By on January 29, 2019

2019 Kia Sorento front quarter

2019 Kia Sorento SXL V6 AWD

3.3-liter V6, DOHC (290 hp @ 6,400 rpm, 252 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm)

Eight-speed automatic transmission, all-wheel drive

19 city / 24 highway / 21 combined (EPA Rating, MPG)

12.5 city / 9.7 highway / 11.2 combined (NRCan Rating, L/100km)

20.7 (observed mileage, MPG)

Base Price: $47,480 US / $50,789 CAD

As Tested: $48,370 / $51,039 CAD

Prices include $990 destination charge in the United States and $1924 for freight, PDI, and A/C tax in Canada and, because of cross-border equipment differences, can’t be directly compared.  

The three-row crossover has quickly become the bellybutton car. Everyone’s got one. Much as the full-size station wagon was the people hauler of choice in the Seventies and early Eighties, followed by the mighty, mighty minivan, this genre of sorta-big tall wagon is everywhere.

This 2019 Kia Sorento is a refreshed example of a generation first offered in 2016. Kia keeps making impressive strides year after year. The example I sampled was packed to the gills with nearly every luxury bit possible, but does the new Sorento keep up with the competition?

2019 Kia Sorento profile

Styling is at once handsome and anonymous. It doesn’t offend the eye, though Kia’s signature Tiger Nose grille is bigger and more bulbous than on other models in the lineup. Perhaps this tiger is overfed. I’m not a fan of the overly busy detailing under the rear bumper — the Sorento seems to be aping a diffuser, as found on a ground-effect race car. Nobody’s confusing a three-row crossover with a race car, Kia.

2019 Kia Sorento front 2019 Kia Sorento rear

Engine noise under acceleration is a slightly unrefined growl — it’s noticeable mostly due to the surprising lack of wind noise. Be less aggressive on the throttle pedal, and you’ll never notice a thing.

2019 Kia Sorento interior

Something I’ve noticed on several Kia models like this Sorento — there seems to be very little effort in opening the door from the inside. Pulling on the interior door release, there isn’t the usual click one might feel when the door latch releases. It’s something I’d get used to quickly, but it occasionally gives me a moment of concern that I’ve been driving around with the door open because there’s no effort involved in overcoming a door latch detent.

2019 Kia Sorento gauges

Cargo space behind a raised third row isn’t bad compared to some others in the segment — a pair of twenty-inch suitcases should fit standing up between the seat back and the powered liftgate. That space is, unfortunately, taken out of the third row legroom. It’s rather minimal. The designated third-row tester kid complained a bit when we wedged her in the wayback. Once seated for a road trip, she managed to make herself reasonably comfortable, but her knees were pressed in her sister’s back the entire trip.

2019 Kia Sorento cargo area

Otherwise, the ride for front- and middle-row passengers is excellent. The front seat, especially, is spacious and supportive, with nicely finished two-tone leather. Kia does a brilliant job of making simple, intuitive user interfaces for all driver controls, whether on the touchscreen or on the steering wheel. Perhaps it’s familiarity — I’ve spent a good bit of time in Kia products over the last year or two — but whenever I sit in a new Kia like this Sorento, I’m relieved that all audio and navigation controls are perfectly laid out.

2019 Kia Sorento rear seat

The steering wheel has a funky rubbery feeling on the inner edges of the lower spokes. It’s an odd, almost chalky feeling material that is incongruous with the plastic and the leather elsewhere on the wheel. Every other surface I can touch throughout the cabin feels of good quality; these little bits, however, are just weird.

2019 Kia Sorento front seat

I’m feeling that the little details are where the Sorento I tested falls down. I can forgive a little bit of engine noise, a tight third row, or oddball material texture in the price range where the Sorento starts — the sub-$30k market. In that price range, the Sorento is compelling. At over $48,000 as tested, this Sorento is playing in an entirely different market — one where expectations are different.

[Get new and used Kia Sorento pricing here!]

I’d be interested to see how the new Kia Telluride affects the pricing of the Sorento. I’d have to imagine that the new, bigger model will put some downward pressure on this venerable crossover.

2019 Kia Sorento rear quarter

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

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44 Comments on “2019 Kia Sorento SXL V6 AWD Review – Head In The Clouds...”


  • avatar

    This seems:
    Old
    Too expensive
    Too van-shaped

    And has:
    An interior and exterior devoid of personality.

