Review: 2012 Kia Sorento

The Kia Sorento is the Korean brand’s largest offering. Redesigned for 2011, the Sorento is largely carryover for 2012, but The Garage was eager to see what the buzz was about surrounding this American made three-row crossover. We have been impressed with Kia’s latest offerings, but does the Sorento have what it takes to compete in the hyper-competitive crossover market? Read on to find out.

The Sorento certainly looks the part. The handsome, contemporary lines give the Sorento a smart appearance, but blur your eyes a bit and it’s just another crossover. While I thought our test car’s Dark Cherry finish gave the Sorento a rich look, the chrome alloys looked cheesy and cheapened the look of what is a pretty sophisticated¬† styled crossover. Also, the front and rear end of the Sorento feature stainless looking trim which looks upscale, but in side profile, the Sorento’s high beltline leaves a huge expanse of sheetmetal with nothing to break it up, or add visual interest. With so much going for it, the Sorento is just a few minor design tweaks from looking like a crossover costing thousands more.

Inside, the Sorento is pleasant to look at. By no means cheap in appearance, our top-spec Sorento’s materials are a grade or two below what I would have liked for a car at this price. More on that in a moment. The Sorento offers comfortable chairs up front, but it seems unfair that only the driver gets a ventilated seat while your partner does not. Controls were easy to decipher, and in spite of a long features list, the Sorento was instantly easy to get in and go. As mentioned, the Sorento does offer three rows of seating, a plus for many crossover shoppers. It looks pretty tight with the third row up, and cargo space is seriously compromised, but it is nice to know there’s room for more in a pinch.

The Sorento is available with three engines. Base cars start with a 2.4L four rated at 175hp, while a direct injected version of the same mill provides 191hp. At the top of the food chain is a 3.5L V-6 rated at 276hp. The base Sorento comes standard with a six-speed manual, while all other models are equipped with a six-speed automatic. The four cylinder Sorento can tow up to 1,650lbs, while the V-6 can haul up to 3,500lbs. All Sorento’s are available in two or all-wheel drive. Our test car was a V-6 with all-wheel drive. The V-6 was smooth and provided decent acceleration. EPA mileage ratings of 18/24 MPG city/highway are about average for a vehicle of this size.

Kia offers the Sorento in three trim levels, and The Garage was treated to the most decadent of all models, the SX AWD V-6. Standard equipment includes dual zone auto climate control, Infinity surround sound audio with Sirius satellite radio, GPS navigation, leather interior, push button start, power folding mirrors, Bluetooth, heated steering wheel, rear view camera and back-up warning system. Our test car’s sole option was a panoramic sunroof, which gave our Sorento a sticker price of $37,150USD, including delivery. That’s not chump change, but remember, our Sorento was offered with essentially every luxury feature available in the modern crossover. Which brings me to my prior point regarding the interior materials. You can buy a base Sorento for under $24,000, and for that money I have no problem with what Kia gives you. Our top-spec SX reminded me this is a car that starts at that price point, and as optioned, is less than $2,000 away from a Lexus RX350.

If I sound harsh about the Kia Sorento, I don’t mean to be. It is a fine vehicle, and I would not hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is seeking a versatile, contemporary crossover. Having three rows of seating available would make the Sorento a practical choice for active families. Kia’s offer of different engines also makes the Sorento a viable option to suit your budget and needs, and the availability of premium features certainly increases the appeal of the Sorento. While impressed, for the price of our test car, I came away feeling Kia is 95% there. In the end, I like the Sorento, but with our high-end SX model I was left feeling you are paying for the goodies and technology at a price the interior materials was not quite on par for the price of admission.