Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking…

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited Road Test

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Kia’s new Telluride is one great looking mid-size SUV, especially in its top-line SX Limited trim.

Comparisons between Kia’s Telluride and Hyundai’s Palisade are starting to sound a lot like folks my age bantering about Chevy Blazer and GMC Jimmy preferences back in the ‘70s, with some liking Chevy’s subtler grille design more than GMC’s bolder iteration, or vice versa. I hear this type of talk a lot in chats about the two South Korean SUVs, and more often than not the Telluride gets two thumbs up when it comes to styling.

To be clear, I talk more often to gents about such things than ladies, and we should all know by now how important a women’s decision is in the buying process, especially in the family-friendly three-row crossover category. This might have something to do with the Palisade outselling the Telluride by more than two to one in Canada last year, Hyundai’s numbers reaching 7,279 units compared to just 3,474 deliveries for Kia. The divide is narrowing for 2021, with Hyundai growing Palisade sales to 4,037 examples during the first two quarters, and Kia stepping up with 2,531 Telluride deliveries.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s profile is squarer and more upright than most competitors, which gives it a more traditional SUV look that many like.

Looking at these numbers, we can’t underestimate the power of the Hyundai brand in Canada, compared to Kia which got a much later start. While Hyundai arrived here in 1984, it only took two years to enter the U.S. market. Kia, on the other hand, didn’t travel north of the 49th until 1999, a full six years after a solid head start in the U.S. Kia has certainly been gaining ground over the past 20 years, but it’s always been a case of playing catchup in both markets.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Breaking up the blocky shape is a set of stylishly curving taillights.

Interestingly, despite only being on the market for a bit over two years, the Telluride is already outselling the Acadia, its three-row competitor from aforementioned GMC. To clarify how significant this is, the Acadia has been on the market since 2006, giving it a 13-year advantage, while 2021 saw a bolder new face thanks to a mid-cycle refresh. To be fair to the General, the second-generation Acadia is now in its fifth year of availability, although it should also be noted that the Telluride is currently on track to beat the newest Acadia’s best year of sales. As it is right now, Kia’s largest offering is outselling a whole host of similarly sized three-row rivals, from Nissan’s Pathfinder to Subaru’s Ascent.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited and 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate
It’s easy to see the difference between the top-tier Telluride and my Hyundai Palisade Ultimate tester.

Like the two classic General Motors SUVs, the Telluride and Palisade are basically the same crossover with different styling details. Clearly this is nothing new in the industry, continuing today with the just-noted Acadia plus its Chevy Traverse, Buick Enclave and Cadillac XT6 cousins, as well as Ford’s Explorer and its Lincoln Aviator partner, plus the previously mentioned Pathfinder and Infiniti’s QX60.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited and 2021 Hyundai Palisade Ultimate
The two SUV’s rear stying differences are subtler.

This said, the two Korean automakers took a different styling direction with the Telluride and Palisade than those just mentioned. They’re designs are more upright and squared off, making them appear more like traditional body-on-frame SUVs than sleek, car-like crossovers. This is even truer for the Telluride, which completes its chunky design with a rectangular front grille, squarish stacked LED headlamps, and a sharply angled lower front fascia, while its blocky side profile culminates in a similarly rectangular-shaped liftgate that’s bookended by two vertical taillights curving inward elegantly as they rise up from the rear bumper. It’s at once rugged and refined, providing a best of both worlds image that’s not unlike something from Range Rover, and just like that British icon the Telluride only gets better upon closer inspection.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
SX and SX Limited trims get a unique grille treatment.

Its side window trim, for instance, feels as if it’s made from highly polished billet nickel, similar in fact to Lexus’ application of its bright metal window dressing. Kia just calls it “satin chrome,” so it’s probably not made from nickel, but either way these are some of the nicest window surrounds in the industry.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
LED headlamps come standard across the Telluride line.

Inside, the A and B pillars are fabric-wrapped with the same high-quality woven material used for my SX Limited trim’s headliner, which itself is hollowed out from dual glass sunroofs, these including a regular moonroof up front and a large panoramic one in back. The look and feel of everything above the shoulders is premium, including the overhead console that houses switchgear to open the just-noted sunroofs and their powered fabric shades, plus the LED reading lights and buttons for activating the standard UVO Intelligence connected car services and emergency assistance system. A second overhead console can be found in between the two sunroofs, this one housing larger LED dome lights as well as controls for the automatic climate system’s third zone.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These 20-inch alloys are standard with the SX and SX Limited.

Moving downward, the dash top is finished in a nice rubberized soft-touch synthetic, with what feels like real stitching, while the same pliable composite is used for the front and rear door uppers. Below these is the closest reproduction of matte finish hardwood I’ve ever seen, with a substantive density that really had me questioning whether it was real or not (I checked, it isn’t).

No shortage of satin silver trim brightens up much of the rest of the cabin, plus a reasonable amount of piano black lacquered plastic, although this inky surface treatment was only kept to the lower console. This, however, is strange, because the lower console is the most likely place to get scratched, so it would be much better for Kia to come up with a less scratch-prone surface treatment for this high-use area.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Two large sunroofs combine with anodized roof rails on both SX trims.

At least this central divider is bordered by stitched leatherette-wrapped grab handles for the driver and front passenger, these also housing switchgear for the three-way heated and ventilated front seats. The console itself is filled with a wireless charging pad, two USB-A ports and a 12-volt charger hidden below a pop-up door, while a leather-wrapped and skirted shift lever rests ahead of a purposeful looking metal-edged rotating Drive/Terrain mode selector, complete with Comfort, Eco, Sport, Smart, Snow, Mud and Sand modes that are capable of tackling all sorts of driving situations, while a bunch of quick-access driving function buttons surround the electromechanical parking brake lever just behind.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These boomerang taillights are infused with LEDs in SX Limited trim.

The rest of the Telluride’s instruments are well organized, with my SX Limited tester’s primary gauge cluster comprised of two conventional analogue dials surrounding temperature and fuel sub-dials, centered by a large comprehensive multi-information display in full colour. This MID’s most unique feature is the live projection of two rear-facing cameras that completely eliminate blind spots upon applying the turn signals. Honda and Acura have long offered a right-side camera that displays on the larger centre infotainment screen, but only in models that don’t include their lane-change warning system. Kia, on the other hand, provides both technologies simultaneously to make double sure the adjacent lane is clear from traffic. On top of this, literally, is a head-up display, exclusive to SX Limited trim.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The top-line Telluride SX Limited provides a truly upscale interior that could easily be compared to SUVs from premium brands.