    Alternates:

    Enclave
    MDX
    Ascent
    Explorer
    Santa Fe XL

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Ummmmm too “van-shaped”?

      Don’t see it. The original Lambda crossovers from GM? VERY van shaped.

      Sorento looks like everyone else’s CUV. Common as bellybutton lint.

      • 0 avatar

        Something about the rear, the way it slopes down. The size of the lamps and their pill shape. Just slide the rear door handle forward, and you’ve got a van.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          The ironic thing is they tried so hard to make their current Sedona more CUV-ish at the same time. I quickly wrote it off in my van shopping, while I think they’re built well and drive well, the lack of a removable second row, the squashed visibility out the back, and big center console totally killed it for us. I was gunning for a 2nd gen Sedona but clean 2014s are getting hard to come by.

          A comment on the article: is this Sorento still based on the 2011 hardpoints? Roofline and C pillar look identical at a glance.

        • 0 avatar
          sportyaccordy

          The back is flat like a van, but vans are generally about a foot and a half longer with less ground clearance. Again the same could be said about most of its competitors.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      The same or worse could be said of any of the alternatives you posted.

      The 2.5 row crossover is the minivan coupe. And that’s OK.

    • 0 avatar
      bd2

      Except, the Sorento doesn’t compete w/ any of those (that’s what the upcoming Telluride is for).

      The Sorento’s competitive set are the Murano, Santa Fe, Edge, Passport and Equinox/Terrain.

      The 3rd row in the Sorento is really a 4+2, so complaints about the amount of room misses the point – which is to have a smaller CUV that can carry 7 in a pinch.

      Frankly, the aging Sorento still holds up well to its competition, including the “new” Passport.

  • avatar
    JMII

    “Kia does a brilliant job of making simple, intuitive user interfaces for all driver controls”

    This is my observation with Kia products as well. I rent monthly due to some work related trip and will grab whatever Kia offering Hertz has (Soul included) just because I know the UI will not frustrate me. Contrast this with my ‘Vette where I had to watch a YouTube video before I could figure out how to save a preset on the radio. Kia does interiors really well. They may not be fancy or the best materials but they are logical and functional. Nothing fancy, no silly angles or multiple surfaces with random buttons scattered everywhere. Kind of reminds me of 90’s Hondas.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      I really enjoyed my basic Optima LX rental last summer, for many of the same reasons. Nothing in the interior was “rich,” but put together very well with excellent and fool-proof ergonomics. Between that, the competent suspension tuning/great ride over bad roads, and incredible real world fuel economy, I’d have a hard time picking anything else in the midsize class knowing how handsomely Kia has been discounting their sedans.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I too tend choose a Soul when at the rental lot. Though few enthusiasts even think about Kia Soul, it is a damn good vehicle, and represents a great bargain.

      Another accolade for Kia: When my son first earned his driver’s license, I enrolled him in the fantastic BRAKES teen driver hands-on safety awareness school. Kia donates vehicles for this wonderful program.

      For any of you with children approaching driving age, I heartily recommend you sign up for the BRAKES program at: https://putonthebrakes.org . I recommend it unconditionally.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    I sat in one of these for an 11 hour trip to Tennessee a few years back in SX trim. As stated it was nice enough for around 35K. But over 48 large. Yeah right. Ditto the new Blazer in loaded RS or Premier AWD V6 trims.
    One very annoying thing about certain 2019 Kia’s is the vast restrictions in exterior paint to interior color combos. You literally are restricted to all black interiors unless you get white exterior paint and a 3800 option package on the Optima SX for example. Very weird.

  • avatar
    seth1065

    ok so about 50K and 20 MPG, yikes is this where we are at, really how the hell or why the hell would folks buy this?

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      I ask the same question about all high-trim versions of pickups, minivans, and SUVs. I have no interest in a $50k Honda Pilot, for example.

      As the author says, the lower versions of this (and many other) vehicle makes much more sense at say, $35-40k.

      • 0 avatar
        slavuta

        UI would say, more like 25-26

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        More sense for who exactly? This thing has a lot of features I use all the time… panoramic sunroof, heated/cooled seats, power liftgate, HIDs, decent engine. For people who want the bells and whistles this is very reasonable. KIA is putting big money on the hood as well… $7500 off on leases near me.

