP 2.4L base engine is gone with the formerly optional 191HP, 181lb-ft 2.4L direct-injection four taking its place. The 16HP and 12lb-ft bump are minor, but a better torque curve made possible by the DI sauce combined with a 250lb weight loss make the difference noticeable. On the downside, fuel economy suffers from the upgrade dropping the AWD model from 21/27/23 (City/Highway/Combined) to 19/24/21. Some of the drop is likely due to changes in the way the transmission shifts, but also perhaps to Kia re-stating their MPG numbers to be more realistic.

Optional on the Sorento LX and standard on EX, SX and Limited is Hyundai/Kia’s newest 3.3L direct-injection V6 making its way across the lineup. Cranking out 290 ponies and 252 twists vs 273/247 for the old 3.5 mill, the difference behind the wheel is largely in the way power is delivered. Our tester scooted from 0-60 in 7.23 seconds, about 2/10ths faster than last year’s 3.5L model. If you go by the EPA scores, the new engine is simply an even trade with the same 18/24/20 MPG score as before. However, unlike the 2013 model, our Sorento averaged a better than expected 22.1MPG in mixed driving as compared to 19.5 in the old model on the same route. Adding the V6 increases towing capacity from 1,500lbs to 3,500lbs with or without AWD.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Interior, LCD Gauge Instrument Cluster, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

Sending power to the ground is the ubiquitous Hyundai/Kia 6-speed automatic transaxle. For $1,800 you can add an AWD system with a driver-lockable center coupling. This isn’t quite the same as a locking differential in a traditional truck-based SUV, but it is more than you find in most softroaders. For 2014 Kia has also tossed in a torque vectoring system that uses the ABS system to brake wheels independently to shuttle power around for better grip. Why bother? Because everyone else is doing it and it doesn’t take much effort to re-program your braking system. Does it help? I didn’t notice a difference.

Despite the changes to the suspension and chassis, you won’t notice much of a difference out on the road either. The Sorento is light of steering and soft of spring. Thank the steering feel, or lack there of on a new electric power steering system. (Yes, the Sorento offers variable assist electric steering, but neither of the three modes brings extra feel with it.) Perhaps in keeping with its light-truck origins, the Sorento wears some high profile rubber, LX models start out with 235/65R17s , our EX model took things down to a still tall 235/60R18 and Limited models get 235/55R19 tires. Tall tires, light steering, soft springs and light weight roll bars allow the Sorento almost as much body roll in the curves as that GMT-360 SUV that came to mind earlier. Thankfully, the light curb weight which is only 140lbs more than the RAV4 (four-cylinder Sorento) means that despite the lean, grip is on par with the small guys and slightly ahead of the considerably heavier Edge, Explorer, Pilot, Highlander or Traverse.

2014 Kia Sorento EX, Exterior, Rear, Picture Courtesy of Alex L. Dykes

The Sorento is a textbook modern Kia. The exterior styling is unlikely to set your heart on fire, but it won’t offend anyone either. The interior apes the style and features of the next price class above, but casts it in durable, hard plastic. That makes the Sorento sound like a very average vehicle, but the key to Kia’s success is value. When you adjust for the standard features on the base LX model, the Sorento is a $1,500 better value than the Dodge Journey, often cited as the cheapest and most un-loved of the 7-seat set. Compare the Sorento to a comparable Ford Edge or Toyota Highlander and the Kia is $4,000-5,000 less. See why the hard dash plastics that other reviewers complain about don’t bother me? Because value speaks to me, and judging by the sales it speaks to a large number of shoppers. Toss in that long warranty and the only thing that surprises me is that the Sorento is only “7th” in the mid-size SUV class.

Hit it or Quit It?

Hit it

  • Finally a base model that isn’t a penalty box.
  • Possibly the best MPGs for a non-hybrid, V6, 7-seat crossover.

Quit it

  • The LCD speedo is interesting, but I expected it to “do” more than just show me an analogue needle.
  • The Sorento’s ride still needs a redesign.

 

Kia provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Specifications as tested:

0-30: 3.0

0-60: 7.23

1/4: 15.68 @ 89.6

22.1 over 786

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42 Comments on “Review: 2014 Kia Sorento EX (Video)...”


  • avatar
    Good ole dayz

    The KIA dealers advertising on TV in my area uniformly peddle the loud announcer / schlocky / misleading advertising aimed at subprime / low-information buyers (e.g., loud announcers peddling “no credit check Mondays” / “no money down” / “buy new for on $6995″ — in other words the cost to lease term rather than actual purchase kind of lowbrow nonsense.

    No matter the merits of the vehicles, I wouldn’t set foot into a KIA dealer knowing that pushy, borderline (if not actual) unethical practices await me.

    I live in Florida, and can’t comment on whether this is KIA’s national marketing strategy / demographic, or whether it’s a regional thing.

  • avatar
    kjb911

    Hyundai & Kia really need to crack down on their dealers for this marketing I hate how every 5 minutes I hear about my job is my credit and 99 gets me into a new sonata or sorrento from Pride, First, Tarbox Hyundai/Kia it makes me sick to my stomach every time I hear the loud announcer start with cheesy sound affects from the 1980′s

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      Huh. The Kia and Hyundai dealers where I live are very highly-regarded, and most all of them have excellent reputations. And this was even before they had cars that were actually worth selling.

