Last year the Kia Sorento gained completely new sheet metal and some slightly rejiggered proportions; that was part of a full redesign that's so faithful and incremental on the outside that some might mistake it for a light refresh.
We like the look well enough that it rates as an 7 out of 10, giving it points for its clean interior and exterior designs. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
In truth, Kia studied up on all the Sorento's key rivals, and borrowed some of the good ideas and styling cues. On the outside it adds up to a neat, elegant look, while its interior got cleaned up and classed up, with a suite of new trims and materials that are soft to the touch and attractive up close.
On the outside, the 2017 Sorento melts right into its area of the family-crossover tapestry, and that could be a positive or a negative depending on your own priorities. From the outside, the redesign is so evolutionary that it’s easy to let your mind fill in the lines, if you’re familiar with the outgoing 2015 model.
From all but the side, the proportions look familiar (both to the previous version of the Sorento, and to many of its rivals). Yet it's given some character with the more prominent version of the Kia grille, some cleaned-up more mature, upscale details in front and in back, and a little more softness to everything in between.
Up close, Kia has narrowed the headlight array, while making the lower air intake and fog-lamp pockets stand out a bit more. LED positioning lights, taillights, and fog lamps punctuate the look, and in general the grille and sculpting make the front end look more blunt—although the aerodynamics are actually better.
Inside, the redesign is a lot easier to see at first glance. The cabin of the 2017 Sorento has been quite dramatically tidied-up and made more sophisticated, with more soft-touch trims all around—wherever front occupants are expected to typically touch—and climate and navigation/audio controls are cordoned off into nice, neat control pods.
There’s been a "horizontal plane" logic applied to the design, and the dash wraps from the front door trim around the top of the instrument panel. It’s attractive and functional, altogether, and it feels that the dash itself is a bit lower than before while critical controls are actually placed higher.
The trims could be a bit more adventurous, although they fit in with what other mainstream models offer in their top-level versions. Materials are top-notch, overall, and Kia has made an effort to make sure that soft touch materials line just about everything that the driver or front passenger might touch from their seats.
The 2017 Sorento embraces the sporty yet softer new look of Kia—especially inside.
Don't be deceived by the looks which are merely evolutionary; last year's redesign of the Sorento was anything but that. It finally gave this model the quantum leap in responsiveness and general refinement that it had needed to be truly considered in the same realm as top rivals.
The Sorento is pleasant enough to drive, netting it a 7 out of 10. Its engines are strong and well-behaved and its ride quality is well-controlled. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
Two engines last year carried over—a 2.4-liter inline-4 engine and a 3.3-liter V-6. But the arrival of a new turbocharged 2.0-liter inline-4 was the big news, and it's the engine that makes the most of all the engineering gains. For 2017, it's only available on the Sorento EX, however, so shop carefully.
Turbocharged 4-cylinder models step up to 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet, while V-6 models earn ratings of 290 hp and 252 lb-ft. Base 2.4-liter 4-cylinder models produce 185 hp and 178 lb-ft of torque and, like all Sorentos, have a 6-speed automatic transmission, with either front- or all-wheel drive.
Spec sheets might quickly point you to the V-6 as the one with 50 more horsepower; but the 2.0T model is the one that feels perkier in most types of driving—in all but off-the-line acceleration. You'll feel a bit of turbo lag in the Sorento with this engine—more so than with the Optima and Sportage, where their lighter curb weight must mask that—but it's entirely forgivable. The turbo engine makes its peak torque—and more of it than the V-6—at just 1,450 rpm, so it’s far easier to squirt into a gap in traffic or ease your speed up without a dramatic downshift that’ll disrupt your passengers. In V-6 models we noticed some shift shock during a sudden multi-gear downshift for passing, while the other models tended to shift smoothly—not all that precise, but well-damped.
There's a Sport mode; but don't get too excited. With the turbo, this isn't extraordinarily sporty or edgy. Sport, Comfort, and Eco modes affect the Sorento’s transmission shift points and steering boost, but not throttle tip-in, which is still a bit on the over-sensitive side.
Ride and drive
Off-roading isn’t entirely in the Sorento’s vocabulary, but it has the phrasebook and tool set to make sense of any kind of "soft roading" or snowy conditions. The available all-wheel-drive (AWD) system monitors the steering wheel angle, yaw sensor, and many other powertrain and stability inputs to send wheel torque where it can be used best, and can fine-tune delivery in milliseconds, not at all requiring slippage first. There’s also a stability-system-based torque-vectoring function that works with the AWD in slippery road conditions.
