2019 Kia Sorento SXL V6 AWD Review - Head In The Clouds

Chris Tonn
by Chris Tonn
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Fast Facts

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.
2019 kia sorento sxl v6 awd review head in the clouds

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?

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

[Images: © 2019 Chris Tonn/TTAC]

Chris Tonn
Chris Tonn

Some enthusiasts say they were born with gasoline in their veins. Chris Tonn, on the other hand, had rust flakes in his eyes nearly since birth. Living in salty Ohio and being hopelessly addicted to vintage British and Japanese steel will do that to you. His work has appeared in ebay Motors, Hagerty, The Truth About Cars, Reader's Digest, AutoGuide, Family Handyman, and Jalopnik. He's currently looking for the safety glasses he just set down somewhere.

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2 of 44 comments
  • Irishbrahmin Irishbrahmin on Mar 09, 2019

    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).

  • BeerMe45 BeerMe45 on Sep 28, 2019

    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.

  • Tassos Unlike Tim, I don't use this space as a wastebasket for ANYTHING BUT a proper used car.If you seriously need a car AND you are as destitute as Tim's finds imply, HERE IS A PROPER ONE FOR YOUR NEEDS:You can probably get it for only $4k, WITH Leather, Factory Navigation, plenty of room and a V6.https://www.cars.com/research/toyota-camry-2005/I even considered getting it myself as an extra reliable car.
  • Jeff Of all the EV trucks I like the Rivian the best but I am still years away if ever from buying an EV.
  • Kwik_Shift I definitely like the looks of the newest 300s over the Chargers.
  • SCE to AUX "Should car companies shack up with tech giants in order to produce legible infotainment systems and the like? Or should they go it alone?"Great question(s).The River Rouge days are gone, where Ford produced whole cars out of raw materials entering the plant at the other end. Nearly everything is outsourced these days - sometimes well, sometimes disastrously.But the problem with infotainment systems is that they are integrated with the car's operation. VW has delayed entire products for issues with infotainment.For me, the question boils down to a contractual arrangement - who owns and maintains the code forever? Since more and more of the car's function is tied to the infotainment system, I'd argue that the car mfr needs to own it - especially the larger ones.Do mfrs really want to share intellectual property with Huawei just to fast-track some code they've managed themselves in the past?
  • Kwi65728132 I always did like the styling of the 300C and it was on my short list for a new (to me) rear wheel drive, naturally aspirated V8 luxury sedan but I found a Hyundai Equus that was better optioned than any 300C I could find and for several grand less.