Sunday, December 29, 2013

KIA Sorento Driving Experience - Luxury meets Practicality

2014 KIA Sorento SX Driving Experience

 This 2014 KIA Sorento was provided by STI - The Drive Experience Company for review; the opinions stated below are my own and I received no financial compensation.
I am not a fan of the Mini-van, SUV, or cross-over vehicle except when traveling with a small group it is wonderful to seat everyone comfortably for the ride.  These large vehicles have many attributes conducive to comfortable long range driving.  Many vehicles in this genre are a very expensive purchase whether leasing or buying.  Base prices can range from the mid-20's to over $100k.  Today's SUV has come a long way in style and function compared to models of 10-15 years ago.  The Cross-Over is fairly new in the automotive game and is gaining popularity by leaps and bounds. There are many flavors of SUV or cross-over vehicles to choose from across the automotive manufacturer spectrum.  KIA, the little sister of Automotive and industrial manufacturing giant Hyundai is rather new to the full size SUV gang with the 3rd Gen Sorento but she comes well dressed with exemplary manners, good looks, and solid function all wrapped up in a mechanically marvelous package. 

I recently had the pleasure of driving the 2014 KIA Sorento which was supplied to me and Leslie of Leslie Loves Veggies by STI - The Driving Experience People.

The KIA Sorento is classed as a Crossover SUV.  The 2014 Sorento as a 3rd Generation iteration of the model has undergone numerous extensive refinements from previous production years to make this model year an absolute beauty.  Kelley Blue Book lists Sorento on their 2013  "10 Best SUV's under $25,000 listing".  Safety was a prime design cue for this vehicle which has earned the Sorento the 5 STAR National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Award.  The 2014 Sorento has also earned a Top Pick from Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.  The 2014 Sorento tested by Leslie and I was a V6 FWD SX version with 6 speed automatic transmission and 7 passenger seating.  With a sticker price less than $40,000 I can truthfully say this is where luxury and practicality meet the road.  This vehicle is loaded with safety features as well as standard gizmo items that would satisfy a long wish list of options anyone could ask for and still satisfy the practicality driven car buyer in all of us.  Today, we take for granted many standard features loaded into vehicles which years ago were very high-end luxury sticker options such as back-up camera display, creative cabin lighting, push button start, traction control, and automatic power lift gate.  I love the gadgets and if they help make the driving experience more confident and give the driver more control all for the better.  This vehicle did have many features that are desirable but not necessarily safety related and they just add to the overall value of this beauty of an SUV.

The Sorento will surprise you with economical flare
The SUV is commonly known as a big and heavy full sized road vehicle built on a truck chassis with low 10-15 MPG fuel economy.  Option lists add dramatic gadgetry and bells & whistles to an already hefty sticker price.  But hold on there - you will be surprised with the economy of the 2014 Sorento.  Prices start at $24,100 which is some $700 less than competing big sis Hyundai Sante Fe, and $4,000 less than the competitor from Ford Motor Company.  My test vehicle was a heavyweight contender at 5,292 lbs.  That being stated you are probably thinking; >5000 lbs, 7 passenger, it must have horrible fuel mileage and comes with a gas guzzler tax right?  Absolutely Wrong!  At estimated 18 City and 25 MPG Highway fuel mileage there is road worthy economy here!  You will also be shocked at the technology, safety, and mechanical wizardry built in to this vehicle for less than $40,000.  How does this list of options in the < $40,000 Sorento vehicle compare to your dream SUV build?
Full Leather Seating throughout
Heated Second Row Seating
Blind Spot Warning System and back up camera
290 HP V6 with Push button start
Key-less entry with door handle illumination - Real nice feature
Special illumination appointments throughout the cabin - every button is night illuminated
Full computerized driver controls with Thin Film Transistor Speedometer multi-function display
Driver selectable Steering Assist with 3 settings - I loved this!
Panoramic Sunroof with power shade with wind buffet reduction
Safety Smart power Lift gate
Power folding side mirrors
110 volt power inverter with master on/off switch - saves life on power unit
2nd row full window sunshades
The list of bells and whistles goes on and on.

Made right here in GA
The 2014 KIA Sorento is a beautiful contender in the SUV market which is built in the state of Georgia by US Citizens at KIA Motors Manufacturing Georgia.  A state of the art car building plant with an annual capacity of 360,000 vehicles.  Keep in mind that this vehicles keeps Americans at work!

