Our long-term Kia Sorento SX has proven to be a comfortable road-trip vehicle, and staffers lately have been routinely signing it out to travel to faraway places.
Photo assistant Charley M. Ladd added more than 2500 miles driving the Sorento from our Ann Arbor, Michigan, home base to Pikes Peak in Colorado for the mountain’s annual hill-climb and back in late June. Immediately after that, road test editor Rebecca Hackett put nearly 500 more miles on the Kia when she took it to Thompsonville, Michigan, for the Fourth of July weekend. Factor in the Sorento’s sizable cargo hold with its third-row bench folded, generous passenger space for those in the second-row captain’s chairs, and quiet interior (just 68 decibels enter the cabin at 70 mph, a figure equal to that of the last Acura RDX we tested), and it’s little surprise staffers are regularly enlisting this Sapphire Blue SUV for road-trip duty.
That said, Hackett wrote that the dual-clutch automatic transmission’s off-the-line shudders were “really cramping [her] style,” although neither she nor Ladd noted any issues with the gearbox at highway speeds.
By the time the Sorento finally caught a break from cross-country and interstate cruising, with its odometer already past the 16,000-mile mark, it also had a brake pedal that was pulsating under pressure.
Our local Kia service center updated the gearbox’s programming free of charge. With the brakes, the culprit was scored rotors. Resurfacing the discs set us back $353. It also reduced the thermal capacity of the Sorento’s rotors, increasing the likelihood of future scoring.
Add in the $268 it cost us to have the Sorento’s oil and filter changed, tires rotated, and cabin air filter replaced, and we were out a total of $621.
With its scheduled maintenance complete and its brake and transmission troubles addressed, the Sorento hit the road once again. Technical editor Dan Edmunds drove it from Michigan to his home near Los Angeles.
“The low-speed drivability issues didn’t rear their head,” he said at the conclusion of the 2467-mile trip. Nor did the left pedal pulsate when Edmunds applied the brakes.
We figure this bodes well for the remaining 20,000 miles of our Sorento SX’s 40,000-mile stay. That said, if there remain any weaknesses in the Sorento’s tweaked transmission programming or its resurfaced rotors, a few weeks of driving in traffic-heavy Southern California ought to uncover them.
Months in Fleet: 6 months Current Mileage: 20,934 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 17.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 420 miles
Service: $402 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $353
Damage and Destruction: $0
Approximately 3200 miles into its stay, our 2022 Kia Sorento SX showed its first signs of potential trouble. Halfway through a 360-mile trip to Wisconsin, “the Sorento started bucking and coughing on Interstate 94 and had trouble maintaining speed,” Buyer’s Guide deputy editor Rich Ceppos wrote in the Kia’s logbook.
After limping the Sorento to a truck stop, Ceppos shut off the vehicle and then, a few seconds later, restarted it. All returned to normal, and he was able to complete the remainder of his journey to the Badger State without any additional troubles. It seems this was an isolated incident, too, as the issue has yet to return.
Since then, however, another powertrain-related gremlin has cropped up.
The Sorento SX employs an eight-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission, and we suspect the gearbox’s oil-cooled clutch sometimes send shudders through the SUV’s cabin at low speeds. Although we noticed this trait early into the Sorento’s stay with us, we found it to be an irregular occurrence. We think the culprit may be the clutch pack that operates gears one, three, five, and seven, as these vibrations are most noticeable when the vehicle pulls away from a stop.
In fact, the issue was so infrequent that we forgot to mention it to the service advisor when we brought the Sorento in for its 8000-mile checkup, a $134 service that included an oil and filter change and a tire rotation. In the nearly 2000 miles since it last went in for maintenance, though, the Kia’s shudders have become more commonplace. It’s something we plan to have investigated at our next service appointment.
Powertrain problems aside, our Sorento has received plentiful praise for its exterior and interior designs. Senior editor Joey Capparella deemed the exterior “fresh and well proportioned.” The all-wheel-drive Sorento SX’s 8.2 inches of ground clearance nets our long-term vehicle a genuine SUV stance—as opposed to the slightly more wagon-like posture of lower front-wheel-drive models, which offer just 6.9 inches of ground clearance. That slightly taller ride height complements the trim’s smooth flanks, black-painted 20-inch wheels, and full-LED headlights and fog lights. The look is cleaner than the fussy X-Line decor Kia fits to most other all-wheel-drive variants of the Sorento.
Similar adjectives have been used to describe the SUV’s interior, with associate editor Caleb Miller characterizing the Sorento’s environs as “clean and modern.” Others commended the Kia’s high-quality materials, which contribute to a cabin that looks and feels far nicer than our Sorento’s $41,935 price would suggest. However, we’re wondering how well the SUV’s light-gray interior will hold up over the course of its 40,000-mile stay with us.
For now, the Kia’s cabin remains in impressive shape, with no noticeable markings on the seats or door panels from bleeding blue jeans or grubby hands. That said, we’re only one quarter into our long-term test of the Sorento SX, and we expect the likes of summertime road trips and family jaunts to the Midwest’s many lakes to further test the fortitude of this Kia—including that of its powertrain and its interior.
