UPDATE: New Car Review: 2014 Kia Sorento

2014 Kia Sorento front 3/4 view

How popular is the Kia Sorento?

Consider this:  One of the most-read reviews here on TireKicker is a review of the 2013 Sorento, which we published almost two years ago.

Kia's product cadence (the schedule on which they release all-new or significantly updated vehicles) is so brisk that as fresh as the '13 seemed, the 2014 Sorento is clearly a better looking, better-designed, more refined machine.

Rear 3/4 view of 2014 Kia Sorento

This time around, our tester was the SX front-wheel drive model...one down from the top-of-the-line Limited (all-wheel drive can be had on all trim levels).  For a starting price of $35,000 even, you get a 3.3 liter V6, six-speed automatic transmission, an independent front and rear suspension, 19-inch alloy wheels, the full complement of airbags, anti-lock brakes, traction control, electronic stability control, hill-start assist and tire pressure monitoring.

Those are just the practicalities.  Then come the niceties like dual-zone automatic climate control, an Infinity surround sound audio system, the UVO eServices telematics suite, an 8-inch color display, navigation, Sirius/XM satellite radio, Bluetooth, leather seat trim, an adjustable power driver's seat with lumbar support, heated and ventilated front seats, push button start, cruise control, automatic light control, a tilting and telescoping steering wheel, blind spot detection, an auto-dimming rearview mirror with HomeLink, front fog lights, a panoramic moonroof with power sunshade, heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators built-in, a power liftgate and a rear spoiler.

All standard for $35,000.  That's what you call a very well-equipped midsize crossover.  Ours added only two options, a third row of seats and rear air conditioning for $1,000 and a cargo net for $50.  Both worthwhile.  Freight and handling of $850 brought the bottom line to $36,900.

2014 Kia Sorento interior view

There's the usual strong stride forward in materials, craftsmanship and design that we've come to expect from each new generation of Kia products.  And each new wave is a better-driving vehicle than the one before it. The new Sorento is more composed, feels more energetic and handles better than the last.

The only place where the Sorento loses a step is in gas mileage.  That's because while the new-for-2014 3.3-liter V6 is a bit smaller than last year's 3.5 liter, it's more powerful (290 horsepower instead of 275). Last year's EPA estimate of 20 city/26 highway dips to 18 city/25 highway.

It's not a huge difference, and it's a fair trade-off for the added performance, but Kia's built their expanding place in the U.S. market on value (the 10 year/100,000 mile warranty is a big part of that) and I have to wonder how many Kia shoppers will balk at a window sticker that shows a price above $35,000 and city mileage in the teens.

Overall, though, it's a strong package from a company that only seems to go from strength to strength.  And one 8-speed automatic could make those EPA numbers a lot more palatable.\

UPDATE: We had the opportunity for another week in another 2014 Kia Sorento, equipped and priced identically to the one above, and this time, put more than 650 miles on it, including some highway driving.

Our impressions remain the same....it's a more than worthy family hauler that could stand more gears in its automatic transmission and not much else in the way of changes.  In fact, the opportunity this time to fold in a 200-plus mile roundtrip road trip revealed a lot of what makes the Sorento an attractive long-term buy, and helps justify that $36,900 as-tested price.

And as for Kia's evolution in terms of style...well, there's this:  The valet at the garage for San Francisco's Clift Hotel, after bringing the car up after the Western Automotive Journalists holiday party, handed me the keys and said "This is very nice."

And that man sits in a lot of cars in the course of a day.

UPDATE 2: Offered another week in a Kia Sorento, how could we say no?  This time, it was the second-from-base EX model (they go LX, EX, SX and Limited).  Base price is $30,000....$31,700 for the all-wheel-drive version, which we had.  What's the difference between it and the EX models tested above?  In theory, several nice pieces of standard equipment (Navigation system, 8-inch color display, upgraded Infinity audio system, ventilated front seats, blind spot detection, a four-way power passenger's seat, panoramic moonroof with power sunshade, memory driver's seat and mirrors, power folding outside mirrors and a power liftgate).

And with the check of one option box (Touring Package, $4,000), all that magically appears on your EX...as it did our tester.  So it's a do-it yourself SX.  All that was missing from the EX that was on the SXs was the third row of seats, rear air conditioning and cargo net, so the bottom line (including $850 freight and handling) was lower...this time $36,550 (remember, this latest one was all-wheel drive while the two prior were front-wheel drive models).

With Northern California weather, I really appreciated the extra sure-footed feeling of the all-wheel drive. It does cost you one MPG on the highway (25 dips to 24, the city number of 18 remains the same), but the more time I spend with the Sorento, the more I'm convinced that the overall value of the package is very strong.  If I were shopping this segment with my own money, this would be the one to beat.

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