Don’t look now, but the Kia Sorento midsize SUV is the Korean brand’s best-selling vehicle in America. With the boxy Soul, Optima sedan, and compact Forte all seeing double-digit slumps in 2018, Sorento’s 8% surge makes it even more important for the automaker.
That’s a good place to start when looking at the updated model already hitting dealerships for the new model year. With consecutive J.D. Power Initial Quality awards under its belt and a solid fuel economy rating in place, you might say Kia’s job here was to not mess too much with a good thing.
The tweaks you’ll find in the new edition mostly achieve that. Meanwhile, there’s also a mpg bump and new safety award for the automaker to feature when comparing itself to the competition. Here’s what’s you’ll find new in the Sorento for the 2019 model year.
1. Standard three rows and new transmission
First of all, there is no longer an optional third row in the Sorento. Starting with this model year, Kia will sell every model as a seven-seat SUV, with the third row made for small children. The trim line pricing starts with Sorento L ($25,990) that’s just about the same price as the 2018 model upon its release.
Meanwhile, the 2.0-liter turbo powertrain is gone, with the 2.4-liter serving as the only option besides the V6. All-drive options begin with the LX trim, and pricing to power every wheel dropped several hundred dollars in this new model ($29,290).
Going in the other direction are LX models with the 3.3-liter V6 ($31,290): These models went up over $1,500 compared to the release of the previous model year. For 2019, buyers can opt for an all-new eight-speed automatic transmission in six-cylinder Sorento trims.
2. Styling changes
Since the 2016 debut of this Sorento generation, Kia has had one of the sharper-looking SUVs in its class. The automaker continued tweaking the design for 2019. Noticeable changes come in added grille details, full LED lights on higher trims, and an updated bumper.
Overall, it probably looks more refined than the previous model, so Kia definitely did no harm here. Other exterior changes include a new back bumper, updated tail-lights, and a new liftgate. New wheel designs give shoppers a choice ranging from 17-19 inches.
3. Interior upgrades
Kia has steadily improved the interior quality of most of its models in recent years, and the march continues with the 2019 Sorento. A new steering wheel, shifter knob, and updated instrument cluster are the first things you notice as you sit in the driver’s seat.
In the SX ($39,990) and up, you can take advantage of new two-way power lumbar support in the front seats. These two pricey trims, with SXL ($44,690) at the top, also offer the new interior and seat colors Mahogany and Terracotta. Otherwise, Kia says it updated interior accents and details in every Sorento.
4. New safety and tech
As far as tech goes, the big upgrade for 2019 is a new standard 7-inch touchscreen starting in the base model. That makes Android Auto and Apple CarPlay available across the line. Wireless charging trays are also now an option for Android6 and iPhones 8 and X. Meanwhile, an 11-channel amp Harman Kardon stereo gets QuantumLogic surround sound for the first time.
On the safety front, Sorento’s driver-assist tech now comes standard on EX ($35,590) trims and up. For 2019, Lane Keeping Assist and optional Driver Attention Warning enter the picture. (Front collision, blind-spot monitor, and smart cruise-control are a few of the standard features carrying over.)
5. Fuel economy and safety ratings for 2019
For an SUV this size (or smaller), you can’t expect much more than what Sorento delivers in fuel economy. The range goes from an EPA-estimated 21 mpg (V6 with all-wheel drive) to 25 mpg (2.4-liter with front-wheel drive). There is one promising sign, however: Consumer Reports testing brought an extra mpg (to 22 mpg combined) in real-world drivng in the V6 for 2019.
On the safety front, Sorento’s new LED lights allowed certain trims to get the IIHS Top Safety Pick+ designation for 2019. That was an improvement over the 2018 edition, which could not break out of what was a small group of SUVs with the top safety award last time around.