The Telluride’s centre infotainment display is a touch-sensitive widescreen that’s wonderfully easy to use and filled with attractive graphics in a tile-style layout. You can swipe it back and forth for additional features, plus use smartphone and tablet-style pinch gestures for specific functions including the navigation map, which just happens to be the default selection on the menu’s left-side tile. Audio system info can be found on the menu’s centre tile, while Hyundai’s proprietary “Driver Talk” rear passenger communication system is set to the right, while owners can customize the tiles in system setup if this default assortment doesn’t suit their personal requirements, and believe me there’s a lot of options to choose from.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s well organized cockpit includes loads of features and an excellent driving position.

Infotainment features not yet mentioned include Android Auto and Apple CarPlay smartphone integration, a voice memo, driving info, media, and more, while just below the touchscreen is a row of satin-metallic finished quick access buttons for the navigation system’s map, route guidance setup, the radio, media functions like satellite radio and Bluetooth audio, seek and track functions, favourites, and vehicle setup. Just under this is a dual-zone automatic HVAC interface that includes some switchgear for the third rear zone, plus a button for the heatable steering wheel that would no doubt keep its leather-wrapped rim toasty warm in winter, but being that I tested this SUV mid-summer, the top of the wheel already felt as if it was on fire after being parked.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The upgraded gauge cluster’s 7.0-inch display includes live projection of two rear-facing cameras that completely eliminate blind spots upon applying the turn signals.

That steering wheel spokes are filled with high-quality satin-finish metal and piano black switchgear, some of which include knurled-metal rocker switches for performing functions like adjusting the audio volume to answering the phone, or applying the adaptive cruise control and using the multi-information display. Likewise, the door panel-mounted power window and mirror controls are made from high-quality materials, with good fitment and nice damping, a theme that carries through the entire cabin. The doors’ lower panels, which are made from a harder composite, feature attractive metal-rimmed Harman Kardon speaker grilles, while the sound emanating from within is even more impressive.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s large 10.25-inch touchscreen is filled with features and easy to use.

My SX Limited’s six-way powered driver’s seat was comfortable and its positioning superb, with plenty of rake and reach from the tilt and telescopic steering wheel, which oddly is not powered despite Kia having provided memory in this near top-tier trim (only an all-black Nightsky edition costs more, and includes all of the same features as the SX Limited). I thought maybe the top-line Hyundai Palisade would provide a powered steering column, but not so for that SUV either.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Navigation comes standard across the Telluride line.

Nevertheless, the driver’s seat includes a powered lower cushion extension for comfortably cupping under the knees, plus two-way powered lumbar support that met the small of my back nicely, while the driving position is excellent as noted, this not always the case for my long-legged, short-torso frame, but I felt comfortable and fully in control at all times. The seats provide excellent lower back support and plenty of comforting padding all-round, with reasonable side bolstering too. I believe they’ll be good for most body types, plus the Telluride should be roomy enough for almost anyone.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The Telluride’s 8-speed automatic performs seamlessly, and its drive mode selector widely varied.

Like most Kia models, the Telluride’s rear passengers are treated just as nicely as those up front. The finishings are much the same, with near identical door panels, other than manual window shades in back, plus other niceties are added such as leather and mesh pockets in the backsides of the front seats, hooks for a garbage bag or what-have-you, and USB-A charging ports for each rear passenger on the sides of each front seat. The rear outboard seats cool and heat in SX Limited trim too, while the backside of the front centre console provides a 12-volt charger along with a household-style 110-volt power outlet.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
The 6-way powered driver seat features power-extendable lower cushions and 2-way powered lumbar for good comfort.

Look upward and you’ll see an HVAC vent directly in front of each outboard passenger, while the aforementioned overhead lights and auto climate controls are within easy reach in the middle of the ceiling.

A large, comfortable armrest, complete with dual cupholders, splits the two outboard passengers when the centre position is unoccupied, this made from the same supple Nappa leather as used for the seat surfaces throughout the interior. Making it easier to slide onto those soft leather seats is a large grab handle on the B-pillar, something not always included with competitors.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
This two-pane panoramic sunroof provides plenty of light overhead, yet maintains the SUV’s structural rigidity due to a thick body panel in between.

To access the third row, simply push an electronic release button on the top side of the second-row seatback, after which the entire seat automatically slides forward with plenty of room to climb inside with ease. The third row is very comfortable, with seats that wrap around one’s back and good support in the lower regions, plus this compartment is truly roomy, even when second-row passengers are given more than enough space to move around ahead. In fact, I could easily sit in the very back with room for my feet underneath the second-row seats, plus about three inches above my head and more than enough room from side-to-side, complemented by nice views through the side quarter windows, along with a separate USB-A plug and two cupholders on each side. The rearmost driver-side passenger even has an extra spot for storage, while there are separate overhead vents for each third-row occupant too, as well as some ambient lights so no one feels lost in the dark.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Second row roominess and comfort is impressive, while fit, finish and materials quality is as good as up front.

Additionally, the dedicated cargo area behind the rear seats is spacious at 601 litres (21.2 cu ft), and includes a section below the rigid cargo floor for stowing more items out of sight. The 60/40-split third row is easy to fold down, first by automatically dropping the headrests with pull-tabs, and then by a set of buttons on the left side of the cargo wall, just above another 12-volt charger. This opens up 1,304 litres (46 cu ft) of nearly flat cargo space, while lowering the second row provides a maximum cargo volume of 2,455 litres (86.7 cu ft). Of course, the liftgate is powered, opening quickly enough, plus Kia has even gone so far as to finish off the cargo door sill with a polished stainless-steel guard.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Access to the third row is generous, and only requires the press of an electronic button.

As you might expect, the Telluride is more about comfort than speed, and therefore all occupants will appreciate the superb ride that complements those comfortable seats I just spoke about. It’s relatively hefty at 1,970 to 2,018 kilos (4,343 to 4,449 lbs), depending on trim, but nevertheless it’s fairly quick off the line thanks to a strong 3.8-litre V6 that’s good for 291 horsepower and 262 lb-ft of torque, plus a smooth-shifting eight-speed automatic that’s quick to respond to input.

Fuel economy is not great at 12.6 L/100km in the city, 9.7 on the highway and 11.3 combined, especially when compared to the non-hybrid Toyota Highlander’s 11.8 city, 8.6 highway and 10.3 combined rating, but it’s not as thirsty as some in this class either.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
These are two of the most comfortable rear seats in the three-row SUV sector.

