The Kia Sorento hasn’t been on sale for all that long in its current form (since the 2011 model year). Still, for 2014, the Sorento is already up for some significant improvements. And it’s no minor refresh, either: Kia says that more than 80 percent of the parts in the new Sorento are either all-new or significantly redesigned.
The interior of the Sorento grows incrementally, with slightly more leg room and good seats, now with heating offered on the first two rows and ventilation available up front. We like the Sorento as a five-seater, where it has plenty of legroom and headroom for adults, front and back, yet leaves plenty of cargo space when the back two rows of seats are folded down on three-row versions. There’s not much room behind the third-row seat when it’s used for passengers, though.
The most meaningful difference for many families may very well be the introduction of a more fuel-efficient V-6. The all-aluminum 3.3-liter GDI V-6 makes 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque. A 191-hp, 2.4-liter GDI four-cylinder engine is standard, but likely to be rare–and rightly so, since the V-6 almost matches it on gas mileage, and far outpoints it in pure power. The Sorento delivers its power to the road with the help of a well-sorted six-speed automatic transmission; it’s either configured with front-wheel drive or with an enhanced torque-vectoring version of the all-wheel-drive system.
Other key upgrades help the Sorento ride less stiffly and steer more swiftly. The Sorento’s hydraulic power steering system has been swapped out for an electric system, and on the Sorento SX it’s driver-adjustable through a range of three modes (Comfort, Normal, and Sport), to nominal effect. Ride and handling have been improved through a more rigid body structure plus the addition of a front strut-tower brace and a new independent front suspension with an H-shaped sub-frame cradle; new bushings have been added to the multi-link rear suspension. It’s much calmer, and more capable of rounding off pavement burrs than before, though it’s still a slightly firm setup compared to the gooey ride of a Highlander.
You might not know the Sorento’s been so heavily reworked by looking at the exterior. The 2014 Sorento is a clear continuation of the design in place since 2011—but with some fresh details that crossover shoppers are going to be able to pick out. New front and rear fascias and low body work both serve to make the Sorento look a bit lower and wider, while the ‘tiger-nose’ grille gets either an anodized metal or black mesh look, with a cross-hatched pattern in the lower valance. Kia has also added LED combination taillamps and redesigned wheels. Inside, the Sorento gets a new instrument panel, while EX trims and above get a new reconfigurable seven-inch TFT LCD gauge cluster.
All versions get standard Bluetooth, satellite radio, and power features; a panoramic sunroof is a new option. The top Sorento SX Limited adds some of the top-lux features gained by the Optima SX this past year; it includes Nappa leather upholstery, heated rear seats, and a wood-trimmed heated steering wheel, plus a soft-touch headliner. On the outside it’s distinguished by its HID headlamps, red-painted brake calipers and special 19-inch chrome wheels.
The rest of the Sorento line gets an expanded feature set for 2014, and especially of note is that infotainment has been upgraded, with a large new eight-inch touch screen that combines navigation, real-time traffic, Infinity premium audio, Bluetooth, and next-generation UVO eServices features that ditch Microsoft’s kludgy software for smartphone-driven access to Google maps–for free. A 115-volt power inverter, second-row sliding sunshades, a panoramic sunroof, and dual-ventilated air-cooled front seats are among the other new features for 2014.