  • avatar
    canddmeyer

    Nice vehicle, or so it appears, but for that kind of money I’d lease it or look elsewhere.

  • avatar
    lilpoindexter

    If my GF was shopping for a new car, and she told me she was considering one of these, I would be sad.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    (A) I don’t see how this holds a candle to the $20k Grand Caravan.

    (B) Kia dealers in Las Vegas may not be so schlocky, but they (and their kin, Hyundai dealers) slap a $3000 ADM sticker on everything on the lot. That $13,600 Rio? By the time you finish with all the mandatory add-ons, it’s $17K. That dough buys much better cars at other dealers.

    Until H/K reign in their dealers, they are going to alienate a lot of potential buyers.

    • 0 avatar
      genuineleather

      They had ADMs on the Optimas at my local dealer, but when my mother went to buy one it wasn’t even discussed beyond her saying she wasn’t paying that and the salesman agreeing. She negotiated $2k off sticker in addition to the $3k in incentives offered, so I find it difficult to believe that dealers are demanding above-retail prices on every unit and succeeding.

    • 0 avatar
      Buckshot

      Dodge “Grand” Caravans are unreliable and very expensive to run.

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      Besides the built quality and reliability being miles apart, I agree.

  • avatar
    fozone

    21 MPG?! 21?? Are overstretched middle-class americans really still buying these things?

    Are they suicidal?

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I agree its a bit crazy, but if you look a whats out there for families none of it is very fuel efficient.

      • 0 avatar
        fozone

        I just wonder how many people buy these who actually need them? (ie, they use the 7-seat capacity rarely if ever.) It seems irrational with this sort of mileage hit. Gas is still $4.00 a gallon, right?!

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I had an ex who in 2006 was obsessed with the idea of seven row seating in an SUV (she had three kids). She had a ’99 Caravan held together by glue and prayers and a (better) ’00 Taurus, her dream was to trade both on a new SUV. After we broke up I heard she picked up a Suzuki something (whatever the Envoy clone was) I can only imagine how much fun that was a year or so later when gas spiked to $4.00.

          I think a good deal of Americans still dream about the 90s “Chevy Suburban” fantasy, and just don’t see the writing on the wall about how screwed we really are as citizens (irrespective of family haulers).

          • 0 avatar
            fozone

            the problem I have with this is that by buying this (near $40k!) car, it is sending a message to automakers that they can be lazy.

            And this is a lazy car by any measure. There is nothing innovative about it, nothing that really shows me Kia thought about buidling something new and useful for large families.

            In a segment that’s could use at least 1 or 2 efficient, well-priced vehicles, it is a shame that no one is even trying.

        • 0 avatar

          We bought an 2011 used with 20k miles at the end of 2011. My wife uses the vehicle lightly (11k miles in about 18 months) so gas isn’t much of a concern. We got about 25%+ off of MSRP buying 1 year old with 21k miles, so it worked out for us (7 seats, V6). Real gas mileage, mostly rural driving is about 18 with AWD. Doing my work commute with it for a tank I got about 23.5 taking it easy.

          When my wife’s family comes to visit, there are typically 3-4 of them, so the 7 passenger seating is a necessity (none of them drive either….can’t just lend them a car from the stable).

          It’s true — she almost never used the 7 passenger seating, except when she needs it daily for 1-2 months to take her family around while I’m at work.

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      My Crown Vic gets better mileage.

  • avatar
    carguy

    A harsh ride, cheap plastics, bland styling and a $35K price tag don’t make for a compelling reason to consider the Sorento. Given the relentless mediocrity in this segment you may as well buy a Dodge Grand Caravan and save yourself $10K. It will be no more or less reliable than the Kia but at least its priced to match what this segment is really about: disposable family haulers.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Personally, I would buy the caravan over this, but if someone absolutely needs awd then this might be the way to go. With the caravan and stow and go, there isn’t room for AWD and it was cut from the current models. Maybe it will come back on the next generation. Does this use a electronic controlled disc clutch for the AWD coupling?

    I do think kia is reaching with their prices on this and on the optima, I can’t imagine they sell many of the top trim models when they are asking close to or over 40 grand for them.

    • 0 avatar
      Mitsu_fan

      In San Antonio, I rarely see a Sorento LX or EX, they are usually SX’s. Same with the optima, I’ve NEVER seen an Optima LX. A few EX’s but mainly SX-L’s. Their cheaper cars like the Rio and the Forte I usually see in LX trim, but the Soul is + and ! trims all day every day.

  • avatar
    oldowl

    If you live near Ft. Myers I sympathize. The Kia dealer there is ultimately obnoxious. And always on.

  • avatar
    dmf

    After someone else ran a stop sign at me, I ended up stuck with one of these as a rental while my car is being repaired. I have been able to fit some nice and unexpectedly found antique furniture in it, but beyond that it has been a vast disappointment. Interior ergonomics are vague, touchscreen is not easy to navigate in a memory-oriented manner without looking, and the ride is way too buoyant. But the mileage really is that bad all while requiring occupants to put up with a treble-ish buzz just to accelerate. I find myself putting the eco setting on just to keep the transmission smoother with negligible mileage benefit.