On more of a positive, the Telluride handles corners well, within reason of course. Again, it’s primarily built for comfort, but can manage sharp curves with confidence and is especially poised over rough pavement and gravel, my SX Limited tester including a self-leveling rear suspension along with 20-inch alloys encircled by 245/50R20 all-season tires. Its 5,000-lb (2,268-kg) towing capacity means it’s also good for small boats and campers, always important in this family SUV sector.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Cargo space is very generous, and the luggage compartment nicely finished.

Additional standard SX Limited features not yet mentioned include rain-sensing wipers and LED taillights, while items pulled up from second-rung SX trim include the just-noted 20-inch wheels, the rear portion of the aforementioned dual-pane sunroof, and the rear sunshades, plus a hot-stamped satin chrome grille, satin chrome door handles, satin chrome beltline trim, a set of high-gloss side mirror caps, anodized roof rails, silver-painted skid plates, single-to-twin exhaust tips, metal door scuff plates, metal-finished foot pedals, ambient mood lighting, the 7.0-inch Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster with blind-spot view monitor noted earlier (which replaces a 3.5-inch cluster display), a 360-degree surround parking monitor, front parking sensors, and the fabulous sounding Harman Kardon audio system noted before.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Switches on the cargo area sidewall lower the rear seats.

Lastly, some standard Telluride EX features pulled up to SX Limited trim include LED headlamps with high beam assist, LED daytime running lights and positioning lamps, LED fog lights, a solar glass windshield and solar front side windows, the aforementioned front moonroof, automatic power-folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signals, plus the leather-clad steering wheel and shift knob noted earlier, as well as the superb faux woodgrain trim, tri-zone auto climate control with automatic defog, the 10.25-inch centre touchscreen with navigation, HD and satellite radio, the wireless charger and all of the other phone connectivity features mentioned before, a smart key with pushbutton start/stop, smart cruise control, an auto-dimming centre mirror, a HomeLink garage door opener, express up/down powered windows, and a powered liftgate.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Need to pick up building supplies? No problem.

Kia also includes a whole host of advanced safety and convenience features such as Forward Collision-Avoidance assist (FCA), Lane Follow Assist (LFA), Blind-spot Collision Avoidance Assist (BCA), Rear Cross-Traffic Collision Avoidance Assist (RCTCAA), and Highway Drive Assist (HDA), plus a Driver Attention Alert system (DAA), safe exit assist system, rear occupant alert, rear parking sensors, and seven airbags including one for the driver’s knees.

All of these standard features don’t come cheap, causing the base Telluride EX to start at a fairly lofty $46,195 plus freight and fees, but keep in mind that competitors with similar features are priced in this range, and sometimes higher. On that note, the Telluride SX can be had from $51,195, while my SX Limited tester starts at $54,695, with the blackened Nightsky edition just $1,000 more at $55,695.

2021 Kia Telluride SX Limited
Valuables can be hidden below the cargo floor.

Kia is currently offering up to $750 in additional incentives, by the way, which you can find out about by becoming a CarCostCanada member. Check out how the CarCostCanada system works now, and learn how Telluride buyers saved an average of $2,111 by researching dealer invoice pricing before negotiating their best deal. To make the most of these CarCostCanada features, be sure to download their free app from the Google Play Store or Apple Store, so you can have all this important information on your phone when you need it most.

Summing up the 2021 Kia Telluride, it’s not only a great looking mid-size SUV, but a good choice for those who want a premium-level experience without spending luxury brand pricing. It drives very well, delivers supreme comfort, and comes as well equipped as anything in its segment, while Kia backs up all of its new models with a class-leading five-year or 100,000 km comprehensive warranty. For these reasons and more, the new Telluride has earned its place amongst my favourite three-row SUVs, making it 100-percent worthy of your attention.

Review and photos by Trevor Hofmann

Kia has gone from a lineup of smooth, sleek cars and utilities, to embracing an edgier, sportier design language that’s all about forward thought and has little to do with hanging onto the past. Just…

Kia reveals edgy new 2023 Sportage in its home market

2023 Kia Sportage
Kia is getting especially edgy with its upcoming Sportage, transforming today’s ovoid model into a dramatically angled piece of rolling modern art.

Kia has gone from a lineup of smooth, sleek cars and utilities, to embracing an edgier, sportier design language that’s all about forward thought and has little to do with hanging onto the past.

Just take a look at today’s K5 (née Optima) mid-size family sedan, or the premium-level Stinger sport sedan, not to mention the Seltos subcompact crossover SUV, the always funky Soul, all-new Sorento mid-size SUV, rugged looking Telluride full-size SUV, and the recently renewed Carnival (née Sedona) mid-size van, while the new K3 will soon mix it up in the compact sedan class when it replaces today’s Forte. Each new Kia design pushes the mainstream volume brand to sharper, wedgier extremes, and now it’s the Sportage compact crossover SUV’s turn to transform from ovoid to edgy.

2023 Kia Sportage
A narrow greenhouse makes the new Sportage looking long and low.

At first glance, the 2023 Sportage appears like Kia’s most aggressive attempt to push that design envelope yet. If the current Sportage seemed to pull inspiration from Porsche’s Cayenne when introduced in 2016, the creators of this fifth-generation SUV were tapping into the genes of Lamborghini’s Urus, or at least Audi’s RS Q8.

This makes sense considering the president and chief design officer of the entire Hyundai Motor Group is one Peter Schreyer, previously responsible for Audi’s TT (and A3, A4, A6, etc.), Volkswagen’s New Beetle (and Golf, Eos, etc.), a slew of Hyundai and Genesis models, plus everything Kia has put to market since 2008 when he took over the design department. No wonder Kia has been producing such great looking models over the past decade.

2023 Kia Sportage
The rear design is more conventional, but hardly boring.

The new Sportage is designed to turn heads, with a futuristic front fascia that’ll have you searching to find the headlights. They’re tiny LEDs in complex clusters set within two boomerang-shaped LED driving lights, both of which bookend the wide gloss-black grille positioned below a set of narrow, horizontal nostril-like openings. It’s a radical design that nevertheless should be pleasing to a large swath of SUV buyers that are currently wanting something sporty yet practical to trade up to from their less-appealing cars.

From profile, the new Sportage features a lot of side sculpting on the door panels, with a narrow greenhouse up top, for added visual length, and some really attractive detail around the lower rocker panels, giving the SUV an exposed structural look that lightens its overall presence.

2023 Kia Sportage
The headlamps are tiny LEDs integrated within a lighting cluster surrounded by large boomerang-shaped LED driving lights.

