When It's Time, It's Time

As we've already mentioned in these pages, our 2014 Kia Sorento SX has been -- except for one fender bender -- a delightfully uneventful companion for the last nine months. But with the "Service Required" indicator having been lit for the past 34 days and 2,296 miles, it was high time we took our Sorento in for routine maintenance. Would the dealership experience be cringeworthy or pain-free? Read on to find out.

Easy Access

The electronic reminder on the dashboard information display of our 2014 Kia Sorento SX used the onboard computers to account for our driving habits and mileage, using algorithms to calculate an estimate of the ideal service time. Though search engines are ubiquitous on all smartphones, in this case, the Kia's nav system proved handier for locating a dealership: Under "Automotive Services" in the destinations menu, nearby Kia service centers were on the screen, and I was able to call my closest service bay (in this case, Glendale Kia) by tapping the phone number listed next to the address.

Scheduling was easy. I made a same-day appointment and cruised in on that wet Saturday with about 90 minutes set aside for the allotted visit.

Quietly Judging the Not-Quite-Premium Digs

OK, I'm well aware that Kia is an emerging brand with luxury aspirations, as evidenced by its hyper-competitive pricing and upmarket creep, seen in products such as the just-unveiled large sedan, the K900. But I wasn't prepared for the slapdash service center that more closely resembled a string of double-wide trailers than a traditional, brick-and-mortar dealership center. 

Pulling up to a half-improvised "Stop" sign, I parked the Kia and walked into the structure, where I was greeted by a pleasant service writer by the name of Sarkis. After explaining that I called in the appointment because, with 15,828 miles on the clock, the "Service Required" indicator had already been on for nearly 2,300 miles, he wrote a $200 estimate for the scheduled maintenance, which he confirmed would require about an hour and a half.

90 Minutes Later...

Since the service facility wasn't exactly as plush as it could have been, I decided to stretch my legs and take a walk while they took care of business. Sure enough, my cellphone rang after about 90 minutes, with Sarkis telling me that the Sorento was ready for pickup. By the time I walked back to the dealership, the car was waiting outside, and all it took was a swipe of my credit card, a signature and a quick exchange before I was given the key fob.

Bottom Line: Painless Beats Plush

While I've seen far more impressive Kia dealerships (in fact, I think I single-handedly managed to pick the jankiest location in LA), there was absolutely no faulting my service adviser or any other aspect of the overall experience. The car was turned around relatively quickly on short notice; the routine maintenance (an oil change, air and cabin filter cleaning, wiper blade replacement, tire rotation and general inspection) cost exactly what they said it would (plus tax, which brought the total to $211); and perhaps most importantly, the service experience was honest and pleasant enough to make me feel confident about a repeat visit.

Postscript: Several days after the service, I realized that the otherwise flawlessly performing Sorento's seat memory function wasn't working, offering the perfect excuse to schedule another visit to a different service center. We'll cover it here in a future update. 

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Basem Wasef is an automotive journalist, author, and photographer with two coffee table books under his belt, and is a regular contributor to Popular Mechanics, Robb Report, and Maxim among others. When Basem isn't traveling the globe testing vehicles, he enjoys calling Los Angeles home.

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