There’s a fine line between what constitutes a compact and a midsize crossover these days, and the Kia Sorento stands confidently between those categories. Buyers in both segments are looking to have it all: style, affordability, fuel-efficiency, luxury, and versatility. So the question is, does the new Sorento deliver on all these fronts?
While the 2011 Sorento carries the name of Kia’s former midsize utility vehicle, it shares little in common with its predecessor. For starters, the previous Sorento was a bona fide body-on-frame SUV, and the new model is a unibody crossover riding on an all-new chassis. The new model is also American-made, built in an all-new $1 billion factory in Georgia. Aside from riding on a car-based platform, the 2011 Sorento gets new engines as well. According to Steven Hirashiki, Kia senior product-strategy manager, the only feature carried over from the previous model is the Sorento name – that’s it.
The 2011 Sorento went on sale in early last year at Used Car Dealerships In Milford CT and dealers across the country to take on segment mainstays like the Toyota RAV4, the Ford Edge, the Honda CR-V and the Mazda CX-7 TX 2011 (there was no 2010 model year). Styling is boxy and rather conservative, but it’s overall a good-looking vehicle. The Sorento’s handsome looks can be attributed to Kia’s chief designer Peter Schreyer, who previously made a name for himself at Audi. The new model also shares design cues with other recent models in the Kia lineup, including the Forte and the Optima. The company grille up front adds a sporty look, and the glistening 18-inch wheels compliment the vehicle’s classy appearance.
Inside, the Sorento is spacious and delivers room for up to seven passengers. Kia increased head and legroom over the previous model, which helps the Sorento match up well against its competitors. In front, the Sorento’s center stack is clean and highly functional. The three-gauge instrument cluster is also easily readable from behind the four-spoke steering wheel. Models equipped with a dual zone climate control get ionized air filtration, one of many nice touches that Kia included. This may sound like an unnecessary feature, but the system does do a fine job of curbing bad smells from diesel-trucks and other foul odors that would otherwise creep into the cabin. The aforementioned tilt-telescoping four-spoke steering wheel features integrated controls for the audio system, cruise control and Bluetooth. Our tester’s panoramic sunroof also gave the Sorento a contemporary appearance and it helps make the interior look brighter and feel even more spacious. Illuminated stainless-steel scuff plates and stainless pedals add a bit of sophistication.
The Sorento’s responsive handling also makes it feel rather nimble and surprisingly athletic
A unique feature for a crossover of this size and price point is the available third-row seat. Make no mistake — this seat isn’t suitable for adults. Its small size makes it nearly impossible for someone that’s six feet tall to fit. However, for hauling small children, the seat will undoubtedly come in very handy. It even features a separate climate control system that will help kids stay comfortable. In the sea of compact crossovers, the RAV4 is the only other crossover to offer a third row.
Other creature comforts found in our tester include auxiliary and USB audio input jacks for connecting personal MP3 players, voice-activated navigation, rear sonar back-up camera, and a stellar Infinity surround sound audio system with 10 speakers.
Overall, the Sorento’s interior is functional and attractive, but interior materials could be better. While the dash features a texture that hints of soft leather from a distance, it’s actually a hard plastic that feels rather cheap. The doors feature some quality leather bits, and it’s a shame Kia wasn’t a little more generous, particularly on the center armrest up front which was very hard.
Under the hood of the Sorento is a 3.5-liter V6 producing 273 horsepower and 247 pound-feet of torque. This unit is mated to a six-speed automatic transmission. A 172-horsepower 2.4-liter four-cylinder mated to a six-speed manual is also available. The V6 produces loads of power, and delivers it without emitting too much noise. It responds well to throttle input and it also delivers strong fuel economy, with an EPA estimated 19 mpg in the city and 25 mpg on the highway. In mixed driving we averaged just above 18 miles per gallon.
According to Wallingford CT Car Dealers, the Sorento is available with either front-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. All models feature descent braking control and hill-assist control. While our tester had AWD with a locking center differential, the Sorento lacked the rugged character of its predecessor and probably isn’t the ideal off-roader.
On the road Sorento’s cabin is remarkably quiet, even at freeway speeds. Body roll is nearly nonexistent in the corners, which is impressive for a vehicle of its size. The Sorento’s responsive handling also makes it feel rather nimble and surprisingly athletic. Overall, the ride is smooth and comfortable, and the brakes offer good stopping power, although they were a bit on the sensitive side. Our tester’s all-wheel drive system provided adequate off-road traction but it will be most useful for providing added traction during inclement weather or on slick surfaces, rather than tacking the Rubicon Trail.
Outward visibility in the Sorento is excellent. This isn’t the type of utility vehicle that makes you feel like you’re perched up extremely high, but it’s certainly high enough to give drivers a good view of the road from nearly every direction. Between its good visibility and its nimble handling, the Sorento feels much smaller than it actually is. It’s a breeze to navigate in rush hour traffic and in crowded parking lots. But despite feeling rather compact, it’s got loads of space for passengers and cargo. In fact, while moving a table and several chairs, I was amazed at how much I was able to fit into the Sorento when the second and third rows of seats were folded down. The flat cargo area was incredibly spacious, and folding the seats down was a quick process thanks to handy levers on the seat backs.
The Sorento is also covered by Kia’s impressive 10-year/100,000-mile limited powertrain warranty, five-year/60,000-mile limited basic warranty and five-year/100,000-mile anti-perforation warranty, which should give buyers even more peace of mind. The Sorento has also been named a “Top Safety Pick” by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. These should be important variables for those consumers that are still unfamiliar with all that Kia has done with their lineup in the past couple of years.
Offering an incredible package of power, refinement, and flexibility for anyone with an active lifestyle or for those with a growing family, the 2011 Kia Sorento really hits the mark. Maryland Mazda Dealer said that while this second generation loses the ruggedness of its predecessor, it gains so much more.
For some, the only discouraging factor might be the Kia badge on the grille. But once you’re behind the wheel, you might just find that the Sorento will be your next crossover.
Second Opinion — To put this as politely as possible, Kia used to be the manufacturer of rather plain vehicles, the awkward cousin to Hyundai’s emerging beauty. No more. The vehicles are stylish, offer competitive features and pricing and pretty well-screwed together. The Sorento provides a comfortable but reasonably responsive ride for a crossover. While not in the same league as the BMW X5 in driving dynamics, it didn’t exhibit any bad traits either. We tested the AWD model, but the low-speed only implementation is a disappointment. The V-6’s performance, however, was quite good with plenty low-end torque. Interior controls are logical, well-placed and intuitive. Front seats are firm and supportive and the second row has adequate room for average adults. That can’t be said for the third row, but that’s true of Sorento’s competitors. All told, this is a vehicle worth serious consideration. — Bob Beamesderfer
2011 Kia Sorento SX AWD
Base Price: $33,895
Price as tested: $35,890
Drivetrain: 3.5-liter V6; AWD; 6-speed automatic transmission
Output: 276 hp @ 6,300 rpm, 248 ft. lbs. @ 5,000
EPA Fuel Economy Estimates (City/Highway): 19/25 mpg