Our long-term test Kia Sorento is gone, and with it all three rows of its generous space, adaptability, features and even genuine driving enjoyment. We put it through its paces on our daily grinds, a road trip or two, even some towing. And while I won’t admit this in person to anyone, ever, the Kia Sorento might even have been set loose on a large snow-covered expanse of flat pavement. Repeatedly. Because skids are fun. For science.

In our now customary comparison test the Kia Sorento shone:

“Not only did our Sorento offer up more luxury than pretty much everything else in the group, but it did so with the second-lowest price, reminding us that Kia is still a value-leading brand,” Jeff Wilson wrote in our huge three-row SUV comparo.

“But where previously Kia would offer up loads of content and a low price, it was often at the expense of refinement in the drivetrain and suspension.”

That is no longer true. We found the 3.3L V6 to be a stout and unfussy performer producing adequate acceleration and gusto without coarseness. The Sorento’s 290 hp and 252 lb-ft are figures in the upper echelons of its colleagues with the grunty Pentastar the only better.

The steering feel isn’t sports-car direct but it’s more than a match for most of the competitors in this segment and the body rides stoically through turns. Big bumps are absorbed, dispatched and settled in short order and road noise is insignificant. It might shock you to read that not only did Kia’s Sorento score the best for handling in our comparison, it also scored best for road comfort and steering feel. A Kia, outscoring anyone on steering feel was unheard of not too long ago. This is how far they’ve come.

And that’s really the tone of our time with the Sorento. Everybody we spoke to and everyone who drove the big red wagon was surprised by the quality level inside. The styling, the materials, the feature list were all significant.

It was only when probing the feature list a little deeper I realized that many of the features we laud are more for comfort, convenience and style than for safety and future-proofing. When it comes to things like lane keep assist, forward collision warning and hill descent control the Kia is lacking. In this not-quite-fully-loaded trim we were only running the basic cruise – not adaptive, and there was no steering or braking assistance, only lane keep warnings and that system is not as reliable or refined as others in the class. While it’s worth noting not everyone wants driver aids and nannies intruding in their daily drives, it shows where some of that value savings comes from – these systems are expensive to develop and to implement. Heated steering wheels are luxurious but (relatively) cheap to develop and install.

The Short-Term Test: 2016 Kia Sorento Test Drive

Still, those are the features I like most and I’m not alone. Despite having every imaginable driving aid and nanny all executed to a high degree of sophistication, the Honda Pilot scored poorly next to the Sorento when our judges were asked to assess its feature offering. The tangible is what sticks, Kia has worked that out.

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