Before a much-anticipated trip to Las Vegas later on in the week, I was given the choice to take a 2013 Kia Sorento, which at the moment, seemed like a blessing since I would have five other passengers (and all our belongings) along for the ride. A Sorento wouldn't normally be my first pick for a road trip, but since all other seven-seat long-termers were gone for the weekend, the three-row sport ‘ute was the next best thing.
I had a few days to get familiar with the boxy SUV before my trip, with the first day being the ultimate ice-breaker. A big rig that jackknifed 20 miles up the 405 (right near my exit) congested traffic for a great distance, so I was stuck in the Sorento for about an hour and a half -- and boy, did we get acquainted in that time. I didn' t hear about the accident until about a quarter-way though the commute, and by that time lanes were closed for a fuel spillage. With the HAZMAT team still absent, traffic reporters warned it was going to be a while until there'd be any sort of relief. I wasn't about to sit patiently for hours, so I ventured onto the side streets of West L.A. with plans to take canyon roads to my destination.
I didn't know exactly where I was going, but luckily our EX tester was equipped with the $1200 Limited Package, which includes navigation with Sirius traffic. I relied heavily on the map to find different routes to take, but I was better off following my natural instincts. The nav system did help somewhat, but using it proved extremely cumbersome because not only is the touch-screen tiny, but it was also hard to see what I was looking at when the sun kept glaring off the display. There was a lag time in the zoom in/out touch-screen inputs, which was frustrating when I needed to see certain surface streets on the fly. The Sorento's navigation seemed stuck in slow motion, and I was more distracted by it than anything; It would've been just as -- if not less -- distracting to use one of those huge Thomas Guide maps.
As I carved through the canyon roads, I noticed this Sorento came with a booming sound system -- and I'm not talking about the Infinity audio system that also comes with the $3400 Premium Package. I'm talking about the booming sound you hear from all the road noise, which becomes much more pronounced on broken pavement. Although I appreciated the Sorento's upscale amenities such as a panoramic sunroof, the flimsy covers didn’t do it justice, even though they did put on a magic show when they opened and closed on their own. As for cargo space, it's laughable. There's no space with the third row up, and if you have a fully packed SUV with six or seven passengers, don’t expect to fit much behind the rear seats.
I was also surprised to find the Sorento had features that are typically found in premium and luxury cars, like air-cooled seats, err seat. The driver's seat was the only one equipped with the bum-coolers, which made it clearer that the Sorento is like a nice-looking pair of shoes you buy at Payless. They may look OK at first, but after you wear them and break them in, you learn you get what you pay for. But at $34,390 for the Sorento EX with satellite radio, navigation, heated front seats, and a rear back-up camera, it's hard to pass up, considering it's much cheaper than other similarly-equipped seven-seat SUVs in the segment including the Honda Pilot with navigation ($37,550) Ford Explorer Limited ($38,680), and Chevrolet Tahoe LTZ ($54,960).
Though at first I thought I got a free upgrade with the Sorento, spending a few days with it made me realize the ride might not be so comfortable after all, and made me wonder where on Earth all the cargo would go with six people in the cabin. Lucky for me though, another option freed up just in time for my trip: the Mercedes-Benz GL350. I didn't have to think twice.
Written by: Karla Sanchez