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2016 Kia Sorento SUV Review

2016KiaSorentoThe all-new 2016 Kia Sorento is a great option for families who want a slightly smaller vehicle with a third row of seating.  It’s bigger and safer than the previous Sorento.  That gives it a big advantage over compact SUVs, and it’s more maneuverable with better handling than the larger midsize models.  Perhaps best of all, it gets top crash test results.  That means a “Good” score in every rating from the IIHS and a “5-star” rating in all 5 crash test results from the NHTSA.  It earns an impressive 5-star overall NHTSA rating AND a Top Safety Pick award from the IIHS*.  The 2016 model would have qualified as a Top Safety Pick+ on Limited models with the Technology package under previous year’s IIHS requirements, but their new ratings require a front crash prevention system with “advanced” performance to qualify for the “Plus” award.  The optional system on the Sorento Limited only earns a “basic” performance rating.

 

*Correction: Sorento Limited w/ Tech package does NOT earn a Top Safety Pick+ award

As for carseats, there are a couple quick takeaways.  Being among the smaller midsize SUVs, the second row is a bit narrower than models like the 2016 Honda Pilot.  Three-2016SorentoSeatbeltCrossoveracross carseats can be done, but it is a challenge.  The middle seat is best suited for a narrow booster like a BubbleBum, or a narrow carseat like a Diono Radian or Clek Fllo.  The crossover of the center seatbelt with the driver side seatbelt and lower LACTH anchor (photo, right) can be a conflict for some 3-across setups.  The third row is best suited for kids due to marginal legroom and low seat cushions.  A major omission, there are still no top-tether anchors in the third row, and the shoulder belts are mounted a bit forward of the seat backs.  That makes it best-suited for kids in high back boosters and tweens.  Consider smaller adults in the third row only for short trips.

 

The driving experience was very good overall.  Handling and braking remain very good for the class, while acceleration with the V6 is improved.  The Sorento was quiet and comfortable on the road with no major complaints from a few hundred miles of driving.  Aside from its smaller size, the 2016 Sorento really is on par with top models in the midsize SUV class in most regards.

Carseat Gallery:

Below, 2nd row (left) and 3rd row (right) seat configurations.

2016KiaSorento2ndrow 2016KiaSorento3rdrow

Below, cargo space behind 2nd row (left) and third row (right).  Note that top tether anchors are only available for the second row.

2016KiaSorento2ndrowcargo2016KiaSorento3rdrowcargo

Below, three across carseats (left) with a Clek Oobr, Diono Radian and Britax Marathon ClickTight.  3-across will be a tight fit and will be difficult for some kids to buckle themselves due to limited room for hands, but keeping the booster on the passenger side avoids some of the seatbelt crossover issues.  A Graco 4Ever (center) is a very popular “All-In-One” model.  It’s a large carseat, but fits rear-facing in the center next to a Britax Parkway SGL booster.  The Diono Radian RXT (right) is narrow enough to fit in the center and allows more room for adjacent seats.  It can also be tethered while rear-facing.

2016KiaSorentothreeacross 2016KiaSorentoGraco4Ever 2016KiaSorentoDionoRadian

The third row lacks LATCH and has no top tether anchors.  The shoulder belts are mounted forward of the seat back, so even older kids like my 10-year old (left) may get a less-than-ideal shoulder belt fit without a booster.  In addition, the seat cushions are low to the floor, meaning no thigh support.  The third row is best suited for kids in high back boosters.  Backless boosters like the Graco TurboBooster and Safety 1st Incognito (right) will work for some children, but the forward mounted shoulder belts will be an issue for smaller kids.  Access is modest, but kids can get in back without much difficulty on the passenger side.

2016KiaSorento3rdrowseatbelt 2016KiaSorento3rdrowboosters

 

Top Ten Likes:

  • IIHS Top Safety Pick
  • NHTSA 5-star overall rating
  • Greatly improved styling, inside and out
  • Better than average handling, braking and maneuverability for an SUV
  • 3-across carseats can fit in 2nd row, but only with careful selection
  • Visibility is above average for a 3-row SUV on LX trims and higher
  • Reasonably quiet and comfortable around town and on the highway
  • V6 AWD has good power and 5,000 lbs of towing, but mediocre fuel economy
  • Base 4-cylinder engine has adequate power and good fuel economy for its class
  • UVO system (optional LX, standard EX and up) provides 911 crash notification

Top Ten Dislikes:

  • Advanced crash avoidance features not even optional below Limited trim
  • Limited models very pricey, over $43K for tech package with advanced safety features
  • Third row lacks top tether anchors; shoulder belts mounted forward of seat backs
  • Overlap issues for 2nd row center seatbelt with driver side
  • 2nd row center head restraint too short even for a tall teenager
  • 3rd row access is average in difficulty and width, worse on driver side.
  • 3rd-row standard only on V6 models that have mediocre fuel economy
  • Limited legroom for a midsize SUV
  • Speedometer needle could be more conspicuous
  • Twitchy power windows

Conclusion:

While the 2016 Kia Sorento LX V6 trim doesn’t have a full complement of advanced crash avoidance safety features, it does offer a good value and a standard 3rd row, backup camera and twin USB charging ports.  It starts under $30K and gets 18mpg city and 26 mpg highway.  That’s hard to beat for a 3-row midsize SUV that aces the IIHS and NHTSA crash tests!  Of course, the Limited model I tested is awesome, but at starting around $40,000 with the turbo inline 4-cylinder engine, it is definitely not a bargain like the previous Sorento was.  Once you add the tech package for crash avoidance features, the price is similar to equally safe, larger models with advanced frontal crash prevention systems, like the new Toyota Highlander and 2016 Honda Pilot that remain our top midsize SUV picks for kids, carseats and safety.

I do prefer the size of the Sorento around town, especially if you want something smaller, more fuel efficient and with much better handling than much larger models like a Chevy Traverse or Dodge Durango.  It won’t fit as much inside, but the smaller size fits better in a garage and in parking lots, too!  In fact, my own vehicle, a previous generation 2011 Toyota Highlander, is similar to the Sorento in size and seating and really is a great vehicle for 2 or 3 kids with the flexibility of a 3rd row for an older child.

gallery_sorento_2016_exterior_027--kia-1280x-jpg

Thank you to Kia USA for providing the Sorento used in this review.  No other compensation was provided and all opinions are my own.