Overshadowed but not forgotten. This is a big year for Kia, but not necessarily because of the 2020 Kia Sorento. The brand just released its largest vehicle, the new Kia Telluride, which supplants the venerable Sorento as the brand's flagship.
While the latest attention might go to the new big brother, the Sorento was updated last year and still compares well. The exterior isn’t as glamorous as the Telluride’s, but the Sorento is handsome and understated in a way many will appreciate.
It’s impressively polished inside as well. A bright infotainment display decorates the dash, and the trim comes in warmer tones but looks fine in black. The Sorento looks as comfortable in the mountains as it does in town, which is no easy feat.
Best with a V6. The Sorento starts with a naturally-aspirated 2.4-cylinder four-cylinder engine, but we’d recommend skipping it if possible. It’s down on power and comes attached to an older six-speed automatic transmission.
It doesn’t cost too much extra to unlock a V6 powertrain, which is much better. With 290 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic, it has plenty of grunt but remains refined. The V6 Sorento can tow up to 5,000 pounds when equipped with all-wheel drive, matching many larger vehicles.
The drawback is efficiency. The Sorento manages only an EPA-estimated 22 miles per gallon combined with the V6, or 20 mpg with all-wheel drive. Numbers like that were once common for an SUV, but with the Toyota Highlander available as a hybrid, eco-minded buyers will be shopping elsewhere.
Solid features (mostly). Just like its powertrain, the Sorento’s trim is best in the middle of the lineup. Base models do get the Sorento’s solid infotainment system, and the LX trim comes with standard blind-spot monitoring.
But the best bargain is the Sorento S V6, which comes with three-zone automatic climate control, heated front seats, and automatic emergency braking. All that (plus the better engine) for well under $35,000 makes it a nice balance of equipment and price.
To round things out, every Sorento gets Kia’s excellent five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper warranty.
We have a few minor complaints about the features, though. One is the third row, which is an addition best left to the larger Telluride. Even the second row is a little disappointing thanks to low and shapeless cushions.
A larger quibble is safety tech. Kia isn’t generous in this department, reserving automatic emergency braking for the top three trims and adaptive cruise control for only the top two. Many competitors offer these features standard. Sorentos with these features get excellent safety scores, but you’ll need to pay the price of entry.
It costs how much? In general, however, the Sorento’s trim belies its price. It feels like an upmarket vehicle inside and out.
It rides like one, too – a comfortable ride is among the Sorento’s primary virtues. Kia may have its roots as a budget brand, but the Sorento can happily play the role of a comfortable cruiser.
It also plays an unusual role in the crossover hierarchy. The Sorento is smaller than most mid-size crossovers, but it's larger than most compacts. That puts it in competition with other in-betweeners like the Ford Edge, which costs substantially more.
The result is strong value, even if we wish Kia would improve availability on some features. For an all-around performer, the Sorento does a good deal right.
Final thoughts. The 2020 Kia Sorento may be the quieter member of the family, but it’s still a competent and likable car. It brings good features and a premium feel at an approachable price.
It's not without its flaws, however, namely when it comes to the base engine and the lackluster efficiency. But as long as you’re willing to shop carefully, the Sorento is unlikely to disappoint.
Check prices for the 2020 Kia Sorento»