First Drive

FIRST DRIVE: 2014 Kia Sorento

Upgrades for 2014 position the Sorento among a much more refined set of competitors

2014 Kia Sorento - front 3/4 view
SCOTSDALE, AZ – The 2014 Sorento is one of nine new or heavily reworked models to be introduced by Kia over a 12-month period. The Sorento falls between the two categories as it has a new platform, new engine and some interesting new features, but only minor visual updates inside and out. 

Although it may not look like it, the new Sorento involved the most intensive product enhancement Kia Canada has ever undertaken. More than 80% of its components are new or significantly enhanced. 

Santa Fe sibling

The 2014 Sorento shares its platform with the recently-introduced 2013 Hyundai Santa Fe (which was voted AJAC Canadian Utility Vehicle of the Year). The two lie somewhere between mid-size and compact CUV/SUVs in size. 

2014 Kia Sorento - front 3/4 view.JPGWhile the Sorento has new front and rear ends with LED lighting at both, and new wheels (17-19”), you’d have to line it up beside a current model to distinguish the differences. 

The wheelbase is the same as the old platform, but the overall length has grown slightly – 15-mm – because of the new bumpers. The track is 8-mm wider up front and 20-mm wider at the rear because of its new wheels.

The lack of visual change is perhaps understandable because the Sorento continues to soldier along as one of the better-selling utility vehicles in the compact and mid-size categories, although it sells at about half the rate of its Sana Fe sibling. 

2014 Kia Sorento - third row seats.JPGHyundai has recently introduced an extended version of the Santa Fe with three rows of seats but Kia says it will has no such plans for the American-built Sorento, which is available with three rows in the shorter wheelbase version of the platform. 

Instead, it will bring out an entirely new, larger and more luxurious SUV in the not-too-distant future to do battle in the up-level category. 

The interior changes include a new centre stack and console as well as improved materials and more soft-touch surfaces from door-to-door. 

The switch to the new platform has resulted in a lower floor and 30-mm more legroom in the second row and 9-mm in the third. Still, the third row is best assigned to really small and agile people and occasional use.

New mechanicals

While there is little to visually differentiate the new from the old Sorentos there is plenty new on the mechanical side. 

2014 Kia Sorento - engine bay.JPGThe base engine is a 191-horsepower version of the 2.4-litre four offered previously. It has direct injection giving it 16 more horsepower than last year’s engine. 

Unlike sister Santa Fe, which uses a turbocharged four as the engine upgrade, Kia chose to go with a new 3.3-litre V-6 producing 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, compared to 275 horsepower and 248 lb-ft from the 3.5-litre six used previously. 

Both engines are smooth and quiet with the six obviously having the edge if you are towing or regularly carry several people in the vehicle with you. The only transmission offered is a six-speed automatic.

The 2014 Sorento comes in front and all-wheel-drive. the former only on the base model. A new Dynamax AWD system sends 95% of engine output to the front wheels under typical driving scenarios and varies torque distribution during cornering. 

Under acceleration more power is sent to the rear wheels and under slippery conditions, it can be locked to send 50% to the rear at speeds up to 30 km/h. 

Greater rigidity

Starting with the new platform, the engineers used the added rigidity it offered to eradicate most unwanted noise, vibration, and harshness. The new front suspension is mounted to a stiffer sub-frame and the rear suspension was strengthened. 

2014 Kia Sorento - steering wheel and instrument panel.JPGThe result is a much higher level of refinement – something badly needed in the old Sorento. 

Electric power steering replaces the pumps and hydraulics used previously. Kia labels the system “FlexSteer” and provides a button that allows the driver to select from three levels of assistance: Comfort, Normal, and Sport, defaulting to normal each time the vehicle is restarted. 

Sounds very high-tech but once they have tried it, I’ll bet most owners will never touch it again.

Three well-equipped trim levels

The 2014 Sorento comes in LX, EX and SX trim levels. The LX gets the four-cylinder engine and front-wheel-drive. The V-6 and AWD are optional on the LX and standard on EX and SX trim levels. 

2014 Kia Sorento - front seats.JPGKia isn’t through playing the value card. Every new Sorento will come with alloy wheels, power windows, locks and mirrors, heated front seats, mirrors and windshield wiper rests, privacy glass, rear side window sunshades, remote keyless entry, air conditioning, sonar-based rear park assist, roof rack, tilt and telescopic steering wheel and satellite radio. Even on the base, front-drive, four-cylinder LX model!

All Sorentos also get a highly-visible new TFT (Thin Film Transistor) LCD instrument cluster. 

Available options – standard equipment on higher trim levels – include a blind spot detection system,cooled front seats, power tailgate, heated steering wheel and rear seats, HID headlights, navigation system with 20-cm display and a seven-seat package.   

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