For the toughest conditions, like deep snow, mud, or sand, there’s a differential-lock mode that splits the power 50/50. All Sorento models have 7.3 inches of ground clearance, which is right in line with most other models you’d compare it to.
The steering builds weight in a measured, predictable way, with great straight-ahead tracking and easy-to-modulate brakes; compared to a lot of vehicles in this class, there's relatively short pedal travel and a firm feel.
Combine that with a full suspension redesign, and a stiffer body structure with more high-strength steel, and the result is a Sorento lineup that goes down the road with more confidence, surefootedness, and control than before.
Towing capability is here, too, to an unexpectedly strong level. Sorento V-6 models can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with AWD, and otherwise with front-wheel drive it’s also 3,500 pounds. Step up to the turbo model, which is very much up for towing, Kia officials confirmed, and you get a 3,500-pound rating. Even with the base inline-4, it’s rated at 2,000 pounds.
The entire driving experience is now better coordinated, with excellent turbo-4 models, a stiffer structure, and more responsive steering.
The 2017 Kia Sorento is hardly a luxury vehicle, but it adds much of the in-cabin ambience and refinement of one. And with last year's redesign, the Sorento didn't grow significantly larger on the outside but through more efficient packaging gained more cabin space.
The Sorento's interior looks and feels great, but it could be a little more flexible, which is why it rates an 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The front seats of the Sorento are one place where interior accommodations have improved tremendously over the previous model, less than two years ago. Engineers within the project targeted Volvo seats, and they’re really not far off. They leapfrogged the seats offered by Toyota and Honda and are now vying against the comfort in front offered by perches in the Jeep Grand Cherokee and perhaps (it's a stretch, we know) the BMW X5 and Volkswagen Touareg. They offer extendable thigh support, which will make a huge difference in comfort for taller drivers. Also, in top trims, the power passenger seat is now height/tilt adjustable.
Move to the second row in the Sorento, and it's a completely different story. No more studying up on how the competition does it; these seats feel very low and close to the floor, as well as very short and firm in their lower cushions and not at all contoured for adults. To compare, the Nissan Murano and Toyota Highlander give outboard occupants a superior contoured seat.
In the second row, head room is also noticeably tighter due to the panoramic moonroof (standard on SX and SX-L, optional on EX), so we’d recommend skipping the glass up above if carrying adults in the second row really is a priority. We still to the time of writing haven't driven a single 2016 or 2017 Sorento without the moonroof.
The bench-like design does allow the second-row seat back to flip forward very easily and neatly—for more cargo, or for access to the third-row seats.
But the convenience factor is here. On the top SX-L there’s also power folding, which provides controls within easy reach of the rear tailgate. To add even more convenience, on some models there’s a "remote" tailgate release that only requires the proximity key to be nearby—no need to stand on one foot and wave the other leg.
As much of a disappointment as the second row is, the Sorento’s third row is surprisingly good, given it’s a few inches shorter than that in the Highlander and many inches shorter than in the Ford Explorer or Dodge Durango. Getting in and out requires a little flexibility, although it's okay for those up to about 5'-10".
However, the longer body and different packaging pay dividends in cargo space, which is still rather small but no longer impractically tight with the third row up in place. As such, you can now fit a couple of carry-on suitcases on their side or three paper grocery bags.
By doubling the amount of high-strength steel in the Sorento, Kia boasts that they've made this model appreciably stronger without adding significant weight. It's also paid more attention to the feel and sound of doors and tried to make the Sorento feel a little more German—and we think they've succeeded in adding a feel of solidity throughout the vehicle, with a high amount of attention paid to body structure, noise suppression, and quiet poise—all without the need for active noise cancellation.
Ride and refinement is now excellent in the Sorento.
The 2017 Kia Sorento offers an impressive level of occupant safety, as well as a robust array of active safety features available at a fairly reasonable price, but it doesn't come standard with a rearview camera, netting it a 8 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The forward collision systems in the Sorento have been upgraded for 2017 and they're now available on a wider array of models, starting with the LX with a few required options. So-equipped, the Sorento scores a Top Safety Pick from the IIHS as it also achieves "Good" crash test results in all categories. The NHTSA also gives this crossover five stars overall, including four for rollover (which is pretty typical for a crossover or SUV).
