2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Introduction
Half a decade is all it has taken Kia to transform itself from a bottom-feeder budget brand into a stylish mainstream marque, a metamorphosis driven by design and supported by competent engineering. Kia is a living, breathing automotive industry case study in how to go from zero to hero with a single re-tooling of a vehicle lineup, and the take-away appears to be this: build good-looking cars guaranteed to last for a long time and equipped with a reasonable price tag, and people will buy them.
The latest model in Kia’s string of hits is the revamped 2014 Kia Sorento. Though the previous Sorento was just three model years old, Kia elected to give the crossover suv a substantial update under what is a familiar skin, and the automaker claims that 80% of the 2014 model’s bits and pieces are either redesigned or new.
To see how Kia has transformed the 2014 Sorento, I borrowed the SX AWD model, painted Remington Red. Having now spent a week with it, I can understand why people might buy a Sorento. But I can also understand why they might not.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Models and Prices
Upon first glance at my 2014 Kia Sorento SX AWD test vehicle’s price tag of $38,650, I thought it might be a good idea to pop an aspirin and head on over to the local hospital’s emergency room. To be fair, though, my Sorento SX cost less than an equivalently equipped Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, or Toyota Highlander, which means it still offers genuine value along with window sticker shock. But the Sorento is also smaller than those three heavy-hitters in the family crossover SUV segment.
There are four different Sorento models from which to choose. The Sorento LX is offered with a 4-cylinder or V-6 engine, and with front- or all-wheel drive. Prices range from $24,950 to $28,350, including a destination charge of $850.
Next up is the Sorento EX ($30,850), sold only with a V-6 engine and front- or all-wheel drive. The EX adds a whole bunch of equipment that most people will want to have, as well as safety features people really need. This, not surprisingly, is the most popular of the Sorento models.
In the safety category, the Sorento EX is equipped with a reversing camera, rear parking assist sensors, a blind spot detection system, and automatic headlights. In the whole-bunch-of-equipment category, this version of the SUV gets a UVO eServices infotainment system, dual-zone automatic climate control, a keyless entry and push-button ignition system, an 8-way power driver’s seat, and heated front seats. Additionally, the EX includes bigger 18-inch aluminum wheels, LED front accent lights, fog lights, and a rear spoiler, as well as illuminated door handle pockets, interior accent lighting, second-row window sunshades, Supervision gauges, a leather-wrapped gearshift knob, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, and a universal garage door opener.
Machined-face 19-inch aluminum wheels, LED taillights, body-color exterior trim, power folding side mirrors, and a panoramic sunroof distinguish the Sorento SX ($35,850). Inside, the Sorento SX gets a premium surround sound audio system, a navigation system, memory for the driver’s seat, a power front passenger’s seat, ventilated front seats, and rear air conditioning. Flex Steer electric steering is also standard for the Sorento SX, as well as a power rear liftgate, a 115-volt power plug, and cosmetic upgrades for the interior. To this, my test model added the optional Third Row Package ($1,000), which is money better spent on just about anything else.
At the top of the lineup, the new-for-2014 Sorento Limited ($38,850) adds chrome wheels, Xenon high-intensity discharge headlights, a heated steering wheel in leather and fake wood, premium Nappa leather upholstery, and heated second-row seats.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Design
- Strengthened body structure
- Restyled exterior and new wheel designs
- LED running lights and taillights
- New dashboard and steering wheel
- New Limited model adds Xenon headlights, red-painted brake calipers, 19-inch aluminum wheels
The new 2014 Kia Sorento looks much better than it did before, sportier and more upscale, entirely in keeping with its noticeably stiffer structure and improved ride and handling. The midsize crossover SUV’s proportions, greenhouse, and door skins carry over, but the rest of the Sorento’s already appealing design details are tidied up and better aligned with other members of the Kia family.
Inside, the changes are less readily apparent, but the 2014 Sorento has a new steering wheel, gauge cluster, and center stack controls. The new Thin Film Transistor center gauge display looks terrific and gives the Sorento a more modern look and feel, but I’m not a fan of the new UVO eServices screen, preferring instead the original UVO graphics and interface. Overall, the new cabin is cleaner, but Kia should have spent some money upgrading the materials, which in my SX test vehicle frequently did not reflect the $38,650 sticker price.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Comfort and Cargo
- Optional power liftgate
- Optional ventilated front seats
- Optional rear side window sunshades
- New Limited model adds upgraded Nappa leather, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, and premium trim for the headliner and roof pillars
If you’re stepping into a 2014 Kia Sorento, chances are that you want to be the driver. That’s because the front passenger’s seat lacks a height adjuster, and because there are significant rear seat comfort compromises in order to accommodate the optional third-row seat.
