If you’re wondering if the 2016 Kia Sorento is a good choice for a family vehicle you’re not alone. I too was curious and after a week of driving one in and around Los Angeles I’d say it’s a great vehicle for the right family (as is the case with every car). The model I drove was the SXL, which is a V6 all wheel drive luxury SUV.
Technology highlights: The 2016 Sorento has conveniently placed outlets for every body.
In the front row you have a USB 2.1 charger port flanked by two 12-Volt Power Outlets and an auxiliary cable plug (has anyone ever used that? I haven’t).
In the center armrest there’s another USB port that connects directly to the sound system. The second row has a 110-Volt Power Inverter that won’t run your battery dry as it requires the air conditioning to be turned on by depressing a button by the steering wheel in order for it to work. It’s like Kia knew what kids might do to a car. The second row has two more USB ports and the third row has one. You can drive cross country and never talk to your family if you wish.
The back up camera is terrific but the Surround View Monitor is out of the world and will likely have a post of its own in no time. The first time I put the car in reverse and saw a bird’s eye view of my car I got unreasonably excited. It’s an incredibly helpful safety feature when you’re in an SUV or CUV (or any car for that matter) and one that you’ll miss when you switch to a vehicle that doesn’t have it.
The 2016 Kia Sorento has a Smart Power Liftgate to assist when you hands are so full you can’t even reach out to touch the key-less entry trunk. I walked up to the back of the car after a long day at Knott’s Berry Farm with arms full of Boysenberry goodies and souveniers with my car key somewhere at the bottom of my purse. As I stood close to the back of the car there were three beeps and the trunk door magically opened for me! None of the doors unlocked which I found to be a great safety feature. I was able to unload all my junk in the trunk. When my hands were freed I pushed the button on the top of the opened power liftgate and another beep alerted us that the door would come down. The kids quickly became accustomed to listening for the beeps.
If you’re very short or very tall the Sorento has another feature you might enjoy. Many models have a height-adjustable liftgate this way you can reach it with greater ease if you’re shorter or avoid smacking your forehead into the liftgate if you’re taller. In this lineup the details are what makes the car.
[Insert mood lighting joke here] The 2016 Sorento has attractive daytime running lights. At the end of the day they’re more about safety than the uber tech look they give the car. What I love most is the welcome lighting. As I approach the vehicle with my smart key the windows unfold and exterior door pocket lights turn on so that I’m not grasping in the dark for a door handle.
LED map and room lights are strategically placed throughout the car. Front row map lights were oddly not distracting. The kids also have room lights (map lights for the second row). I found that to be much more desirable than the traditional dome light. Something I hadn’t thought about until I was actively shopping for a family car.
Panoramic Sun Roof:
Here’s where I would change some of the Sorento’s design if I could. The sun roof only opens over the front row and the glass is fixed over the second row. If my family wants natural light in the second row but shade in the first it’s not possible. The sliding power sunshade only moves from back to front meaning the driver can have the sunshade open while it is still dark in the second row but not the reverse. There were many time that my family would have enjoyed sunlight in the back and shade in the front, perhaps it’s unique to us but it was a bummer. There is an effective wind guard so when the sun roof is open the vehicle remains nice and quiet and never too windy.
Heating and Cooling:
The air conditioning on the 2016 Kia Sorento can only be described with one word: strong! I loved the quick cooling in the front but it burst into the back seats and left my passengers quite cold. I found that if I shut the vents in the front half way and turned on the heat for the kids in the second row we had a pleasing environment. When summer comes and car interiors are routinely scorching I may come to appreciate the cooling system more.
My favorite warming feature is the heated steering wheel. Front row seats are heated and cooled for both the driver and passenger. My husband and I used that feature as a personal heated back pad for our aching muscles after a long day. A little bit of luxury for Mom and Dad goes a long way. The kids will have a little luxury too once they get out of car seats, the second row also has seat heaters and the third row is vented.
Gas Mileage & Driving Modes
If sipping fuel is a priority for you this (and most SUVs on the market) is probably a reach. I averaged 21 miles a gallon. You could gain a few miles by switching the smaller engine or driving in eco mode, which are both things I did not do.
It took me a while to embrace the different driving styles you can chose to put the engine in. There is a button to select Eco, Drive (regular), or Sport. A much as I wanted to love the Eco selection I didn’t. In eco mode the Sonata felt heavier, sluggish and needed more foot on the pedal to accelerate. Sport mode was unsurprisingly peppy and the car felt like it boosted forward when I used the pedal. Sport mode is good for a more aggressive driver. My favorite was the regular Drive mode. It had gentle but reliable acceleration without lurching forward or needing wait for the engine to engage, the brakes are not overly sensitive either. It was the Goldie Locks mode of driving for our family. Just right.
We missed the DVD player from the Sedona. Who knew? My kids were asking where is was. If there is an option to get it then I would definitely add it even if you think you’ve grown out of using discs and now only watch movies on iTunes.
There is so much easy touch-screen variety on this car. The Sirius XM is my weakness. I love listening to news broadcasts that I would normally miss because I’m not at home with my TV. With 18 pre-sets to chose from I found myself using the radio enthusiastically than with my current vehicle.
Hidden sleekly at the top of the dashboard is a single disc CD. Believe it or not, we used it. I’m happy that it’s still offered.
There was zero learning curve with the GPS system. None. It also offers 5 pre-sets for your most frequently used destinations.
The front row felt like I was sitting in a compact car. Some people like the feeling of being cozy, especially in a three row SUV. I personally missed the roominess of a bigger cockpit.
The second row seats do not slide back. Therefore, the kids (mine are still in car seats) didn’t have much in the way of leg room. Climbing in and out of the second row was a bit of a challenge for them. If they weren’t in car seats it would have been a different experience but it’s still not a roomy second row. The third row is fine for an average sized adult. It is definitely a bit of a tight squeeze, but serves its purpose.
There’s hidden storage under the floor mat that I used regularly for my purse. When the third row of seats are both down there is plenty of room for storage. When all four rear seats are down you could use the Sonata to move a large piece of furniture like a dresser. In the event that you have six passengers the third row seats can be folded down individually but it’s not much of an issue as I had all three rows in use and five grocery bags in the trunk. There’s space for everything.
As with every family car safety is of the utmost importance. The overall safety ratings for the 2016 Sorento are five star, there’s a four star safety rating on rollover for this vehicle, which is hard to overcome in any SUV, and it’s an IIHS top safety pick. IIHS safety picks matter for two reasons; firstly, you’ll be safer, secondly, your insurance rates should be lower.
SUVs are a funny kind of vehicle. Your great could be someone else’s meh. I liked the Sorento quite a bit and I think I could love it when kids are out of car seats.
The vehicle I drove stickers at $46,500