While the new Sportage looks more conventional from the rear, its body-wide taillight cluster lends to a feeling of width, with a thinness at its mid-section that almost makes it seem like it was stretched into place. All of that delicate detail is supported by a meaty rear bumper section that’s a visual extension from the just-noted blackened rockers, continuing upward to encompass two-thirds the SUV’s backside, and capped off by angular metal-look trim that mirrors a similar treatment on the aforementioned rockers and lower front fascia, the latter surrounding a set of LED fog lamps. The edgy treatment continues over to the sizeable alloy wheels, which are machine-finished with glossy black pockets in order to make them an intrinsic part of the design.

2023 Kia Sportage
Angular LED taillights are visually tied together by a narrow light strip at centre.

“Reinventing the Sportage gave our talented design teams a tremendous opportunity to do something new; to take inspiration from the recent brand relaunch and introduction of EV6 to inspire customers through modern and innovative SUV design,” said Karim Habib, Senior Vice President and Head of Global Design Center. “With the all-new Sportage, we didn’t simply want to take one step forward but instead move on to a different level in the SUV class.”

Kia’s new design language, which they call “Opposites United”, continues into the cabin where the uniquely shaped air vents and horizontal instrument panel trim combine like parentheses to highlight the massive dual-display primary gauge cluster and infotainment touchscreen within.

2023 Kia Sportage
The rear bumper gets some aggressive metallic design details to differentiate it from others in the segment.

The single-screen layout follows a driver display design that both Kia and the namesake brand of its parent company Hyundai have been utilizing in their most recent models, which incorporates some of the most advanced tech in the industry, particularly rear-facing camera monitors that automatically provide a rearward view down either side of the vehicle when using the turn signal.

A row of switchgear follows the horizontal theme just below, integrating a nicely organized dual-zone automatic climate control panel at the mid-point, while a gently sloping piano black lacquered centre console is filled with an engine start/stop button, a rotating gear selection controller, a drive mode selector, and various other driving related buttons to the left, plus switches for the heated and cooled front seats and heatable steering wheel rim to the right. A wireless charging pad is likely fitted under the lidded compartment just ahead of this cluster of controls, along with USB ports and other connectivity/charging interfaces for personal devices.

2023 Kia Sportage
A two-in-one driver display/infotainment touchscreen is visually held in place by a set of parentheses-shaped air vents.

“When you see the all-new Sportage in person, with its sleek but powerfully dynamic stance, and when you sit inside the detailed-oriented cabin with its beautifully detailed interior and first-class materials, you’ll see we have achieved those goals and set new benchmarks,” added Habib. “In the all-new Sportage, we believe you can see the future of our brand and our products.”

Kia hasn’t shown any other details, such as its front and rear seating or the cargo compartment, but capacities should be similar to the new Hyundai Tucson that shares its underpinnings, and that compact crossover SUV has grown in size from its predecessor, now measuring 4,605 mm (181.3 inches) from nose to tail, which makes it 155 mm (6.1 in) longer than before, with a 2,751 mm (108.3 in) wheelbase that’s grown by 86 mm (3.4 in), plus it’s around half an inch (12-13 mm) wider and taller than the SUV it replaces.

2023 Kia Sportage
Kia should continue to lead the compact SUV segment in features for money spent.

The Sportage has long shared mechanical components with the Tucson as well, so we can expect a version of the same 2.5-litre four-cylinder engine, which makes 190 horsepower and 182 lb-ft of torque in the compact Hyundai. The Tucson utilizes an eight-speed automatic transmission across its entire trim line too, which should be the only gearbox used in the Sportage as well, while Hyundai’s compact SUV provides a front-wheel drive train in lower priced models, plus optional all-wheel drive.

We can expect more details closer to the new Sportage launch, which should take place sometime next year. All the usual trims should be available, as well as an off-road oriented X-Line version, plus a new hybrid-electric based on the latest 2022 Tucson Hybrid.

2023 Kia Sportage
The sloping lower console is filled with advanced driver controls, including a rotating dial for selecting gears.

For the time being, Kia is offering the latest 2022 Sportage with up to $750 in additional incentives, as well as $2,500 off of 2021 models, while CarCostCanada members are averaging savings of $2,361. Check their 2022 and 2021 Kia Sportage Canada Prices pages for all the details, including complete trim pricing with all available options and colours.

Also, learn how the CarCostCanada system works so you can save big on your next new vehicle purchase too, by accessing manufacturer rebate information, factory financing and leasing deals, and especially dealer invoice pricing. What’s more, remember to download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Google Play Store, so you can have all of this valuable information on your device when you need it most.

Story by Trevor Hofmann

Photos by Kia

Would you rather ride around in a Carnival or a Sedona? While a Carnival sounds like a lot more fun, it may depend on where you’re driving, as many Arizona residents might want their chosen city to…

Next-generation Kia Sedona expected to use global Carnival name

2022 Kia Carnival
Kia is expected to adapt its global Carnival nameplate to the long-running Sedona minivan when it receives this stylish new update later in the year.

Would you rather ride around in a Carnival or a Sedona? While a Carnival sounds like a lot more fun, it may depend on where you’re driving, as many Arizona residents might want their chosen city to be displayed on their vehicle.

This said, Kia Sedona owners may not have a choice if they choose to trade up to the brand’s fourth-generation minivan when it arrives later this year as a 2022 model, or so claims a VIN decoder published by the Sedona Forum, which sourced its information from the NHTSA.

The mid-size three-row van, set to debut with an entirely new look that says goodbye to the current model’s comparatively conservative front fascia and more fluid lines all-round, and hello to a much more angled, distinctive and upscale design, may be adopting the Carnival nameplate in order to maintain global continuity, which helps a brand make the most of advertising market bleed and more.

2022 Kia Carnival
The new Carnival looks even more SUV-like than the current Sedona.

Someone watching an NBA basketball game in Asia, for instance (a regular occurrence in some countries), might not realize that the Kia Sedona shown on the HD scoreboard is in fact their market’s Carnival, or alternatively that the Carnival seen by North American F1 fans on electronic billboards around the upcoming Saudi Arabian Grand Prix at the new Jeddah Street Circuit is actually their Sedona (not that any of these marketing campaigns actually exist). Kia did something similar years ago by aligning the name of their Canadian-market Magentis mid-size sedan (the basis for the Sedona, incidentally) with the U.S.-specific Optima, and more recently rebadged this car the K5 in both markets in order to align with the newly redesigned model’s global marketing push.