  • avatar
    Menar Fromarz

    Yawn. Another iteration of the same old same old. Everything seems to fit the current mold, but I can’t for the life of me understand the point of this thing in the market. Somewhat cramped, somewhat luxe, somewhat inoffensive, somewhat crap MPG, all at a “your kidding me?” price.
    IF: it offered really interesting tech such as EV or even Hybrid or Diesel, so allowing something better than 20MPG, I COULD get somewhat warm to it. Maybe if they stopped making things all weigh 8 Million pounds with every bit of possible useless tech and 600 HP and powered cupholders and aura sensing proximity warning systems , then maybe there would be some rationale to me to consider it. Until then, no.
    “rant off”

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have a friend (has two toddlers) with one of these in a lower trim. It’s about as fun to drive as a can of green beans, so it is definitely in the “family car only” category.

    They probably would have bought a minivan instead but they desired AWD and didn’t want to pop the cash for a Sienna. Even with it being an AWD crossover, they got a decent Kia-level discount on it

  • avatar
    jatz

    Kia’s a winner for bread & butter schlubs like me. Sedate styling, Toyota reliability (my 2, anyway) and tremendous dealer service.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    $48K seems high, but what else can you get at this size and price with this much equipment? I’d much rather have this than a mid grade MKX/XT5 or European offering with vinyl seats and manual windows/locks.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      The Sorento is a weird tweener, it has a third row but from what I’ve read/seen it’s tighter than even the Highlander’s. It can sort of(?) be compared to the Rogue/Edge/Grand Cherokee class of semi-premium crossovers/SUVs as well. At $48k, if I didn’t need maximum interior space I’d be getting as much Grand Cherokee as $48k would get me, and I’d consider an Edge Titanium or nice Explorer. $48k also gets you into a Highlander Limited, even a Hybrid Limited. XC60, base trim XS90(!), it’s a pretty crowded space. Then again I’d doubt anyone would pay close to msrp on a Sorento so it’s not apples to oranges.

      • 0 avatar
        sportyaccordy

        It’s basically the size of an Edge/Murano with a vestigial 3rd row. Hopefully the 3rd row can be removed entirely for more cargo room

      • 0 avatar
        bd2

        It’s competitive set are the Murano, Edge, Santa Fe, Passport and Equinox/Terrain.

        It just has a 4+2 set-up (which the Santa Fe does for other markets, as do smaller CUVs like the CR-V).

        And no one is forcing anyone to pick the top trim – which is fully loaded w/ interior upgrades (kinda like Ford’s Vignale trim over in Europe).

  • avatar
    crtfour

    I see these and think the ultimate plebeian vehicle in a class of vehicle that defines plebeian to begin with. That’s not meant to be condescending, but just an observation.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    This seems to be the first KIA in awhile where the tiger nose works. For reference I had a 2011 Forte for awhile and felt it worked there, and then KIA went bulbous and it stopped working.

    This isn’t anything I would need, nor would I pay that much for a vehicle, but I’m happy it’s there. While not a KIA fan, I’m also not a detractor. I had a goofy experience with my Forte, but won’t write the brand off entirely.

    • 0 avatar
      R Henry

      I too had a 2011 Forte. Mine was the base LX with a manual. I paid $14,500 and drove the wheels off it for 3 years, 85,000 miles. Completely trouble free. No complaints about that car, except the el cheapo stereo which I replaced. I would buy another one.

  • avatar
    gtem

    The opposite end of the spectrum of a brand new loaded out $48k one, but a quick look on cars.com shows that you can scoop up a low mileage AWD+4cyl LX model with heated seats for $16k. Now THAT is a strong value.

  • avatar
    smartascii

    I’m clearly in the minority on this, but what on earth does this offer that a minivan doesn’t? Does anybody look at this and think more positive thoughts about the driver or his/her image than they would if it were a minivan? Is it smaller? More fuel efficient? Does it tow more? I’m not being snotty. I just don’t get it.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      It’s appreciably smaller for one, and secondly I think these midsize crossovers generally ride better and feel “tighter” owning to the physically smaller size of the overall “box” of the unibody, less flexing. This is the perspective of someone that just bought a minivan.

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      It’s about a foot and a half shorter and ~500lb lighter than the Sedona SXL, with AWD the Sedona doesn’t have.

