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2018 Kia Sorento: New Car Review

Although the 2018 Kia Sorento may be priced like some well-equipped compact SUVs, its impressive list of available features and optional powertrains, make it just as easily mistaken for an expensive Audi or Lexus luxury vehicle.

Designed with the family in mind, the 7-passenger Sorento offers a choice of three engine options with front-wheel or all-wheel drive (AWD), and an impressive 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain warranty. Over the last few years, Kia’s material quality has gone from also-ran status to almost class-leading, and the Sorento’s slick cabin technology features mark a similar leap forward. The 2018 Sorento is still a good value, but that’s not the headline news anymore; what’s remarkable about this Kia is that it’s now one of the best vehicles in its class.

What’s New for 2018?

For 2018, the Sorento carries over largely unchanged, with just a minor reshuffling of optional equipment and packages. The Sorento L gains a rearview camera and auto on/off headlights, while the LX gains a third-row seat on AWD models. Standard equipment on the EX 2.0T now includes Smart Power Liftgate and power-folding side mirrors. The EX offers a revised Advanced Touring Package with autonomous emergency braking, while the SX V6 gets rain-sensing wipers.

What We Like

Upscale interior; refined driving dynamics; top-notch technology features; available turbocharged engine; reassuring warranty

What We Don’t

Upper-level models are a bit pricier than you might expect; can’t combine turbo engine and 3-row seating

How Much?

$26,740-$47,000

Fuel Economy

The 2018 Kia Sorento L and LX models come with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine that makes 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy estimates by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are 21 miles per gallon in the city and 28 mpg on the highway with front-wheel drive (FWD) and 21 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with all-wheel drive (AWD).

The EX models feature a standard 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder good for 240 hp and 260 lb-ft of torque. Fuel economy checks in at 20 mpg city/27 mpg hwy with FWD and 19 mpg city/25 mpg hwy with AWD.

Standard on the Sorento SX and optional on the LX and EX is a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 hp and 252 lb-ft. The V6’s fuel economy predictably brings up the rear at 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy (FWD) and 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy (AWD).

A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard on all Sorento models.

Standard Features & Options

The 2018 Sorento is offered in L, LX, EX, SX and Limited trim levels. The L comes only with two seating rows, but a third-row seat is optional on the LX and standard on the LX V6, EX V6 and SX.

The Sorento L ($26,740) includes a decent roster of standard items, notably 17-inch aluminum wheels, air conditioning, power accessories, rearview camera and a 6-speaker audio system with a USB port and full Bluetooth connectivity.

The LX ($28,040 FWD, $30,830 AWD) adds such luxuries as additional sound-deadening measures, roof rails, a 4.3-in touchscreen and, on AWD models, a third-row seat.

The EX ($33,940 FWD, $34,740 AWD) throws in 18-in wheels, rear parking sensors, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, foot-actuated power rear liftgate, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, a UVO3 telematics head unit with Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and dual-zone automatic climate control.

The SX ($40,040 FWD, $41,840 AWD) upgrades to 19-in wheels, a panoramic sunroof, keyless entry/start, rear cross-traffic alert, a blind spot monitoring system, additional power adjustments for the driver’s seat, driver memory functions, a high-resolution 8-in navigation touchscreen with voice controls and a 10-speaker Infinity audio system with a subwoofer and HD Radio.

The Limited ($45,340 FWD, $47,140 AWD) tacks on Nappa leather upholstery, cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, Dynamic Bending Headlights, rain-sensing wipers, an Around View monitor, a leather and wood heated steering wheel, and all the driver-assist features and equipment in the two optional Advanced packages.

The LX Convenience package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, rear park assist, a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support and heated front seats, plus Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone interfaces. The LX Advanced Technology Package adds autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and an electronic parking brake.

The EX Advanced Touring Package adds 110-volt outlet, LED interior lighting, panoramic sunroof, autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and an electronic parking brake.

The Sorento offers solid passenger space in its sliding-and-reclining second-row seats, with plenty of room for 6-footers despite slightly lower seat bottoms than expected in a midsize crossover. The third row is designed for kids; you need to be pretty limber to climb back there, and legroom is limited once you’re situated. Still, it’s a handy feature, and adults can squeeze back there for short trips if necessary.

Cargo space is 11 cu ft. behind the third row (if specified), which is enough room for groceries, while a maximum of 74 cu ft. is available with the rear rows collapsed. Conveniently, the second-row seats can be folded via auxiliary levers mounted in the cargo bay.

Safety

The 2018 Sorento comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and 6 airbags (front, front-side and full-length side-curtain). Available safety technologies include a blind spot monitoring system, rear cross-traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning and lane-departure warning.

In crash tests conducted by the independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), the Sorento received a top score of Good in every category, a Superior rating for crash avoidance and mitigation, and was awarded a 2017 Top Safety Pick+ award.

Behind the Wheel

In our interior evaluation, we were struck by the Sorento’s premium character. The materials are almost uniformly nice, with ample soft-touch surfaces, and there’s a vibe of cohesiveness and refinement that was absent in earlier models. The gauges are crisp and clear, while the optional 8-in touchscreen features great graphics and intuitive operation. Throw in the Limited model’s Nappa leather upholstery, and you’ll get a legitimate alternative to some luxury crossovers we could name. This Kia is that good.

On the road, the Sorento’s accurate steering system (with three levels of adjustable effort) inspires confidence, and ambient noise levels are generally quite low. The ride is smooth and supple on most surfaces. Under the hood, the turbocharged 4-cylinder is our favorite for its generous low-end torque and solid fuel economy, but you can’t get it with the third-row seat, which limits its appeal. The V6 certainly has plenty of power, but its fuel economy suffers significantly.

Other Cars to Consider

 2018 Dodge Durango — The 3-row Durango is larger, but it feels sporty and capable from behind the wheel and offers a V8 and better towing ability.

2018 Hyundai Santa Fe — The 3-row Santa Fe is a more spacious option from Kia’s corporate cousin and comes with a standard V6 engine.

 2018 Toyota Highlander — The Highlander may seem like it’s a class up from the Sorento, but Kia’s latest efforts have closed the gap. However, the Highlander does offer a hybrid model.

Used BMW X5 — Looking for more luxury and power? A certified pre-owned 2012-2015 BMW X5 might hit the spot. There’s even a diesel engine option.

Autotrader’s Advice

The 2018 Sorento EX offers great value, providing extensive standard features without breaking the bank. We’d go with the V6 over the 2.0-liter turbo, as the latter isn’t all that fuel efficient for a 4-cylinder, and the V6 with AWD can tow up to 5,000 pounds versus the turbo’s 3,500-lb rating.

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