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Styling is solid, sales are up, but will 2017 Kia Sorento be missing something?

Last Update August 23rd, 2016

2017 Kia Sorento

2017 Kia Sorento

What changes will make the 2017 Kia Sorento different?

Additional safety features would be welcome, but don’t expect much else after a total remake for model-year 2016. That was the first redesign of this midsize crossover since model-year 2011. It brought a larger, prettier body, a higher-class cabin, and a turbo-engine option. The ’17 will repeat with seating for five or seven passengers to match such rivals as the Ford Explorer, Toyota Highlander, and Honda Pilot.

Why should I wait for the 2017?

To see if this South Korean automaker adds safety features or extends those already available. The redesigned model launched without a couple of driver aids offered by top rivals: automatic braking to mitigate frontal collisions and self-correcting steering to keep you in your lane. And only its most expensive trim levels were available with forward-collision warning and adaptive cruise control. If these sorts of security blankets are vital to you, wait. If not, you’ll experience lineup that repeats with entry-level L and volume-selling LX models with a 2.4-liter 4-cylinder engine; SX 2.0T and SXL 2.0T models with a turbocharged 4-cylinder; and LX, EX, SX, and SX-L models with a V-6. The L model should again be limited to front-wheel drive. The others will be available with front-drive or all-wheel drive (awd).

Check out our 2018 Kia Sorento Preview for the latest info

Should I buy a 2016 model instead?

Yes, if you’re in the market for a handsome crossover distinguished by an upscale interior and lots of equipment for the money – except the aforementioned safety adjuncts. You’ll be hard-pressed to tell a ’16 from a ’17, thought the ’17 will almost certainly have higher prices. So you’ll pay more for a vehicle with identical styling and powertrains. You’ll again be able to get a rather cramped third-row as standard on V-6 versions. It should return as a $1,200 option on the 2.4-liter LX in conjunction with the $1,000 Convenience Package. If you want this same basic crossover stretched to provide true adult-friendly third-row seating, check out the longer, roomier Santa Fe from Kia’s corporate partner, Hyundai. If you want a sportier take on this same underskin structure, there’s the shorter, nimbler five-passenger Santa Fe Sport.

Will the styling be different?

No, except for perhaps a new color choice or two. Again slotted above the compact-class Sportage as Kia’s largest crossover, Sorento is the SUV alternative to the automaker’s Sedona minivan. The body will retain the crisp, contemporary lines it acquired in the 2016 redesign. It also grew, gaining some 3 inches in overall length and wheelbase. The latter — the distance between front and rear axles – created space enough to seat five in comfort and just enough room to squeeze in that claustrophobic third-row seat. Cargo volume is puny behind the third row and subpar overall for this class. But carpeting running partway up the rear sidewalls makes for a nicely finished luggage bay. And the cabin’s overall design will remain among best in the class. Padded surfaces abound. Modern shapes and generously sized, smooth-working controls highlight the dashboard. A navigation system is standard on SX and SX-L models and optional on the EX. It exchanges a 4.2-inch dashboard screen for an 8-inch display with notably crisp graphics.

Any mechanical changes?

Highly unlikely. The 2.4-liter 4-cylinder in L and LX versions should remain at 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, enough to deliver acceleration adequate at best in a vehicle this size and weight – especially if you opt for an LX with the third-row seat. Limited to five seats, the EX 2.0T and SX-L 2.0T will return with a turbocharged 2.0-liter 4-cylinder. They suffer a slight delay getting away from a stop but once underway, 240 horsepower and 260 pound-feet of torque makes for lively acceleration. The best all-around choice is the V-6 available in LX, EX, SX, and SX-L trim. It delivers power in a more linear fashion than the turbo. And its 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque are a big step up from the base 4-cylinder, important because all V-6 models are seven-seaters. The sole transmission will remain a 6-speed automatic. All-wheel drive should again add $1,800 and come with a center-console switch to lock in a 50/50 front-rear torque split to enhance low-speed traction. Kia probably won’t alter the suspension, which delivers a nice blend of comfort and control, though the 19-inch tires on SX and SX-L models don’t absorb bumps as well as the 17s and 18s on the other trims.

Will fuel economy improve?