Safety and drivability in a dream boat package
My test vehicle was appointed with many standard equipment items making for a well balanced, secure, and pleasurable driving experience.  With a commanding height above the road the Sorento gives a feeling of driver superiority that all SUV's give but with technological safety features that definitely enhance driver acuity.  Electronic auto dim rear view mirror, large side windows with unobstructed view, blind-spot warning system, traction control with anti-rollover sensing, all combine to help the driver keep this luxury aspiring "living room on wheels" precisely placed on the road.  If you did not notice yet I have not referred to the Sorento as a truck in my review as some SUV's are structurally classified.  Engineering refinements made to this vehicle differ from the 2013 and previous model year with the institution of a car based structure and frame platform rather than a truck based platform.  I definitely noticed the ride quality and the Sorento's U-turn abilities of this agile giant.  Starts from a traffic light were more like a launch with brisk smooth acceleration.  Although at times I did feel some minor body rotation upon accelerations and brisk stops the Sorento always felt competent and stable.  At highway speed the Sorento was very competent, smooth riding, and predictable.  The blind spot monitoring system which can be activated/deactivated with a push button was a silent back seat driver always warning of vehicles just to the rear of the Sorento in adjacent traffic lanes.  Activating a turn signal in the direction of the detected obstacle created an audible warning signal in the cabin.  Driving the Sorento was a joy with comfort, predictability, agility, luxury, and practicality all wrapped up in the KIA Sorento package.

The 2014 Sorento cabin is extremely quiet
The Sorento has great road noise dampening capability with insulation so good it was quite a shock compared to the raucous ride I get with my worked 2000 Celica and even some of the latest test vehicles previously reviewed this 2013 year. In fact this was the quietest vehicle at any speed I have ever driven.  Many years ago Ford Motor Company ran TV commercials showing a diamond cutter sitting in the back of a Mercury Marquis cleaving a diamond perfectly.  Bumpy roads and other road surface challenges are smoothed out by the able suspension and all noise is virtually eliminated with the insulation of the Sorento cabin.  Take a look at these two spectral sound readings taken at approximately 35 - 40 MPH in the Sorento and my Celica.  The red trace is peak noise.

 Luxurious and Confident Driving Experience
Around town driving was effortless and comfortable.  Vehicle seat height makes for easy entry and exit even for me and Leslie with our short 5'4" statures.  With the driver controlled steering assist settings I could change the driving feel for Comfort, Sport, or Normal driving.  By pressing a button on the steering wheel I toggled the road feel from comfortable (road numbing) which is best for highway driving to a light-nimble sport setting which was perfect for negotiating tight turns of parking lots, neighborhoods, and backstreets.  I tested this feature on another KIA vehicle but the difference in settings were more demonstrable with the much heavier Sorento.  I really was astounded by how this vehicle handled compared to the mini-vans and pick up trucks I have driven in my lifetime.  Lets face it, this is a big heavy SUV.  Negotiating a slalom course of traffic cones is beneath the dignity of this gentle giant.  However, I was astonished at the Sorento's tight turning radius enabling me to make a stop light U-turn and not creep into a 2nd lane to negotiate the turn.

If you are in the market for an SUV or cross-over vehicle you would be making an uninformed choice without test driving the 2014 Sorento.  I really enjoyed the capable agility of the handling, the peppy starts, and oh-so comfortable highway disposition.  The cabin is fully awash with indicator lights for every single button and switch on the dash, the console, and in the 2nd row seating area.  Heated seats were absolutely hot and therapeutic making a cold rainy morning drive a pleasure.  The sound system was a joy to the ears with the Infinity enhanced sound system.  Navigation and satellite radio perfectly rounded out the technological large screen information pod at center of the dash.  The power moon roof with power sun shade was incredible.  Push a button and the shade opens.  Push a 2nd button and the giant glass canopy above your head disappears with a wind buffeting panel that pops up to decrease wind noise and cabin air movement.  Or just press one button and instant open roof commences.  I fell in love with the KIA Sorento.  I found a cross-roads of luxury and practicality in this techno-wizard SUV.

What did I like and not like?
Techno-wizardry of the steering mode selection and virtual Speedometer display
Full set of gauges including tachometer, engine temp, and fuel level
Strong acceleration for a 5200 lb. vehicle
Agile and confident handling
Safety features including blind spot monitoring and multiple airbags earning top honors

Not Likes:
3rd row seating was tight
Sound system a little week for the size of the cabin
Drive train is sometimes clunky until engine drive train fully warms up

Thanks STI - The Driving Experience People for the opportunity to drive the 2014 KIA Sorento!

Learn more about the 2014 KIA Sorento with the links below:
KIA Sorento on facebook
KIA Motors

Scott R. Mayorga A.A.S. BS MT(ASCP)H CLS

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