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In the Driver's Seat

2019 Kia Sorento runs with the best

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If you have ever harbored the thought that Kia builds cheap vehicles, a drive in the ’19 Sorento should banish the thought forever. And it isn’t just the price.

Kia, and its stablemate Hyundai, was until recently known for cars that undercut the North American and Asian competition. No more. Kia seems to be willing to let its products go toe-to-toe with the competition. And I think they can.

The ’19 Sorento SXL AWD is the top-of-the-line Sorento, Kia’s largest SUV. The two least expensive Sorento models, the L and LX, are equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder. The other four versions, LX V6, EX, SX, and SX Limited (SXL), have a 290 horsepower, 3.3-liter V6. The four-cylinders come with a six-speed automatic while the V6 uses an eight-speed automatic. All-wheel drive is available on all except the base L. If ultimate fuel economy is your desire, forgo the all-wheel drive as it gives up 1 or 2 mpg — not really an amount you’d notice in the real world.

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2019 Kia Sorento

I was actually surprised that the transmission was an eight-speed; I never really felt any of the shifts except maybe first to second unless I had the transmission control in the Sport mode (one of four modes — Eco, Smart, and Comfort are the others).

Driving around Tracy I really had no need for the all-wheel drive, and I’d do without it. But if it gives you peace of mind, or if you travel to ski country, go for it.

In years past you could tell the difference between a Kia and other imports by the quality, or lack thereof, of the interior materials. No longer. My opinion, based solely on the SXL, is that they’ve upped their game significantly. The vinyl, where used, is soft and feels durable. The seats are trimmed with leather. There isn’t a squeak or rattle to be heard.

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2019 Kia Sorento

Being the top model, the SXL was equipped like a luxury car. It had all the expected amenities — heated/cooled seats, heated steering wheel, dual climate control, Harman Kardon sound system, and so on.

When the Sorento was dropped off at my house, I thought, “Good, now I’ve got a vehicle I can get that lumber I need.” Then I opened the door. There was no way I was going to risk sliding a 10-foot 4x4 in there. I never want to be the guy who ruins a test car.

Without a large family, I didn’t get to test out the full passenger capacity either. The Sorento is a full seven-passenger vehicle — two up front, three in the middle and two more in the back.

Using the rear seats does decrease the storage space. There is 73 cubic feet of storage with the rear and middle seats down, 38 with just the rears down, and 11.3 behind the rear seats.

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2019 Kia Sorento
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2019 Kia Sorento

Towing capacity is a maximum of 5,000 pounds with the V6 and all-wheel drive (3,500 pounds with two-wheel drive, and 2,000 pounds with the four-cylinder and two-wheel drive).

Fuel economy is not the strong suit of any SUV, but it is relative. The Sorento SXL AWD is rated at 19 mpg city and 24 mpg highway. The base four-cylinder with two-wheel drive is rated at 22 mpg city and 29 mpg highway. Obviously if fuel economy is a big part of your decision, you need to opt for the four-cylinder.

As I mentioned, Kia no longer has a big price advantage. The Sorento SXL AWD lists at $46,490 before options. With the few options and freight and handling, the price hit $48,766. This puts it within spitting distance of two competitors from Japan. I think the Sorento is probably equal to the competition, so the price is reasonable. (I shudder at a price this high, but when I told a few coworkers the price, they all said, “That’s not bad.” Tells you something about the state of car prices.)

The ’19 Sorento line starts with the L at $25,990, then the LX at $27,490, LX V6 at $31,290, EX V6 at $35,590, SX at $39,990, and then SX Limited. If you’re looking for an SUV, the Sorento is worth a look.

Tracy resident Bruce Hotchkiss has been writing car reviews and news about the automotive world since 1984 for publications in Canada, California and Nevada. Check out his blog, Bruce Hotchkiss’ Spare Parts, or send comments and questions to bruce.hotchkiss@gmail.com.

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