This is not a traditional automobile review of the 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD SUV. (By the way, the SXL actually stands for the trim: SX plus the “Limited” which is the “L” but I just shortened it to make it easier to write.) There are plenty of automotive experts, fans and aficionados out there who will provide all of the technical aspects of this vehicle: 0-60 and skid-pad results, curb weight and cargo volumes, or the punchiness of the V-6 can all be found in those reviews. Instead, and this is typically how I approach car reviews (and tech reviews for that matter), I wanted to look at the 2016 Kia Sorento from the perspective of a dad who likes cars and how the car worked within my family, and most importantly, what my family thought about it.
For starters, let me tell you about the “test scenario.” It was a road trip from the San Francisco Bay Area, down to Los Angeles and back again, as well as some around-the-town trips and one commute to work and back. These activities provided me with lots of hands-on and feet-to-the-pedal time with the 2016 Kia Sorento. The trip to LA and back gave my family plenty of long hours in the cabin, with the ability to press every button and adjust every seat and feel many types of roads.
In the final days for driving the 2016 Kia Sorento, I did a quick survey of my family to find out their favorite features. And, being the person who spent the most time driving the 2016 Kia Sorento, I added my own thoughts as well. What resulted is a list of twenty-five items that I believed were important to talk about. Do note, the list below is not ranked in any way. It’s just a list of things we liked about the 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited V6 AWD SUV.
Things My Family Liked about the 2016 Kia Sorento
Below is the list. I would be curious if there are other items that we missed as I’m sure there are. If you have driven a 2016 Kia Sorento or own one, please do leave a comment at the end of this review and let me know your favorite features of this SUV. Also, not every item listed below has a photos (sorry).
#1 – Front Row Seat Climate Controls
When you drive, you want to be comfortable. One of the most critical things to look at in a vehicle are the climate controls (or lack thereof). Entry-level cars typically have single controls that simply blow hot or cold air at you. The more luxurious the vehicle, the more controls you have over the climate. The car that I currently own has heated front seats, which is a fantastic option to have honestly. Well, the 2016 Kia Sorento takes this level of seating climate comfort to the next level. Not only does it have driver and front passenger side 3-level seat heating, it also has a cooling function as well. When the cooling is on, your backside gets cool air blown on it via ventilated seats. I found that by putting the cooling on, it actually gave me a bit of a wake up as I drove. So while I cranked up the cool-ness on our drive, my wife had her seat cozily warm.
#2 – Adaptive Cruise Control
Cruise control has been something that most cars nowadays come standard with. You reach your cruising speed and set that speed and your car will magically maintain that speed. But more and more, car manufacturers are outfitting forward sensing cameras of sorts which can monitor vehicles directly in front of yours and their relative speed and distance from your vehicle. When this is tied to cruise control, suddenly it becomes “adaptive” meaning that you set your desired speed AND the distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you (essentially the padding) and your car will speed up or slow down based on what is happening in front of you. I found that if a car pulls in front, the 2016 Kia Sorento would gracefully “apply the brakes” (via the engine or vehicle braking system I’m not sure). Once the desired padding was achieved, you would maintain a speed and distance. If the car in front of me sped up, the adaptive cruise control would go up to the limit programmed. I found the Kia’s engine would not race to re-attain the speed (unlike other vehicles I had driven). The forward facing camera is also used for collision avoidance. While I had faith in the technology, since it is relatively new to me, I did have my foot hovering near the brake pedal just in case.
#3 – 360 Degree View & Backup Camera
Rear-view cameras will be required on all new vehicles, regardless of trim, by May 1, 2018. Personally, I applaud this decision as there are many blind spots regardless of vehicle when one is backing up. There are some manufacturers who are even starting to experiment with video for all rear view and side mirrors as they potentially provide a wider aspect of viewing. One thing that the 2016 Kia Sorento has that I particularly loved was the fact that not only is there a backup camera, complete with curved digital lines indicating the backup path, but also the fact that there are 4 cameras placed around the Sorento’s body (front grill, side mirrors and back) that, when carefully compiled, provide a 360 degree view around the vehicle.
