2016 Kia Sorento: highly refined ride

In recent years, South Korea's Kia and Hyundai brands have been synonymous with overachievement. With each freshening or redesign, these cars, crossovers and SUVs always seem better than anyone would expect. The redesigned 2016 Kia Sorento continues that happy tradition, reaching a level of refinement unprecedented in any Korean model save the pricey Genesis and Equus luxury sedans.

And we're done wondering whether Kia's and Hyundai's high-end models can justify their elevated prices. It's plain that they can. So the $46,495 price tag for our 2016 Kia Sorento SXL is justified by the car's long list of favorable attributes, not to mention its even longer list of standard features.

More than a decade ago, we test-drove a Sorento and even considered buying one. But while we liked the car's looks and felt it suited our family's needs in a baseline sort of way, we were unimpressed with the way it rode and handled, and the seating wasn't all that comfortable. But that's all in the past. Today's Sorento handles fairly crisply for a midsize SUV, yet rides quietly and softly. Its 290-horsepower V-6 engine delivers plenty of nearly silent power and is capable of besting its 23-mpg highway fuel-economy rating. The car is roomy, and interior materials as well as switchgear are of superior quality.

One need not pay more than $45,000 for a Sorento, of course. Kia offers a choice of three different engines, all bolted to a 6-speed automatic transmission. The base model, the Sorento L, with a 2.5-liter, 185-horsepower inline Four and front-wheel drive, is available for as little as $24,900. The next step up is a 2.0-liter, 240-horsepower turbocharged Four, available in the EX. This model starts at $31,100. A Sorento LX with the V-6 engine can be had for $28,500. All-wheel drive is available in every model except the L.

The Sorento is built in West Point, Ga. It competes with the Toyota RAV-4, Honda CR-V, Ford Edge, Chevrolet Equinox, Nissan Murano and Pathfinder, Dodge Journey, and the Hyundai Santa Fe. Mazda's CX-5 and CX-9, and Subaru's Forester and Outback also deserve consideration. Through October, Kia had sold more than 94,000 Sorentos in the U.S. market, up about 10,000 from a year ago.

As is customary with Kias and Hyundais, the Sorento is well equipped even without many options. Our test car had just one – a $2,500 Technology Package that included lane-departure warning, surround view monitor and Smart Advanced cruise control. The blind-spot detection system was standard – something rarely seen in medium-priced vehicles (and some that command high prices). Also standard in our high-end test car were dual-zone automatic climate control, Infinity sound system, UVO telematics, navigation system, satellite radio, leather upholstery, power front seats, heated rear outboard seats, push-button start, heated steering wheel, and panoramic roof with power sun shade. Even the lower-end models are nicely equipped, though not quite as lavishly.

The 2016 Sorento has been rated a Top Safety Pick, with top scores of “Good” across the board, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Steven Macoy (semacoy@gmail.com) is a longtime car enthusiast and full-time editor who lives in Bethel, Conn.

2016 Kia Sorento SXL AWD

Price: $46,495

Engine: 3.3-liter V-6, 290 horsepower, 252 lb.-ft. torque

Transmission: 6-speed shiftable automatic

Drive: all-wheel

Ground clearance: 7.3 in.

Weight: 4,101 lb.

Suspension: MacPherson strut front, multi-link rear

Wheels: 19-in. chrome alloy

Tires: 235/55R19 all-season

Max. towing capacity: 5,000 lb.

Seating capacity: 7

Luggage capacity: 11.3 cu. ft.

Maximum cargo capacity: 73 cu. ft.

Fuel capacity: 18.8 gal.

Fuel economy: 17 mpg city, 23 mpg highway

Fuel type: regular unleaded gasoline