2022 Kia Carnival
The Carnival should help push Kia further upmarket in the minivan sector.

The van debuted last June in Kia’s home market of South Korea, showing off its sharp new styling and a completely redesigned, more luxurious interior to go along with it. The ultra-plush Hi Limousine variant, boasting business class-seating and premium level refinement, won’t likely enter our market, but the current Sedona raised the bar significantly in the North American minivan segment when it arrived for the 2015 model year, and has steadily been improved since, so we can expect to be impressed with its top-line trims when they arrive.

Initial photos show available twin-screen digital displays that join a configurable gauge cluster and multi-information display up with an extremely large centre-mounted infotainment touchscreen, similarly in concept to Mercedes-Benz with its MBUX system, while the model incorporates a knurled metal-edged rotating gear selector on the lower console, similar to Hyundai and Genesis (and Kia K5) models, putting an end to the traditional gear lever that’s still being used in today’s Sedona.

2022 Kia Carnival
A digital gauge cluster that visually blends into a large infotainment touchscreen will be available.

This will continue to control an eight-speed automatic transmission, connecting through to a 3.5-litre V6 engine making 294 horsepower and 261 pound-feet of torque, which is a significant bump up from the current model’s 276 hp and 248 lb-ft. Other markets will also have the option of a 2.5-litre turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline-powered model, and a 2.2-litre turbo-diesel, the latter good for 202 horsepower and 325 lb-ft of torque, but no one should expect that mill here.

Kia doesn’t offer an all-wheel drive Sedona variant at this time, and it looks as if this will be the case for the Carnival as well, based on information from the aforementioned NHTSA documents and an update by South Korean auto portal Autocast, which also reports that no gasoline-electric hybrid version will be offered either. This will be seen as a negative by environmentally-focused buyers, especially considering Toyota’s new Sienna is only offered with a hybrid power unit that includes standard all-wheel drive. Additionally, Chrysler has long offered a plug-in hybrid Pacifica with real EV driving capability, not to mention an AWD powertrain in its conventionally-powered model.

2022 Kia Carnival
Seating for up to eight should be available.

We can expect details about the Canadian-spec 2022 Carnival to surface sometime this spring, at which point we’ll know more about how this intriguing new entry will stack up against the recently redesigned Toyota Sienna and Honda Odyssey, plus the always strong-selling Stellantis group—FCA (Fiat Chrysler Automobiles) and Peugeot—vans, now including a Chrysler rebranded, entry-level version of the pricier Pacifica minivan dubbed Grand Caravan in order to gain some name recognition advantage from one of Canada’s best-selling nameplates (this model is called Voyageur in the U.S., which ironically pays no heed to the market-bleed concern noted earlier).

2022 Kia Carnival
We shouldn’t expect this ultra-luxe Hi Limousine variant in our market.

When it goes on sale later this year, Kia probably won’t increase the new 2022 Carnival’s entry price by much over the current 2021 Sedona’s base LX trim MSRP of $32,295 plus freight and fees, although it’s quite possible a more luxurious variant could push up the current top-line Sedona SX Tech’s window sticker beyond $42,795. Additional 2021 Sedona trims in between include the $34,695 LX+ and the $38,695 SX, while CarCostCanada was reporting up to $750 in additional incentives at the time of writing, and get this, the automaker’s Dodge brand is selling off its now-discontinued 2020 Grand Caravan with up to $11,780 worth of available incentives.

To learn more, check out their 2021 Kia Sedona Canada Prices page, and make sure to find out how a CarCostCanada membership can help you save money by making you aware of manufacturer financing and leasing rates, telling you about any available factory rebates, and always giving you dealer invoice pricing that can save you thousands when negotiating over a new vehicle. Additionally, download the free CarCostCanada app from the Apple Store or Android Play Store, so you can have all this important information when you need it most, at the dealership.

Story credits: Trevor Hofmann

Photo credits: Kia

Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen…

Chevrolet, Kia and Jeep win 2020 North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The entirely new mid-engine 2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray has won the North American Car of the Year. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Guessing which vehicles will take home the annual North American Car, Utility and Truck of the Year awards is easier some years than others, but most industry experts had 2020’s crop of winners chosen long before this week’s announcement.

The actual name of the award is the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY) despite now having three categories covering passenger cars, a sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks.

Just 50 automotive journalists make up the NACTOY jury, from print, online, radio and broadcast media in both the United States and Canada, with the finalists presented in the fall and eventual winners awarded each year at the North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit, although this year’s presentation was changed to a separate event at Detroit’s TCF Center (formerly known as Cobo Hall/Cobo Center) due to the 2020 NAIAS moving its dates forward to June 7-20 this year. The NACTOY awards were first presented in 1994, with the Utility Vehicle category added in 2017.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The new Corvette promises supercar performance and exotic cachet for a pauper’s price. (Photo: Chevrolet)

Of note, nomination requirements include completely new vehicles, total redesigns, or significant refreshes. In other words, the nominated vehicle needs to be something most consumers would consider new to the market or substantially different from a model’s predecessor. Also important, the finalists earned their top-three placement by judging their segment leadership, innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for money.

The selection process started in June last year, with the vehicle eligibility determined after three rounds of voting. NACTOY used the independent accounting firm Deloitte LLP to tally the votes and kept them secret until the envelopes were unsealed on stage by the organization’s President, Lauren Fix, Vice President, Chris Paukert, and Secretary-Treasurer, Kirk Bell.

2020 Chevrolet Corvette Stingray
The new Corvette’s interior appears much more upscale than previous generations. (Photo: Chevrolet)

The finalists in the “Car” category included the Chevrolet Corvette, Hyundai Sonata and Toyota Supra, with the final winner being the new seventh-generation mid-engine Corvette, a total game changer for the model and sports car category. Interestingly, it’s been six years since a sports car won the passenger car category, so kudos to Chevy for creating something so spectacular it couldn’t be ignored, while Toyota and Hyundai should also be commended for their excellent entries.

“A mid-engine Corvette was a huge risk for Chevy’s muscle-car icon. They nailed it. Stunning styling, interior, and performance for one-third of the cost of comparable European exotics,” said Henry Payne, auto critic for The Detroit News.

2020 Kia Telluride
The new 2020 Kia Telluride is as close to premium as any mainstream volume branded SUV has ever been, Hyundai Palisade aside. (Photo: Kia)

The “Utility Vehicle” finalists included the Hyundai Palisade, Kia Telluride and Lincoln Aviator, with most industry insiders believing one of the two South Korean entries (which are basically the same vehicle under the skin, a la Chevrolet Traverse/GMC Acadia) would take home the prize, and lo and behold the Kia Telluride earned top marks.