Want to know if you have navigated properly into a space? You can easily see the painted parking lines. Want to know how close you are to the curb? It’s easy to view that. The backup camera is also complemented with sensors that beep and show on the video screen as you approach an object behind you, like a parked car. The 360 degree view camera does disappear once you go over a particular speed (I think it is something arbitrary like 14 MPH), but still, I loved having this capability when parking the Sorento.
#4 – Middle Row Seat Warmers
One of the first things that my kids looked for in the middle row seat was whether or not it had seat warmers like the front seats. To their joy, the 2016 Kia Sorento DID have middle row seat warmers, which allowed them to get comfy on the long drive. This was one of the first things that my kids mentioned they liked about the Sorento.
#5 – Panoramic Sun Roof
My current car doesn’t have a sunroof. Nor does my wife’s. My previous car did and I loved driving around with it open whenever I could. And I secretly have a desire to at some point own a convertible (or buy my wife one…perhaps once the kids are well on their way with their own lives). Until then, I can just dream. One thing the 2016 Kia Sorento had got me excited again about the open air. There was a sun roof. But it wasn’t a typical one that only gives the front row some sun.
This was a panoramic one, meaning, pretty much the entire roof of the Sorento was shaded glass. While it took a little bit of work figuring out how much to press the open button (press it too much and the front part of the sun roof would open to the air), eventually I figured out how to roll the fabric shade out-of-the-way so that pretty much the entire roof was “open” yet covered by glass. Just having the fabric shade open gave the Sorento a feeling of airy openness. And when you open the sun roof itself, the open sky is invigorating.
#6 – Automatic Rear Hatch Opener
While I had read that the 2016 Kia Sorento had an automatic rear hatch, I thought pressing the button on the keyfob was what opened the hatch. That itself is pretty nice. But then I noticed that the Sorento would start to beep as I walked behind it. Usually it would only beep twice before I manually pressed the button under the handle or on the keyfob. But then I thought perhaps there was more. And, indeed, there was. If you wait behind the hatch (with the keys in your pocket) and let the beeps continue (there are four before it rapidly starts beeping), the hatch will automagically start lifting all on its own. Imagine carrying an armful of groceries and just coming up to the back of the Sorento and the hatch automatically opening for you while you wait. That’s the automatic part. And it really is great for luggage or grocery-lugging parents!
#7 – Digital Instrument Cluster
The nice thing about having digital instrument clusters is that you can view a plethora of information at your fingertips. Gages that are digital allow for customization, dynamically changing based on the users desires. Want to know what your current gas mileage is? (By the way, I found the 2016 Kia Sorento seems to average between 20 and 22 MPG in mixed driving.) Press a button to see that as well as real-time MPG. Need to see GPS turn directions in the cluster or what satellite station you are listening to? Another button press gives you that info. The Sorento’s digital display was crisp, responsive and quite easy to ready, with lots of different information available via steering wheel buttons and controls.
#8 – 3 Row Seating (7 seats)
The particular 2016 Kia Sorento trim (the SX Limited) that we got to test drive had three rows of seating: 2 in the front (duh), 3 in the middle (two comfortable ones and one sort of jumper seat in the middle) and 2 in the rear (independently foldable). This seating allowed for my family of five to ride fairly comfortably. For the trip down to LA, we did a 2-2-1 type of seating.
But, on the way home, my youngest elected to ride in the middle of the middle row (something she likes to do in our regular cars anyway) and we folded down the rear seats so we could fill it with luggage. It’s nice the Sorento had that option. Without baggage, you can seat 7, 6 with more comfort.
#9 – Multiple Charging Solutions
Being a family with lots of gadgets and devices (probably not much different from other families out there), ensuring that all of our phones, tablets and even laptops could be charged was of core importance. Not only does that 2016 Kia Sorento have a ton of power ports (varying from traditional 12-volt power outlets (there are four – 2 in front, 1 in middle row and 1 in rear cargo), there are also two 1-amp USB charging ports as well as a USB input jack which connects to the car entertainment systems.
Oh, and for my oldest daughter who was doing homework on her laptop as we drove, there was a 110-volt power inverter which allowed her to simply plug in her laptop while we traveled. I threw in a few of my own 12-volt USB chargers and we could charge all of our smartphones and tablets!
