2019 Kia Sorento: Refreshed and refined

A mini makeover is a good look for Kia’s three-row kid-hauler.

Emme Hall Former editor for CNET Cars
I love two-seater, RWD convertibles and own a 2004 Mazdaspeed Miata for pavement fun and a lifted 2001 Miata for pre-running. I race air-cooled Volkswagens in desert races like the Mint 400 and the Baja 1000. I have won the Rebelle Rally, seven-day navigational challenge, twice and I am the only driver to compete in an EV, the Rivian R1T.
Emme Hall
4 min read
2019 Kia Sorento hero

The Kia Sorento received a complete overhaul just a few years ago. So while these 2019 model year updates don't amount to an all-new product, they keep the Sorento competitive. It's one of the most value-packed crossovers available in the US today.

Visually, you'll be able to spot the 2019 Sorento thanks to its new grille and updated lighting elements. Full-LED lighting is available on high-end trims, and around back, both the bumper and taillight designs have been tweaked. Subtle, for sure, but still noteworthy.

2019 Kia Sorento

With available all-wheel drive, the Sorento is ready for the snow.


The 2019 Sorento will be available in five different trim levels: L, LX, EX, SX and SXL. Both front- and all-wheel drive are available on all models (except the base L -- that's a front-drive-only affair) with 2.4-liter I4 engine on lower trims or a 3.3-liter V6 on higher models. The 2.0-liter turbocharged engine from 2018 has been axed but Kia tells us a new diesel engine is on the way.

With 185 horsepower and 178 pound-feet of torque, the 2.4-liter engine has sufficient power, and its revised six-speed automatic transmission is generally smooth. It'll be fine for daily driving in most places, but during my drive along high-altitude Colorado mountain passes, this powertrain struggles a bit.

The larger V6 has 290 horsepower and 252 pound-feet of torque, and the added power helps the Sorento handle the steep grades. A new eight-speed automatic always seems to keep the engine in the best gear, resulting in a smooth, confident driving demeanor. If you live in hilly places, the V6 is definitely worth considering.

Just a little nip and tuck for the 2019 Kia Sorento

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Regardless of engine, the Sorento's driving dynamics are tuned for comfort rather than sport, which is just fine for a family-hauler like this. My all-wheel drive testers use brake-based torque vectoring to keep the inside wheels from stepping out. That helps along the twisty roads of Colorado, but still, the Sorento won't out-handle a Mazda CX-9. The Kia gets the job done without any fuss, handling winding roads with confidence, but it's not exactly what I'd call engaging. It's also worth mentioning that Kia's all-wheel drive system has a center locker. By distributing equal power to its front and rear wheels, the Sorento should be able to climb its way out of sticky situations.

The available driving aids work well, with adaptive cruise control bringing me to a complete stop behind a lead car, pausing and then starting back up again without me having to anything. Lane-keeping assist keeps the car centered and even steers a bit during a long, sweeping turn, but no matter the situation, you'll obviously want to keep your hands on the wheel at all times. New for 2019, a driver attention warning system monitors your driving habits and can issue visual and audible alerts if it thinks you need to take a break. It's a good reminder to arrive alive, people.

2019 Kia Sorento

Apple CarPlay and Android Auto are standard across all trimlines for 2019.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

All 2019 Sorentos get seven-passenger seating, something that was previously only available on V6 models. The crossover's interior is largely the same as before, though Kia adds more standard technology across all trims, including Apple CarPlay and Android Auto . Aforementioned driver-assist tech like adaptive cruise control, lane-keeping assist and forward collision warning are standard on the EX trim and up. The lower-grade LX comes with standard blind-spot monitoring, but if you get the most basic L, you won't get any assistance goodies.

The 2019 Kia Sorento goes on sale this month and pricing starts at $25,990 for the base, front-wheel drive L. A top-of-the-line SXL with all-wheel drive will set you back as much as $46,490. If you do decide to check the AWD box on your Sorento LX, EX, SX or SXL, it'll cost you $1,800.

2019 Kia Sorento

Well, hello LED lighting. Happy to see you.

Emme Hall/Roadshow

The Sorento competes in a crowded segment of three-row crossovers that includes big names like the Ford Explorer, Honda Pilot and Toyota Highlander. The new Subaru Ascent will join later this year, as will the Sorento's corporate cousin, the Hyundai Santa Fe. But as of now, none of the Sorento's competitors can touch it on price, with most starting in the low $30,000 range. That MSRP, plus the tweaked styling and other 2019 model year updates, ought to keep the Sorento pretty competitive in this very important segment.

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