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2014 Kia Sorento Test Drive

by Ben Lewis on

The 2014 Kia Sorento has us thinking about siblings. You know, how similar they can seem at times, and yet at others, so different.

The case in point here is the Kia Sorento and the Hyundai Santa Fe.  Nearly twins, they share a lot of common components, but it’s interesting in how different they can be as well.

We recently tested the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport; the 5-seater version of Hyundai’s big SUV is extremely stylish and quite sporty. We liked the responsiveness of the Santa Fe’s turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine and thought the overall package was one of the most interesting choices in it segment.

Now there’s also a larger Santa Fe offered, called... well... Santa Fe, that offers three rows of seats, and is similarly styled to the Sport.

On the Kia side, there’s just one Sorento, with an available 3rd row seat on all models. Since it has to bridge the gap between the two Santa Fe models, the Sorento is a bit smaller than the larger Santa Fe, but is still a strong competitor in its class.

What surprised us is the difference in personalities. We’ve already touched on the Santa Fe’s sportiness. When we first saw our Remington Red Sorento on handsome 19” alloy wheels, we thought it was a little too conservative. But when we lived with it, we began to see that it’s just tasteful and reserved, and grew to like it more each day.

There’s no warming period required for the drive, though. Powering the Sorento is a new for 2014, direct-injected 3.3-liter V6, and it's a honey. Pumping out an impressive 290 horsepower, it moves this relatively large vehicle with ease, and it sounds great doing so. The 6-speed automatic is notably smooth as well and makes a great partner. We got close to 20 MPG, which isn’t bad for a leadfoot in a large SUV.

We’ve noted in the past the both Hyundai and Kia are constantly improving their products, and its really noticeable in the Sorento’s chassis, which has been redesigned for 2014. The ride is remarkably quiet and smooth, and the handling is confident and well controlled, especially when equipped with all wheel drive like our tester.

Like it’s Hyundai sibling, our tester had the 3-mode selectable steering that basically firms up the feel, and like the Hyundai, we played with it once, and then didn’t bother with it.  

We wouldn’t let the adjustable assist steer us away from our driving impression, though. The Sorento’s a great vehicle for your daily commute or that family vacation.

The interior echo’s the exterior story. Where the Hyundai is more aggressive with sharp angles, the Sorento is more conservative fare, but still beautifully done. We especially liked the clean look to the gauges and the simple center stack.

Like we’ve mentioned in the past, Kia and Hyundai are offering among the best info-tainment systems of anybody. The Sorento is even better for 2014, with a larger touchscreen and improved functionality. We were pleased with how quickly we could pair our phone, dial in our favorite satellite stations and use UVO voice-control for a majority of our activities.

Along with the goodies, comes some good old space and comfort. Like most smaller three row vehicles, the Sorento’s first two rows are fine for adults, while the third is really best for kids. If you’re not using the third row you have a massive cargo area, made all the more accessible with the power liftgate on our tester.

Which brings us to an interesting discovery. We found the front buckets in the Sorento to be supremely comfortable for all who sat in them. In the Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, some found them less than ideal. We would have expected them to be the same, but they weren’t. So if you’ve got a particularly discerning bum, we’d try them both before you buy.

If your bottom likes the Sorento, your wallet will probably like the bottom line as well. If you just need the big box model, you can get the 4-cylinder LX model for as little as  $24,100. We’d strongly recommend opting for the 6-cylinder here, and at $25,700 it’s good value. Add another $1,800 if you want all wheel drive.

Our tester was the cushy SX model which loads up the goods with everything from a leather-trimmed interior to heated and cooled front seats, panoramic moonroof, a thumping Infinity  Surround Sound Audio system, and Navigation with a generous 8” display. Thus equipped, our tester came in at $36,800.  There’s even a Limited model that offers equipment level that would shame a Lexus, but it does push you past 40 large.

Which brings up a point. Also like Hyundai, Kia is no longer giving vehicles away to build big sales numbers. Which is not to say they aren’t excellent value – they still include a 10-year/100,00 mile powertrain warranty on top of a very well-equipped vehicle. It’s just that they’ve earned the right to ask the prices they are asking for.

So the Santa Fe Sport and Kia Sorento are sibs, but they’re not the same. The Hyundai is the exuberant younger brother, while the Sorento a little more mature, a little more worldly. Whichever of the family resonates with you, you’re sure to be making a great choice.

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