First Drive: 2014 Kia Sorento

A decade or so ago, when the Kia Sorento made its debut, Korean vehicles were way down the list for consideration for most buyers. Driving a Kia or a Hyundai marked you as cheap, or dumbor both. That perception has changed in a big way, and now Kia vehicles are in the mix with the best from domestic, European and Japanese competitors.

The Sorento is Kia's biggest current SUV. It's a unibody crossover vehicleno separate frame. And it is surprisingly capable and elegant, with a vast array of standard features, even on the base model. But is it a vehicle that a motorcyclist could loveand live with?

First Drive: 2014 Kia Sorento 2014 Kia Sorento (3/4 front)

What's New?

The 2014 Kia Sorento represents a pretty thoroughly refreshed edition of the mid-size SUV that's been rolling off the assembly lines in West Point, Georgia (that's in the U.S., by the way) since the 2010 model year. Sorento wears a new front fascia with upgraded headlamps, including trendy LED positioning lamps on higher trim levels. LED elements have also been added to the taillamps, and the rear fascia has been redesigned. The interior has been sharpened up, with a new dash, instrument panel and some near-luxury features available, like ventilated seats for the driver and front passenger.

The significant change, though, comes where it countsunder the hood. Two engines to choose from: a 2.4-liter inline four-cylinder and a 3.3-liter V6, and each one is built around gasoline direct injection (GDI). GDI is the next stage in the evolution of fuel management for gas engines. By vaporizing fuel and shooting it directly into the combustion chambers, it allows engines to extract more energy from gasoline (compared to conventional fuel injection or carburetion), resulting in increased power output and higher fuel efficiency. This is good news.

First Drive: 2014 Kia Sorento 2014 Kia Sorento (rear)

Tow/Haul/Cargo

You might not immediately think of the Sorento when you make a list of tow/haul vehicles. But for light towing mixed with every day driving, Sorento might just do the trick. The four-cylinder Sorento is rated to tow up to 1,650 lbscertainly enough for a lightweight single bike trailer. The V6 Sorento is rated at a robust 3,500 lbs. Either vehicle will need to be outfitted with an optional ($400) tow hitch to be useful.

Cargo capacity is just what you'd expect from a mid-size SUV. Don't bother with the optional ($1,200) third row seating package unless you come from a family of tiny contortionists. With the seats folded down, Sorento can haul up to 72.5 cu.-ft. of cargo; with the second row in place, there's 36.9 cu.-ft. of space available. If you get the third row (but didn't I just tell you not to bother?), there's 9.1 cu.-ft. of luggage space in the back. Curb weight is between 3,594 lbs and 3,894 lbs, depending on vehicle configuration, and payload is close to 1,600 lbs.

First Drive: 2014 Kia Sorento 2014 Kia Sorento (engine)

Engine/Drivetrain/Specs

Two engines are available for Sorento:

2.4-liter I-4 with Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)
191 hp @ 6,300 rpm
181 lb.-ft. @ 4,250 rpm
20 mpg city/26 mpg highway (FWD)
19 mpg city/24 mpg highway (AWD)

3.3-liter V6 with Gasoline Direct Injection (GDI)
290 hp @ 6,400 rpm
252 lb.-ft.  @ 5,200 rpm
18 mpg city/25 mpg highway (FWD)
18 mpg city/24 mpg highway (AWD)

**Six-speed automatic transmission with front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive

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