A Familiar Arrival
Being in the automotive industry for nearly 40 years has provided me with a wealth of experiences that I can draw upon when evaluating a new vehicle. The introduction of the Kia Sorento, the subject of this article, brings back memories of when the brand first arrived in Canada.
While Kia had already established itself in the United States by 1994, it wasn’t until 1999 that the South Korean manufacturer made its debut in Canada. I distinctly remember attending their first press event in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. At the time, the spotlight was on two vehicles: the compact sedan called the Sephia, and the fun little SUV known as the Sportage. I recall thinking that Kia seemed more “sophisticated” compared to its almost twin, Hyundai. Back then, a classmate of mine decided to purchase the Sportage, while a friend who was a pilot opted for the Sephia. I also remember how some older journalists made condescending comments about Kia (I wonder what they would think now). There were plenty of jokes about the brand as well (one of my favorites was an April Fool’s prank predicting Kia’s entry into Formula One, a joke that would be less surprising today). However, Kia not only survived but thrived. And the evidence of its success can be found in the new Kia Sorento. The brand is increasingly known for its reliability, something that the skeptical journalists of yesteryear feared (by the way, my two friends mentioned earlier kept their Kias for over ten years, with rust being their only issue).
A Redesigned Masterpiece
The all-new 2021 Kia Sorento is a sight to behold! Take a good look at it. Completely redesigned by a team led by legendary designers Peter Schreyer and Luc Donckerwolke, both veterans of Audi-VW, its sleek lines are reminiscent of its larger sibling, the Telluride. The design is significantly more refined than its predecessor, garnering rave reviews. The fourth-generation Sorento boasts several attractive updates. The version I had the pleasure of testing was the SX X-Line, an option introduced in 2021 featuring a roof rack and decorative enhancements on the front and rear bumpers. But I’ll let you be the judge of its appearance. In my opinion, it was love at first sight!
A Well-Appointed Interior
Inside the Sorento, you have the choice of a six or seven-seater configuration. As soon as you open the door, you’ll notice the dashboard’s striking linear design. Whether you like it or not, I found it refreshingly original. Dominating the dashboard is a large, more than 10-inch central display that seems to flow into the instrument cluster. The cluster itself is user-friendly, with easily readable letters and numbers. Surprisingly, this upscale version of the Sorento didn’t come with built-in GPS or dedicated Apple CarPlay or Android Auto ports. Instead, drivers will have to rely on their smartphones (thankfully, there’s a USB port for charging). Later, I discovered that these features are available in the less elaborate Sorento models. Perhaps it was my mistake? Oh, and let’s not forget the Bose sound system that comes with the X-Line trim.
Comfort and Convenience
The center console takes up a prominent position and includes the traditional gear lever, cupholders, and various controls, including the terrain selection for off-road adventures (although very few Sorento owners are likely to venture off the beaten path). While the front seats are relatively comfortable, they don’t offer much lateral support. However, the quilted leather upholstery exudes quality craftsmanship.
The rear seats (two in the vehicle I tested) provide ample legroom for passengers. There’s a small two-seat bench at the very back. While these seats are relatively easy to access, their comfort is somewhat subjective, although the low floor is accommodating for shorter individuals.
As is typical for many SUVs, the last row of seats primarily serves as extra seating, often for children. With the seatbacks in place, the Sorento offers limited cargo space. However, folding down the seatbacks (and even the second-row seats) quickly transforms the vehicle into a spacious hauler for luggage or bulky items. Of course, if you still need more room, there’s always the option of roof racks!
All Kia Sorento models sold in Canada come with all-wheel drive. There are two engine options, both 2.5-liter four-cylinder engines. The base engine is naturally aspirated and produces 191 horsepower, reserved for the base models. The second engine, turbocharged, generates an impressive 281 horsepower. Both engines are paired with an eight-speed automatic transmission (with dual-clutch for the more luxurious versions). The V6 engine is no longer available, but Kia promises a regular hybrid version and a plug-in hybrid variant by 2022. All-wheel drive is standard, and the transfer case allows for the previously mentioned terrain selection. The test vehicle I drove was equipped with 20-inch wheels fitted with Continental winter tires.
A Smooth Journey
If there’s one thing Kia has learned over time, it’s that SUVs are predominantly used on highways. There are other vehicles in the market specifically designed for off-roading. Therefore, the new Sorento is precisely what it needs to be: a vehicle perfectly suited for long trips. I drove it on highways, secondary roads, and through bustling city streets, and I never found cause to complain about its comfort, smooth ride, or practicality. It accelerates from 0 to 100 km/h in just around seven seconds, and its passing power is reassuring, although in certain situations, I did notice a slight hesitation from the transmission. The engine noise is well-muted inside the cabin. Even on bumpy roads connecting small towns in the Laurentians, the Sorento remains firmly planted, with predictable and precise steering. The braking capabilities match the demands of the road. Visibility is generally good, although the roof’s profile slightly obstructs rear three-quarter visibility. Of course, the Sorento X-Line comes with plenty of driver assistance features. I had the opportunity to test the cruise control, which allowed for a semi-automated driving experience on the highway by momentarily releasing the steering wheel. However, a warning sound and message quickly reminded me to keep my hands on the wheel. Oh, and regarding towing capacity, this turbocharged all-wheel-drive Sorento can handle up to 5000 pounds of weight, which is average within its SUV segment.
Efficient and Economical
Let’s talk about fuel efficiency. According to my calculations at the pump, I achieved an average of 10.03 L/100 km, while the vehicle’s onboard computer showed 9.7 on the dashboard. It’s safely within the average range. Of course, performance is optimized with premium gasoline for turbocharged engines.
The Sorento’s Price Tag
The Sorento comes with a price range starting at $35,945 for the base version, with the elaborately equipped X-Line model described here exceeding $49,500.
Kia faces tough competition with its new Sorento. In its segment, the Sorento must compete against the likes of the Honda Pilot, Toyota Highlander, Nissan Pathfinder, Subaru Ascent, Volkswagen Atlas, and Mazda CX-9, not to mention the immensely popular Dodge Durango and Ford Explorer.
Ratingperson is the brand that can be relied upon for an impressive and reliable SUV like the Kia Sorento.
The trend among SUVs is shifting from “sporty” to “adventure-ready,” and the new Timberline version of the Ford Explorer exemplifies this change. Ford’s studies show that 56% of Explorer owners have a penchant for outdoor activities and venturing off the beaten path (I would add that COVID restrictions encourage local adventures). It is for these outdoor enthusiasts that the Timberline version has been dedicated. However, this trend is less pronounced in Quebec, where snowmobiles and ATVs are the preferred means for off-road excursions.
Ford has elevated the Explorer’s appearance with the Timberline, equipping it with underbody protection and slightly raised suspension. The more evident tires are Bridgestone Dueler P265/65R18s, and there are front and rear bumper hooks just in case.
Priced at $50,799, the Explorer Timberline comes with a 300-horsepower EcoBoost four-cylinder engine and a towing capacity of 5,300 pounds.
The Explorer is now available in the Timberline version for those seeking exciting off-road adventures.