“The Telluride’s interior layout and design would meet luxury SUV standards, while its refined drivetrain, confident driving dynamics and advanced technology maintain the premium experience,” said Karl Brauer, Executive Publisher at Cox Automotive. “Traditional SUV brands take note: there’s a new star player on the field.”

2020 Jeep Gladiator
The new 2020 Jeep Gladiator is everything we all love about the Wrangler with the added convenience of a pickup truck bed. (Photo: Jeep)

Lastly, “Truck” of the year finalists included the new to us Ford Ranger, the entirely new Jeep Gladiator, and the Ram HD (Heavy Duty) 2500 and 3500, with the sensational new Gladiator getting the highest marks. Incidentally, you’d need to look all the way back to 1999 to find a Jeep that won its category, that model being the Grand Cherokee.

“What’s not to like about a pickup truck with not only a soft-top removable roof but even removable doors? If you want massive cargo-hauling capability or the ability to tow 10,000 pounds, buy something else,” said longtime automotive journalist John Voelcker. “The eagerly awaited Gladiator is a one-of-a-kind truck, every bit the Jeep its Wrangler sibling is … but with a pickup bed. How could you possibly get more American than that?”

Of note, NACTOY is an independent, non-profit organization, with elected officers and funding by dues-paying journalist members.

Find out more about the 2020 Chevrolet Corvette, 2020 Kia Telluride and 2020 Jeep Gladiator at CarCostCanada, where you can get trim, package and individual option pricing, plus rebate info and even dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. While the Corvette is not yet available, you can get up to $1,000 in additional incentives on the new Telluride, and factory leasing and financing rates from 4.09 percent for the new Gladiator. Make sure to check CarCostCanada for more.

Back when first driving a 2016 Sorento, I found myself reveling in its sumptuous supply of soft-touch cabin surfaces including Nappa leather, wowed by the mainstream volume-branded rarity of finding fabric-wrapped…

2019 Kia Sorento SXL Road Test

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento could earn its top spot on the sales charts with styling alone, but it offers so much more than just good looks. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Back when first driving a 2016 Sorento, I found myself reveling in its sumptuous supply of soft-touch cabin surfaces including Nappa leather, wowed by the mainstream volume-branded rarity of finding fabric-wrapped roof pillars all around, impressed by its large full-colour high-resolution infotainment touchscreen, surprised by its small but potent 240-horsepower 2.0-litre turbocharged four-cylinder powertrain, and buoyed by its general goodness overall.

You’d think with not much changing since then, plus an even more potent V6 on the menu, it would remain high on my list of praiseworthy mid-size crossovers, and indeed it does except for one important detail, since testing the latest 2019 Sorento I’ve also spent a week with the all-new 2020 Telluride, so I’m no longer recommending the Sorento quite as highly for three-row crossover SUV shoppers. 

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The refreshed 2019 Sorento gets new LED taillights, redesigned bumpers and much more. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Granted the optional seven-seat Sorento’s price range slots in much further down Kia’s model hierarchy, starting at $32,795 for the EX 2.4 and topping off with this as-tested 3.3-litre V6-powered $49,165 SXL for 2019, compared to a new premium-level base of $44,995 and considerably higher climb up to $53,995 for the larger Telluride’s SX Limited with Nappa. As one would expect, the advent of the Telluride and expected arrival of a completely redesigned 2021 Sorento sometime next year has already resulted in Kia reshuffling the carryover 2020 Sorento’s trim lines, with the base LX FWD and this top-line SXL being axed from the lineup, so you’d better get a move on if you want either.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The top-line Sorento’s grille looks the same as before, but the LED headlights and lower front fascia are entirely new. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

As for what we should expect from the upcoming 2021 Sorento, it will likely follow the current-generation Hyundai Santa Fe that shares its underpinnings, the latter model now only available with two rows and a maximum of five occupants, because Kia’s parent brand has introduced its own version of the Telluride this year as well, dubbed Palisade. That new seven-passenger Hyundai starts more affordably than the Telluride, in fact, with a base price of just $38,499, so it’s likely next year’s Telluride will gain a lower-end SX trim to slot under the current base Palisade in order to provide a three-row SUV option for less affluent Kia buyers once this seven-occupant Sorento is gone. Got that?

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
These dynamic directionally-adaptive full LED headlights are standard on SX and SXL trims for 2019. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I said earlier that not much had changed since the Sorento’s 2016 redesign, but in fact it received a mid-cycle update for 2019, featuring an ever-so subtle restyling, a new eight-speed automatic transmission for its optional 3.3-litre V6, and unfortunately the discontinuation of the 2.0-litre turbo-four that I paid tribute to at the beginning of this review (a strange move, being that most rivals are replacing their top-line six-cylinder engines with turbo fours to improve fuel economy, but likely a stopgap measure before the next-generation Sorento arrives).

Specifically, the 2.4, which makes 185 horsepower and 178 lb-ft of torque, is now used for LX FWD, LX and EX 2.4 trims, while the 3.3, good for 290 horsepower and 252 lb-ft of torque, adds strength to the LX V6, EX, EX Premium, SX, and SXL models. The six-speed automatic carries over for four-cylinder powered Sorentos, with the new eight-speed only benefiting the V6, while you may have already guessed that all trims but the LX FWD incorporate Kia’s all-wheel drive system.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
SX and SXL trims get a smaller quad of LED fog lamps in new taller, more V-shaped chromed bezels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The eight-speed auto was added for its fuel economy advantages, although its ability to stay within the engine’s most formidable rev range due to shorter shift increments helps performance as well, still Kia will be touting its claimed rating of 12.5 L/100km city, 9.7 highway and 11.2 combined, which compares favourably against the 2018 Sorento V6 AWD in the city, its rating of 13.2 L/100km obviously thirstier, yet oddly doesn’t do anywhere near as well on the highway, the outgoing model achieving a more advantageous 9.3 L/100km rating. So what exactly did Kia use the new eight-speed transmission’s two final gears for? The V6 eight-speed combo is better for those that spend most of their driving time in town, and promises a 0.2 L/100km advantage in combined city/highway travel, but from a fuel economy standpoint the upgrade hardly seems worth the effort.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Our top-tier Sorento rolled on these gorgeous 19-inch chrome alloy wheels. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Just in case you were questioning how well the old 2.0-litre turbo-four compared, it managed a rating of 12.3 L/100km city, 9.4 highway and 11.0 combined, whereas this engine combined with the new eight-speed automatic in the totally redesigned 2019 Hyundai Santa Fe (which rides on the same all-new platform architecture the 2021 Sorento will adopt) is rated at 12.3 city, 9.8 highway and 11.2 combined—yah, go figure.

