The Sorento is the bigger of Kia's two compact crossovers (the smaller one is the Sportage). The Kia Sorento has many structural and powertrain commonalities with the Hyundai Santa Fe.
However, while the Santa Fe is available with two different wheelbase editions for 2014, the Sorento model range is confined to the 106.3-inch wheelbase of the Santa Fe Sport. (The longer Santa Fe has a 110-inch wheelbase and offers three-row seating.) The Hyundai Santa Fe Sport is five-passenger only, whereas the Kia Sorento continues to offer the option of a three-row, seven-passenger configuration.
Kia's front and rear styling updates are aimed at giving the 2014 Sorento a wider, more aggressive appearance, but the effect is subtle and the most visible distinction is a semi-circle of LED lights flanking each projector beam headlamp.
Fog lamps (optional) have been gone from horizontal to vertical, and moved to the edges of the bumper, enhancing the impression of added width. LEDs also handle turn signal and back up lighting duties at the rear.
The Kia Sorento is marketed as a compact crossover utility, but is big by the standards of the class. There are positives and negatives associated with this positioning. On the negative side, those dimensions add up at the scales, making the Sorento portly by compact standards, with curb weights crowding the two-ton frontier. Mass is never a dynamic asset, nor is it a plus in terms of fuel economy, where the Sorento scores lower EPA ratings than its predecessor and lower than all the leading compact competitors. Mass also contributes to a driving experience that is essentially competent but pretty bland.
The plus is a roomy cabin, with lots of cargo capacity: 72.5 cubic feet with the middle seats folded flat, almost 40 feet behind the middle seats in five-passenger configuration. The second row offers adjustability and respectable leg room. However, roominess notwithstanding, it's hard to view the cramped third row option as a plus. We recommend against the third row.
The 2014 Sorento offers a sonar-based blind spot monitor system, a first for Kia. Like other blind spot watch dogs, the system tracks vehicles lurking in the Sorento's rear quarters and provides visual alerts, followed by audible warning if the driver begins to move into the occupied lane.
Wheel/tire choices are unusually extensive. The basic Sorento LX comes with 7x17-inch wheels wearing 235/65R17 tires. The range also includes 18- and, for the first time, 19-inch aluminum alloys.
Kia Sorento interior materials and design have a quality feel and appearance, a definite uptick from the previous generation (2010-12). For 2014, a new instrument binnacle embraces seven-inch LCD screen that augments an analog tachometer, fuel readout, and coolant gauge with a digital speedometer, as well as trip information and navigation info (in models so equipped).
The center stack is dominated by a new eight-inch touch screen that's home for the navigation system, as well as controls for the Sorento's updated infotainment. Kia calls it UVO eServices, and it includes a broad range of connectivity options.
Upper trim levels include upscale features such as ventilated leather power front seats, front and rear dual zone auto climate control, premium audio pushbutton starting, heated and ventilated front seats, a leather-wrapped steering wheel, second row sliding sunshades, illuminated door handle pockets, and a 115-volt power inverter.
As you'd expect, higher trim levels include a large power sunroof, with a power-operated shade, and Kia has added a programmable power rear liftgate.
We found the seats are relaxed-fit comfortable (the word sporty does not come to mind) and widely adjustable, with or without power adjustability.
The 2014 Sorento continues to offer the option of a three-row, seven-passenger configuration. However, adding the third row consumes a bit of cargo space and continues to be very snug in terms of third-row leg room. Kia and Mitsubishi are now the only players in this segment to offer a third-row option. Toyota bowed out in its latest RAV4 redesign (model year 2013) due to miniscule third-row take rates. (The Hyundai Santa Fe with 110-inch wheelbase offers a third row, but it is a longer vehicle.)
Five-passenger models (with just two rows of seats) get a storage compartment under the rear cargo floor.
The menu is long, and the takeaway is this: Kia may claim to target the compact class, but the Sorento's inventory of standard and optional features goes well beyond the rest of the CUV crowd. As does its pricing ladder.