PHOENIX: Little things can mean a lot.
And when you are Kia, little things constantly being changed and/or upgraded is almost a daily occurrence.
Such is the case with the 2014 version of Kia’s biggest SUV, the Sorento.
I had the use of a 2013 V6 Sorento for my annual drive to and from the Detroit Auto Show earlier this year, a journey of 891.1 km where I averaged 9.8L/100 km, which, for a seven-seat SUV, is pretty good.
Just a few weeks later, I was driving pre-production versions of the 2014 Sorento in the high country around Phoenix in much different weather and brought to mind a big question.
Why change anything, I asked, when the Sorento is already a top seller and would have continued that way if nothing was touched?
To make a long explanation short, I was told Kia’s mantra is to never sit pat but keep going forward.
That must be good news to the people on the line at Kia’s new (US) $1 billion assembly plant in Georgia where the 2014 Sorento in now being produced.
And what kind of changes?
For instance more than 80 per cent of the parts or materials on the 2014 Sorento have been replaced or enhanced over the 2013 model.
The big change is the switch to a new 3.3-litre direct injection V6 that replaces the 3.5-litre unit in the 2013 model.
Producing 290 hp and 252 lb/ft of torque, it is more powerful than the 276 hp and 248 lb/ft in the 3.5-litre.
It is also more fuel-efficient giving 11.4/8.0L/100 km (25/35 mpg) city/highway in the front-wheel-drive models and 11.9/8.4L/100 km (24/34 mpg) in the all-wheel-drive version.
The standard engine in the entry-level models remains a 2.4-litre direct injection inline four-cylinder now producing 191 hp and 181 lb/ft of torque. Fuel consumption for the FWD model is 10.4/7.1L/100 km (27/40 mpg) city/highway; 2.4-litre AWD and 10.9/7.8L/100 km (26/36 mpg) and in the AWD versions.
All 2014 Sorentos are equipped with a six-speed automatic transmission with selectable sequential manual shifting.
Also new is FlexSteer, an adaptable electric power steering that allows the driver to change the ride feel three ways—Comfort, Normal and Sport.
There is a button on the steering wheel that lets the driver make the change.
Normal, as you would expect, is for everyday driving such as on the freeway out of Phoenix (where the press introduction was held) where you don’t need the tautness of Sport.
I did use Sport as we took a twisty road up into the hills where responsiveness was heightened. But most of all, there was no sensation of it being dead on centre which was the bane of many early electric steering systems.
I didn’t try it on Comfort, but this would be for long-distance driving and low-speed situations such as urban parking.
The version I spent most of my drive time in was the topline SX V6 with AWD and with seven-passenger seating and, folks; it’s big inside.
For instance cargo volume is 257 litres behind the third row seats, 1,046 litres behind the second row and 2,051 litres behind the front seats.
Front seats are heated with the second row also available with heated seat cushions. On the SX the front seats are also cooled.
Instrumentation on the Sorento follows the previous practice of making most of the controls accessible within a hand’s reach from the steering wheel.
The centre stack has been redesigned for a more user-friendly experience with attention to housing Kia’s all-new large touch screen, which integrates navigation, access to the premium Infinity audio system, SiriusXM Satellite Radio and Bluetooth hands-free connectivity.
The navigation system on the SX I drove featured an eight-inch screen, which proved precise in terms of route depiction and voice prompts well in advance. Downtown Phoenix is a city in constant construction and it’s easy to trip up a Nav system that is outdated. The unit in the Sorento has a SD card slot at the front for faster updates which is appreciated, especially if you are an out-of-towner.
Other available key features that have been added to the 2014 Sorento include Kia’s first-ever power liftgate, a redesigned panoramic sunroof that operates with a one-piece power-operated shade, integrated second row sliding sunshades and a 110-volt power inverter.
The 2.4-litre can tow up to 1,655 lb and the 3.3-litre up to 3,500lb.
All the safety and driver aids possible are found in the Sorento such as ABS, traction control and stability control but new is Blind Spot Detection. It has a visual prompt when another vehicle is in the blind spot and adds a audible tone if that vehicle is too close.
Suspension remains MacPherson struts at the front and a multi-link independent system at the rear but it has been thoroughly revised for sharper handling which was evident in the high country during the ride and drive portion of the press introduction.
Even though there are two engines and two drivetrains there are ten trim and price levels making it possible to start with the base FWD LX at $26,695 or $28,695 for AWD in 2.4-litre from to the FWD LX V6 at $29,495 and $32,695 with the V6 and third row seats.
The mid-level EX makes AWD standard and costs $34,195 or $35,395 with the optional huge sunroof. Top of the line is the SX AWD V6 at $40,595 or $41,795 with the third row seats.
The Sorento is just one of a Kia model lineup that is expanding faster than the universe with, I believe, some 50 new or revised cars and trucks due in the two years.
There are a number of great mid-size SUVs out there right now, but if you are in the market, test drive a Sorento and learn why the company motto is “the power to surprise”.
Kia Sorento 2014
Body Style: Mid-size SUV
Drive Method: front-engine, front-/all-wheel-drive
Engine: 2.4-litre DOHC inline four-cylinder (191 hp, 181 lb/ft); 3.3-litre DOHC V6 (290 hp, 252 lb/ft)
Fuel Economy: (Regular) 2.4-litre FWD, 10.4/7.1L/100 km (27/40 mpg) city/highway; 2.4-litre AWD, 10.9/7.8L/100 km (26/36 mpg); 3.3-litre AWD, 11.4/8.0L/100 km (25/35 mpg); 3.3-litre AWD, 11.9/8.4L/100 km (24/34 mpg)
Cargo: 2,051/ 1,046/257 litres behind 1st/2nd/3rd
Tow Rating: 2.4-litre up to 1,655 lb; 3.3-litre up to 3,500 ln
PRICE: $26,695-$41,795 not including $1,665 shipping fee.