Test Drive: 2017 Kia Sorento

Who knew one SUV could be responsible for spreading so much holiday cheer? In the case of this Kia Sorento, it seems good deeds are what it was made for.

Since this one needed to be able to tow that huge float in the Santa Claus Parade, it’s fitted with the 3.3L V6 engine.

First, it began its life as part of Kia’s fleet of 26 Sorentos used to tow floats at the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, part of the company’s commitment as the official vehicle partner. This particular Sorento had one of the biggest jobs of all: it was responsible for pulling the float commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Toronto Maple Leafs, upon which cuddly mascot Carlton is attempting a slapshot on legendary Leafs goalie Johnny Bower.

Shortly after I got a hold of it, I threw down all of the rear seats and put it to work distributing poinsettias for my daughter’s school holiday fundraiser; this image didn’t turn out nearly as festive as I’d hoped. Turns out poinsettias ship from nurseries in boxes. Who knew?

Finally, we ended our week in the Sorento by visiting our local fire station and dropping off a donation for their annual toy drive.

That’s a lot of goodwill toward man for a vehicle with well under 1,000 km on it!

The vehicle responsible for all of this is a 2017 Kia Sorento in EX trim – this prompted my daughter to exclaim that we were driving around in a Pokemon; maybe you have some idea of what that means but I don’t – which with the top 3.3L V6 engine, standard all-wheel drive, and seven-passenger seating comes in at a pre-taxes MSRP of $37,295.

If you read about last year’s Sorento, not a lot has changed since then. The 2016 model year saw this model receive a complete top-down redesign, so apart from the addition of Apple CarPlay and Android Auto functionality (which you can also add to your 2016 Sorento free of charge), adjustments this year are minimal. Most of them centre around rearranging trims and options for ease of ordering (which with three engines available is no small feat). Kia has removed the option to get the lowest LX trim with both the 2.0L turbocharged I4 engine and front-wheel drive – so if that happens to be your dream car, run out right now and grab a 2016 before they’re gone – and for the top SX trims some safety features have been added such as directionally adaptive headlights and autonomous emergency braking. In this middle-road EX, things are more or less unchanged.

Since this one needed to be able to tow that huge float in the Santa Claus Parade, it’s fitted with the 3.3L V6 engine paired with the only transmission option, a well-behaved six-speed automatic. The V6 makes 290 hp and 252 lb-ft of torque at 5,300 rpm while giving the Sorento a towing capacity of up to 2,267 kg. If you do much towing or carry a lot of weight around – or just really appreciate a steady, beefy powerplant – this is the one you want to spring for. It’s the most thirsty of the three, but it’s still not overly so: it averages a respectable 13.2 L/100 km in the city and 9.3 on the highway in this trim (though that goes up to 14.0/10.1 in the SX trim). In the same configuration, the 2.0L turbocharged I4 averages 12.3 and 9.4 and has a very usable torque band for daily driving (260 lb-ft @ 1,450 - 3,500 rpm), so if you’re looking to use this more as a city runabout then this smaller engine will serve you very well. The base 2.4L I4 has the best fuel averages at 11.5/9.3, but its significantly lower torque (178 lb-ft @ 4,000 rpm) may feel underpowered in a car of this size and weight (1,680 to 1,970 kg depending on the model).

From the driver’s seat, the Sorento looks and feels modern and above its price point. The digital instrument cluster is very clear and easy to glean information from at a glance. If you’re one of those people for whom the steering wheel sometimes gets in the way, as I am, you shouldn’t run into any problems here.

There’s a nicely phone-sized-plus-change storage bin tucked in right behind the gear shift that has two 12-volt connectors, an auxiliary jack, and a USB port inside. It also has a lid to help you maintain your self-control if you’re prone to picking up your phone behind the wheel. (With the available phone apps, this ideally shouldn’t be an issue anyway, right?) The Sorento is nicely equipped for power further back as well with a high-output USB port in the centre console plus one more of those, another 12 volt, and a 115 volt household plug all included in the second row console.

My five-year-old backseat expert was quick to point out that this model doesn’t have a panoramic sunroof, and she felt her part of the cabin was a bit dark and cramped. (There is one available from the EX+ trim, which costs $1,200 more and might be worth springing for if you can as it would brighten the space up a great deal.)

Once you put it out of park and set out, though, you’ll run into one of the Sorento’s downsides. Though it handles very steadily at speed over bumps and through quick lane changes, it has a turning radius as large as a minivan’s, which makes it feel bulky while getting into and out of tight city parking spots and side streets.

The third row is also a tight squeeze, both to climb into and sit in. People much larger than kids aren’t going to want to hang out back there for long. And don’t plan on putting your littlest ones back there, either: there are three LATCH configurations, but they’re all in the second row (which means, by the way, that only two can be used at a time, so if you need more you’ll have to shop elsewhere).

These aren’t the only signs that Kia expects the Sorento to be configured more often as a two-row vehicle with hockey bag space (and, to be fair, they’re probably right about that). For instance, the included tonneau cover needs to be removed for the third-row seats to come up. As a nice bonus, though, there’s a very convenient storage slot for it under the floor at the rear of the cargo space.

The place where I stumble most in the Sorento is with the infotainment system. It’s clearly laid out and everything works well, but as a 5’7” woman with short limbs the horizontal screen and button layout doesn’t work for me. I have to lift both shoulders off the seat and lean to reach any of the controls on the right side of the 7.0-inch screen, including the tuning knob, which as a Sirius XM junkie is always my favourite. Sad emoji.

In the end, what absolutely cannot be argued about the Sorento is its value. It makes a handsome, driveable, relatively fuel-efficient three-row SUV available for under $40,000, a price well within reach of the average Canadian family.

And if that family slaps a pair of reindeer antlers on it and has some fun with it during the holidays, so much the better.

2017 Kia Sorento EX
Engine Displacement: 3.3L
Engine Cylinders: 6
Peak Horsepower: 290 hp
Peak Torque: 252 lb-ft
Fuel Economy: 13.2/9.3 L/100 km cty/hwy/cmb
Cargo Space: 320/1,077/2,066L (7/5/2 seats up)
articles_PricingType 2017 Kia Sorento EX
Base Price $37,095
A/C Tax $100
Destination Fee $1,740
Price as Tested $39,135
Optional Equipment $200 – Blaze Blue metallic paint $200
Optional Equipment
10 0
Scoring breakdowns 7.5
8 Styling
8 Powertrain
7 Quality
7 Comfort
8 Practicality
8 Drivability
6 Usability/Ergonomics
7 Fuel Economy
8 Features
8 Value