Kia employees are probably tired of hearing what I’ve been hearing for the past two weeks. I’ve been driving our long-term 2017 Kia Sorento SX almost exclusively and the one thing I keep hearing is "What is that? Is that a Kia?" This is a big deal.
While those who know and follow automotive trends are aware that Kia is about to hit their third generation of truly great cars, the general public needs a little more time to catch up. From my point of view, here’s why that question I keep hearing is a good thing. Just 5 years ago, the same question from curious neighbors went like this: "THAT’s a Kia?" See the difference? One is an expression of disbelief, like "No way is THAT a Kia," and the other has a hint of knowing, like Kia’s stunning good looks, stellar warranty and slick interiors (and marketing dollars) are starting to pay off.
The question I keep hearing now is more like "I suspect that’s a Kia, because I’ve been noticing these cars, but I’m not 100 percent sure." Certainly, Kia employees, especially the ones who own one or drive a company car, have been hearing the same thing. I’d even guess that West Coast shoppers have moved beyond this and are actually considering a Cadenza, Optima or Sorento instead of the Toyota they always buy. I’m just guessing.
There’s one thing that’s really impressed me about this new Sorento: the interior. The colors, textures, patterns and overall feel are very high-quality. I’d put them well above every Toyota, a tick above Honda and on par with the Nissan Pathfinder Platinum, Acura RDX or GMC Acadia.
Look at the photos above — look specifically at the climate control knob for the third-row seating area. Really? That piece likely doesn’t get used much, but Kia designers didn’t phone it in. Most SUVs, even those costing much more, usually just put a black or beige knob with a hard-to-read symbol etched in. Also, the sharpness and quality of the rear parking camera is very good, and the driver’s seat has a seat-bottom extender. This, along with cooled seats and Apple CarPlay, is one of my favorite things in life. With a button, you can move the seat bottom out so that it cozies up to the back of your knee. Also, I like how the heated steering wheel and heated seat controls are arranged in a logical manner just below the climate control buttons.
One thing I don’t like is how I have to keep turning the ventilated or heated seat function on every time I turn the car off and on again. If I’m running errands on a hot day, I just want the ventilation or heat to stay on as I get in and out of the car.
Occasionally, during the past few weeks, I’ve jumped in another car, like the new ’17 Nissan Pathfinder, Acura MDX or Honda Pilot. Without getting into a lot of detail, the Kia stacks up very favorably against all those SUVs, and many others.
If you’re considering a new midsize SUV, and Kia has fallen off your list because you’re worried it will appear as though you had to get a cheap car, put the Sorento back on your list. At the very least, test-drive it. The idea that Kia is the choice for only budget-conscious shoppers is as dated as the Hummer H2 and "Jenny from the Block."