With no mechanical changes, 2016 EPA ratings should repeat. That would leave 4-cylinder Sorentos among the more fuel-efficient midsize crossovers of comparable size and power, excluding hybrids and diesels. Unchanged ratings for the V-6 would keep it slightly behind direct competitors. Look for 21/29/24 mpg city/highway/combined for the 2.4-liter engine with front-wheel drive and 21/26/23 mpg with awd. Turbo 2.0 should return at 20/27/23 mpg with front-drive and 19/25/22 with awd. For the V-6, ratings are likely to remain 18/26/21 mpg city/highway/combined with front-drive and 17/23/19 with awd.

Will it have new features?

It should: see above for safety-features deficits. Note, however, that the ’16 Sorento did score well in crash tests, earning the maximum five stars for overall occupant protection in government evaluations and falling one rung from the top in testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Keeping it from the IIHS’s top rating was absence of automatic braking. Kia may well add that, and lane-keep steering assist, too, if it discovers their absence is costing it sales. Similar motivation could make such features as adaptive cruise control (to maintain a set distance from traffic ahead), forward collision warning, an around-view monitor, and xenon headlamps more widely available. For ’16, they were options exclusive to the SX-L turbo and V-6 models. We’d also like to see blind-spot warning and rear-cross-traffic alerts made available on L and LX models. Those demerits aside, the ’17 Sorento should reprise an attractive array of comfort, convenience, and connectivity items. Standard across the board will be Kia’s latest UVO telematics; it can send you mobile alerts if you’ve loaned your crossover to a driver who violates geographic, speed, or curfew perimeters you’ve set. Adding an interface for Android phones to the Siri interface for iPhones may be on tap for ‘17. Among smart values likely to return: the $1,000 Convenience Package for LX models. It upgrades the standard power driver’s seat with extra adjustments and adds heated front buckets, a leather-wrapped steering wheel and shifter, an automatic-dimming rearview mirror, and carpeted floor mats. A rearview backup camera probably will remain standard on all but the L model. The LX Convenience Package enhances that with rear-parking alerts. SX-L versions will again impress with standard Nappa leather upholstery, a 14-way power memory driver’s seat, heated and cooled front seats, heated second-row outboard seats, blind-spot and rear cross- traffic detection, distinctive quad-LED fog lamps, and a power liftgate that can open automatically as you approach the vehicle.

How will 2017 prices be different?

They’re almost certain to increase, but modestly. Our estimated base prices include Kia’s destination fee, which was $895 for model-year 2016. Starting under $26,000, the L model should remain an Internet-search price grabber. Actual buyers will gravitate to the 2.4-liter LX. Its estimated base price is $27,400 with front-drive and $29,200 with awd. Most turbo buyers choose awd; with it, look for the EX 2.0T to start around $34,100 and the SX-L 2.0T around $42,900. All-wheel drive also accounts for the majority of V-6 sales; with it, expect a 2017 base-price range of $31,300-$44,300 for those Sorentos. As for major options, adding navigation to an EX may remain a pricey proposition. For ‘16, it required both the $2,500 Premium Package and the $2,900 Touring Package.

When will it come out?

Expect an autumn 2016 release.

Best competitors

Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot, Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe Sport, Dodge Durango, Mazda CX-9, Nissan Murano and Pathfinder, Toyota Highlander

What change would make it better?

Aside from the aforementioned safety-feature additions and availability adjustments, Sorento owners would benefit from improved steering. The shared engineering acumen of Kia and Hyundai has successfully brought both brands abreast of most rivals for powertrain performance and at least into the mainstream for suspension behavior. Steering accuracy and response has improved over the years, too. But most every vehicle from either make still suffers a numbness on center that dictates frequent corrections in straight-line cruising and an annoyingly inconsistent feel as you begin to turn. It’s not a deal breaker for most, but it might be for the attuned driver.

About Chuck Giametta

This nationally recognized, award-winning writer brings to Carpreview.com two decades of automotive testing and reporting for newspapers, books, magazines, and the Internet. The former Executive Auto Editor of Consumer Guide, Chuck has covered cars for HowStuffWorks.com, Collectible Automobile magazine, and the Publications International Ltd. automotive book series. This ex-newspaper reporter has also appeared as an automotive expert on network television and radio. He’s a charter member of the Midwest Automotive Media Association, the president of the Rocky Mountain Automotive Media association, and a juror for the annual Active Lifestyle Vehicle of the Year awards. Chuck writes from Colorado Springs, Colo. If you have a question for Chuck, write to him at [email protected]