The second-row seat slides fore and aft, but taller adults require the seat to be in its rearmost position, partially because the Sorento’s front seatbacks are covered in hard plastic that is unfriendly to knees and shins. The seat itself is reasonably comfortable, though its flat topography lacks lateral and thigh support. In all but the Sorento LX, Kia thoughtfully provides manual rear side window shades, which is great for new parents with babies or toddlers riding in the back.
The second-row seat slides forward to maximize access to and leg space for the optional third-row seat. However, nobody I can think of, regardless of stature, age, or maturity level, would want to be stuck back there for any period of time. Kids will screech about not being able to see out, and adults are likely to just offer to drive separately. Furthermore, getting into and out of this seat requires an exceptionally limber individual, headroom is insufficient for taller people, the headrest sits within 6 inches of the SUV’s rear glass, and the seat chews up all the available luggage space.
I stowed the third-row seat and used the Sorento as a 5-passenger SUV with a big cargo area and a covered underfloor cargo storage compartment located just inside the liftgate. This compartment worked well to secure plastic sacks after a Target run, but since the jack assembly is stored here, owners will need to take very good care not to rip the bottom out of a bag containing, oh, say, bottles of wine.
Maximum cargo volume behind the third-row seat is 9.1 cu-ft. Fold it, and the Sorento holds 36.9 cu.-ft. Fold the second-row seats, too, and this crossover carries up to 72.5 cu.-ft. Note that this maximum cargo volume number is in the same neighborhood as the Honda CR-V, Subaru Forester, and Toyota RAV4.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review
- New dashboard design
- TFT center gauge display (EX, SX, Limited)
- Optional UVO eServices technology with 8-inch color touchscreen display
- Optional 115-volt power outlet
- Redesigned panoramic sunroof
With the 2014 Sorento, Kia is attempting to move the SUV further upscale, and has thrown a bunch of new technology and luxury into the cabin, resulting in a crossover SUV that can cost north of $40,000 with every option box checked. Highlights include heated and ventilated front seats, heated rear seats, a heated steering wheel, new safety technology, and a revamped UVO eServices system and display screen.
The original UVO system was simple to use and employed large, clean graphics. This new UVO system employs a font that is, to my eye, less readable and appealing, and the new 8-inch touchscreen in my test sample regularly added to distraction and, in my case, frustration levels. That’s because the virtual buttons require a precise touch, and because for whatever reason I regularly activated a screen or a feature I did not want by accident. Admittedly, the system does offer voice recognition, making this less of an issue. Maybe I should have used it, instead of my fat, stubby fingers.
Screen display, layout, and sensitivity issues aside, UVO eServices is an iPhone- and Android-compatible Bluetooth connectivity and infotainment system that requires a paired smartphone to gain access to a variety of functions and services. Highlights include emergency services, roadside assistance, turn-by-turn directions, a parking minder that helps you find your vehicle in a crowded parking lot, and, in the fall of 2013, Pandora and Twitter access. No subscription is required.
Aside from the UVO screen, the Kia Sorento’s control layout employs a mixture of simple buttons and knobs, logically arranged and clearly marked. If only I could get a set of separate radio controls so that I wouldn’t need to use the UVO screen while driving.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Safety and Ratings
- Optional UVO eServices technology with 911 Connect and Crash Notification service
- Optional blind-spot information system
In addition to rear parking assist sensors and a reversing camera, my Sorento SX test vehicle was equipped with a blind-spot information system that illuminated a warning on the side mirror glass and sounded an alert if the driver signals a lane change when a car is in an adjacent lane.
Additionally, the UVO eServices technology includes a 911 Connect system that activates when the Sorento’s airbags deploy, putting a 9-1-1 operator in touch with the vehicle and its occupants, and speeding rescuers to the scene of the accident. Starting in the fall of 2013, UVO eServices will also allow Sorento owners to set speed, curfew, and geographic boundary limits and alerts, which is perfect for parents with teenaged drivers.
2014 Kia Sorento Crash-Test Ratings:
As this review was written and published, neither the NHTSA nor the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) had performed crash-tests on the 2014 Sorento.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Engines and Fuel Economy
- Standard direct-injected 4-cylinder engine (LX)
- Standard 3.3-liter V-6 engine (EX, SX, Limited)
- Torque-on-Demand AWD with Torque Vectoring Cornering Control
- Driver-selected Flex Steer electric steering system
- Revised suspension tuning
- Front strut tower brace
Kia makes substantial hardware modifications to the 2014 Sorento, ditching the former entry-level 4-cylinder engine and manual gearbox in favor of a more powerful and fuel-efficient direct-injected 2.4-liter 4-cylinder and a 6-speed automatic transmission. Offered with front-wheel drive or Kia’s new Torque-on-Demand all-wheel drive with Torque Vectoring Cornering Control, the standard 4-cylinder engine generates 191 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. Fuel economy ratings range from 19 mpg in the city with AWD to 26 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive.
