Change can be a good thing even when nobody else notices that you lost weight, bought a new black cocktail dress or got a haircut. These changes more often than not make you feel better about yourself and about what you have to offer the world. This is a notion just as true with people as it is with SUV’s like the 2013 Kia Sorento which has undergone its first face lift in its model cycle.
The Kia Sorento, which mixes commodious interior space with relatively compact exterior dimensions, surpassed our expectations when we tested one equipped with the 3.5 liter 276 horsepower/248 lb. feet of torque V6 as it made the Kia feel like a less expensive, off the rack Acura MDX. But doesn’t Kia also offer an entry level 4-cylinder version of the Sorento? Why, yes, and up until now it wasn’t much cut out for the job of powering this otherwise refined and solidly built crossover. But now for model year 2013 Kia has seen fit to introduce a semi-new direct injected 2.4 liter 191 horsepower/181 lb. feet of torque 4-cylinder motor lifted from the Optima.
At the very least the Sorento now has improved its fuel efficiency ratings to an EPA rated 22 city/32 highway with a very useful 18 gallon fuel tank standing as a reassurance that this family SUV will still be your road trip friend. And, yes, it runs on regular unleaded so you won’t have to worry about whether premium gas really does anything beneficial for your car or if it is a scam meant only to confuse the clinically indecisive.
Otherwise, if you loved last year’s Sorento then you will no doubt love the 2013 model as other changes mainly boil down to cosmetic details such as newly standard LED tail lamps, folding side mirrors with integrated turn signals as well as other various detail enhancements. We knew going into this test that the Sorento had a whole lot going for it but let’s just see if now it has a more suitable engine selection for those of you whose budgets still can’t quite reach the 6-cylinder model.
Exterior Styling and Interior Design
We really do love the Sorento’s exterior appearance and that hasn’t much changed for the 2013 model year. Sure, this SUV doesn’t make a statement like the Sportage but then it is much more practical on the inside. If we had our druthers, however, we would make one small adjustment to the look of the rear end design. All models below the top-line SX trim have partial black plastic rear bumpers which really cheapen the appearance unless you order your Sorento in, you guessed it, matching black.
Our favorite view of the 2013 Kia Sorento is its devilishly beguiling face that starts around the corporate razor chrome grille and ends high up near the hood line creating a look that is both tough and elegant. Entering the cabin of the 2013 Kia Sorento we found an oasis of clearly marked and logically laid out controls that helped add to the upscale aura facilitated by the excellent build quality. For instance, the dual zone climate controls in our tester were chrome ringed and their movement was softly damped as one would expect in an Audi.
Our 2013 Kia Sorento EX did have a third row of seats but that row is best left for occasional use by kids or contortionists. If you routinely need for seven large sized Earthlings then check out the Dodge Durango, GMC Yukon, Toyota Sequoia or Lord help you a minivan.
The third row of seats does fold flat into the cargo floor meaning that the measly 9.1 cubic feet of rear storage available when the third row is in place grows to 37 cubic feet. If you need more space than even that go ahead and fold the Sorento’s second row too for 72.5 cubic feet of capability. Still need more space? Well, perhaps we could show you something in an 18-wheeler semi-truck.
Features, Pricing and Safety
Most importantly for family SUV buyers, the 2013 Kia Sorento has already been named a “Top Safety Pick” by the prestigious IIHS (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety) which tests new vehicles for crash test worthiness. Only the very best of the best new models are named “Top Safety Picks” and we were very glad to see that the Sorento also scored well in the often ignored roof strength testing as many SUVs are subpar at providing rollover safety. That’s inexcusable in any vehicle with an elevated ride height so we applaud Kia’s commitment to keeping the people who buy their SUVs alive.
Our 2013 Sorento was a mid-level EX model that started at $26,950 and came standard with dual zone automatic climate control, Bluetooth, push button start and keyless entry, leather upholstery, power windows and mirrors, tinted glass, USB/iPod integration, a back-up camera, a set of polished chrome alloy wheels and Kia’s excellent UVO in-vehicle entertainment system. UVO allows owners to access Bluetooth and music totally hands free and since it is also part of the in-dash audio head unit you can store 250 songs on its hard drive or play HD radio.
