2014 Kia Sorento review: Set the steering to your style

The suspension kept the Sorento reasonably stable in the turns, but understeer kept me from pushing the car too fast.

Kia cites some offroad specifications for the Sorento, but with ground clearance of 7.3 inches, this crossover is clearly designed for pavement. Our front-wheel-drive model was certainly more suited to the Costco parking lot than Jeep trails.

Standard electronics
The easy drivability of the Sorento was complemented by the simple and responsive standard cabin electronics in this SX model. Kia has never seemed to overreach when it comes to navigation and other infotainment features in the cabin, avoiding strained interfaces and features that are not quite ready for prime time. That usually means you won't find cutting edge features from Kia, but at least everything will work very well.

The navigation unit, with maps stored on an easily accessed SD card, shows up on an 8-inch touch screen. There is no home screen showing all the functions, but hard buttons along the bottom launch navigation, phone, and audio source screens.

2014 Kia Sorento
Kia's route guidance graphics are easy to read, but the navigation system is overly dramatic about route recalculation. Josh Miller/CNET

The maps display only in plan view, either direction of travel or north-up, with no perspective or 3D view. The aesthetics, with a beige background and sometimes jaggy street labels, are not quite as nice as what I saw in the Kia Cadenza, but the maps are functional. They showed traffic flow and incidents, and I could read them quickly at a glance.

Route guidance included voice prompts that gave street names along with lane guidance and large graphics for freeway junctions. However, I found it very annoying that the system brought up a confirmation screen every time it had to recalculate the route. If I missed a turn, it covered the map with a screen showing my route options. When traffic problems appeared on the route, it brought up a dialog screen asking if I wanted a detour, then brought up the confirmation screen again.

I initially kept hitting the OK buttons on the screens, until I found they would close of their own accord if I left them long enough.

I would prefer the system to recalculate my routes without quite so much drama. Especially if I'm in a strange city, looking for a destination, and miss a turn, I don't want the system covering the map for the crucial time immediately afterward, when what I most need is updated directions. And the traffic thing will make that feature useless in cities like Los Angeles, where every route is bound to have at least 10 traffic issues. The system should work out the new routes in the background, so as not to disturb the driver with unnecessary confirmation screens.

App-linked
Enhancing destination input, Kia offers its UVO telematics system in the Sorento. This system, accessed on the car's LCD or from the UVO smartphone app, has a roadside assistance and vehicle maintenance features. More useful on an everyday basis are the parking location and online destination features. You can tell the car to remember where you parked it, then find it again with the phone app.

You can also use Google's Send-to-car feature with the Web implementation of Google Maps. Look up multiple destinations online, then choose Send to car. Once in the Sorento, when you select the My POIs (places of interest) option from the UVO menu, it will add the destinations to the navigation system.

2014 Kia Sorento
UVO offers a number of services, such as letting you select destinations on your PC then send to the car. Josh Miller/CNET

Missing, however, is an online local search feature in the car.

Likewise, the stereo does not offer any online music app integration, something competitors are picking up on rapidly. While driving the Sorento, I made do with Bluetooth streaming and the USB port, using it for both a USB drive and my iPhone. The music interface works like most these days, with a full music library for an iOS device cabled to the car. The interface merely shows a file and folder structure for USB drives, but also lets you select image files from the drive to display on the LCD.

The Bluetooth streaming interface showed artist and track names, but only had Pause and Play buttons. I found that the Track Skip button on the steering wheel worked when streaming music from a portable device.

Music played through an Infinity audio system, Kia's premium audio partner. I was very pleased with the clarity and balance of this system. The opening chords of "Reflections of the Marionette," by Two Gallants, played with chilling distinction. At the system's default levels, bass came through with a satisfying thump, and the amp had some headroom when I wanted to bump the levels. I would rate the sound from this system as just below true audiophile quality, and therefore a pretty good bargain.

The phone system showed the usual features, downloading my phone's contact list and letting me select names from the screen. Through voice command I could also say the name of a contact to make a call. Voice command was limited for audio playback control, but when entering destinations, it let me say the entire address string.

The Sorento offered only a few features to aid driving, although it was nice that they came standard. The blind-spot monitor lit up alerts in the side mirrors when cars were in the adjoining lanes. A rear-view camera with distance lines made up for the poor rearward visibility. And when I put the Sorento in reverse, the side mirrors dipped down, letting me see the curb when parallel parking.

2014 Kia Sorento
The Sorento is designed for family vacations and suburban utility. Wayne Cunningham/CNET

Adaptive cruise control would have been a nice additional feature, especially since the Sorento would make a good road trip vehicle.

Advanced crossover
Most of the tech features I found in the 2014 Kia Sorento were pretty run-of-the-mill, but they generally worked very well. The big drawback from the navigation system was its frequent confirmation screens. The stereo sounded very good, and it offered a typical array of audio sources. The fact that these tech features came standard in the SX model was an added bonus.

The steering settings and the LCD speedometer were nice high-tech touches, showing that Kia has some ambition for the future.

The direct injection engine puts the Sorento ahead of at least some of the competition. I liked its fuel economy and ready power. The automatic transmission and ride quality were about what I would expect in this class of vehicle.

The third-row option exhibits a few faults, most notably difficult access. I recently reviewed the Nissan Pathfinder, which had much better third-row entry. Likewise, the Pathfinder does not sacrifice all of its cargo space for the third row, as the Sorento does.

Tech specs
Model 2014 Kia Sorento
Trim SX
Powertrain Direct injection 3.3-liter V-6, six-speed automatic transmission
EPA fuel economy 18 mpg city/25 mpg highway
Observed fuel economy 22.8 mpg
Navigation Standard flash memory-based with real-time traffic
Bluetooth phone support Standard
Digital audio
sources
Bluetooth audio streaming, iOS integration, USB drive, satellite radio, HD Radio, auxiliary input
Audio system Infinity 10-speaker system
Driver aids Blind-spot monitor, rear-view camera
Base price $35,000
Price as tested $36,900

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    2014 Kia Sorento

    Part Number: 200460717
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    • Regional specs shown for US. UK specs are unavailable.

    • Trim levels LX
    • Body style SUV
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