A 3.3-liter V-6 engine is new for 2014, replacing a 3.5-liter V-6. It is optional for the Sorento LX and standard in the EX, SX, and Limited models, generating 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque, equipped with a 6-speed automatic transmission, and powering the front or all four wheels. Fuel economy estimates for this engine range from 18 mpg in the city to 25 mpg on the highway.
In combined driving, my Sorento SX AWD was rated to get 20 mpg. I averaged 19.1 mpg in combined driving, with about half of my test miles driven with the powertrain’s Active Eco Mode engaged. The Active Eco Mode calibrates the powertrain in such a way as to improve fuel economy, but the penalty is more sluggish accelerator pedal and transmission response.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Driving Impressions
With plenty of power, the 2014 Sorento SX’s new V-6 engine provides strong acceleration and a pleasing sound when revved. This is a quick SUV when you coax the transmission to downshift in order to get the engine into the thick of its power band, and that takes more effort than expected, regardless of whether or not the driver has engaged the Sorento’s Active Eco Mode.
Naturally, in Active Eco Mode, the transmission is hesitant to respond to driver input, as this powertrain setting is designed to maximize fuel economy. Unexpectedly, the transmission also hesitates when Active Eco Mode is disengaged. Sure, it is more responsive with Active Eco Mode shut off, but not to the degree it ought to be.
Additionally, the transmission doesn’t hold a lower gear for climbing a grade. As a result, during a hill-climb of nearly 1,000 feet over the course of a few short miles, the Sorento continually downshifted and upshifted, the SUV gaining speed and losing speed. Manually shifting the transmission resolved this problem, of course, but that requires a degree of driver involvement typically lacking in America.
Drivers electing to shift manually will find that the gate is located conveniently to the left of the main selector pattern, snug against the driver’s leg, requiring a tap up for an upshift and a tap down for a downshift. However, because the Sorento’s seats lack lateral support, my right leg, while bracing for a left turn, pushed it back into regular Drive mode when tackling twisty roads with gusto. Perhaps it should be relocated to prevent this from occurring.
With its stiffer structure, new Torque Vectoring Cornering Control system, revised suspension tuning, and front strut tower brace, the 2014 Sorento proves to be a secure handler, especially for a crossover SUV. Ultimately, the all-season tires are the weak link when taking fast corners. But few people, if any, will select a Sorento for this type of driving. In all other driving situations, the tires perform well, and are quiet.
I also found the Sorento’s brakes to be capable, resistant to fade despite repeated abuse, the pedal always feeling stout underfoot and responding in a natural fashion. The same cannot be said for the Sorento SX’s Flex Steer electric steering. Flex Steer, based on my exposure to the technology, is mostly a gimmick. In the Comfort setting, the steering is light, requires little effort, and is perfect for parking. Otherwise, the Normal setting is the one to select, because in the Sport setting the steering is too stiff, resists input off center, and feels sticky and unresponsive when steering through dead center on twisty roads. As a result, Flex Steer’s Sport calibration comes across as half-baked.
The 2014 Sorento’s suspension tuning is excellent, providing several degrees of compliance for a smooth, refined ride quality yet achieving accomplished control of body pitch, roll, dive, and squat. Additionally, the Sorento SX displayed more capability in the dirt than I expected. Wheel articulation is decent, and as it does on the road, the Sorento delivers a composed ride quality when the surface isn’t paved. This is, however, a crossover SUV and should be treated accordingly when venturing off of the blacktop.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Final Thoughts
The 2014 Kia Sorento is bigger than a small SUV but smaller than a big SUV, and is priced accordingly. Changes for 2014 move the stylish Sorento farther upscale, but until the automaker gives the cabin a thorough makeover and upsizes this model to offer greater cargo capacity and genuine 7-passenger seating, it might be hard to convince consumers to choose this Kia over competing models.
2014 Kia Sorento Road Test and Review: Pros and Cons
- Exterior styling
- Driver’s seat comfort
- Impressive list of available features
- Powerful new V-6 engine
- Entertaining to drive
- Excellent warranty
- Sluggish transmission calibration
- Cramped rear seating and cargo area
- UVO eServices screen is often frustrating to use
- Flex Steer’s Sport setting requires further refinement
- Interior materials don’t meet expectations set by window sticker
Kia supplied the vehicle for this review
2014 Kia Sorento SX photos by Christian Wardlaw