TEST DRIVE REVIEW: Keeping Up With the Kias – Sorento and Optima Edition

By Michele Spencer

2017 Kia Sorento SXL AWD and Kia Optima SX LTD

In this edition of Keeping Up With the Kias, we review two gas-powered Kias: the Sorento (a 3-row midsize SUV) and the Optima (a five person midsize sedan).

Kia Sorento 2017
The 2017 Kia Sorento is a 3 row SUV that’s a great bargain.

2017 Kia Sorento SXL V6 AWD

The Sorento is a three-row midsize SUV that fits 7 people, powered by a 3.3 liter V6 engine.  The third row’s 50/50 split seats easily fold up and down with a quick pull of a strap; the second row seats fold down with the push of a button in the rear cabin sidewall. When the third row isn’t needed, the seats can be folded flat for maximum space for cargo; it’s easy to pop them back up when there are a few extra passengers.  With the seats down, the cargo area has a segment-busting 73 cubic feet of storage space, accessible with a one-push button power liftgate.

Today’s tester is the SXL, the top trim level, in Platinum Graphite paint with a chrome grille and 19 inch wheel accents that make it extremely attractive.  Inside, there is very comfortable leather seating with Nappa leather trim, heated and ventilated front seats, power seat adjustments with memory settings, and a heated leather steering wheel.   USB and 12-volt outlets are located in convenient spaces in the front and rear cabin spaces.  The UVO “eService” infotainment system is standard on all new Kias, at all trim levels, as well as Apple CarPlay and Android Auto smartphone integration systems.  There are knobs for easy volume and tuning and push controls for the heating and air conditioning, to allow for safe adjustments without having to be distracted.  Other functions are on the 8 inch touch screen, including navigation. The Infinity audio is a surround sound system.

The SXL has a large sunroof and shade, which slides way back into the passenger compartment for plenty of natural lighting.

As tested, the Sorento provides state of the art technology for collision avoidance and safety.  The surround view camera display functions beautifully for parking and negotiating tight spaces.  It is a standout feature on this Kia, in addition to the right side view camera, the front camera, lane departure warning, the blind spot detection, and rear cross traffic alert.  When freeway traffic slowed suddenly, the Sorento gave an audible alert, but it wasn’t overreacting or being overly cautious.  It was spot on.  I didn’t have any conditions occur that would have caused the autonomous emergency braking to kick in, but it is a reassuring safety feature on the Sorento that helps the driver avoid the most common kind of accident, the rear-ender.

The Sorento, like all Kias, gives the owner much more than you would expect for the money.  A friend who owns a Mercedes sedan who I took to dinner in the Sorento SXL said that the Sorento was “way nicer” than her ride.  The features and styling of the Sorento are on par with much more expensive makes.

On fuel consumption, the rating is 19 MPG combined city and highway.  On two long trips in a mixture of driving conditions I got 21.1 and 24 MPG averages.  At 290 horsepower, the Sorento is capable with normal city driving but it won’t light your hair on fire.  The torque seems a bit anemic in spite of the claimed 252 pound-feet available.

Government crash test safety ratings are not available, but there’s no reason to believe that the 2018 Sorento wouldn’t meet the five-star ratings that it garnered in 2017.

There is available all wheel drive with locking center differential for poor road conditions, or off-road excursions, making the Sorento a great choice for those who go from city to backcountry or live in areas with challenging weather.

In 2017, The Sorento picked up the highest ranking for initial quality in the midsize SUV segment for two of three years in a row from J.D. Power.  The segment is ultra-competitive, so the award is very impressive.  Keep in mind that there is a 10 year, 1000,000 mile warranty backing up every Kia sold, so it’s a pretty good bet you won’t be spending much time at the dealership service center.

2017 Kia Sorento Details

  • Power: 3.3 liter V-6 direct injection engine (SXL trim, top trim); 2.4 liter (L trim)
  • Transmission: 6 speed automatic
  • All Wheel Drive with locking center differential
  • Brakes: 4 wheel disc with ABS
  • Wheels: 19 inch chrome alloy
  • Warranty:  10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain and limited battery warranty; 5 year/60,000 limited basis warranty; and 5 year/60,000 mile free roadside assistance
  • Fuel economy: 17 city/23 highway/19 combined
  • Price (as tested): MSRP $46,200, plus $940 for shipping from West Point, Georgia (SXL);  $44,500 (L).
  • Interior and Infotainment (SXL): Infinity surround sound audio, Navigation with 8 inch touchscreen and rear camera, UVO eServices infotainment system, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay, Bluetooth, Sirius XM radio with 3 month subscription, Metallic Nappa leather seats, Nappa leather seat trim, power adjustable front seats, driver’s seat memory function, heated and ventilated front seats, heated leather steering wheel, power sunroof and shade.
  • Exterior (SXL): HID headlights with auto-leveling and dynamic bending, LED positioning, fog and tail lights, power-folding heated outside mirrors with turn signals, smart “hands-free” power liftgate.
  • Safety: dual front advanced airbags, dual front seat-mounted airbags, full-length side curtain airbags, anti-lock braking system, traction control system, electronic stability control, hill-start assist control, surround view monitoring, autonomous emergency braking, blind spot detection system, lane departure warning system, rear cross traffic alert, rear parking assist system.
  • HP 290; Torque 252 pound-feet (SXL); HP 185; Torque 178 pound-feet (L)
  • Cargo net for rear cargo area, optional: $50.00
Kia Optima 2017 side
2017 Kia Optima – 2 liter turbocharged at top trim levels.