On all Sorento models, standard equipment includes front seat-mounted side airbags, front active headrests, side curtain airbags with a rollover sensor, electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes with electronic brake-force distribution, and hill start assist. LX and above include a rearview camera, while SXLs have a surround-view camera system.
Kia's full suite of safety tech is optional on the LX and above, including adaptive cruise control, lane departure warning, forward collision warning and automatic emergency braking.
Blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert are standard on EX V6, SX V6, and SXL models, and they're optional on the EX and LX.
Parents should be at ease knowing that the Sorento gets high ratings for safety and has a robust set of active safety tools.
|Overall Frontal Barrier Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Crash Rating:||(5/5)|
|Overall Side Barrier Rating:||Not Rated|
|NHTSA Roll-over Resistance Rating:||(4/5)|
|Side Impact Test||Good|
|Roof Strength Test||Good|
|Rear Crash Protection/Head Restraint||Good|
|IIHS Small Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
|IIHS Moderate Overlap Front Test Results||Good|
The 2017 Sorento is offered in base L, LX, mid-range EX, and top SX and Limited trims. The base L is only offered with the 2.4-liter inline-4, and it’s definitely equipped to a price point, but it’s offered for a hair over $26,000.
Otherwise, that's great value, so the Sorento scores a 9 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
LX models come in non-turbocharged 4-cylinder or V-6 versions, while EX models can be had with the 2.0T (turbo-4) or the V-6. SX models are only offered in V-6 trim. And then top SXL models are built in 2.0T or V-6 versions. And among all of those except for the base L, which is front-wheel drive only, you can opt for all-wheel drive.
In other words, there's a Sorento for just about everyone and most models offer an array of optional equipment.
Star with the L and you'll get power windows and locks, Bluetooth, keyless entry, and an AM/FM/CD audio system with SiriusXM satellite radio.
The LX builds on the L with some nice features like a 4.3-inch touchscreen audio system that displays a rearview camera, USB 2.1 ports capable of charging devices, acoustic windshield glass, automatic lights, and a roof rack. A few option packages add items like a third row of seats, a 7.0-inch touchscreen with Kia's Uvo infotainment, and a safety suite with automatic emergency braking and adaptive cruise control. The LX V6 comes standard with the third row and it offers blind spot monitors and rear cross traffic alert as an option, but is otherwise essentially identical to the LX.
From there, the EX adds 18-inch alloy wheels, dual-zone automatic climate control, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, leather seats with a 10-way power driver's seat, a proximity key, and interior accent illumination. The EX offers the same safety suite as the LX V6 as an option as well as a package that includes a power moonroof, a power liftgate, and a few other items.
The SX is designed to be the sporty Sorento, and while it drives about the same as the other models, it has its own body kit plus an 8.0-inch touchscreen with navigation, a 14-way power driver's seat, a power panoramic moonroof, a power liftgate, 19-inch wheels, and a unique body kit.
At the top of the line sits the SXL, which is rather expensive but mostly feels worth the price thanks to its upgraded leather trim, HID headlamps, chrome wheels, standard collision avoidance tech, adaptive cruise control, and steering wheel rim that's partially fake wood. It looks better than it sounds.
One other feature to keep in mind for large families traveling together: Separate rear air conditioning controls are the exclusive domain of V-6 models (optional in LX, included in EX, SX, and SXL).
With a wide range of trim levels, there's everything to satisfy cost-conscious families or those who want to pile the features on.
You won't find a hybrid system in the 2017 Kia Sorento, or special fuel-saving features like stop-start or cylinder deactivation. But its lineup of modern, direct-injection engines are relatively fuel-efficient—placing the Sorento on par with other five seaters its size, or perhaps better than other models offering third-row seating.
Sorento's fuel economy scores it 6 out of 10. (Read more about how we rate cars.)
The most fuel-efficient, front-drive, 4-cylinder Kia Sorento manages 21 mpg city, 28 highway, 24 combined, according to the EPA. The least efficient, V-6, all-wheel drive Sorento scores 17/23/19 mpg. In the middle, the turbo-4 models manage 20/27/23 mpg with front-wheel drive. Fuel economy generally dips by 1 mpg by adding AWD.
Beyond powertrains, Kia has added fuel-saving measures such as front and rear air deflectors, and underbody aero panels help reduce aerodynamic drag.
There's still no hybrid model here, although with last year's redesign mpg numbers got a modest boost.