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Test Drive: 2016 Kia Sorento SX+ V6 AWD

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By Robert Nichols

Kia has really evolved rapidly. It started out as a humble Korean make not unlike Hyundai. But the key difference was the velocity with which the product was accepted.

When Hyundai first came to the North American market it was a purveyor of horrendous little vehicles which had many owners longing for the luxuries of communist cars like Lada’s. Hyundai took 20 years to become the fantastic brand it is today.

Kia on the other hand came onto the scene and almost immediately offered us decent vehicles, and if it had not been for the Hyundai factor, the fear of new Korean brands, I think they would have become popular immediately. But with the passing of a few years people have begun to trust the brand and their vehicles are almost at premium levels of competition.

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When developing the latest version of the Sorento, Kia’s engineers focused on strengthening the structure and increasing the safety of this family centric CUV. Keeping your family safe are all the latest optional acronyms and active safety features including: Electronic Stability Control (ESC), Traction Control System (TCS), Brake Assist System (BAS), Hill-start Assist Control (HAC), Electronic Brake Force Distribution (EBD) and Antilock Braking System (ABS). Models with AWD come with additional technologies such as Roll Over Mitigation (ROM) and Cornering Brake Control (CBC), giving an even more surefooted feel. Adding to your sense of security are a raft of driver aids like, Forward Collision Warning System, Smart Cruise Control, Blind Spot Detection, Rear Cross Traffic Alert and Surround View Monitor (SVM).

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In the 2016 Sorento SX+ V6 AWD 7-Seater that I tested the updated chassis quickly became apparent. The focus here is on comfort, not performance. That being said the handling is by no means boat-like and although there is body roll it is controlled and progressive rather than scary and abundant. There is limited steering feel provided by the electric power steering system that again has been designed with smoothness and comfortable handling characteristics in mind.

The available AWD system will function autonomously, but with the flick of a switch, the driver can engage a 4WD lock mode that balances the delivery of engine power evenly to all 4 wheels. This system also comes with a torque vectoring function that will come to the rescue if the system senses understeer.

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The 2016 Kia Sorento is available with the choice of 3 engines, of which 2 are 4 cylinder designs. Kevin recently drove the 2.0L Turbo that develops 240 hp, but the base 2.4L naturally aspirated only puts out 185 tiny horses. My tester had a wonderfully smooth 290 horsepower V6 mated to an equally refined automatic 6-speed transmission. The V6 is the only logical choice for anyone who hopes to pull a trailer with its 5,ooo lb  towing capacity. This engine is the one I would choose. It offers all the power I would ever need, runs quietly and only requires regular gasoline. The fuel economy estimates for the V6 are 13.4/9.4/10.8 L/100km (city/highway/combined).

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The interior is large, very nice and extremely black. It has two tones of black however, matte and gloss. Everything has a premium look and even the plastics seem better than most. The front seats had both heating and cooling ability the latter of which was much needed the week I drove it. For those chilly winter mornings the heated steering wheel quickly warms your hands. The second row seats are equally comfortable with enough legroom for all and even the third row seats, which my tester had, were hospitable enough for adults on short trips. The overall cargo volume has increased to 2,082 L, and the space available behind the 3rd row is now 320 L. To add convenience the second row seatbacks can be folded via a lever mounted on the side of the luggage area. When the seats are all laid flat the cargo area is level and easily accessible with a comfortable load height.

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Thanks to options like the panoramic sunroof and 630-watt 12 speaker Infinity stereo the Sorento gains a premium ambience usually reserved for more prestigious brands.

Kia has included a full range of connectivity that is accessed through an 8-inch capacitive-touch color screen, with an available navigation system, USB 2.0 support for high-speed updates as well as integrated rear backup camera, Bluetooth hands-free support and UVO voice recognition. There is also a 4.3-inch TFT color touch screen offered across the board offering clear and numerous graphics. All of the controls are placed jus right and the touch screen system is easy to navigate and understand.

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On the road the driving aids made parking this large vehicle a cinch, and the adaptive cruise control was so nice I now think it should be a legislated standard.

I drove a Land Rover Discovery the week before the Sorento and loved it; but I have to say that the Kia has me questioning the extra $10,000 fee for the Rover. Besides the infamous four wheel drive, which no one ever really uses, and the more refined ride quality, the Kia offers everything the Discovery did. That is high praise indeed. Even the exterior styling drew more attention to the Kia than I received in the Discovery, and that attention was almost always from the driver of a premium brand SUV.

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The 2016 Kia Sorento SX+ AWD V6 really is the total package. It looks fantastic, it is very comfortable and offers all the convenience most will ever need. The best part is it does so for a lot less than the competition and you could argue it can compete in the premium segment.

Price As Tested: $46,695 before taxes and delivery fees

Base model price: $27,495

Pros:

  • Fantastic value for money
  • Attractive new styling
  • Comfort and convenience

Cons:

  • Third Row could be a touch bigger
  • Interior only comes in black, some lighter colours would be nice

Immediate Competition:

  • Chevrolet Equinox
  • Dodge Journey
  • Honda CR-V
  • Hyundai Santa Fe
  • Nissan Rogue

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