      If they put sliding doors on this thing and lowered it 2-3″ it would basically be a minivan, but it would be no more useful.

      Really don’t understand this fake confused anger and binary “car or wagon” thinking. For someone with 1-2 kids a minivan is overkill. One wouldn’t even fit in my garage.

  • avatar
    Hogey74

    These things are good. And the Kia Carnival is the best of it’s bunch too. The build quality, design choices and reliability are very good. I’ve read this but also have recently spent time in both current models. I don’t lust after any Kias or Hyundais but if you want decent transport for a good price, you really need to look at them. As family rigs they’re hard to beat.

    • 0 avatar
      gtem

      See my comment above, the Sedona rides and drives well and seems to have very good quality, but falls short on some basic minivan functionality/utility IMO.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m not sure about long-term quality under heavier use with the Sedona. I had one just a couple of years old as an Uber, and it had some serious issues. Major wear to the interior (shiny leather with no texture left), and some BAD clunks coming from various places underneath.

        • 0 avatar
          gtem

          A friend has a 2012 LX, bought new, has 80k miles now. Nothing but a battery so far, and the base cloth+plastic interior seems to be wearing like iron. Cheap and functional.

  • avatar
    Hummer

    48k for a V6 Kia minivan? Ha no.

    If I wanted a 48k SUV I could get a TRD Pro 4Runner with 10x the reliability, fit and finish, and resale. If I wanted a comfortable minivan ute, $48k can’t be too far from an SRT Durango, if not just a decently optioned Hemi Durango or GC. This doesn’t stand out at all

    • 0 avatar
      sportyaccordy

      If you need a car to make you stand out the car isn’t the problem.

      And this thing probably costs half as much to operate as either of your suggestions. For people who buy vehicles for their own comfort and satisfaction, rather than the superficial admiration of others, things like this make sense.

    • 0 avatar
      SC5door

      “48k can’t be too far from an SRT Durango,”

      $16,000 isn’t too far?

      Higher Insurance?

      FCA quality?

    • 0 avatar
      legacygt

      So the Sorento isn’t your thing. I get it. I drive a Durango and I prefer it too. But let’s not resort to false information. I just pulled up the Dodge site and you can get a V6 Durango up over $49K with the premium tech and entertainment packages. And you can check a few more boxes to increase the price from there.

  • avatar
    legacygt

    So the Sorento isn’t your thing. I get it. I drive a Durango and I prefer it too. But let’s not resort to false information. I just pulled up the Dodge site and you can get a V6 Durango up over $49K with the premium tech and entertainment packages. And you can check a few more boxes to increase the price from there.

  • avatar

    Kia does everything right. Take notice GM…..

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    Kia does do many things right. I like the fact that I can go and order a base Optima and simply add a package that gives me a leather wheel, a moonroof, power seat, 17″ alloys, dual zone and LED lighting upgrade and not be forced into a premium far costlier high trim level and oversized hard riding lousy in the Winter 19″ rubber just to get these things.

  • avatar
    irishbrahmin

    So I bought a ’19 SX-L in January. I’ve previously owned a ’18 Explorer Platinum and a Jeep Grand Cherokee Summit V8. My plan is for the Sorento tie me over for a bit. I think my next CUV/SUV will be a loadedd Telluride or Highlander.

    So why did I opt for the Kia?

    1. The Explorer was a horrible gas guzzler with lots of rattles and outdated infotainment. The JGC had build quality issues; most notably with the air suspension. The current gen Highlander is well built but the infotainment is old.

    2. The Kia is a good value (I paid well under invoice) for what you get. Some must-haves for me are good infotainment and a soft, quiet ride. The UVO nav is good but not great. For example, the voice commands leave much to be desired and there’s no dynamic nav. On the other hand the HK stereo is pretty good (but not as good as the system in the JGC). But it’s okay. The ride is soft and super-quiet.

    3. The gas mileage is not outstanding but considerably better than that in my prior SUVs (JGC, Explorer).

  • avatar
    BeerMe45

    Hey Chris- Was searching for reviews of the Sorento and noticed your article was copied to https://www.go4carz.com/2019-kia-sorento-sxl-v6-awd-review-head-in-the-clouds

    Just FYI.

    Thanks for this review – I would have liked some info on driving impressions, acceleration, etc. Seems to me this review could have been written without turning the ignition key.

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