2019 Kia Sorento SXL Second Take: It Tackled Hell’s Revenge, And It Can Handle Itself On the Road [Review]

Still a good, solid choice for a three-row family crossover

2019 Kia Sorento

If the Kia Sorento can handle Hell’s Revenge, it can handle itself on the road…right?

By now, we’re familiar with the fundamental changes the Korean automaker made to the 2019 Kia Sorento. Namely, three rows of seats and a notable absence of the 2.0-liter turbocharged I-4. Still, it does have its 3.3-liter V6 engine, and an all-wheel drive system that, coupled with off-road tires, proved itself on Hell’s Revenge outside Moab, Utah. Kia also mildly facelifted the front and rear fascias and updated the interior. While the updated Sorento benefits from more seats, it turned out to be a particularly pleasant drive as well.

Part of that comes down to a new transmission option in the 2019 Kia Sorento. Opt for a V-6 model like the top-spec SXL we tested, and you get a new eight-speed automatic transmission. Four-cylinder models, however, stick with the six-speed automatic from the previous model.

2019 Kia Sorento
[Photo: Kia]

Surprisingly confident driver

By and large, the driving experience in most large crossovers is largely the same. When I tested the 2018 Hyundai Santa Fe (now the Santa Fe XL for 2019), I never thought it was a particularly sharp drive. Comfortable, definitely, but I didn’t feel particularly confident tossing it into corners. The 2019 Kia Sorento, however, gave me more confidence. The steering is well-weighted, and it never took much effort to change direction. It also returns better fuel economy, at 21 Combined mpg.

2019 Kia Sorento
[Photo: Kia]
The Sorento’s all-wheel drive system performed well, keeping the Sorento planted in the corners. It’s something I wasn’t expecting, given the car’s 4,300-pound mass. I expected the Sorento to push wide or lose grip if I treated it aggressively, as the Santa Fe did. But this car, even though it’s also fairly comfortable, held on admirably. Not that you’d think about hooning around in a huge crossover with kids in the back, but it’s nice to know the 2019 Kia Sorento stays planted if the unexpected happens.

The V-6 SX Limited does have a decent amount of power. 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, to be precise. It’s funneled through an eight-speed transmission, which shifts smoothly without any drama. It will also hold gears longer if you put it in Sport mode or drive it hard in the Smart driving mode. On any of the four-cylinder models, you get a 2.4-liter engine instead. That only comes mated to a six-speed automatic, and manages 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque. While the V-6 does pull fairly well, it does fight more than two tons of mass, so it’s not quick. That’s especially the case at a mile above sea level.

2019 Kia Sorento

Comfortable With a Caveat

The 2019 Kia Sorento is well-appointed, especially in the SX Limited (or SXL) trim. You get leather everywhere, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and an 8.0-inch touchscreen display. You also get Blind Spot Warning, Lane Keep Assist, adaptive cruise control, Park Distance Warning sensors front and rear, and a 360-degree camera. The center of the instrument cluster houses a digital speedometer as well, although the outer gauges are still analog.

Kia puts a great deal of thought into interior layout, and it showed in the 2019 Kia Sorento. Everything was where I expected it to be. Everything was simple and straightforward to operate, while the infotainment system also supports Apple CarPlay and Android Auto.

Not all is perfect in this updated model, though. Until the Telluride comes out, this is still Kia’s largest SUV. The third row leg room, at 31.4 inches, is better than a Toyota Highlander or Mazda CX-9. It isn’t as much as the Pilot’s 31.9 inches of leg room, and it was a squeeze getting into the back. Mind you, the 2019 Kia Sorento still keeps most of its cargo space intact, at 73.0 cubic feet with all seats folded (down from 73.5 on the 2018 model).

2019 Kia Sorento

Verdict

The 2019 Kia Sorento is a comfortable, well-equipped car for the money. And for that money, you get a competent handling car as well. It proved itself on Hell’s Revenge and our off-road outing on the Colorado climb. Even though it’s a three-row, midsize crossover, it can handle itself well both off and on the road.

Kia brings value to the table with front-wheel drive models, if all-wheel drive isn’t strictly necessary. Even the base L model has three-row seating for $26,980 and up. It feels remarkably solid, and if I ever did need to buy a seven-seater crossover, it is a strong contender. It has a 10-year/100,000-mile warranty, which is worth a ‘Buy It’, or at least a strong ‘Lease It’ on our TFL review scale.

Come back to TFLcar.com for more news, views and real-world reviews! For more on the 2019 Kia Sorento, check out our unfiltered buddy review below with Alex from Alex on Autos:

SPECIFICATIONS: 2018 Kia Sorento SX Limited

On Sale: Now
Base MSRP: $44,690
Price as Tested:
$48,765
Engine: 3.3-liter DOHC 24-valve V-6
Drivetrain (Layout): Front engine, all-wheel drive
Horsepower: 290 hp @ 6,400 rpm
Torque: 252 lb-ft @ 5,200 rpm
Transmission: 8-speed automatic
Suspension: Front: Independent, MacPherson struts, coil springs, dual flow damper shock absorbers and stabilizer bar.

Rear: Independent, Multi-link, stabilizer bar, dual flow damper shock absorbers

Brakes: Power-assisted four-wheel discs (vented front) with ABS, ESC, VSM, HAVC and TPMS.
Tires: Michelin Premiere LTX 235/55 R19 all-season
Fuel capacity: 18.8 gallons
Fuel economy (EPA): 19 City / 24 Highway / 21 Combined mpg

Dimensions:

Wheelbase: 109.4 inches
Length: 189.0 inches
Width: 74.4 inches
Height: 66.5 inches – w/ roof rails
Turning Circle: 37.3 feet
Curb Weight: 4,343 pounds
Zach Butler
Zach is a writer and Managing Editor for TFLcar. He has held a lifelong passion for cars, with a particular interest in hot hatchbacks and off-road rigs. Born and raised in Colorado, Zach holds a Bachelor's Degree in English from Colorado State University, and is based in Boulder, Colorado.