2017 Kia Optima SXL

The Optima is a five-person, four-door midsize sedan which is available in conventional gasoline engine and hybrid versions. Today’s tester is a 2.0 liter turbocharged gas engine powered sedan with a 6 speed automatic transmission. The Optima comes in five trim levels.  The tester is the SXL trim, which bases at $36,090, plus $895 for shipping from West Point, Georgia.

The Optima is regarded as having state of the art features that are normally found on more expensive cars.  It should be on the short list of cars to check out when shopping for a midsize four-door sedan, as the value is amazing in this segment.

The Optima got 29.3 mpg on average in a mix of both slow traffic and open highway driving, beating the EPA estimate of 25 combined.  In mostly open highway driving, it got 31.4 mpg, making it very competitive with the Honda Accord, Toyota Camry, and Ford Fusion.

The interior is very nicely appointed, with knobs and push buttons for volume and air controls, in addition to a 7-inch touchscreen and a tilting/telescoping steering wheel.  Even the base trim model features the excellent UVO Infotainment and Connectivity system (said to be better than most of its mid-size sedan competitors), but the Optima has even more available features that kick up its competitiveness, including Android Auto and Apple CarPlay (upper trim levels only), standard leather-wrapped steering wheel (starting at the LX  trim level), standard multi-adjustable driver’s seat, and standard dual zone climate controls.

2017-kia-optima-interior.jpg
Kia Optima interior.

The upper trim level tester was outfitted with the Harman Kardon surround sound system and ten speakers, for an incredible sound experience, plus dual USB ports and 12 volt power outlets in the front and rear cabin areas.

The rear parking assist system (standard equipment on the tester) alerts the driver with a chime if an object is detected within 47 inches of the rear of the car at under 3 miles per hour, which is exactly what is needed when backing up out of the driveway or a parking space.

Two drive modes are available in addition to regular mode: Eco and Sport.  When in Eco, the rpms stay low and the car adopts a restrained feel, allowing the car to maximize fuel economy.  In contrast, the car completely changes its personality in Sport mode.  Acceleration feels very strong and uninhibited, perfect for passing and entering the freeway.

What I didn’t like about the “regular” (gas) Optima was the amount of road noise; the hybrid Optima was much quieter.  The inherently noisier nature of an internal combustion engine is a given, but maybe there was more of an effort made to make the hybrid a quieter ride, knowing that the customer would expect that.  I wasn’t real turned on by the way the engine sounds, either.  It’s just not a really sexy-sounding engine.  Sort of like meat grinder meets coffee maker.  Also, there was vibration in the steering wheel and in my seat that was present all the way from idle to freeway speed.  It was a minor vibration, but nonetheless annoying and surprising, since that had not occurred in the hybrid.  It could have just been the tester that I drove.

For anyone doing any test driving at a dealership, I would recommend asking for more than one tester, including the hybrid, if the noise and/or vibration issues are present in the conventional gasoline version that the dealer provides for the road test.

2017-Kia Optima-Colors

At 185 HP (LX trim) or 245 HP (SX trim), the Optima certainly gets the job done, but it’s not going to win any  quarter mile trophies at the drag strip.  This isn’t a car for those who need a very powerful engine.

There’s no compromise on safety. The Optima garnered five star ratings in every test performed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The independent Insurance Institute for Highway Safety rated the 2017 Optima a Top Safety Pick, giving it top marks in all crash tests, including a Superior rating in crash detection and mitigation (when equipped with optional crash-avoidance equipment).

Edmunds gave the Optima a 4/5 rating, and Car Connection gave it 7.3/10.

The warranties on Kias are the best in the industry:  10 years or 100,000 miles (limited powertrain) and 5 year/$60,000 (limited basic) – that’s one reason why we say smart people buy Kias.  The Optima’s features are the same ones found on much more expensive cars.  All that makes a Kia a smart buy.

2017 Kia Optima Details:

  • Power:  Varies depending on trim level.  LX – 2.4 liter DOHC 16-valve l-4; LX Turbo – 1.6 liter with turbocharger;  EX – 2.4 liter; SX –  2.0 liter; SXL – 2.0 liter with turbocharger
  • Transmission:  6 speed automatic
  • Brakes: 4 wheel disc with ABS
  • Wheels: 16 inch alloy (LX), 16 inch alloy with light grey finish (LX Turbo), 17 inch alloy (EX),  18 inch machined finish (SX), 18 inch alloy with chrome finish (SXL)
  • Warranty: 10 year/100,000 mile limited powertrain and limited battery; 5 year/60,000 mile free roadside assistance
  • Price: LX trim $22,500; LX Turbo $24,140; EX $25,440; SX $29,940; SXL $36,090
  • Headlamps:  LED, with auto leveling and dynamic bending
  • Power adjustable side mirrors with LED turn signal indicators
  • Solar control glass
  • Bluetooth connectivity – hands-free smartphone
  • Rear back up camera with display of vehicle footprint
  • Cruise control with steering wheel controls
  • SXL (top) trim level features:  Rear parking assist system, surround view monitor, blind spot detection system, rear cross traffic alert, autonomous emergency braking, forward collision warning system, lane departure warning system, LED adaptive headlights with auto high beams.

 

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