Kia 1st to show ’16 model, the Sorento

The 2016 Kia Sorento is powered by small turbocharged engine. (Bud Wells photos)

The 2016 Kia Sorento is powered by small turbocharged engine. (Bud Wells photos)

By Bud Wells

Already rolling into Colorado are several 2016-model cars and trucks, still a month ahead of the 2015 Denver Auto Show.

The ’16 Kia Sorento SUV is the first I’ve driven. It’s 3 inches longer than last year’s edition and filled with refinement. So filled, in fact, the SXL all-wheel-drive Sorento carries a sticker price of $45,095. Wow.

A new, turbocharged 2.0-liter, 4-cylinder engine, tied to a 6-speed automatic transmission, impressively moved the 4,000-pound Kia sent my way. Standard is a normally aspirated 2.4-liter 4-cylinder of 185 horsepower and also optional is a 290-hp, 3.3-liter V-6. The turbo, though out-towed by the V-6, 3,500 to 5,000 pounds, seems the better choice in responsiveness and fuel mileage.

The turboed 4-cylinder, after a momentary lag, delivers torque in strong fashion in low-end and midrange acceleration. Pushing a button on the center console will alter the drive mode; before getting to the sport setting, though, it rests briefly on the eco set, and shift points between eco and sport are immediately noticeable. With most of my driving time split between normal and sport modes, the Sorento averaged 21.4 miles per gallon. Suspension is firm, with little harshness.

The third-generation Sorento features a large, upright grille, redesigned headlights and LED foglights and power-folding side mirrors. Its exterior pales in comparison to several more stylistic competitors, including the new Nissan Murano.

Kia’s new look up front for the ’16 Sorento.

Kia’s new look up front for the ’16 Sorento.

Inside, though, its upgrades are eye-catching, from its soft-touch dashboard to a 39-cubic-foot cargo area, one of the largest in its class. The cabin, a five-passenger with two rows of seats (a third row is optional), is especially roomy and premium Nappa leather seats are appealing and comfortable. The front seats are heated and ventilated and the steering wheel is warmed, too.

With the Sorento’s doors locked, walk up behind the rear liftgate with the smartkey in pocket, the taillights will flash, then momentarily the liftgate begins to open. Very handy for grocery shoppers.

A panoramic sunroof, Infinity surround-sound, navigation, Bluetooth, lane-departure warning, 19-inch wheels, rearview camera with additional surround view, electronic park brake and smart cruise control pushed the price to the $45k mark.

Kia is also making a move with its redesigned 2015 Sedona minivan, which hopes to lure a few sales away from the competition’s Big Four of Chrysler Town & Country, Dodge Grand Caravan, Honda Odyssey and Toyota Sienna.

I’ve driven the big Sedona, which is a bit longer in wheelbase than the Odyssey and Sienna and is only an inch shorter in overall length than the Town & Country and Grand Caravan.

It did some slipping on the icy streets of late February, though is generally an above-average handler with its front-wheel drive powertrain of 3.3-liter V-6 engine and 6-speed automatic transmission. Overall fuel-mileage average was 19.8.

The seven-passenger Sedona has three rows of seats; the middle row seats recline with footrests and slide horizontally for added cargo space.

Addition of xenon HID headlights, lane-departure and forward-collision warning systems, surround-view monitor and smart cruise control boosted sticker price to $43,295 from a base of $39,700 for the Sedona SXL.

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Here are the specifications for the 2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD SUV:

  • Capacity 5-passenger crossover SUV
  • Wheelbase 109.4 inches
  • Length 187.4 inches
  • Width 74.4 inches
  • Height 66.3 inches
  • Curb Weight 4,004 pounds
  • Track 64.3 inches front, rear
  • Ground Clearance 7.3 inches
  • Turn Circle 36.4 feet
  • Drivetrain All-wheel-drive
  • Engine 2.0-liter turbocharged 4-cylinder
  • Horsepower/Torque 240/260
  • Transmission 6-speed automatic
  • Steering power speed-sensing rack-and-pinion
  • Suspension strut front, multilink rear
  • Fuel mileage estimate 19/25
  • Fuel mileage average 21.4
  • Fuel Tank 18.8 gallons, premium
  • Wheels 19-inch
  • Tires Michelin 235/55R19
  • Cargo Volume 39 cubic feet
  • Warranty 5 years/60,000 miles basic, 10/100,000 powertrain

Competitors Jeep Grand Chereokee, Nissan Murano, Nissan Pathfinder, Toyota 4Runner, Honda Pilot

Assembly Plant West Point, Ga.

Parts Content U.S./Canadian 53%, Korea 47%

Base Price of Lowest Model $24,900; Base Price of Review Model $41,700; Destination Charge $895; Sticker Price $45,095.