ASSOCIATE EDITOR JAKE LINGEMAN: Wow, this 2015 Kia Sorento SX is $40K? No, thank you. As I was driving recently, I was thinking to myself how this is a pretty good SUV, and wondering if American buyers would eschew their Jeep Grand Cherokees and Ford Explorers for this. I thought, “At $25K, for sure.” This is a lot more than $25K.
It’s a decent-looking little SUV. The shape is right, though it does look a little stubby, front to back. The grille mesh has little “tiger nose” shapes in it. Do I think it looks better than a Ford Escape or Jeep Grand Cherokee? Still no.
The SX trim is well equipped with navigation, iPod connections and power everything. The dash controls are straightforward and easy to find and use. The materials feel a little chintzy, though -- some of it is hard plastic and some of it is a little softer. All of it has that plasticky pattern on it. The seats were comfortable, but the faux leather doesn’t look very good.
Power is acceptable from the V6, but I definitely heard it straining a few times when I was accelerating to pass or get on the expressway. A little more insulation in the firewall might solve that, or a little more displacement from the engine. The six-speed auto box seemed to work fine.
I’m all for skipping the expensive badge and buying whatever is the best bang for the buck. That’s what these Kias and Hyundais were for a long, long time. But at least in the U.S., putting a $40K Sorento up against a $40k Grand Cherokee is a losing proposition every time for Kia. It needs to undercut the big boys, and add value in options and equipment. If this could fall into the low $30Ks, it would be a hell of a deal.
The interior of the 2015 Kia Sorento SX was acceptable with a mix of faux leather and hard plastic scattered about.
SENIOR ROAD TEST EDITOR NATALIE NEFF: First off, Jake is waaaaay off base if he thinks a vehicle exists with this level of equipment for $25K, or even the low $30s. A three-row, all-wheel-drive, stuffed-to-the-gills people mover? That eliminates the Jeep Grand Cherokee right off the bat. So let’s move over to Dodge, where you can get the related Durango in three-row form. Selecting the equivalent-to-the-SX trim gets you a Durango R/T, which starts at $39,200 -- already more than this Sorento. Add all-wheel drive, and that puts you at $42,700. Of course, the R/T comes with the Hemi, so if the additional 70 hp is worth the extra $3,505, then by all means, don’t even consider the Sorento. Just know that with those bonus horses, the Durango also makes do without navigation, a power panorama sunroof, blind spot detection, etc. -- and, weirdly, boasts less legroom in all three rows despite a wheelbase over a foot longer.
Next, Mr. Lingeman invokes the Ford Explorer, and then inexplicably follows that with the Escape. I won’t bother addressing the latter except to say that a similarly equipped Escape will set you back $37,340, or just $1,855 shy of the Sorento. The Explorer makes for a more apt and natural comparison, of course, but lately Ford’s pricing scheme has skewed to the high end of each segment. That tendency is repeated here; an equivalently spec’d Explorer Limited eclipses the $47K mark. Wowsa.
I understand there are plenty of other considerations when choosing to drop such big bucks -- styling, brand loyalty, reputation and image among them -- and I don’t downplay the potential importance each may play in the decision-making process. But Jake’s words just illustrate there’s a real disconnect when it comes to what comprises value, i.e., the amount of stuff you get for your money. Prima facie, any vehicle that nears $40K defies the notion of value, but this Sorento SX shows that Kia is capable of taking on any price point in the battle for value-proposition supremacy.
The 2015 Kia Sorento SX fulfills all the duties of a three-row CUV with aplomb.
EDITORIAL INTERN BRAD WILEY: I found the 2015 Kia Sorento SX to be rather good contender in the midsize sport utility category, even though I’m not an avid SUV driver. Arguably, it’s a decent deal for the near $40K being shelled out for this loaded beaut. And as Natalie went on to explain above, there are a lot of things to consider when equating value. One thing that must take precedence is the overall size. Commonly, automakers continue to shrink the size of compact SUVs, and the jump to a full-size SUV can be a tad overwhelming. That’s where the Sorento comes into play. It has found itself in the middle ground, but not quite a top dog among its competitors.
But let’s give credit where credit is due. The Sorento is not a bad-looking SUV; it features the corporate Kia grille and some decent style lines. The interior, as Jake mentioned, feels just a little cheap, but I would sacrifice soft-touch materials for a third row any day of the week.
Under the hood, the V6 is offers an adequate amount of power, though a lead foot would be left in the dark. I didn’t have the opportunity to load the Sorento down, but I can imagine it would be a bit flustered trying to lug around all the extra cargo.
For less money, and perhaps less “value,” I would look into something like the Honda CR-V or even the Toyota RAV4. Granted, you will lose out on the V6 and the third-row seating. It’s all about your end-game.
The 2015 Kia Sorento SX is equipped with a 3.3-liter V6 pushing out 290 hp with 252 lb-ft of torque.
WEST COAST EDITOR MARK VAUGHN: Though as bland as anything ever made for the midsized crossover utility category (and really, is anything in this class not bland?), the 2015 Kia Sorento SX nonetheless fulfills all the duties of a three-row CUV with aplomb. I used all three rows during the few days I had it, too, actually carrying seven people several times, and there were no complaints from anyone, not even those in the way back. While actually getting into the third row was a little awkward no matter what your size, most of the time the back row was be folded flat for cargo. The rearmost seats, if left in their upright and locked positions, leave only a thin shelf behind them for gear. If you need to seat seven bodies on a regular basis, just break down and buy a minivan. Kia sells one of those, too.
Our test car was the SX AWD with the 3.3-liter V6. While most published sources quote 0-60 mph figures for this configuration in the lower sevens, which isn’t too bad, once you fully load it up and try to pass cars on the freeway you will find it kicking down a few of the six gears of the automatic and really straining. Hauling a full load, the V6 felt like it lacked the output of, say, the long-gone 337-hp Borrego V8 at mid- to higher engine speeds. Nonetheless, I got a could-be-worse 20.6 mpg from a 313-mile tankful, a tad better than the EPA’s combined figure of 20 mpg. And while you may yelp, “Hey, that’s not a very good mpg, is it?” the Sorento matches or exceeds competitors in the class when it comes to mileage.
The Sorento was packed with useful features inside. I used the dual-zone climate control a lot on the very hot weekend I had the car, which the rear-seaters appreciated. I also liked such simple niceties as the wireless key fob and push-button engine start that were standard on our SX. The infotainment system was easy to operate, as most cheaper systems are -- you only go crazy when you try to make the more expensive systems on higher-end cars work. That stuff will drive you nuts.
While I may have whined and whimpered about various parts of this rig, for a small family and even a few friends-of-family, it worked quite well overall. I wouldn’t mind having one of these for my current state of life and maybe you wouldn’t, either. Heck, two of my neighbors have Sorentos. Add my test-Sorento and we could have formed a small Korean Army and invaded the next block. But the next block could have launched a counteroffensive of any number of competitors, all with larger, though no more powerful 3.5-liter V6s: Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Ford Explorer, Buick Enclave, GMC Acadia, Jeep Grand Cherokee, the list could go on forever. Even if you narrow it down to just AWD V6s with three rows of seating, you still have an awful lot of choices. The Sorento blends in nicely with a serviceable list of options and nothing really wrong with it. Is that enough?
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