LIFESTYLE

Beefed up: 2014 Kia Sorento

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Farm Forum

The 2014 Sorento is all-new, almost. Rather than taking on the mild modifications typical of mid-cycle models, Kia gave its compact crossover utility vehicle an industrial strength makeover. Kia says 80 percent of the parts on the 2014 Sorento are either new or redesigned.

It starts under the hood where the menu of engine choices has been revamped. Gone is last year’s base engine, the 175-horsepower, 2.4-liter four-cylinder with Multi-port Fuel Injection. In its place is Kia’s 2.4-liter four with Gasoline Direct Injection that delivers 161 horsepower and 181 lb.-ft. of torque. While there a slight step down in fuel economy vs. the outgoing four, the additional 16-horsepower pickup should result in, well, better pickup. EPA estimates for 2014 Sorento’s 2.4-liter are 19 miles per gallon city, 24 mpg highway.

The optional six-cylinder, however, easily trumps the four, offering 290 horsepower and 252 lb.-ft. of torque. That’s sufficient thrust to usher the Sorento from 0-60 mph in about 7 seconds and tow up to 3,500 pounds. EPA estimates for the six-powered Sorento are 18/24 mpg. Since the mileage for both motors is frankly mediocre, buyers who can swing the upcharge for the more responsive V-6 ($1,600 on the LX, standard in other models) would be well served to do so. Both engines are linked to a 6-speed automatic transmission.

Sorento is available in four trim levels: LX, EX, SX and SX Limited (SX L). Prices range from $24,100 to $39,700. All trim levels are offered in front- or all-wheel-drive versions. Kia’s AWD system is full-time, with torque vectoring cornering control and a locking center differential. Though it’s unlikely that owners will take their Sorento for hard core rock scrabbling, there’s 7.3 inches of ground clearance below, and the crossover could tackle light off-roading if called upon. On the road, Sorento is distinguished by a quiet cabin and a smooth ride. Suspension components are among the many parts that came in for changes this year. The crossover is tuned for a soft ride, though not overly so and it feels stable throughout.

Electronic power steering is new for 2014 with available adjustability. Standard on SX and SX L and optional elsewhere, Flex Steer offers the driver three settings: Comfort, Normal or Sport. I would expect that most drivers will pick whatever setting feels natural initially, and leave it there permanently. I like some heft on my steering wheel feel (less is more when it comes to power boost), so the Sport mode felt best to me.

Very few small or compact crossovers offer three-row seating. The reason is that it’s difficult to stretch the limited size of the platform into usable space for six to seven people and their belongings. Sorento is one of the few that does so with its optional third-row availability on all trim levels. So equipped, Sorento holds just 9.1 cubic feet of gear, with maximum passengers on board. But, there’s 37 cu.-ft. in the cargo bay behind the second row and 73 cu.-ft. fits in aft of the first row. People-wise, row three is suitable for kids — and it pays to have a child-like limberness to get in and out. Six footers are a tight squeeze in the second row when similarly sized people are in the front row.

Base models are well equipped and the top-ranging SX L is particularly well appointed. Several of the new-for-2014 features available on Sorento are standard on SX-L. The list includes a redesigned panoramic moonroof with power shade; ventilation (as well as heat) for the front seats, and heatable rear seats, and a programmable, power liftgate. Last but not least on this list is blind spot detection. Standard on SX and SX L, and optional elsewhere, the system alerts the driver to vehicles behind and to the side that are close by but may not be visible to the driver.

While all the options are easy to get used to, they may or may not be in the budget. Kia’s flexible option system allows buyers to pick a high value trim level like LX, and add just those features that fit their needs and wallet. That flexibility just might be the best feature of the almost all new 2014 Sorento.