Cars

2014 Kia Sorento bypasses crossover stereotypes

An automaker’s reputation and brand equity are like the moon to the tides or the inertia of a planet. A brand that has built up a terrific reputation can weather a bad run of products, cashing in on its equity to turn sales.

On the other hand, there is Kia. The Korean automaker has been upping its game since the late 2000’s, delivering a full line of terrific automobiles and an impressive 10-year, 100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Yet bring up Kia in conversation with the average passerby, and he or she is not likely to know much about the brand. That, despite the fact that Kias probably offer the best value and content-per-dollar of any current automaker.

The updated 2014 Kia Sorento is proof.

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In 2011, Kia updated the Sorento in a radical redesign. That overhaul resulted in a quantum leap from its predecessor. Though the 2014 Sorento may reveal few visual updates, a considerable reworking of this competent crossover has taken place.

How considerable? Kia says the Sorento rides on an all-new platform. We suspect that might be a stretch, considering that the overall package is largely unchanged, but Kia insists that it has made enhancements and stiffened the chassis enough to lay claim to that statement.

The few obvious changes to the exterior include thinner chrome around the grille and reworked headlight and taillight assemblies. They take up the same real estate as the previous units, but now incorporate LEDs.

Changes become more apparent in the cabin of the Sorento. Turn on the ignition and the digital speedometer and trip computer come to life. Indeed, the entire central display of the instrument panel is digital and provides readouts for engine status, navigation system, stereo status, and various other functions.

It also provides readouts for the adjustable steering feedback. A button on the steering wheel can actually change the steering feedback and responsiveness. Settings include Normal, Comfort (read, soft), and Sport. It should be noted that there is neither a performance suspension setting nor a sport mode on the transmission, but there is a Sport steering setting.

With the dual overhead-cam, 3.3-liter,V6 powerplant under the hood of our SX model, no sport mode is really needed. The engine makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, which is more than enough for a three row, seven-passenger crossover.

This engine is found on all trims of the Sorento save for the LX, which gets a 181 horsepower, 2.4-liter inline-4. This is the only model that is front-wheel-drive, but the payout is the best fuel economy of the group at 20 mpg city and 26 mpg highway. The other models are all-wheel-drive and return fuel economy numbers of 18 city, 25 highway.

All models of the Sorento get a 6-speed automatic transmission with a tap-shift function. Need to make a quick pass on the highway? Click the shifter from drive to the left once and tap downshift twice to get from sixth gear to fourth gear. The vehicle gets hearty acceleration with that much-needed overtake.

If you’re stuck in traffic, you can take some time to appreciate the massive sunroof.The unit is even larger than the previous one, and rivals some of the largest sunroofs on the market. In most vehicles, the panoramic glass roof option is a fixed unit, but in the Sorento, the front row is retractable.

While the driver and front passenger can enjoy the open-air experience, all occupants can experience the benefits of Kia’s UVO system. The voice-activated infotainment system provides a plethora of voice commands to control everything from the 10-speaker Infiniti premium surround sound system to the 8-inch navigation system. Kia previously employed Microsoft technology for these systems, but the tech giant’s foray into the automotive realm has been mixed, as exemplified by Ford’s SYNC system. The system took too long to “think” at times, so Kia ditched Microsoft for a Google-based telematics system, including Google-sourced Points of Interest in the navigation system.

So what will this champion of technology and comfort set you back? Base MSRP for the 2014 Kia Sorento is $24,100 for the LX 2.4L front-wheel-drive model. Our SX 3.3L AWD model starts at $36,700, while the range topping Limited (SXL) AWD model weighs in at $39,700.

Shoppers would do well to compare the Sorento to the Hyundai Tucson, Chevrolet Equinox, and Ford Edge, as well as the swath of other mid-size crossovers. The Sorento excels when it comes to the integration of in-car technology. The Hyundai edges out the Sorento when it comes to quality of features and level of comfort, though just barely.

Hopefully, we have done enough here to persuade you that Kia is among the best when it comes to delivering the most for your dollar. You could stay ahead of the curve and opt for a three-row crossover with a wealth of standard and optional features. Or, you could fall back on an extremely outdated notion of Kia.The only cost would be your ability to score a great value.

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