This is definitely the coolest product review I have ever been asked to do. If only I could keep it forever!!
When I was asked if I wanted to review a car on BERF, my initial reaction was “no thanks, that’s not what my focus is on.” But then I got to thinking….now that we are a family of three, Matt and I are on the market for a new car, and we are hoping to buy a small to midsize SUV. This would be the perfect opportunity to help us decide what we’re looking for and features that are important to a new mom.
I currently own a Honda Accord from the last millennium – 1999. I got it in college, and It’s been a great car, but I have loved it to death and it’s on its last legs. My biggest gripe is that the power locks don’t work anymore and one of them only opens by hand, so every time I have to bring the baby to the car, I have to use my key to unlock the front passenger door and then wrap my hand through to the back door to unlock it manually and then open the door to put the car seat inside. It’s quite the process considering I always have my arms full of gear. My car is probably worth less than having this fixed, so it’s one reason we’re glad to be ready to buy another.
I’ve never been much of a car person and never really thought I needed anything beyond four wheels and a steering wheel (well, and locks that work! And a radio. But you know, basic stuff.) I knew that there were cars out there with bells and whistles, but I just assumed they were something only the fanciest cars have.
In exchange for this blog post, I was given a 2013 Kia Sorento SX to test drive for a week. (I received no payment to write this post – just the use of the vehicle). It arrived on a Monday morning and I drove it all around town, on errands, on the highways and into the Virginia countryside. I knew nothing about Kias or SUVs prior to this experience. In fact, I don’t think I had ever driven an SUV before!! The model I drove was filled with bells, whistles, horns, chimes and more – SX is the highest trim level. This Kia retails for $35,875, which is definitely more than we are prepared to spend when the time comes, but I still liked sorting through which of these fancy features really do matter to me. Within 10 minutes of sitting in the driver’s seat, I knew it was going to be reallllly hard to give this car back!
The first thing we did was put Mazen’s car seat in the back. As a pre-2003 Honda Accord, my car doesn’t have the LATCH system for car seats, so we have to use the seatbelts to secure it in. This is trickier than you think, and it’s hard to get the seatbelt as tight as the firemen demonstrated to us. The Sorento, being top-of-the-line new, is equipped with the LATCH system, which means the car seat base just clicks into some metal hooks hidden in the seat. This process took 60 seconds to do, and the car seat feels so much more secure and safe – even though it’s perfectly fine to just use the seatbelts alone.
Another car seat tidbit – getting the baby in and out of the Sorento was SO much easier at SUV height than bending over to get him into my low sedan. Part of this is because the LATCH is only on the passenger side rather than a middle option, so I had less distance to travel and lean over and in my car the car seat is in the middle position. So with the height and the location, this was much easier on a mom’s back!
Mazen seemed to love the ride and fell asleep almost every time we traveled. That might just be because he’s getting older. Or it could be because he liked the car : )
One of the features I LOVED about the Sorento was the push button start. They keys just have to be in the car and the button turns the engine on. I was able to leave the keys IN MY BAG and start the car. SO convenient and so cool!! I really would love this feature in whichever car we buy. I never would have thought having to use a key to start a car would be a hassle, but once I didn’t need the key, now I realize it sort of is. Just because you always have other things in your hands when getting ready to leave the house.
When I rode with Matt as the driver, I had the keys with me in the back seat in the diaper bag and he was able to start the engine and drive away without me having to dig them out and pass them up to the front seat. I just loved this!
My second favorite feature was the Bluetooth that connected my phone to the Sorento’s speakers. This meant that I could make and receive calls THROUGH the car!! I normally wear a Bluetooth headset if I have to make a call while I am out, but this was obviously so much more convenient. I don’t use my phone while I’m driving, but this made making a call while parked or getting ready to go somewhere so much easier because, like with the keys, your phone could stay in your purse!! I absolutely MUST have this feature in whatever car we buy next.
Controls on steering wheel made it even more hands free.
Of course I loved having actual locks that worked. This was probably my third favorite feature, and I am dreading going back to my broken Accord!
Another fancy feature I really liked – heated AND cooled seats. I used them both on different days. The cooling seats feel like an air hockey table – little bits of air blow through little holes in the seat. It definitely cooled me down on one of our warmer fall days. I used the heated seat at night coming back from Blue Mountain Brewery and loved it. It kept me warm + toasty when I wasn’t necessarily cold enough to be blasted with hot air from the vents. I can only imagine how it would feel on a freezing winter day.
Real temperatures were on the display instead of just “make it hotter” and “make it colder.” This made it easy to remember your favorite temp.