As for the base 2.4, it manages 10.7 L/100km city, 8.2 highway and 9.5 combined with its FWD driveline, which represents a significant improvement in the city over last year’s Sorento with the same powertrain that could only muster 11.2 L/100km city, 8.3 highway and 9.9 combined despite no stated changes (so it must come down to gear ratio modifications), while the 2019 Sorento 2.4 AWD gets a claimed 11.2 L/100km city, 9.0 highway and 10.2 combined rating, compared to 11.5, 9.3 and 10.5 last year.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
SX and SXL trims get quicker-responding LED taillights that look especially good at night. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Speaking of claims, Kia says this 2019 Sorento includes a new grille, but I certainly can’t see any difference from the outgoing one, although the hood and lower front fascia have changed, the latter particularly noticeable at each corner where top-tier SX and SXL trims’ trademark quad of LED fog lamps have been halved in size and now combine with what appear to be slatted brake vents just below, not to mention they’re now surrounded by taller, more V-shaped chromed bezels.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
If you haven’t experienced a Kia lately, try a top-line Sorento on for size and then compare it to luxury Japanese and American brands. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The chrome door handles, side window surrounds and silver roof rails were part of my 2016 SX model too, but the chrome rocker mouldings, 19-inch chrome alloy wheels, and totally reworked rear bumper filled with metal brightwork too, are new. The update makes the Sorento a bit classier than the outgoing model’s sportier look, chrome often having this effect.

Also part of the 2019 makeover, revised headlamps and taillights include full LEDs at both ends in SX and SXL trims, plus LED daytime running lights embedded within the headlights and the aforementioned LED fogs. Lesser trims utilize new projector beam headlamps with LED positioning lights, projector beam fog lamps (on LX V6 trim to EX Premium), and conventional taillights in an attractive new design. Additional outer changes include new alloy wheels ranging from 17, 18 and 19 inches and shod with 235/65R17, 235/60R18 and 235/55R19 all-season tires depending on trim, plus new colours.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento provides more soft-touch surfaces and premium details than any mainstream competitor. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Inside, the 2019 Sorento features a new steering wheel, a mostly digital primary gauge cluster filled with electroluminescent dials to each side of a TFT speedometer that doubles as a fully functional colour multi-information display, plus improvements to the centre stack and infotainment system, the latter now including standard Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. New optional wireless smartphone charging adds a level of convenience I happen to really appreciate, while newly available advanced driver assistance systems include lane keeping assist and driver attention warning.

The latter two safety features are only part of the top-line SXL trim line, that model also the only trim to provide forward collision-avoidance assist, which is unusual in a market that’s now starting to offer automatic emergency braking in base models, but it’s not out of the ordinary to require a move up to a mid-range trim for blind spot detection with rear cross-traffic alert, these two features standard with the Sorento’s EX model. The rest of the Sorento’s safety equipment is the usual standard fare, included right across the board.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The semi-digital gauge cluster gets a large high-resolution centre multi-info display that doubles as a speedometer. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The aforementioned base LX FWD starts at just $28,295 and is therefore quite the value proposition when compared to the rest of the mid-size field that are all priced higher, especially when considering it comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, auto on/off headlamps, chrome door handles, a leather-wrapped multifunction heatable steering wheel, Drive Mode Select with default Comfort, Eco, Sport and Smart settings, three-way heated front seats, a 7.0-inch infotainment display with aforementioned Apple and Android smartphone integration and a backup camera, plus six-speaker audio, and the list goes on and on.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The centre stack consists of two interfaces, the top one housing infotainment and the lower one for dual-zone auto HVAC, etc. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Adding AWD to the base LX increases the price by $2,300 to $30,595 yet also provides roof rails, proximity-sensing access with pushbutton ignition and a wireless phone charger, while the same trim with the V6 and AWD increases the base price by $4,500 to $35,095 and ups content to include fog lamps, a sound-reducing windshield, turn signals integrated within the side mirror caps, an auto-dimming rearview mirror, dual-zone automatic climate control with auto-defog and separate third-row fan speed/air-con adjusters, UVO Intelligence connected car services, satellite radio, an eight-way power-adjustable driver’s seat with two-way powered lumbar support, a third row for seven-occupant seating, trailer pre-wiring, plus more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The highly accurate navigation system boasts nicely detailed mapping. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

For $2,300 less than the LX V6 AWD and $2,200 more than the LX AWD, four-cylinder-powered $32,795 EX 2.4 trim includes the just noted fog lights, powered driver’s seat, and seven-passenger capacity of the six-cylinder model while adding a glossy grille insert and leather upholstery, whereas the $38,665 EX with the V6 and AWD builds on both the LX V6 AWD and EX 2.4 with 18-inch machined-finish alloy wheels, an upgraded Supervision LCD/TFT instrument cluster, express up/down powered windows with obstacle detection all-round, and a household-style 110-volt power inverter, while EX Premium trim starts $2,500 higher at $41,165, yet adds such luxuries as front and rear parking sensors, power-folding side mirrors, LED interior lighting, an eight-way powered front passenger’s seat, a panoramic glass sunroof, rear door sunshades, and a powered liftgate with smart access.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
This hidden cubby includes a wireless smartphone charger and plenty of other plug-ins. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Those wanting to step up to a true luxury experience that rivals some premium brands can opt for the Sorento SX that, for $4,000 more than the EX Premium at $45,165, provides most everything already mentioned plus 19-inch alloys, a chrome grille, stainless steel skid plates front and back, a stainless steel exhaust tip, chromed roof rails, dynamic directionally-adaptive full LED headlights, upgraded LED fog lamps, bar type LED taillights, sound-reducing front side glass, illuminated stainless steel front door scuff plates, perforated premium leather upholstery, and a larger 8.0-inch infotainment touchscreen endowed with rich colours and deep contrast, plus crisp resolution and quick reaction to tap, pinch and swipe finger gestures. The included navigation gets nicely detailed maps and accurate route guidance, while SX trim also features superb 10-speaker Harman/Kardon premium audio, three-way ventilated front seats, heatable rear window seats, and more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The leather-wrapped gear lever connects through to an all-new 8-speed automatic, while SX and SXL trims incorporate an electric parking brake. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Lastly, the as-tested Sorento SXL costs another $4,000 for an asking price of $49,165 before freight and fees, which incidentally is still quite a bit less than most fully loaded rivals, some of which don’t even offer the level of high-grade equipment included in the previous trim, but over and above everything noted earlier this SXL adds softer Nappa leather upholstery, an electromechanical parking brake, a 360-degree surround parking camera with a split screen featuring a conventional rear view with dynamic guidelines on the left side and an overhead bird’s-eye view on the right, plus high beam assist headlights, adaptive cruise control, and more.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento’s top-line seats are ultra-comfortable and covered in plush Nappa leather. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I sourced pricing for all 2019 Sorento trims, packages and standalone options from CarCostCanada, where you can also find money-saving rebate information as well as dealer invoice pricing that could save you thousands. In fact, there are up to $6,000 in additional incentives available to you on the 2019 Sorento right now, so make sure to check it out.

