2013 Kia Sorento SX

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I hate to say this, but I really like the 2013 Kia Sorento CUV.  To publicly confess liking a CUV is pretty much like Kim Kardashian admitting she shops at Walmart.  But it’s true.  This Kia Sorento SX is one impressive hauler.

This second generation Sorento is better than the old in many ways.  It sheds a reputed 215 kg due to its lighter, unibody chassis construction, and that means better performance and fuel economy.  The Sorento’s attractive restyling comes from the Kia design chief Peter Schreyer who honed his skills at Audi and Volkswagen.  Schreyer is generally credited for puting Kia in the top ranks of auto styling worldwide, and the Sorento is undeniably a handsome two-box design.

Slide into the driver’s seat and the Sorento’s interior looks fresh and pleasing, and the instrument cluster and centrestack’s HVAC, audio and navigation system controls are straight forward and intuitive.  Put your octogenarian grandmother in the Sorento’s driver seat and she’ll be able to operate the main controls without much difficulty.

Our test Sorento SX was the top-of-the-range version with a 276 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 engine, 6-speed automatic transmission, full-time all-wheel-drive and fitted with just about every convenience available – third row seating, keyless entry/ignition, navigation system with rear view camera, dual panoramic moon roofs, heated steering wheel, heated front (ventilated driver’s) seats, and 18-in. chrome finish alloy wheels, and pre-wired for trailer towing, to list only some features.

So-equipped, it’s as if Kia’s product planners were in a corporate huddle and some bright spark tossed a ‘hey, let’s build a Sorento for Canada’ idea into the brainstorming pile.  The front seat and steering wheel electric heaters are brilliant – providing among the fastest and most even heating of any vehicle I’ve ever tested, a glorious feature we relished during our bone chilling -24 degree Celsius test period.             People love CUVs because they’re versatile and here, the Sorento doesn’t disappoint.  The split second row easily folds down (not quite flat) with a handy latch on the seat back, and the third row seats pop up from the cargo with one pull of a nylon strap.  The second row seats are roomy enough for three adults and the seat backs are adjustable for recline.  The third row seats are tight and suitable only for kids, but the Sorento is roomy enough to easily haul a mom, dad, two kids and grandma and grandpa to the cabin for the weekend.

But it’s the Sorento’s driving dynamics that eventually won me over.  First, Kia’s 276 horsepower 3.5-litre V6 has plenty of power (and beats the Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander V6s in horsepower and fuel economy.)  Give the Sorento SX a good shot of throttle and the DOHC V6 engine emits a sonorous growl you’d expect from a sports car.  The powerful V6 engine is matched to a 6-speed automatic transmission that’s smooth and reacts quickly.  Second, the Kia Sorento SX is a responsive CUV, with nicely weighted steering and suspension calibrations that, while slightly stiff, suit the SX’s truck-like character.  While it is nicely responsive, it is by no means agile – for that, move on to the Mazda CX-9 or BMW X5.

The Sorento SX has flaws, but they’re minor.  At this price point, a power tailgate would have made the SX nearly perfect, but it’s absent, and the decent sounding Infinity audio system lost its satellite radio reception with annoying regularity.

Overall, the 2013 Kia Sorento SX is impressive and what I call an ‘honest’ vehicle.  What you see is what you get.  Build quality is impressively solid, power is plentiful, and it’s one of the few CUVs that’s still fitted with electronically locking differentials – important kit if you’re hauling a snowmobile trailer in the back country or pulling a fishing boat out of the water.

The 2013 Kia Sorento SX is rich with features at a very attractive price point.  It can carry seven passengers, has enough power to haul a trailer, and achieves best in V6 AWD class fuel economy rating.  With its Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Top Safety Pick award, this is one CUV I’d buy with my own money.

The Specs

2013 Kia Sorento 3.5L SX

Type of vehicle:  Mid-size 7-passenger all-wheel-drive CUV

Engine: 3.5litre DOHC V6

Power: 276 horsepower at 6,300 r.p.m; 248 pound-feet of torque at 4,800 r.p.m.

Transmission: 6-speed automatic

Brakes: Front ventilated disc brakes, rear disc brakes. ABS with brake assist, electronic brake force distribution (EBD)

Tires: 235/60-18 winter, full size spare

Price: $41,295;  As-tested:  $43,045 (Includes $1,650 destination charge, $100 excise tax)

Transport Canada fuel economy (L/100 km): 11.5 city, 8.2 highway (regular unleaded)

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