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The 2.5-row Alternative

Larger than a compact SUV but smaller than a midsize, the 2016 Kia Sorento is more of a midsize SUV alternative than a direct competitor to the other SUVs in this test. Sorento advantages include more features for less money, but the smaller interior dimensions -- including the tightest third row in the test, by far -- render it too small for many midsize SUV shoppers. Fully redesigned for 2016, we were eager to weigh the new Sorento's pros and cons in back-to-back testing with more traditional midsize SUVs.

The 2016 Kia Sorento starts under $26,000, but that's with a 4-cylinder engine and just two rows of seats. Equipped like the other vehicles in our test, with a V6 engine and seating for 7, the Sorento starts around $29,000. The version we tested was the top-of-the-line, quasi-luxury Sorento SXL trim featuring an impressively long list of comfort, convenience and technology features including extra-soft Nappa leather, a heated leather steering wheel, UVO infotainment system (one of our favorites), panoramic roof, heated seats, lane departure warning, forward collision warning, smart cruise control, blind-spot detection and a lot more.

2016 Kia Sorento at a Glance

2016 Kia Sorento Comparison Chart

Outfitted with a 290-horsepower V6, 6-speed automatic transmission and all-wheel drive, the Sorento proved plenty powerful and returned the best as-tested fuel economy of all the SUVs in this comparison, topping its own EPA highway rating of 23 mpg. It was also among the quietest cabins in the test, but overall driving feel was just okay, resulting in below-average city and highway driving ratings.

With its smaller footprint, excellent turning radius and surround-view monitor offering a bird's-eye view of the vehicle in parking situations, the Sorento proved particularly easy to maneuver into and out of parking spaces.

The 2016 Kia Sorento SXL really does feel like a more premium vehicle inside, thanks in large part to the soft leather, impresssive convenience features, and tasteful, interesting design. But as you can see in the chart, the Sorento did not fare well in the third row section, nor did it excel in cargo utility.

If you only need three rows on occassion, and small, flexible passengers are part of the mix, the more affordable, more maneuverable Kia Sorento is an interesting alternative to more traditional midsize SUVs -- none of which is getting any smaller with each new generation.

Here's how the Kia Sorento stacks up against the others:

Kia Sorento vs. Toyota Highlander

The Sorento's limitations are Highlander strengths, specifically the ease of use of the third row and the interior storage. A Toyota badge and the reputation behind it is also appealing, although the Sorento counters with the best warranty in the test: 5-year/60,000-mile basic coverage and 10-year/100,000-mile powertrain protection (the Hyundai Santa Fe, Sorento's corporate cousin, offers the same warranty). More Toyota Highlander

Kia Sorento vs. Honda Pilot

Even though it's measurably larger than the Sorento, the newly redesignd Honda Pilot is a more enjoyable SUV to drive. The Pilot also offered the roomiest, most easily accessible third-row in the test, while the Sorento offers the tightest rear accommodations. More Honda Pilot

Kia Sorento vs. Hyundai Santa Fe

The Kia Sorento and Hyundai Santa Fe are related by corporate parent, but the Santa Fe is a larger, more traditionally proportioned midsize SUV. More Hyundai Santa Fe

Kia Sorento vs. Nissan Pathfinder

The Pathfinder is roomier, but the new-for-2016 Sorento feels fresher and offers more features. More Nissan Pathfinder

More Midsize SUVs

You can dive deeper into the 2016 Kia Sorento with our full review, our build and price your own to unlock its Kelley Blue Book Fair Purchase Price, 5-Year Cost to Own and more. Or wade through still more choices by visiting our Midsize SUV Buyer's Guide.

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