* Model: 2015 Kia Sorento
* Exterior color: Titanium gray
* Interior color: Black
* Engine: 2.4 liter, four-cylinder
* Horsepower: 191
* Transmission: six-speed automatic
* Fuel economy: 27 mpg highway, 20 mpg city
* Dealer: Pye Kia (Dalton, Ga.)
* Price (as tested): $28,809
It's only February, but 2015 Kias are already hitting the ground here. This week we snagged a test drive in a new 2015 Sorento, a popular mid-size SUV that represents one of the most compelling values in its class.
The Sorento is a five- to seven-passenger vehicle that comes with a killer warranty (10-year, 100,000-mile power-train protection) and yet is available reasonably-equipped for under $30,000. Our tester, a four-cylinder LX model with an optional ($1,000) third-row seat, stickers for $28,809 at Pye Kia in Dalton.
Pye sales consultant Conrad Easley says the Sorento and the popular Kia Optima sedan drive much of the foot traffic at his dealership. Most buyers opt for the four-cylinder engine, although a V-6 is available.
STYLING AND COMFORT
Redesigned for the 2014 model year, the 2015 Sorento carries on with only small changes. For example, tweaks to the Sorento's excellent direct-injection 2.4-liter GDI engine boost fuel economy in the 2015s to an impressive 27 mpg highway (20 mpg city).
The Sorento's sheet metal got a major re-sculpting last year, and features clean, taut lines; an aggressive black mesh grille; and a low, sporty rear stance. Prominent roof rails and gleaming chrome door handles are thoughtful design details that add to the overall premium look of the Sorento. Protective cladding on the rocker panels help rationalize the "sport" in this sport utility vehicle.
Inside, our tester was outfitted with black cloth seat surfaces, although leather is available on higher trim lines.
Our economy LX tester is the base model in the Sorento's four-trim ladder -- LX, EX, SX and SX Limited. Standard equipment on the LX includes independent front and rear suspension, alloy wheels, Bluetooth connectivity, remote key-less entry, cruise control and heated outside mirrors. A $2,200 convenience package on our test vehicle packs on fog lamps, a back-up camera, heated front seats, leather wrapped steering wheel, second-row sunshade, rear spoiler and 50-50 split second-row seat.
The cabin of the Sorento is well furnished. The seats are firm and comfortable and the instrumentation is pleasantly uncomplicated. Kia offers a full suite of infotainment features including a smart-phone app that can schedule your next maintenance visit or summon help via GPS in an emergency.
The four-cylinder GDI engine in the Sorento makes 191 horsepower and should be adequate for most buyers. The 3.6-liter V-6 may be a better match if you opt for all-wheel-drive -- which adds weight to the unit -- or in case you need to tow a ski boat. Motor Trend clocked a V-6 Sorento zero-to-60 mph at 7.3 seconds. A smooth-shifting, six-speed automatic transmission is standard on all trim levels.
The Sorento has a new electronically controlled power steering system which enhances road feedback compared to the previous hydraulic system.
Ride quality in the Sorento is above-average, as is visibility. The second-row seat has more knee room than ever, but the third row -- as in most mid-size SUVs -- is best reserved for small people.
The Sorento is one of the most value-packed family vehicles on the market. If you need reliable transportation and want the security of a 100,000-mile powertrain warranty, the Sorento is a practical pick.
Contact Mark Kennedy at email@example.com or 423-757-6645. Follow him on Twitter @TFPCOLUMNIST. Subscribe to his Facebook updates at www.facebook.com/mkennedycolumnist.