I also really liked the rear back up camera. Since I’ve never driven an SUV before, I’m not used to the size. In general, the Sorento didn’t feel that huge to me. I was pleasantly surprised at how car-like it felt. But backing up was still scary, and this camera was totally awesome to have back there.
The Sorento also had a navigation system, which I was excited to try out. However, this was one part of the experience that I was disappointed in – as a smartphone user, I found the navigation to be a bit cumbersome. On my phone, I just have to say “Pippin Hill Winery” and Google Maps pulls up the address. But with the navigation, you have to know the physical address of the place. So to use the navigation for directions to the winery, I had to first look up the address on my phone. It would have been quicker to just use my phone in this case. I can see how in a few years this all might change though. And if you’re going on a long car trip and know the address in advance, I do think using this big screen in the car with the speakers (that doesn’t run down your phone’s battery) would be really nice to have.
Similar to the navigation, I found the whole touch screen to feel a bit old school. The buttons just weren’t quite as touchy as smartphone buttons, but I really loved having digital radio controls, Bluetooth, etc. in general. Especially because of the steering wheel controls. Whoever thought of that was a genius! We enjoyed listening to music through the music auxiliary jack too –
Loved the steering wheel controls that allowed me to flip through my preset stations
A few other things I liked about the Sorento – the mirrors were HUGE and folded in when parked.
There were TWO sunroofs that were sweet
And the trunk was nice and roomy. Here’s my stroller and grocery bag sitting nicely. I really appreciated the cargo cover because my dad has always been anti-SUV because a thief can see right into the trunk. But not with a cover pulled over your valuables!
When we went out for a bakery event, we were able to fit three Drader racks no problem. We could not have done this in our Accords! This is another reason we’re shopping for an SUV – as a back-up bakery vehicle to our business truck.
I rode in the back seat with Mazen a few times and found it to be really roomy.
I noticed how you sit more level than in a car. Car seats are more reclined, but these SUV seats were more comfortable because I wasn’t forced into an angle. It was easier to move around back there for this reason too.
Another plus to having an SUV that I got really excited about was using the trunk as a changing table! The height and surface were both ideal for this. A sedan’s trunk or back seat are not. Luckily the Sorento was super clean too : )
Although most of my experience was great, there were two things that bugged me a bit by the end of the week.
The first was that the trunk had to be manually opened. I’m used to popping the trunk in my Accord, and while it doesn’t open all the way, at least it’s not latched when I get back there with my hands full. I thought given the other bells and whistles that this trunk would open automatically at the push of a button, but it had to be opened with the handle. But I will say that opening it with the handle was very easy and once it was unlatched it rose up on its own. It was easy to close for this 5’2” gal too, which was good. Not too heavy.
The second thing I didn’t really like is something that others probably would: the rearview mirror darkens automatically so you don’t get blinded at night. But I found this to be a bit of a safety concern for me because I had trouble seeing cars in it it was so dark at times. I would probably get used to this in time though.
The Sorento is considered a mid-size SUV and actually has a third row that comes up in the back – sort of like a cooler version of a mini van. We didn’t sit in the back row, but I do think this is important to note for us since we might have more than one child in the next 5-10 years. I’m not sure yet if we’ll want to buy our next car with 2 rows or 3, but I’m glad to know this is an option and easy to pull up with one hand.
I am sure the folding seats would have been useful during our moves. One major drawback of my Accord is that the seats don’t go down at all. Matt is always struggling to bring home lumber from Lowes and other big items unsuccessfully. So this would be nice to have. The biggest pro to an SUV!
I don’t know much about engines, acceleration and the like, but I will say that the Sorento was a JOY to drive all week. When I pushed the gas, the car zoomed. In one week’s time with multiple visits to the countryside (4 to be exact) and lots of extra driving just to test out the vehicle, we went through half a tank of gas, which I didn’t think was too bad. I had the car set on “Eco” mode all week, which made have helped keep the gas mileage better. Gas mileage in a car is important to me, but not as much as it would be to someone who has a really long work commute or lives in a remote location. Since our environmental goal is just to drive as little as possible in our small town, we are still OK with upgrading to an SUV.
I actually hate driving and always hope Matt will volunteer, but this week I was the one volunteering. I really enjoyed driving the Sorento beyond just the fun features. I absolutely loved it from headlights to tail and now feel even more excited for Matt and I to start our research and test drive some other models. Being able to drive the Sorento for a week gave me a wonderful taste of size, features and upgrades to consider, and this model is definitely on our list.
I would love to hear some of your recommendations on what you have liked or disliked in the vehicles you guys drive. What prompted you to buy the car you did? What’s your favorite SUV?