You’ll need to head down to your local dealership to drive the Sorento, and when you do I’m guessing you’ll be impressed. The V6 is ultra-smooth, as is the new eight-speed automatic that shifts almost seamlessly and quickly no matter the driving mode it’s set in. I left it in default Comfort mode most of the time, but Eco mode was smooth as well and ideal for saving fuel, while Sport mode allowed the engine to rev higher and the gearbox to shift quicker, while Smart mode is a best of both world’s scenario that takes note of how you’re driving, the terrain and other parameters before automatically choosing the ideal mode.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The panoramic sunroof provides plenty of overhead light. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

The suspension is wonderfully smooth, yet when pushed through tight corners it handles well for such a large SUV. Overall it’s on the sportier side of seven-passenger competitors, yet it’s excellent seats, pampering soft surfaces and other near-luxury qualities make it one of the more comfortable in its class.

With respect to the driver’s seat, EX trims and above get four-way powered lumbar support that will ideally apply pressure to the small of your back no matter your stature, while the LX V6 and EX 2.4 trims’ two-way lumbar is more of a hit-and-miss scenario. Interestingly, four-way lumbar isn’t even a given in the upper-crust luxury-branded mid-size SUV class, with the industry’s best-selling Lexus RX 350 only making it available with its $63,950 Luxury or $69,850 Executive packages, and not available at all if you want the model’s even pricier two F Sport upgrades, while four-way powered lumbar isn’t even available with Infiniti’s QX60. Another bonus for the Sorento is a lower driver’s seat cushion that extends outward to comfortably cup below the knees for an extra measure of support. The Nappa leather is also impressive, and in fact some of the nicest you’ll find in the mainstream volume sector.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Little touches like these piano black lacquered seatback appliqués really set the Sorento SXL apart. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

While the second-row is very roomy and nearly as comfortable as that up front, the Sorento’s rearmost seats are best for smaller to medium-sized kids, with the Telluride your better option if needing to transport larger teens or adults in the very back. 

Some details that are especially nice include the piano black lacquered trim pieces on the backsides of the front seats, that are rarely seen on anything this side of a Bentley or Rolls-Royce. It’s an old English luxury look not used much these days, but a quick look back at my 2019 Genesis G90 review (a car that shares underpinnings with the now discontinued—in Canada—Kia K900) where hardwood is used in the same way, helps us realize where Kia came up with the idea (you’ll need to scroll through the photos until you get to the back seat). The Sorento SXL also includes black lacquered trim on the steering wheel, dash and centre console, plus across each door, but as nice as it looks when new I’m concerned it will scratch easily as it ages.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Second-row roominess is generous. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

Anyone regularly loading long cargo like skis into the very back will no doubt appreciate how Kia split up the second row. Instead of the usual 60/40 divide, while takes one of the window seats out of action when the smaller portion is laid flat, the Sorento incorporates what I believe to be the best 40/20/40-split solution, which allows both rear passengers to enjoy the more comfortable and visually optimal window positions, plus the previously noted heatable rear cushions if so equipped. This feature, normally only offered by pricier European SUV makers, is a major dealmaker for me, and should be considered by those choosing an SUV for practicality.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
If you need more third-row space than this, check out the 2020 Kia Telluride. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

I also appreciated the folding seat release levers attached to the cargo wall, which lower each side automatically. To be clear, the 20-percent centre portion needs to be done manually, this portion only dropping automatically as part of the 60-percent portion on the driver’s side, whereas some vehicles actually include three levers so each portion can drop individually, but this is still a much better system than any competitor in this class offers.

The seats drop right down and lock securely into place, resulting in a spacious, flat-loading floor that measures 2,082 litres (73.5 cu ft) behind the first row in the lowest two trims or 2,066 litres (73.0 cu ft) in the LX V6 and above, 1,099 litres (38.8 cu ft) and 1,077 litres (38.0 cu ft) respectively behind the second row, and 320 litres (11.3 cu ft) behind the third row. There’s a bit of extra storage space under the removable cargo floor, which even allows the retractable cargo cover to be securely stowed away when not in use.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
Kia provides a handy storage area below the load floor that securely locks the retractable cargo cover away when not in use. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

It’s these types of details that make the Sorento such a cut above most competitors. This is true for many of Kia’s models, the new Telluride noted earlier especially impressive. The Korean brand often goes above and beyond its competitors, clearly setting itself apart, which is necessary for one of Canada’s newest brands. They lack the luxury of resting on their laurels, and even this well-proven Sorento, a model that’s served Canadian buyers mostly unchanged for years, proves this point as well today as it did in 2015 when generation-three arrived.

2019 Kia Sorento SXL
The Sorento’s 40/20/40-split second row could be a dealmaker for skiers or anyone else needing a more practical family hauler. (Photo: Trevor Hofmann)

No wonder the Sorento has maintained sales leadership amongst its three-row mid-size SUV peers, its year-to-date Q3 sales of 12,997 units well ahead of every seven-row competitor, with the next most popular Toyota Highlander at just 10,205 deliveries, Dodge Durango with 8,082, the Ford Explorer at just 6,955 (although it’s changing over to a new 2020 design this year, so we’ll cut it some slack), VW Atlas with 6,682, Honda Pilot with 5,886, Chevy Traverse with 4,669, Nissan Pathfinder with 4,564, GMC Acadia with 3,589, Mazda CX-9 with 3,166, Subaru Ascent with 3,027, and now discontinued Ford Flex with 2,418. By the way, the new 2020 Telluride has only been with us since March yet found 2,386 new buyers, while the Palisade, introduced in June, has already earned 2,369 new sales.

Count them up. That’s 15,383 (mostly) three-row mid-size sales for Kia, which is a 50-percent advantage over next-best Toyota. Not bad for a comparative upstart, and proof that combining good looking design with sound engineering and lots of bang for consumers’ bucks results in success.