Base Price (MSRP):$19,995.00 / As Tested (MSRP): $34,190.00
View The 2011 Kia Sorento Specifications
| Review by: Ted West
All-new car-based version of midsize SUV.
The 2011 Kia Sorento comes in four variants: Sorento, LX, and EX come with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder engine. Sorento comes standard with a 6-speed manual transmission, LX and EX come with 6-speed automatic. Sorento EX V6 is powered by a 3.5-liter V6 engine and 6-speed automatic.
Sorento ($19,995) comes standard with cloth upholstery, air conditioning, AM/FM/CD/MP3/Sirius Satellite radio, auxiliary and USB audio input jacks, Bluetooth connectivity, tilt and telescope steering wheel, steering wheel-mounted audio controls, trip computer, 17-inch alloy wheels.
Sorento LX ($22,395) and LX 4WD ($24,095) add body-color heated outside mirrors with turn signal indicators, auto-up and down driver window, illuminated vanity mirror, second-row armrest with cupholder. Convenience Package for LX ($1000) includes roof rails, rear parking sensor, rearview mirror with backup display, heated front seats, fog lamps.
Sorento EX ($24,595) and EX 4WD ($26,296) upgrade with automatic dual-zone climate control with ionized air purification, fabric/leatherette seats, eight-way power driver seat with lumbar controls, fog lights, automatic headlights, rear spoiler, leather-wrapped steering wheel, push-button start, 18-inch alloy wheels. Premium Package for EX ($1500) includes roof rails, leather seats, heated front seats, rearview backup camera. Limited Package for EX models ($2000) includes navigation system with real-time traffic, Infinity 10-speaker audio, 18-inch chrome wheels, interior mood illumination, and high-style leather trim.
Sorento EX V6 ($27,195) and EX V6 4WD ($28,895) come with rear air conditioning. Premium Package for EX V6 ($2700) includes roof rails, leather seats, heated front seats, rearview backup camera, panoramic sunroof. DVD Entertainment System Package ($1000) for EX V6 (requires sunroof delete) includes DVD entertainment with overhead screen and headphones.
Third-Row Seating Package ($700) includes 50/50 split-folding third-row seats.
Safety features include the mandated dual front airbags plus side-curtain airbags for head protection and front-seat side-impact airbags for torso protection. Active safety features include anti-lock brakes, electronic stability control, electronic brake-force distribution, hill start-assist control, downhill brake control. Optional safety features include rearview camera, four-wheel drive.
As has been true of most recent designs from Kia, the 2011 Sorento's styling is modern, sleek, clean as a whistle. It has a forward-lunging stance, the result of a low and compact nose, followed by long, dynamically rising lines to rearward. And Kia has been particularly successful at executing the current high-grille look (dictated by body-integral front bumpers) without causing the nose to seem high and awkward.
The grille is flanked on both sides by sly-looking upper complexes for headlights and turn signals. Lower complexes contain foglights and are finished in matte-black to match the grille mesh.
To maximize interior volume, particularly in the third-row seats, the Sorento roofline makes only a slight taper downwards at the rear. Similarly, the rear passenger doors extend back over the wheel housing to optimize access to third-row seats.
The Sorento's shape is more than just a pretty face; it slips through the air at highway speed with minimal wind noise. And this package has another advantage.
Getting into the 2011 Sorento the first time, you know you're not in Kansas anymore. This interior is just too nice to be a Kia, you think. But in no time, you accept its pleasing, tasteful look, and you appreciate why Kia had a 4-percent rise in sales during 2009, while the rest of the industry was plummeting 27 percent.
Kia's focus is on value, a winning theme in hard economic times. And sure enough, there is gray simulated-wood trim, not the real thing, in the driver's compartment. But to deliver good value, Kia goes for simple but handsome fixtures. The controls and switchgear are of high quality, with good tactile feel. Dash surfaces are an attractive textured black, and the instruments are well laid out and self-explanatory.
Our test car had the deluxe navigation system with rear backup camera. This lacked some of the more sophisticated onscreen visual aids for backing while turning, as found on some premium crossovers. And the vanity mirrors in the sun visors were lit, but only after you turn them on with a button. Similar units in some other vehicles light automatically upon being opened.
We found the driver's seat, with eight-way power adjustment and lumbar support, to be excellent, firm, supportive, confidence-inspiring. The right front seat, however, is adjusted manually.
The second-row bench seat was comfortable, though even with the front seat well forward, second-row legroom was so-so. But then, this is not a large SUV and Kia has achieved no spatial miracles. On the other hand, the company says a 6-foot, 7-inch NBA player can drive the Sorento in full comfort.
The third-row seats are a bit of a compromise, as they are in any but the most grandiose three-row vehicles. Tilt-folding the second-row seats forward to access the rear involves a bit of calisthenics, as the seats are fairly heavy. Once the unlucky, last-row galley slaves are in place and the second-row seats slam down and lock, the latches are hard to release and fold forward from the rear row. Headroom in the far rear is minimal, as well. But this space should be adequate for most kids.
Our car's Infinity deluxe audio system was superb. The climate control worked flawlessly, offering strong volume when requested. And the rear roof-mounted DVD screen, which pops down behind the two front bucket seats, should provide plenty of amusement for those with nothing to do. Finally, with all seats folded down, maximum cargo volume is 72.5 cubic feet, a massive improvement over the previous model.
We're used to Kias being small, cheap and cheerful, and this SUV is certainly cheerful, in a roomy, upscale way. The new unibody construction isolates engine vibration well. Moving away from the curb onto choppy pavement, the structure again proves its worth, having excellent sound damping and an impressive feeling of sturdiness.
The MacPherson-strut front suspension and multi-link rear suspension are nicely tuned to muffle and damp pavement irregularities the vehicle is passing over. On smooth curves when driving a bit more aggressively, this crossover feels decently agile and easy to control. Much of this is thanks to Kia's firm, spot-on steering effort. Steering is power-assisted but requires the driver to make forthright moves to left or right, there's no light-headed wandering or numbness of any kind. This no-nonsense steering feel will prove invaluable when making an emergency accident-avoidance maneuver. First-class.
We drove models with the I4 engine and V6. The four-cylinder was entirely adequate, though not exciting. The V6, on the other hand, was crisp and energetic. A V6 Sorento is no performance car, but it's probably the quickest in its class. These Kias are not going to be doing a lot of drag racing, of course; on the other hand, ample acceleration can be very handy escaping a threatening traffic situation.
The 4WD models use full-time all-wheel drive, which makes them excellent all-weather alternatives.
The four-wheel disc brakes of the Sorento brought it to a firm halt from highway speed with good controllability. We found the nose dives down under heavy braking, but the vehicle was stable in panic braking, and on dry pavement the anti-lock brakes worked appropriately.
Fuel efficiency was a bit of a disappointment. The Sorento certainly doesn't squander fuel. The Sorento 2WD gets an EPA-estimated 20/27 mpg City/Highway with manual transmission, 21/27 mpg for the 4WD automatic. Sorento V6 4WD gets 19/25 mpg, 20/26 mpg for V6 2WD. By comparison, the 2011 Chevrolet Equinox is rated 22/32 mpg. The Sorento offers better performance, however.
The 2011 Kia Sorento is more than simply a new model for Kia Motors. While still efficient and affordable, the hallmarks of Kia products, this attractive crossover offers surprising levels of luxury, versatility and sophistication, representing a strong move upscale.
Ted West filed this report to NewCarTestDrive.com after his test drive of the Kia Sorento near Newport Beach, California.