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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