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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Can a Mini-Van Mom Love a 2014 Kia Sorento?

What's with all the negative fluff about being a Mini Van Mom? I've been a Mini Van Mom for the past 15 years. When you've got three kids it's all about having those automatic sliding doors to prevent them from slamming the door shut on someone's fingers or dinging the car door when they open it in a tight parking lot. Plus that roomy third row seat has prevented lots of sibling arguments and has helped keep the peace when we were on a road trips. But I have to admit after driving the 2014 Kia Sorento for a week I'm starting to drink the SUV Gatorade. Shocking.
I mentioned that my favorite two features of a van are the automatic sliding doors and roomy third row seats. Besides fitting my family of 5 comfortably with spare seats for carpooling, a van offers a very cushy ride. Mini vans perform like some luxury cars. So how does a crossover SUV compare against my normal mini van ride?
There are a lot of pros about the 2014 Kia Sorento. First off it is a sleek looking vehicle. It didn't hurt that it was a nice shade of red. After driving the Sorento for a week here's what I like the most: 
  • Keyless Entry: As long as the key is within striking distance of the vehicle you do not need to fumble through your unorganized handbag to find your keys. Merely walk right up to the driver side door, click the button on the handle to open the doors. This technology is so convenient and I see it as a safety feature for those late night shopping excursions where you want to just quickly get in to your car. You can unlock just the driver side door or with two clicks of the button unlock all of the doors. I LIKE this feature A LOT
  • Brake and Go: Again, without the hassle of hunting for your keys in your bottomless handbag you merely have to have the key somewhere in the vehicle, put your foot on the brake and press the ignition button. This whole system keeps things simple. This feature has grown on me - I'm going to have withdrawl symptoms when I go back to my 2005 Honda Odyssey.
  • Seat Memory: As in many families the Mom car tends to be the family car (whereas my husband has a car suited solely for him). That being said, I dislike (hate) when I have to readjust my seat after he's driven it. The Kia Sorento has 2 memory seat buttons for just this very thing. I know lots of cars have this feature. But for this crossover SUV, this is a very nice feature to include.
  • Automatic Back Door: If I can't have my mini van sliding doors at least I have my automatic back/trunk door. Using the key remote or the dashboard panel you can assist someone with an armful of groceries. My Honda Odyssey doesn't have an automatic trunk door so this is a feature I've been waiting for.
  • Navigation System: I rely TOO much on my navigation system. I have had one for 8 years and I'm not about to give that feature up. What's nice about the Sorento is the navigation system is similar to what I use on my iPhone. There's even an SD Card slot to update the system as needed. The system is more intuitive than my Odyssey plus a feature my husband and I like is the in-the-moment traffic alerts that help you navigate and detour through the heaviest traffic.
  • Interior Room: A typical mini van is about 16 feet whereas a crossover SUV is between 14-15 feet. What you give up with an SUV is the trunk space when the third row is in use. But when the third row is flattened the interior space is plenty for a family of 5 even for a road trip as long as you have a roof rack (which we use on our van). The front row is spacious with lots of legroom. The console area has lots of room with a compartment to store a small handbag, electronics and snacks (just what every prepared mom has). The middle row is comfortable for 2, a little tight for 3 but still possible. And there's even a real AC outlet, not one of those cigarette lighter outlets, for their electronics. That's a real bonus and smart thinking on Kia's part. All in all there are lots of seat configurations to make it work.
  • Panoramic Sunroof: While the panoramic sunroof is beautiful my guess is many families would opt for a built-in DVD player instead. That being said, these days so many kids have their portable devices that perhaps Kia is trying to tell us to look outside once in a while.
  • Parking Assist & Back Navigation: I have definitely grown accustomed to my rear camera navigation on my Honda Odyssey. The Kia Sorento has a spiffier version including guidelines that help you see the red, yellow and green areas when backing out of any situation. It also comes with a parking assist feature that helps when you parallel park. Gotta love it.
  • Blind-Spot Detection (BSD): I love all the help I can get. So when I learned that the Sorento SX comes with the BSD I was all over that. BSD uses a radar sensor to alert the driver when an on-coming vehicle is moving faster and is within range of your vehicle boundaries. This feature means more to me as the mother of 2 new teenage drivers. Didn't know I wanted this feature but I have to have it now.
  • Hot and Cold: Who knew that you could love being in a hot seat? When the temperature is freezing outside it's sure nice to have individually controlled heated seats (3 levels). On the other hand when temperatures are balmy and hot as you-know-where, wouldn't it be great to cool off your rear-end? The Sorento allows you to cool off or heat up your seat to your heart's content.
  • Blue Tooth & Subscription Free UVO ("your voice") eServices (Optional Features): I did not have time to take full advantage of these features. But in addition to Blue Tooth the UVO eServices includes multiple entertainment features including connecting your smartphone music while you travel and keeping in touch with your family and friends while you're on the road. There's the ability to send a trip from your smartphone to the Sorento navigation system before a trip. Or create a Digital Jukebox and download your favorite tracks to the USB flash drive. UVO will also dial 911 in case of an emergency. Just download the UVO app on your iPhone and you're in business.
  • Flexsteer: We took the Sorento on a drive up to Bear Valley, California. The ability to control your steering mode is a nice feature that gives you a real feel for the road especially in hazardous conditions. Even in mid-September we were surprised by a little snowstorm so this feature was a bonus. You can select between Comfort, Normal and Sport modes. We used Comfort mode the most which seemed to aid in making small driving corrections in the snow and handled nicely on the curvy mountain roads.
  • 4-Wheel Drive: Clearly this SUV is great for heading to the snowy hills of California and trekking to the grocery store. Great all-around vehicle.
  • Adaptive Lighting: A cool feature are the adaptive headlamps that move when you turn. Great for those completely dark roads which we have a lot of in California. Many neighborhoods where I live do not have street lights so this is a very nice, didn't-know-I-needed-it, feature.
  • Warranty: Impressive 5-Year, 60,000 mile warranty. 5 Star Rating on Edmunds.
  • Safety Rating: The redesigned Kia Sorento received a five-star rating, the highest possible vehicle safety rating by the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration). For both the front wheel and all-wheel drive, the Kia Sorento is a great pick for families.
  • Cost: Entry level Sorentos start around $26,000 go up to $42,000 with all the bells and whistles for the souped up SXL. Don't let the price tag scare you based on all the great features and safety ratings that this car delivers. 
Overall the 2014 Kia Sorento is one sweet ride. I have to admit that in the full week of use I did not miss my mini-van for even a nanosecond. Even my big dogs had a spin in the back and barked their approval. If there's just one thing my kids would say is a negative it's the lack of second row captain chairs. They've grown accustomed to that feature. Other than that I'm nearly ready to park my van and exchange it for this cool, full-featured cross-over SUV.

Full disclosure: I was provided with a 2014 Kia Sorento SX to review. I was not compensated in any manner and all opinions are my own.

Tina Case writes for Yahoo Shine as a Parenting Guru.  Tina is also an established photographer in the San Francisco-Bay area. Find her at Tina Case Photography and follow her on Instagram and Twitter. 

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