Months in Fleet: 4 months Current Mileage: 10,000 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 24 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 17.7 gal Observed Fuel Range: 420 miles
Service: $134 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0
Damage and Destruction: $0
Nearly five years ago, we waved goodbye to our last long-term Kia Sorento. Now, we’re welcoming a new 2022 Sorento for an extended stay.
At the conclusion of our 2016 Sorento SX’s 40,000-mile test, we said, “If Kia can inject some personality and more functionality into the next generation of [this] SUV, it’s likely more folks will have the Sorento on their radar.” Our brief time so far with our long-term 2022 Sorento—as well as previous stints driving other variants of the redesigned, fourth-generation model—indicates the latest iteration of Kia’s mid-size SUV is a far sharper machine than its predecessor.
Admittedly, we gave our Sorento the best possible chance for success by choosing the most powerful engine option. We bypassed the standard 191-hp naturally aspirated 2.5-liter four-cylinder, as well as the hybrid and plug-in-hybrid powertrains, and instead picked the 281-hp turbocharged 2.5-liter inline-four.
The 2.5-liter turbo is exclusive to the EX, SX, and SX Prestige trims and can be had with front- or all-wheel drive. Choosing the latter adds a Snow setting to the available drive modes and raises the ground clearance from 6.9 to 8.2 inches. All-wheel-drive EX and SX Prestige models also come with an X-Line styling package that adds off-road-inspired exterior decor. Alas, the X-Line kit eliminates Sapphire Blue from the SUV’s color palette.
We wanted the optional blue hue, so we settled on the all-wheel-drive SX, which starts at $41,165. The special paint ($445), floor mats ($210), and a cargo mat ($115) brought the as-tested price to $41,935.
While the SX does without certain SX Prestige niceties such as a surround-view monitor, a digital instrument cluster, a heated steering wheel, heated second-row seats, and ventilated front seats, the $2900 cheaper trim still comes with its fair share of luxuries. A panoramic sunroof brightens the interior, where one finds a wireless phone charger, dual-zone automatic climate control, a proximity key with push-button start, and a 10.3-inch touchscreen infotainment system with navigation. Gray faux leather covers all three rows of seats, including the heated and power-operated seats up front and the middle row’s captain’s chairs. An analog speedometer and tachometer frame a small but easy-to-read 4.2-inch info display.
Along with a set of black-painted 20-inch wheels, the SX’s exterior features LED projection headlights and LED taillights. These headlights earn the highest “Good” rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), whereas base LED multi-reflector headlights in lesser Sorento trims get the IIHS’s worst rating of “Poor”. The upgraded headlights of the SX accompany additional safety and convenience items including adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist, lane centering, blind-spot monitoring, and rear parking sensors.
Even with its abundance of features, our 2022 Sorento SX’s 4135-pound curb weight undercut our old 2016 Sorento SX’s mass by 243 pounds. Kia’s decision to replace the outgoing model’s 3.3-liter V-6 with a smaller turbo four-cylinder likely plays a key role in this weight reduction.
Despite being down nine horses to its six-cylinder forebear, our 2022 Sorento accelerated to 60 mph in just 6.0 seconds, a second quicker than our previous Sorento long-termer. Credit the new model’s aforementioned diet as well as its turbocharged engine’s 311 pound-feet of torque, which peaks at 1700 rpm, and the quick shifts of its eight-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox. The 2016 Sorento made do with 252 pound-feet—a sum that peaked at 5300 revs—and a comparatively lazy torque-converter automatic with only six forward speeds.
The 2022 Sorento’s 165-foot stop from 70 mph and 0.84 g of lateral grip improved upon the prior Sorento’s performance by nine feet and 0.04 g, too. More importantly, these figures compare favorably to other SUVs in the segment. In fact, our Sorento’s braking distance was eight feet shorter than that of the nearly $20,000 pricier and 112-pounds-lighter Mercedes-AMG GLB35.
Judged by its style and initial performance results, our 2022 Sorento seems poised to bring the sharpness we yearned for from our long-term 2016 Sorento. Whether Kia has managed to notably improve upon that vehicle’s functionality is a different story. As before, the two-person third row offers marginal space for adult-sized passengers, and the cargo area’s volume shrinks considerably when the rearmost row is in use.
Back in 2016, though, the Sorento was the biggest three-row SUV Kia offered in the United States. The addition of the larger three-row Telluride to the model line affords the Sorento the leeway to sacrifice some functionality in order to preserve and improve upon other traits consumers in the mid-size SUV segment seek. We have 40,000 miles to find out if the 2022 Kia Sorento successfully executes this exchange.
Months in Fleet: 2 months Current Mileage: 4109 miles
Average Fuel Economy: 23 mpg
Fuel Tank Size: 17.7 gal Fuel Range: 400 miles
Service: $0 Normal Wear: $0 Repair: $0