2019 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD Review

Properly refreshed to keep up with the pack


Amos Kwon, Editor-In-Chief



Positives: More refined after refresh, great ergonomics, excellent infotainment system and controls, quiet and refined experience for driver and passengers.
Negatives: Chassis stiffness needs work, steering feedback mostly absent, third row is cramped, dash looks too bulky.
Bottom Line: The Sorento offers up excellent tech and comfort for families who don't need the space of a large crossover. The tweaked looks give it more sophistication, and it can still play well in the crowded segment. For those buyers who care less about driving fun and huge room, it's an excellent choice.
The refreshed Sorento for 2019 is welcomed for this third-generation model of a successful nameplate. Sister car to the Hyundai Santa Fe, it offers up a standard three-row setup (the two row is gone). Not only does it benefit from better styling but also changes in engines, including a new diesel mill coming soon. We drove it in top trim SX Limited AWD for a week to see if the updates keep it toward the front of the mid-size crossover pack. Read on for the full review.
 

Driving Experience

7.2

 

The Sorento's strengths lie in its smooth and quiet ride, as well as its potent V6 engine that provides the right level of power for a crossover of this size. What it doesn't do is handle or steer like some of its competitors do (Mazda CX-9, VW Atlas). But since most consumers want a comfy ride from their 7-passenger vehicles, the Sorento does a great job.

Ride Quality: Simply excellent on both smooth and rough pavement. It never felt choppy or upset by bumps and gaps.

Acceleration: The V6 feels strong, bringing the Sorento up to 60 mph from a standstill in the low seven seconds. The new 8-speed automatic is much better than the old 6-speed.

Braking: The brake pedal is progressive, and the stopping distances are about average for this segment.

Steering: Despite the lack of feedback and the overly light effort, the steering is precise, and turn-in is pretty quick.

Handling: You feel the weight taking it around turns because there's a bit too much body roll going on. Suspension and chassis tweaking could help a lot in this department.

Technology

9.3

 

In-car tech is something the Sorento does particularly well. Everything looks clean and operates seamlessly, and now Apple CarPlay and Android Auto come standard on all Sorentos.

Infotainment System: The 8" screen on the SXL isn't jazzy or colorful, but that's what makes the UVO system easy to navigate.

Controls: Controls in the Sorento are stellar thanks to well-sized audio knobs, big physical infotainment buttons on each side of the screen, and some of the best steering wheel controls in any vehicle made today.

Styling

8.3

 

The refreshed exterior is tastefully done. And it seems more evolutionary than radical, which is a good move. The small changes actually make the Sorento seem more upscale even though it's subtle.

Front: The lower fascia intake is wider, and the quad LED fog lights have been moved up in the now thinner housings. The grille has been slightly tweaked, the headlights are now triple beam instead of dual, and the turn signals are now linear instead of at the outside edge of the headlight housing.

Rear: There's less of a change here, but the lower rear fascia is less busy thanks to a more unified reflector housing.

Profile: The profile is pretty much the same as the 2018 model, with the exception of a more attractive wheel style in the SXL trim.

Cabin: Though the cabin is very dark, everything is cleanly styled and well-executed. The brushed aluminum-like trim is plentiful but tasteful. If we could change one thing, it would be the bulkiness of the lower portion of the dash.

Comfort

8

 

The Sorento has a nice cabin with very good seats, but the thir row roominess is compromised. Thanks to great ergonomics, and good visibility, though, the overall experience is very positive.

Front Seats: Unassuming but comfortable, the front occupants enjoy good adjustability, cushioning, and a decent amount of bolstering.

Rear Seats: The second row is good for adults, unless you try getting adults in the third row, when you have to slide the second row forward (which is a nice feature, nonetheless). The third row is really only good for kids, anyway, and it's a bit hard to access.

NVH (noise/vibration/harshness): The Sorento is super-quiet thanks to excellent build quality and sound deadening. The all-season tires are also quite good when it comes to road noise.

Visibility: With the exception of the thick D-pillar, the Sorento has good sightlines. The low hoodline helps negotiate parking lots. The standard Surround View Monitor on the SXL also helps tremendously.

Climate: The climate control system is responsive, and the cooled and heated seats are great.

Safety

9.5

 

Families should take comfort in the Sorento's safety, not something to take for granted when it comes to a segment that generally does just okay. The level of safety tech is also quite impressive.

IIHS Rating: The stringent standards didn't stop the Sorento. It nailed the tests with the Top Safety Pick+ rating, scoring "good" in every category except for "acceptable" in child seat LATCH ease of use.

NHTSA Rating: The top score of 5 stars from the feds.

Standard Tech: Our SXL had the full beans of Surround View Monitor, Lane Keep Assist (new for 2019), Smart Cruise Control w/ Stop & Go, Blind Spot Collision Warning, and Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Warning.

Optional Tech: None.

Storage/Cargo

8.8

 

The Sorento might not have a capacious third row, but its cargo space and interior gear stowage options are top notch.

Storage Space: The large cubby in front of the shifter has a nice retractable door to keep valuables out of sight, and the small open slot in front of the large armrest is nice for smaller items like keys and loose coins. Door pockets are also very good.

Cargo Room: The 73 cubic feet of cargo space with the seats folded flat beats the Mazda CX-9 and even the more premium Audi Q7.

Fuel Economy

6.6

 

The Sorento with its V6 is a bit thirsty, but it's not way off kilter compared to most V6 crossovers since they tend to be heavy. That being said, we tend to drive our testers pretty hard, too.

Observed: 16.8 mpg

Distance Driven: 116 miles

Driving Factors: We drove in Sport mode the entire time, and we split our time equally between local suburban roads and the freeway.

Audio

8.2

 

The upgraded Harman Kardon system in the SXL is pretty good. We experienced no distortion even at higher volumes, and the clarity was very good. The system could use more bass, but overall we were very satisfied.



Final Thoughts

The Sorento is playing in a field where more advanced, bigger, better driving midsize crossovers are playing like the Mazda CX-9 and the VW Atlas, but the Sorento holds its own now that it's been refreshed and refined. Fully loaded, it has almost everything you'd want, except for a fun driving experience. For most buyers, it's an excellent choice that should stay competitive for a little while longer.

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