    It reminds me how cars are designed these days as appliances for people who hate driving and simply want to ameliorate or mitigate their time with a big console screen somehow. (PS Mazda, don’t go this direction with the CX-5!)

  • avatar
    wmba

    What I get from this review is roughly what I got from C/D about it. To paraphrase:

    There are many CUVs out there. This is one of them.

  • avatar
    08Suzuki

    Maybe this is asking for a bit beyond, but when you say they use new welding techniques…does that entail friction welding?

    ‘Cause that’s the future, baby.

  • avatar
    dwford

    The real question is: Which is better the 2013 Santa Fe or the 2014 Sorento? A sibling rivalry test is in order…

    • 0 avatar

      They’re not really siblings.

      Pretty sure.

      They’re barely the same company, even.

      • 0 avatar
        dwford

        Hyundai and Kia share chassis, engines and transmissions across both entire product lines with the exception of the Genesis, so it would be interesting to see which brand has the better formula.

    • 0 avatar
      Kyree S. Williams

      The 2013 Santa Fe looks like it was built better and has more-compelling styling, but then again, this generation of Sorento was developed and released before Hyundai/Kia’s revolution. I would expect the next Sorento to be a major gamechanger.

  • avatar
    crtfour

    Like others have mentioned, the obnoxious dealer commercials would be enough to keep me from even going into a Kia dealership.

    My wife watches the news in the morning and the local Kia megaplex has a commercial on literally with EVERY round of commericals.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    A friend of mine bought a similar CUV for family duty and I just couldn’t find anything to genuinely like or get excited about. It’s a big box on wheels, filled with seats and storage pockets. Kinda thirsty, kinda slow, kinda quiet, kinda comfortable, and….really damned expensive.

    I understand these are appliances that do exactly what their buyers want them to do, but I just couldn’t drop $30K for something that I couldn’t find interesting in some way.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Kia has for sure changed. Obnoxious dealerships that literally have salesmen chasing you around while your trying to look at the vehicles, trying to get out of honoring certain warranty claims, over priced vehicles (36K for an Optima turbo SX is borderline insanity) indifferent quality control standards with 3 year old Sorento’s that have peeling alloys wheels and numerous other lapses and last but not least lying about there vehicles mileage. What ever happened to the inexpensive cheeky company that stood out from the rest?

    • 0 avatar
      Dave M.

      It’s the same one, I think it just depends on the dealer. Keep in mind for forever Kia (and Hyundai) catered to the lowest common financial denominator, and as their style and quality/reliability continue to climb they will eventually become a proper Honda/Toyota competitor. They are 4/5ths if not closer.

      I think every manufacturer has it’s weak dealer links. I was Honda shopping last week – three dealers, two complete jackass set ups, with ‘pad-ons’ on the sticker, swooping down the second you turn the car off.

      I look closely at how the dealership treats the salesperson. If they don’t even have their own business card and office, they’re just passing through. Family dealerships, while perhaps a little more expensive, have always been ideal to me.

      Recently I’ve been impressed with the area Subaru dealers. Several sales folk I spoke to were highly knowledgeable about the model I’ve been looking at, and all were relatively low-pressure. When I mentioned I preferred to test drive alone, the sales man tossed me the keys and said to bring it back within 3 hours. We later discussed the car for about 30 minutes; I mention this because my opening salvo was “I won’t be buying for at least 4 months, and I’m just starting my research”.

      That impressed me.

      • 0 avatar
        Firestorm 500

        A new salesman often won’t have his business cards for 2-4 weeks. Remember, he may be new to that dealership but have been selling elsewhere for years. Some dealerships don’t use offices any more. They use tables out in the showroom. Supposed to be more personal and less intimidating to buyers.

        I wonder if you weren’t waited on at the Honda dealerships for a while, would you have gotten upset and left? Thinking they weren’t interested in your business?

        • 0 avatar
          Dave M.

          Probably not, but I have no problem letting them know either a) I’m looking around; or b) I’ll come inside and see them in a few minutes.

          That’s your cue to back off.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    We had a 2003 Kia Sorento EX, green with beige cladding and beige interior, fully loaded—and kept it until it died in a tragic rollover accident in Spring of 2009. My mother claims to like it better than the Nissan Murano SL that replaced it.

    As for this new one, I can say that Kia/Hyundai did a good job with it and the Santa Fe. It seems that the Santa Fe takes the smallest and largest segments of the mid-sized crossover classification (which might as well also encompass the oversized Escape, RAV4 and CR-V), while the Sorento takes the middle. That, to me, is far better than there being a Sorento and a Santa Fe sized identically, with only styling and badges to differentiate them. Being a pre-coroporate-revolution product, it still isn’t quite as tastefully-styled as the Optima, Soul, Rio or 2014 Forte. But at the same time, I can see a little bit of the VW Touareg in the center-stack and instrument cluster…which isn’t at all a bad thing.


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