Once upon a time, station wagons were the quintessential family haulers, only to be supplanted by the minivan of the 1980s and 1990s. Now, the role has fallen largely to mid-size crossover SUVs that feature four conventional doors and three rows of seats. The 2014 Kia Sorento SX fits the bill perfectly and our long term test is bearing out the wisdom of buyers who have made vehicles of this type ubiquitous in shopping mall parking lots across the land.

More Wagon than Ute

While it has the ride height and seating position you'd expect in a full-on SUV, the Sorento's design and layout suggests more of a family wagon than an off-roader, especially when you consider that the 290-horsepower 3.3-liter transversely mounted V6 drives only the front axle through a 6-speed automatic transmission. As a result, this is a vehicle that is far more comfortable shuttling kids to soccer practice than taking back country camping. In this role, it is well-suited to carry four or five passengers in relative comfort. The third row, however, proves to be a bit cramped--little ones may find some comfort, but for teens and full-size adults, it is merely a stop-gap remedy in getting a crew of six or seven somewhere provided it is a short hop.

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Faced with taking a family of five on a road trip vacation, one editor debated taking the Sorento versus a conventional sedan and the larger family sedan won out. Still, there is flexibility and utility in the Kia package--it's relatively easy to open up or fold down both the 40/20/40 split second and the 50/50 split third rows as other staffers used the Sorento for day trips, easily hauling mountain bikes and other gear along with them.

Solid Performer

The Sorento shines as an everyday driver. The seats are comfortable and the driver's perch has great visibility all around. The V6 has plenty of power for on-ramp merging and the 6-speed automatic is a smooth operator. The Flex Steer power assisted steering has three modes, comfort, normal and sport that adjusts the weight and feedback. We prefer the comfort mode because it feels less artificial. The advantage of having just two wheels driven is evident in our fuel consumption. Even though this is a relatively big vehicle, we've seen an average fuel economy of 27.1 mpg, which is spot on the EPA's 21 mpg combined rating for the vehicle. We've had routine service and put only about two quarts of oil in the engine over the course of some 14,000-plus miles we've put on the vehicle so far.

High Level of Standard Equipment

With a sticker of $36,900 including destination, our test vehicle is loaded with such goodies as 19-inch wheels, leather trimmed seats in the first and second row, the intuitive UVO telematics, which includes rear backup camera, automatic 911 calling in case of an airbag deployment and navigation with a simple-to-use 8-inch touchscreen. The Sorento also comes with traction control, hill-start assist and blind-spot detection. The only options we have are the third row seat with rear A/C controls that cost $1,000 and a $50 cargo net. Other than routine maintenance, no other issues have arisen with the Kia Sorento, but even then, the vehicle is covered with a 5-year/60,000 mile basic warranty that includes roadside assistance and a longer 10 year/100,000 mile limited power train warranty. So far, the Sorento has proven to be reliable, easy-to-drive and fairly economical for a vehicle its size. 


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