Every winter, we take a trip to Big Bear Lake. Without chains for our tires, all-wheel drive is a necessity. Our van or our car wouldn’t cut it; luckily, I had the chance to test drive a 2016 Kia Sorento SXL V6 AWD and it provided the traction that we needed and extra features that we desired. From the heated, leather seats to the massive sunroof, we were driving in style and comfort. The surround view camera system and the navigation system were two of our favorite features and suspension system was exceptional. The Sorento combines many of my favorite features from both our car and our van into one and it offers more power and all-wheel drive.
The Sorento is roomy and has plenty of storage areas. Between Darren and I, we had two phones, two pairs of sun glasses and a pair of reading glasses, a bottle of water and a cup of hot chocolate, a GoPro and a book all in the front seat. Somehow we found a place for everything without things falling on the floor. I liked the side cup holders in the door and the USB port in the dash. Since it was just the three of us, we folded down the back row of seats and used it for our bags. The seats fold with the push of one button and they are labeled, making them super easy to use. It doesn’t have the same storage capabilities as our van, especially since all of the seats in our van fold into the floor, but you’d have no problem fitting everything you’d need for a long road trip into the Sorento. For the size of our family, we don’t need the additional space of the van. Even when Athena gets older and she’s involved in sports or other outdoor activities, the Sorento would be more than roomy enough for us.
The interior of the Sorento was trimmed in appealing materials including leather seats. At first, I wasn’t sure if I’d like that feature. Leather can be cold and the light color would get dirty easily. I quickly changed my tune when Athena put her dirty feet on the back of the seat. It easily wiped off with a wet wipe and no one would be the wiser. The duel control heated front seats came in handy during the freezing temperatures and they heated up quickly. The dash and doors were soft to the touch and the steering wheel had the softest grip I ever felt in a vehicle before. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but when you’re driving far distances it really makes a difference.
It took me a few hours to realize that the SUV had a sunroof. It blends in well. When I did notice it, though, I didn’t close the cover for the rest of the trip. It gives so much light and I could actually see the stars overhead when we were driving through the mountains. Our car has a sunroof but it’s so far back above my head that I don’t use often. In the Sorento, the sunroof is almost the entire roof. I rested my head on the seat and watched the clouds and stars overhead. During the day, the open sunroof gave so much light I felt like I was outside. Our favorite part of living in California is the sun. We maximized it in the Sorento.
Currently, I use Waze navigation on my phone because it isn’t a feature in our van or our car. It uses a lot of my data and I can’t listen to music without being interrupted by the Waze voice, but I need it on unfamiliar roads outside of our community. I was hesitant to trust the navigation in the Sorento because I’ve had bad experiences in the past with other systems, but it worked better than my phone. The coolest part was that it actually highlighted which lane you needed to be in when using an exit or entrance ramp. Sometimes there are more than 10 lanes of traffic on the highways in California. The navigation system takes the stress out of figuring out the lanes or worrying about not hearing the voice properly. It’s easy to navigate and I quickly found the option to avoid toll-roads, which is extremely important when driving in SoCal. I didn’t use my phone for navigation for the entire trip.
The surround view camera system of the Sorento completely spoiled me. We need to pull both vehicles into our garage and it’s a tight fit. I would consider buying the Sorento for the cameras alone. As I pulled in, I could see all directions around the SUV. I was able to fit it in perfectly on the first try every time. More importantly, we live in a community filled with little children. Every time I back out of my driveway, I worry about kids. They are fast. They run out behind vehicles and it would only take once to completely destroy their life and mine. It’s one of my biggest fears as a parent. I’ve been teaching Athena about watching for traffic since she could walk but that doesn’t mean all parents do the same. The cameras gave me peace of mind. They were helpful in Big Bear as well. With snow drifts and blowing snow, the visibility was limited. Backing out and parking was much easier with the cameras.
The most noticeable difference between my van and the Sorento is the suspension system. In my van, I need to drive slowly over speed bumps or any dips in the road. The suspension of the Sorento absorbs bumps from rough road surfaces with easy. The difference wasn’t slight! When I got back in the van, I felt like I was driving in a tank. I didn’t realize how badly it did over bumps until I drove in a vehicle that handled them well. Admittedly, I’m struggling with the transition back to my van.
When we arrived on the mountain leading into Big Bear, it was snowing and black ice was already on the road. Most drivers pulled over to put chains on their tires. We stopped and engaged all-wheel drive with the push of a button. It handled well through the mountains and we didn’t slide at all. We do have experience driving on winter roads in harsh conditions but all the experience in the world isn’t enough without all-wheel drive and good tires. What would normally be an hour and a half was a three hour drive with limited visibility but I felt comfortable in the Sorento. We wouldn’t have been able to make the trip without it.
I always said that my van was everything I needed in a vehicle. I love the space and the height and you can’t beat the visibility, but after driving the 2016 Kia Sorento, I realized many of the things my van is lacking – most noticeably a good suspension system, all-wheel drive and a surround view camera system. We hardly use both of our vehicles but we need them both for different reasons. The Sorento combines the best features of our car and van into one vehicle.
Thanks to DriveShop for the opportunity to test drive the 2016 Kia Sorento. As always, all options are my own.