2016 Kia Sorento Limited V6 Review

Bigger, Blander, Better

Sometimes a full-fledged overhaul is not needed.

Take the Kia Sorento as an example. Already a good product, Kia did not perform a complete redesign for the 2016 Sorento, but rather a substantial refresh. Still, Kia has studied the outgoing model’s faults and improved upon them.

The 2015 Sorento always felt like a 9/10ths midsize crossover. It didn’t feel quite as large on the inside and looked less substantial on the outside than others in its segment. For 2016 the Sorento grows in overall length by four inches to now total 187.4 inches. That still leaves it almost four inches shorter than the Toyota Highlander, but the gap has shrunk.

SEE ALSO: 2015 Kia Sorento Review

The sexy reworked sheet metal looks more impressive and sizable than the outgoing Sorento. I tested the fully loaded Limited V6 AWD model, which takes things up a notch by including attractive 19-inch wheels and quad LED fog light pods on each side of the front bumper.

More Choice Under the Hood

2016 Kia Sorento Review

Unlike the Sorento’s corporate sibling, the Hyundai Santa Fe, Kia does not split its midsize crossover into two different body sizes and seat configurations. That means the one-size-fits-all Sorento can come as a five- or seven-passenger vehicle. To better align it with the Santa Fe family, an extra engine has been added for 2016.

The 240 HP 2.0-liter turbocharged engine can now be had on higher-end five-seat Sorentos, just like the Santa Fe Sport. Base models of the Sorento still make do with the 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine while most seven-passenger models come equipped with a 3.3-liter V6. There is one key difference between the Sorento and the Santa Fe because it’s possible to equip the Kia in LX trim with the 2.4-liter engine and seven-passenger seating.

Playing the Waiting Game

2016 Kia Sorento Review2016 Kia Sorento Review2016 Kia Sorento Review2016 Kia Sorento Review

Save for the base L model, any engine and trim configuration of the Sorento can be equipped with front- or all-wheel drive. Regardless of which combination is chosen, the only transmission available is a six-speed automatic. In the Limited V6, I found the six-speed to be the Achilles heel of the drivetrain. The transmission is slow to react; it takes a long pause between shifts and sometimes follows up by hammering hard into gear.

The engine delivers decent forward momentum. Despite having more power – 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque – than a lot of its competitors, it doesn’t feel that way. At least the high output doesn’t hurt fuel economy. Officially rated at 17 MPG city and 23 MPG highway for V6 AWD models, the Sorento is on par with similarly equipped competitors from Honda and Toyota.

Good fuel economy can be partially attributed to the Sorento’s relatively light curb weight. At 4,211 lbs. as-tested, it undercuts the Highlander and the Pilot. Despite that, it’s still heavier than the 2015 model. It also lacks the old model’s semi-engaging driving experience. When we tested eight three-row crossovers side-by-side last year, we found the Sorento to be one of the more enjoyable vehicles to drive. Now it just feels bland and dull, which mimics the driving experience of the better selling Toyota Highlander, so maybe Kia is on to something.

 Big Interior Improvements

2016 Kia Sorento Review

And it’s not just the drive that reminds me of the Highlander, the interior has a very similar feel. With every new model, Kia’s designs continue to improve. Almost every surface in the Limited V6 model is finished with soft touch materials. The layout is elegant and modern. It may be a cliché, but Kia is definitely there in terms of offering interiors that are on par with Japanese manufacturers.

SEE ALSO: 2014 Kia Sorento Review

2016 Kia Sorento ReviewNot everything is perfect inside the Sorento. The driver’s seat cushion is a bit hard. After a long drive my legs were going numb. I do like that the tip of the seat is powered to independently tilts up to provide thigh support in addition to the normal front and rear seat tilt.

The Limited Sorento comes with Kia’s latest version of the brand’s UVO infotainment system. I love the six-channel recordable satellite radio feature, but do wish the navigation had a perspective view. Still, UVO is a very user-friendly system with a good combination of buttons and touch controls.

Space is Better, Minus the Third Row

Interior space increases marginally in the 2016 Kia Sorento. Second-row passengers now enjoy 39.4 inches of legroom, which is more than the 2015 Sorento, but third row passengers are still stuck with a mere 31.7 inches of legroom. Headroom is ample in both the front and middle row while the third row remains cramped.

Cargo capacity is up on all fronts with 11.3 cubic feet of gear fitting behind the third row. Fold those seats down and a nice flat load floor is capable of holding 38.0 cubic feet of gear. With the middle row seats also folded, that number grows to 73.5 cubic feet.

2016 Kia Sorento Review

The Verdict: 2016 Kia Sorento Review

The 2016 Sorento L FWD begins at $25,795 after destination charges. That’s a $600 increase over the outgoing model which isn’t bad considering the new vehicle is a larger, more substantial offering. Fully loaded, the Sorento Limited V6 AWD costs $46,495, which puts it about $1,500 higher than a similarly equipped Toyota Highlander.

Is the price premium worth it over the Toyota? Only a head-to-head comparison can accurately answer that question. But one thing is for sure. The old 2015 Sorento was a mid-pack three-row crossover offering at best. The new 2016 model is up near the front of the pack.