#10 – Powerful Engine
The engine of the 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited V6 AWD was more than adequate for our needs. It was responsive, even fully loaded with passengers and cargo, and could easily pass other vehicles without seeming to strain at all. The trim that we had boasted a 290 HP, 3.3 liter, 24-valve V6 engine which puts out 252 lb-ft for torque @ 5,300 rpm. It was a 6-speed automatic transmission with overdrive with All Wheel Drive and a locking center differential. What does this all mean geek-talk aside? Simply that the Sorento was powerful, responsive and achieved decent gas mileage (17/23/19) which is pretty much what I got. The AWD can tow up to 5000 lbs. as well.
#11 – Decent Gas Mileage
Ok, I already talked about the gas mileage in the previous point. As I mentioned, we averaged around 22 MPG. You have to remember that this was with mixed driving as well as the Sorento being pretty much loaded up with passengers. Also, it included driving over and descending mountains. Given this was the most powerful engine within the Sorento trimlines and that it was the AWD version, I’m not too surprised with the results.
#12 – Touch-screen display
The center console display quickly becomes one of the main focal points, probably behind the instrument cluster and obviously behind the windshield. From controlling media to setting navigation to adjusting other controls, having a large touch-screen display that both the driver and the front-row passenger can easily access and manipulate is core to vehicles these days. The 2016 Kia Sorento boasts an 8-inch display that you touch and scroll to interact with. There are hard buttons around the display for core items and then within each category, sub-apps or features can be accessed. I found the screen to be quick. Also, camera displays show up here. I did find it a bit difficult (probably because it was new to me) in terms of setting radio favorites while scrolling to be sure I hadn’t already set the favorite. This is probably something I would learn how to do a bit better with more experience though.
#13 – Automatic adjustable seats
Both seats in the front were electronically adjustable. The driver has 14 ways to adjust the seat (including lumbar support) and the passenger has 8-ways to adjust it. The driver also has 2 programmable memory settings to remember a preferred setting for a driver. These settings also include the two side mirror settings. Also, when you get in, the driver’s side seat rolls back in order for easier sitting. Since I found the seat pretty comfortable with minor adjustments, I really didn’t find the need to adjust it much.
#14 – Window shades
While the 2016 Kia Sorento didn’t come with tinted windows (one of the first things that I do after-market with my vehicles), it did have manual window shades which roll up from the bottom of the window and hook into the top. These shades are transparent so they still provide visibility for the driver and passengers. These are particularly nice for keeping kids a bit cooler on longer trips, especially if the sun is glaring through the window.
#15 – Blind Spot indicator
Another feature that I wish was standard on all vehicles is a way to indicate when there is a vehicle on either side in the blind spot. The 2016 Kia Sorento has blind spot indicators that light up on the side view mirror when a car is present in that blind spot. If you turn on your turn signal, indicating a desire to change into that lane and there is a car there, you will get an audible warning as well as a flashing light on the mirror warning you that it might not be safe to change lanes. This saved me a couple of times as you can’t always see everything.
#16 – Lane Departure
Another sensor tied to the forward facing camera is one designed to alert you when you drift out of your lane. The camera is able, at faster speeds, to detect the lane lines and know if the Sorento is positioned within the lines. If you start to move out of the lane, you get an audible warning as well as an alert on the driver’s instrument cluster. I had to explain to my family and friends a few times what the beeps meant. For the most part, this safety feature worked quite well but sometimes it would falsely think I was drifting. Also, it actually provided a good reminder to put on your turn signal when changing lanes since with the blinker on, moving lanes did not activate the lane departure warning.
#17 – Temperature Alert
The 2016 Kia Sorento has lots of different types of alerts that you need to learn. Another one that took me a little bit of time to learn was that of the low temperature warning. If the outdoor temperature, which is continuously monitored by the Sorento, drops below 40 degrees F, you get an audible warning and an alert on the driver cluster informing you of the low temperature. This is to let you know that you should potentially watch out for icy conditions, particularly black ice. This was another alert I often had to explain to my passengers.
