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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


2019 Kia Sorento goes all in on three-row seating

Having shouldered its way into the fraternity of mainstream automakers, Kia is acting like one.

For four consecutive years, the upstart Korean company has earned the No. One spot among non-premium makers in J.D. Power's Initial Quality Study (fewest quality problems in the first 100 days of ownership).

Today’s tester, the Sorento midsize crossover took home highest honors in Power’s 2018 Predicted Quality ratings.

And, since there’s nothing more mainstream these days than three-row crossovers, Kia goes fully three-row with the updated 2019 Sorento.

Turbocharged diesel in the works

This year, every Sorento built — including the base, front-drive-only L trim ($25,990) — includes a third row.

Sorento also gets a mild facelift, a pair of upgraded transmissions and the addition of new safety and driver-assist features.

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto join the infotainment roster as standard gear. 

And, finally, Kia has scrapped last year’s mid-level turbocharged four and plans to replace it  soon with a turbocharged diesel.

The evolving Kia continues to embrace its industry-leading warranty and its value-conscious roots. 

The base L trim ($25,990) includes such standard features as automatic headlights, keyless entry, rearview camera, stain-resistant cloth upholstery, Bluetooth, a 7-inch touchscreen, Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a USB port and a six-speaker sound system with satellite radio and a CD player.

All-wheel-drive comes on board with the LX trim (FWD, $27,490/AWD, $29,290).

Flirting with near-luxury

On the upper end of the lineup, Sorento flirts with the near-luxury classes. 

The top-of-the-line XS Limited (SXL) rings the bell at $46,690 and fetches dual-zone automatic climate control; nappa leather seats; LED headlights with automatic high beams; LED fog lights and taillights; push-button start; a panoramic sunroof with power sunshade; and an excellent Harman Kardon audio system.

Quiet cabin, soft-touch surfaces 

In all trims, Sorento’s cabin is finished in soft-touch materials. Its cabin is quiet and refined, fit-and-finish is very good and there are plenty of casual storage opportunities.

There’s a new steering wheel, a new shifter knob and a revised instrument cluster with improved graphics. 

A large touchscreen provides access to Sorento’s well-stocked infotainment system. Big icons and a simple menu structure create a fuss-free experience. Kia provides button-and-knob HVAC and audio controls so one needn’t wander through a maze of menus to accomplish simple tasks.

Tidy dimensions

Sorento is one of the smaller three-row crossovers. It's maneuverable in traffic and crowded parking lots, but its tidy dimensions spell cramped third-row seating and limited cargo capacity. 

The second row of seats slides fore and aft, easing third-row legroom concerns, but accessing that way-back space is a challenge for all but the young and the nimble.

With all three rows up and in place, there’s enough cargo space for a trip to the supermarket but not a Costco run. Folding them yields a 73 cubic-foot cargo hold.

Sorento’s ride-and-handling package is all about comfort. Its chassis is forgiving and the softly sprung, fully independent suspension easily absorbs all but the sharpest impacts. 

Easy does it

Sorento feels stable and planted at speed, but moderate body lean dictates a go-easy approach in the corners.

Steering feel is light and non-communicative, though the system is accurate in turns. A solid on-center groove makes for steady straight-line tracking.

L and LX trims are powered by a 185-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine which is paired with a six-speed automatic transmission that’s been updated this year for improved efficiency. 

A 290-hp 3.3-liter V-6 is optional on the LX and standard on EX, SX and SX Limited trims. It’s mated to an eight-speed automatic (up from last year’s six-speed) geared to deliver smooth shifts and more seamless interaction with the engine.

Even so, downshifts come slowly, especially at low speeds when stop-and-go traffic may call for a more immediate reaction.

Equipped with the V-6 and AWD, Sorento can tow up to 5000 lb.

With its attractive price point, comfortable accommodations and generous features set, Sorento hits a sweet spot in the midsize three-row segment. 

And that’s about as mainstream as mainstream gets.

Questions or comments? Contact Don at

2019 Kia Sorento SXL AWD
Vehicle base price: $25,990
Trim level base price: $46,940
As tested: $48,370 (includes destination and handling)
Options included carpeted floor mats, cargo net, cargo cover, interior lighting package, puddle lights.
Tow rating: up to 5000 lb
EPA rating: 21 combined/19 city/24 highway
Regular unleaded fuel specified


Don Adair
Don Adair is a Spokane-based freelance writer.