No one need look very hard for a competent 3-row SUV. The 2019 Kia Sorento is one of several capable SUVs furnished for as many as seven occupants. It rolls into the 2019 model year with a bevy of small enhancements that not only improve its looks, but add to its technology, as well as upgrading its powertrain choices. With the exception of the newly available 8-speed automatic transmission borrowed from the Cadenza and the yet-to-be-introduced diesel engine, most of the changes involve eliminating or rearranging features and packages. What does separate this Kia from its peers is its value story. Well contented, the Sorento delivers plenty of bang for the buck. And there is that terrific warranty, too.
We had our first taste of the 2019 Kia Sorento on the roads of southern Georgia. Although they didn’t provide an opportunity to check out the Sorento’s all-wheel drive, they did serve to remind us just how comfortable and driveable the Sorento is. They also, through no coincidence, allowed us to spend a little time at Kia’s highly advanced West Point, GA, plant where our Sorento — as well as roughly one million others — have been assembled. After a morning spent touring the plant, we were not surprised that the 2018 J.D. Power IQS (Initial Quality Survey) ranked the Kia brand as number two in reported problems and placed the Sorento at the top of its segment in the same survey.
What’s New for 2019?
Outside, new front/rear fascias, grille, headlights, fog lights, rear liftgate and taillights provide a somewhat more sophisticated appearance. Inside, a new cluster design and small adjustments to a number of components like the air vents, center console and steering wheel add to the already upscale look of the interior. All grades now provide 7-passenger seating as standard with a 40/20/40-split folding second-row seat and a 50/50-split folding third-row seat. The third row was an option in the 2018 edition. Kia streamlined the engine choices for 2019 by eliminating the 2.0-liter turbo. As mentioned above, a newly available 8-speed automatic transmission is paired with the returning V6. For 2019, every Sorento comes with a touchscreen (7-inch for lower trims and 8-in for the others). All include Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. Newly available on upper-level trims are lane-keep assist and driver attention warning.
What We Like
Upscale interior; refined driving dynamics; top-notch technology features; third-row seat standard; reassuring warranty
What We Don’t
Upper-level models are a bit pricier than you might expect; most driver-assist/safety tech only offered on upper grades
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. Also carried over from last year is a 6-speed automatic transmission. 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).
Standard on all other grades is a 3.3-liter V6 rated at 290 hp and 252 lb-ft. An 8-speed automatic transmission swaps the cogs. The V6’s fuel economy is 18 mpg city/25 mpg hwy (FWD) and 17 mpg city/23 mpg hwy (AWD).
Kia promises a diesel is in the works.
Standard Features & Options
The 2018 Sorento is offered in L, LX, EX, SX and SX-Limited trim levels. Kia makes the V6 standard in every grade other than the L and LX (it’s a $3,800 option on LX). AWD is available on any trim except L for $1,800. All prices are for FWD and include factory delivery fee.
The Sorento L ($26,980) includes a decent roster of standard items, notably 17-in aluminum wheels, auto on/off headlights, hill-start control, tilt-telescopic steering wheel, 3-row seating, second-row auto folding seats, air conditioning, power accessories, keyless remote entry, a rearview camera, a 6-speaker audio system with a 7-in touchscreen, a USB port, Apple CarPlay and Android Auto, satellite-radio capability and full Bluetooth connectivity.
The LX ($28,480) adds such luxuries as additional sound-deadening measures, two quick-charge USB ports and blind spot collision warning with cross-traffic alert. There is an option package listed below.
The EX ($36,580) throws in 18-in alloy wheels, rear parking sensors, LED taillights, roof rails, push-button start, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, foot-actuated power rear liftgate, leather upholstery, a power driver’s seat, heated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, a navigation system, forward-collision avoidance with pedestrian detection and dual-zone automatic climate control. Option package itemized below.
The SX ($40,980) upgrades to 19-in alloy wheels, front parking sensors, assorted appearance upgrades including red brake calipers, upgraded steering system, a panoramic sunroof, additional power adjustments for the driver’s seat, driver memory functions, a wireless phone charger, a high-resolution 8-in navigation touchscreen with voice controls and a 10-speaker Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system with a subwoofer and HD Radio.
The SX-Limited ($45,680) tacks on chrome-finish 19-in wheels, Nappa leather upholstery, cooled front seats and heated second-row seats, power-folding outboard mirrors, rain-sensing wipers, stainless-steel pedals, Dynamic Bending Headlights, automatic high-beam assist, rain-sensing wipers, Surround View monitor, Around View monitor, a leather and wood heated steering wheel.
The LX Convenience package adds dual-zone automatic climate control, rear park assist, a 10-way power driver’s seat with power lumbar support, heated front seats and Kia UVO3 telematics system.
The EX Advanced Touring Package adds LED interior lighting, panoramic sunroof, heated steering wheel, navigation system, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, UVO3 telematics system, autonomous emergency braking, forward-collision warning, adaptive cruise control, lane-departure warning and an electronic parking brake. The EX Premium Package adds front parking sensors, navigation system, Harman Kardon surround-sound audio system, second-row shade curtains and 110-volt port.
The SX Touring Package includes LED headlamps with LED integrated turn signals, LED daytime running lights, automatic high-beam assist, Dynamic Bending Headlights, ventilated front seats, heated steering wheel, rain-sensing wipers, around view monitor and power folding outboard mirrors.
The 2018 Sorento comes with standard stability control, 4-wheel anti-lock disc brakes and six 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 with lane-keeping assist.
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 2018 Top Safety Pick+ award. In government testing, the Sorento received the highest score of five stars overall.
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 base engine is a bit lacking in acceleration and doesn’t improve fuel economy all that much. The V6 has plenty of power, and is well-mated to the 8-speed automatic.
Other Cars to Consider
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.
The 2018 Sorento EX offers great value, providing extensive standard features without breaking the bank. We’d go with the V6 in EX trim. It’s nicely equipped. Opt for AWD and you can tow up to 5,000 pounds.