#18 – GPS Notification Alert
Yet another alert that took me a while to figure out (and yes I had to answer questions again about it) was the GPS’s home arrival notification. If you program your home address (or any address for that matter) into the GPS’s address book, as you are directly pulling up to your destination, you get an audible alert of the arrival. I did feel it was sort of stating the obvious for an alert when you arrive at your home address (hopefully you would know that), but still, it was another one of the Sorento’s abundant alerts to learn.
#19 – Aggressive & Unique Grill
While not really a feature, nor techy in any way, the 2016 Kia Sorento’s front grill was one of the first things that caught my eye when the vehicle was dropped off for my test drive. It wasn’t truly a “grill” but more of a 3-dimensional pattern that I felt was unique enough to warrant a bit extra notice.
#20 – Electronic Parking Brake w/ Auto Release
The 2016 Kia Sorento isn’t going to be one of those race cars where you pull up on the emergency brake to skid around a hard corner like in the action movies. Instead, it is outfitted with an electronic parking brake which you activate by pulling up on a little toggle next to the shifter. This type of electronic parking brake is nothing new, I realize, but I remember in other vehicles how I would get confused (old age?) as to whether I needed to pull or push it to activate/deactivate it. One thing that the Sorento does, to my pleasure, is have an automatic release of the parking brake when you shift to Drive or Reverse. I loved that this was one less thing I had to think about. You just have to remember to set it when you park, that’s it!
#21 – Heated Steering Wheel
For those who drive in cooler climates, Kia included a heated steering wheel with the trim I tested. By pushing a button, within a minute or so, the 2/3rds of the steering wheel begins to warm up. I do have to call out the 2/3rds part. While I loved the leather-wrapped steering wheel AND the fact that it would heat up, the top 1/3rd part of the steering wheel is more of a “cooler” plastic which does not have a heating element within it. So, sometimes I found it a bit odd to go from a nicely warmed steering wheel to the cold-to-the-touch plastic top section which you do when you make a turn. There is probably a good reason for doing this design, but I didn’t figure it out. Still, it was nice to warm up one’s cold hands!
#22 – Rear Row air conditioning
For one reason or another, my oldest daughter enjoys taking the rear seat on the cars that we test drive on longer trips. And while it is always nice to have “her own space,” one of the things that she would run into was that she would sometimes get a bit car-sick sitting in the stuffy back row. This wasn’t true in the 2016 Kia Sorento, mainly because she had her own dedicated rear row air conditioning control and vent to continue the cool air flow. She loved having this control she told me later.
#23 – Quiet ride
Ok, we are reaching the figurative end of road here. And honestly, it’s been a pretty quiet ride filled with lots of nice features, designs and innovation. And, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the ride of the 2016 Kia Sorento itself. As the sub-title says, it’s quiet. Quiet enough that we could all have a pretty regular conversation while hurtling down the road. Road noise is pretty minimal. Having the sun roof open didn’t add to much noise either. The Sorento is nicely insulated, giving it quite a luxurious feel.
#24 – Good warranty
Kia has one of the better warranties in the marketplace. There is a 10-year/100,000 mile limited powertrain warranty, a 5-year/60,000 mile limited basic warranty, and a 5 year/60,000 mile roadside assistance offer. It’s hard to complain about that!
#25 – Reasonable Price Loaded
Lastly, I do need to discuss the price. The 2016 Kia Sorento has a bunch of different trims with the most basic starting at around $25,000. The SX Limited AWD that I test drove had a MSRP of $48,495. But that was fully loaded with just about everything, including the $2,500 SXL Technology package for 7-seats. For all of the tech and features, the performance and comfort, and the style and safety, I find this to be quite reasonable for what you get.
Ok, what did I miss? As you can hopefully tell, we truly enjoyed the features and ride of the 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD SUV. Take it for a test drive and see if you can spot these favorites. And do leave a comment on others I may have missed. Oh and if you want to see more photos of the 2016 Kia Sorento, there are more on my Flickr gallery.
Disclosure Text: Apart from the loan of the vehicle (which also included a tank of gas and insurance), I have no material connection to the manufacturer. As noted, this is a sponsored review but all opinions within this article, unless otherwise noted, are my own and are not subject to the editorial review from any 3rd party. More information can be found in my About page.
HTD says: I’m sure there are many more than 25 things to really like about the 2016 Kia Sorento SX Limited AWD SUV. I was definitely impressed.