WTOP's Mike Parris reports.
WASHINGTON - Welcome to a new weekly feature -- the WTOP Car Report. I spend a week with a new car, truck or SUV and then share my thoughts with you from a real car guy's perspective -- one who lives and breathes everything automotive.
The 2014 Kia Sorento
What a surprising first vehicle to test -- the newly redesigned 2014 Kia Sorento EX. My first impression was, "What a handsome crossover." Kia has been putting out some great-looking cars of late and the impressive warranty makes it even more attractive.
I would say the redesign on the outside is more of an evolution from the 2013, but it makes the Sorento more complete and grown-up-looking. The vertical fog lights really set off the front end. It looks like it costs much more than its $24,000 starting price for a four-cylinder model. You can even get seven seats with the V6 model.
The major payoff is inside. I can tell that a lot of time and money was spent to really move the Sorento to the next level. The materials are nice upscale soft- feeling plastics and nice leather for the seats, shift lever and steering wheel. The sound system is easy to use and sounds good, too.
The red digital clock inside, however, has got to go. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
The model I drove was the EX/V6 model with the optional touring package. This is the mid-level trim and probably the most popular. The touring package is a $4,000 option which includes just about everything you're going to need, such as navigation with voice command and an 8-inch display which makes backing up with the rear view camera a snap. It also includes a nicely upgraded 10-speaker infinity sound system, heated and cooled leather seats, a power lift gate, blind spot detection system and the awesome panoramic sunroof and even more. It's a lot of crossover for around $36,000 with many high-end options.
The true surprise was just how well the Sorento drove. It handled very well for a mid-sized crossover. It's a driver's crossover that the entire family will enjoy. It drove smaller than its actual size and made tight parking an ease. The optional blind spot detection warning system was welcome and very useful on traffic-filled commutes. The seats are very comfortable as well.
I saw 23.2 miles per gallon over the week and 350 miles of a lot of stop-and-go traffic. I say get the V6; its gas mileage is close to the four-cylinder's. It has 290 horsepower and you can tow 3,500 pounds. I only have one nitpick after my weeklong driving experience: The red digital clock has got to go. It looks bad in such a nice vehicle.
The midsize crossover is now a crowded marketplace. Kia has really set itself apart by having a handsome crossover that can be had with seven seats and comes packed with features and available options not seen before at this price range. It's no surprise you see so many Kias on your daily commute.
2013 Nissan Rogue
So you need some extra space and the coupe doesn't cut it anymore. What can you do?
Have a close look at the 2013 Nissan Rogue crossover, which has a starting price around $20,000 for front-wheel drive, or less than $22,000 for all-wheel drive. It has the four doors and the extra space you need plus the added safety of optional all- wheel drive and it really drives like the car with good MPG for a crossover.
I saw more than 28 mpg on the highway and averaged 25 in a mix of city and highway driving, but around here the highway might as well be city stop-and-go.
The Rogue is a crossover with the heart of a coupe. (WTOP/Mike Parris)
I drove the top-of-the-line SV model with the SL package with all-wheel drive, priced around $30,000. That includes leather, larger 18-inch wheels, cool xenon headlights, sunroof, navigation with color touch screen monitor, a sweet view monitor which is very helpful (backing up, it's a camera that shows what's behind and also what is beside the vehicle).
The Rogue drives like a car and handles like a car, and it likes back roads as well. I really liked the size, as it's a really good commuter crossover that doesn't hurt the wallet at the gas pump. The power seems to be more than 170 horsepower from the four-cylinder engine.
It has a Continually Variable Transmission, which does take a minute or two to get used to. It never really shifts, so the first few times leaving a light you look down thinking you must be in low, but you quickly learn it's normal and enjoy some good mpg.
Finally, let me let you in on the secret of the 2013 Rogue: This is the final year before the redesign. That means you can get a really good crossover at a great sales price, as soon they will be making room for a new Rogue, which will be bigger and cost more. I have been to a few dealer websites that list prices $5,000 to $6,000 below the manufacturer's suggested retail price.
So it really turns out to be a good-value and fun-to-drive crossover with the heart of the beloved coupe that just doesn't fit your lifestyle anymore.
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