Our 2013 Kia Sorento EX also came equipped with the $3,800 Premium Package which added heated front seats, memory driver seat and mirrors, a power passenger seat, in-dash navigation, a split folding third row seat as well as a crisp sounding Infinity surround sound audio system with 10-speakers and a Subwoofer. Do note, however, that our test vehicle did not have all-wheel drive which adds nearly $2,000 to the sticker price.
So what was the final bill for our 2013 Kia Sorento EX with the new 2.4 liter direct injected 4-cylinder? $30,950 which seems like a rather steep final tally considering the tough competition this Kia faces on the market nowadays. And there are even more features available like a panoramic sunroof, upgraded leather, all-wheel drive and even a cooled driver’s seat. That isn’t to say the 2013 Kia Sorento isn’t a good value but it’s clearly not the only thing that this South Korean automaker believes will attract buyers to this SUV.
Although we came into this test expecting a lot, we have to say that the 2013 Kia Sorento’s “new” 2.4 liter 191 horsepower/181 lb. feet of torque direct injected four banger was a bit of a let-down. Not to beat a dead horse but the optional 3.5 liter 6-cylinder is so smooth it could churn butter yet always allows the person behind the wheel to dispatch slow moving traffic with impunity. When equipped with the larger engine the Sorento gives off serious luxury suv vibes with special mention going to refinement levels of Kia’s in house design 6-speed automatic.
The same transmission does a similarly unobtrusive job with the smaller motor but even it is not a miracle worker. By choosing the 4-cylinder engine option you will choose to rob the Sorento of its aspirational and upscale demeanor thanks to uneven and weak power deliver mated with a groaningly uninspired engine note. No enjoyment can be found by revving the 2013 Kia Sorento to redline as any sane person inside will at that point be cranking up Destiny’s Child via the capably loud Infinity 10-speaker audio system. Sorry Kia, we just don’t think anyone’s ready for the jelly of this “Bootylicious” motor.
Otherwise, steering feel is communicative enough to qualify the Sorento as one of the more fun to drive SUVs that you can actually afford. Compared to competitors, this SUV has a compliant ride yet manages to keep body roll and any unfortunate undulations to a minimum during enthusiastic cornering. Brake pedal feel was firm and road and tire noise all well suppressed. But we’ll admit it, the 2013 Kia Sorento EX 4-cylinder feels too slow and unrefined so we do by all means recommend that you sell a spleen or a kidney to help ensure you can afford the 3.5 liter 6-cylinder when the time comes.
We must admit that after experiencing the Kia Sorento with its burlier motor that we were more than a bit annoyed by the rather characterless and clearly overburdened 2.4 liter direct injection 4-cylinder. We also wonder if this motor will be able to hit its EPA fuel economy estimates in the real world as our one week average was a bit low at 21.3 miles per gallon. During a week with a 3.5 liter Sorento we averaged a nearly identical figure so the only reason to pick the smaller motor is to lower the initial MSRP of this uniquely sized Kia suv.
But as with anything in life, sometimes you truly do get what you pay for and we would save up for the 6-cylinder engine option or even buy used. When it comes to the rest of the 2013 Kia Sorento we found a lot to love about both the interior and exterior designs as well as the build quality execution. Continuing on the positives, the Sorento can also haul seven folks in a vehicle that is sized so it wouldn’t even tax the driving abilities of a Smart fortwo owner. At its finest, the 2013 Kia Sorento plays on its midsize capability all the while laying down a compact footprint.
What We Loved About the 2013 Kia Sorento EX (4-cylinder)
- The Roomy, Thoughtfully Designed and Well Equipped Interior
- This is the First Kia Built in the U.S.A at their Georgia Plant
- The Availability of Luxurious Features You Would Never Expect in a Mid-Price Kia
What We Loathed About the 2013 Kia Sorento EX (4-cylinder)
- The Whiny and Feeble Sounding Engine that Feels about as Powerful in this Vehicle
- Leather Upholstery Quality could be Improved to Optima Levels
- The Third Row Seats are JUST for Occasional Use by Children or the Very Patient