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Mudfest 2013: Tom's Hardware Helps Test 23 SUVs

Kia Sorento

Kia’s Sorento gets a mid-life cycle refresh for 2014 that includes styling tweaks, new lightning, infotainment, motors, and other equipment. The front-end receives LED running lights and a newly-shaped fascia that provides a subtle update to the previous model. Around back, the taillights are slimmed down and more stylized, embedded into a massively more attractive rear. Higher trim models, such as the Sorento SX submitted to Mudfest, employ LEDs for brighter lighting.

The UVO eServices infotainment system makes its first appearance in the updated Sorento, too. It adds telematics functionality through your smartphone, a crisp eight-inch display, and navigation capabilities. Our fourth-gen iPad connected and played music through the system without any issues. Moreover, HTC's Droid DNA paired flawlessly (though we weren't able to test the eServices).

The higher trim-level Sorentos shed their traditional analog speedometer for a seven-inch LCD display called the Supervision Meter Cluster, which conveys vehicle speed and other information (though the tachometer, fuel gauge, and engine temperature are still analog). The Supervision Meter Cluster boasts sharp text and minimal aliasing.

Gone is the old 3.5-liter V6, replaced by the same 3.3-liter direct-injected V6 shared with Hyundai's Santa Fe. Despite less displacement, the new 3.3-liter engine actually makes more power. The two cars also employ the same Magna Dynamax AWD system, and the Sorento retains the 4-high lock mode for navigating tough terrain.

Driver-adjustable steering makes an appearance on the Sorento as well. Kia calls this technology FlexSteer, but it has the same comfort, normal, and sport settings as its corporate cousin. The Sorento isn't as sporty as the similar-sized Hyundai Santa Fe Sport, but it's also not as portly as the larger Santa Fe. Overall, it drives well and doesn't run into trouble when you get it dirty.

Even still, it's hard not to compare the Sorento to Hyundai's Santa Fe Sport, since they both share the same platform, wheelbase, and length. The Sorento offers more tech amenities that appeal to the enthusiast in us. You can also get the Sorento with an optional third-row seat without being forced to step up to a longer wheelbase. The car we had on-hand for Mudfest did have the third row installed, though it was admittedly cramped. A split 40/20/40 middle row made it easier to access the back, at least.

The Sorento is available with a blind spot monitoring system that flashes an indicator in the side mirrors when an obstacle is detected.

Vehicle Specifications
VehicleKia Sorento
Trim levelSX AWD
Engine3.3 L GDI V6
TransmissionSix-speed Automatic w/ Shiftronic
DrivetrainAWD w/locking center differential (Magna Dynamax)
InfotainmentUVO eServiecs
Notable featuresFlexSteerHill-start assist controlBlind-spot detection
Fuel economy18 city, 24 highway, 20 combined MPG
MSRP$38,550
  • Super_Nova
    Very slow newsweek
    Reply
  • flong777
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.
    Reply
  • Johnny_C13
    Well, at least the Grand Cherokee can (literally) run (on) Crysis... but I wonder if it starts faster with an SSD?
    Reply
  • MU_Engineer
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • ammaross
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10968917 said:
    Interesting but with so little time per vehicle, the results are obviously suspect. I believe the Wrangler is the best off-road vehicle, not sure about the rest. But that conclusion come from more in depth reviews which actually "review" the vehicle.

    Its a great offroad vehicle for the price. The other two are capable vehicles, but the buyer demographic will never take them offroad.

    10969315 said:
    Anybody find it funny that the vehicle largely based on WWII era technology does the best in the offroad tests while the newer, high-tech "tall wagons with AWD" get stuck in more than a couple inches of snow? Just like tablets, phones, and laptops aren't going to make desktops go away, unit-body transverse-engine four-banger cars aren't going to replace body-on-frame trucks with solid axles and leaf springs when you need to do real work. The even funnier thing is that an "ancient" carbureted pushrod V8 and manual transmission would have made the Wrangler perform *better* in the offroad tests than the 8-speed slushbox and fancy twin-cam V6 car engine.

    Mechanical technology has its uses but the WWII Era vehicles are awful for comfort and driving feel. Not going to lie though, the G-wagen is one sexy beast IMO. The Wrangler is only a 6-speed auto iirc, but there's a company that offers HEMI conversions :D.

    10969432 said:
    Stopped reading when I saw the Toyota 4Runner wasn't in the mix.

    Toyota didn't submit any vehicles, disappointingly. Was hoping the 5th Gen 4Runner and new RAV4 would be there :(.
    Reply
  • joe gamer
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.
    Reply
  • tuanies
    10969918 said:
    Holy crap these are expensive vehicles, who is buying these monsters? I make $60k a year and live comfortably but there is no way I could afford any of these. The HYUNDAI clocked in at over $35k....The painfully anemic Subaru(with what has to be the worst manual I've ever used) is still over $20K and it's terrible, poor power, poor gas mileage, poor off road performance, ugly styling, shitty electronics, and only moderate interior room...but that's the only one in my price range? How poor am I exactly?

    Seriously the WRX transmission is quite nice, how the hell did all of their others end up to be so godawful?

    Guess I'm stuck with my 1999 Isuzu Rodeo until I can win the lottery...oil burning, gas guzzling eyesore it may be but hey the money I saved will buy me a decades worth of gas.

    Nothing wrong with an old Isuzu, before GM raped and pillaged them :(. Cars are so expensive nowadays, you're about as poor as I am, but add in two kids and a wife. The WRX has a nice manual because its a performance vehicle. Manuals in economy cars are usually sloppy. long throws and not very exciting, which is why I hate to say to get the auto in economy cars. But, the XV Crosstrek could probably be fixed with a short throw shifter, that usually does wonders.

    Reply
  • JPNpower
    Why are you using SUVs in the mud!!! These things belong in parking lots at the mall!
    Reply