There are many comfortable, capable SUVs in the midsize class and in some ways, the Kia Sorento is one of them. But change is afoot: Model-year 2013 is the Sorento's last year before a fully redesigned model goes on sale later this winter.
I loaded the three-row crossover with people and cargo for a road trip through Colorado's Rocky Mountains, putting the outgoing Sorento to the test, inside and out. During the 400-plus-mile highway trip, I found out what worked and what will hopefully be improved by the next-generation 2014 Sorento . It will serve as a good primer for shoppers making the choice between a likely discounted 2013 and the redesigned 2014s.
Power: My tester was outfitted with the 276-horsepower, 3.5-liter V-6. It felt generous around town and confident during long mountain climbs. For 2014, the 191-hp, 2.4-liter four-cylinder returns but the V-6 is replaced by a 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6.
Fuel economy: We loaded the Sorento with five people plus ski gear and blasted the heat and still got great fuel economy. We averaged 26.8 mpg, better than the EPA's 18/24 mpg city/highway. The EPA has not yet rated the 2014 model, but expect a bump in fuel economy, thanks to a new direct-injection engine, a downsized V-6 and electric power steering.
Handling: Even in snowy and icy conditions, the all-wheel-drive equipped Sorento gave a solid performance; it felt planted during corning and composed on the highway.
Small-items storage: There's a lot of room to stash goodies in the cabin, including a huge center console (photo above) and a few small cubbies in the front row. There's also a small storage bin and cupholder for the third row, but only on the right side. The 2014 version will offer more cupholders in the third row.
What Needs Work
Cargo area: With the second and third rows of seats in use, there's only enough room to cram a few grocery bags behind the third row. With the seats down, there's 72.5 cubic feet of maximum cargo room, but just 9.1 cubic feet with all seats up. Many compact sedans offer more trunk space. Official 2014 specs haven't yet been released, but Michael Ofiara of Kia public relations told Cars.com that the new model is almost an inch longer in length, which means we can expect the cargo area to remain pretty tight.
Ride: It was a pretty loud, rough 413 miles. The Sorento's ride is on the firm side and tire roar and wind noise levels are higher than comfortable. Kia says the new one rides on an all-new chassis and will be quieter and feel smoother.
Multimedia system: Kia's navigation system was pretty easy to use, but the screen was very small and the center stack crowded with buttons. The 2014 model gets a larger 8-inch touch-screen along with the next generation of Kia's Uvo multimedia system. Also, a revised instrument panel gives it a less cluttered, more streamlined look. Other new-for-2014 equipment includes a revised gauge cluster layout, a programmable power liftgate, blind spot detection, a panoramic sunroof, second-row sunshades and cooled front seats. Kia says the 2014 Sorento is the first of many Kia vehicles to begin offering blind spot technology.
Child-seat accommodations: The second row's Latch anchors were easy to use, but the third row doesn't have any. What's worse is that the third row also lacks a top tether anchor, so installing a forward-facing convertible back there is unsafe. Unfortunately, it looks like the 2014 version's third row uses the same setup.
Styling: The current Kia Sorento blends in with the rest of the nameless, faceless midsize SUVs and crossovers. Updates to the 2014 model help distinguish it, however. The changes aren't dramatic, but a wider grille and snazzier headlamps with LED accents give the Sorento a slightly more dynamic look.
The new Sorento (above) will go on sale during the first quarter this year, and it's poised to be more comfortable, fuel efficient and stylish than its predecessor. And it really needs to be. Sales of the current model have hit a slump: Kia sold 119,597 during 2012, down 8% from sales in 2011.
A redesign worked for Hyundai, however. The Sorento's corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe , was just redesigned to much acclaim and sales success. If Kia focuses on a few key issues with the redesigned Sorento, the new one could be headed in the same direction.