The Auto Channel
The Largest Independent Automotive Research Resource
Official Website of the New Car Buyer

2012 Kia Sorento EX Review By Larry Nutson

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

2012 Kia Sorento EX - Good looks and more.

by Larry Nutson
Senior Editor, Chicago Bureau
The Auto Channel

The Sorento is the first vehicle built at Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) auto assembly plant in West Point, Georgia. The Sorento is also Kia’s first vehicle to surpass sales of 100,000 units in a single year.

The Sorento is a compact crossover, now in its second model year and has received a number of awards and accolades. The Sorento was recognized as a 2011 "Top Safety Pick" by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). For 2012, Consumer Digest rated the Sorento a “Best Buy” and Sorento was named to the “Ten Best Family Cars of 2012” List by Kelley Blue Book’s The base model has one of the highest ratings for 36-Month Residual Value Index from ALG.

Kia covered all the bases with the Sorento and provides a buyer many choices. To wit, three trim levels – LX, EX or SX, 4-cylinder or V6 power, front wheel drive or all wheel drive, and 5-passenger or 7 passenger seating. The lowest priced LX has an MSRP of $23,150 and the highest priced SX is at $33,150.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

I spent a week driving the highways and byways of Chicagoland in an EX all-wheel-drive powered by the 191 HP, 2.4-L GDI 4-cylinder and with three rows of seats that carry seven folks. The MSRP was $27,650 and a Premium Package 1 priced at $3800 provided leather seat trim, heated front seats, the 50/50 third-row seat, nav, and power seats, power-fold mirrors and a couple other things. With an overall length of 183.9 inches the Sorento is not too unwieldy in city traffic and maneuvering into an occasional tight parking space. Ground clearance is 7.5 inches, so the “climbing up” so characteristic of SUVs and crossovers to get in is not too challenging for height-challenged folks or the elderly. Rear cargo space grows from the 9.1cuft behind the third row to 37cu ft with the 3rd seat folded and all the way to 72.5cuft with both rear seat rows folded flat…lots of versatility.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

Two features that are wonderful for city driving and maneuvering and that you can get on every Sorento model, either standard or as an option, are a back-up warning system and a rear view camera display. Another “must have” for a big city is foldable outside mirrors. They’re available with the power-fold feature on the EX and SX and fold-in and out automatically when the vehicle is locked or unlocked from the key fob.

The Sorento uses a six-speed automatic behind each of the engines as well as with both the FWD and AWD models. The 175 HP 4-cylinder comes only on the LX; optional on the LX and standard on the EX is the 191 HP GDI 4-cylinder; and, optional on the EX and standard on the SX is the 276 HP 3.5-L V6. As with any SUV or crossover, the added weight and driving-losses of AWD bring a reduction in fuel economy over a two-wheel-drive version of the same vehicle. The best EPA rating for the Sorento is the 2wd with the 191 HP GDI engine at 22 city mpg and 32 highway mpg. The lowest EPA ratings are with the AWD V6 at 18 city mpg and 24 highway mpg.

The AWD EX with the 191HP engine that I drove is rated at 21 city and 28 highway. That’s about 17 percent better in both ratings compared to the V6 AWD. Here’s where I may have chosen differently. I wasn’t in love with the 191hp engine. It seemed a little rough and too noisy under acceleration. However, at cruise it was just fine. And, engine output is good providing the Sorento crisp acceleration and good mid-range response for passing. But, I was hearing too much engine noise in the passenger compartment. I even asked my wife what she thought to make sure it wasn’t just me. She agreed. I would have liked to drive the V6 to experience and compare that engine.

However, there are lots of positives with the Sorento. Its unibody construction gives it a carlike feel. Handling is forgiving and very comfortable and secure. The interior is very refined and I found it attractive. The versatility of the cargo space is great for daily living, carpooling, road trips or hauling big stuff.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The 2012 Sorento is equipped with a plethora of standard safety equipment. All trims come outfitted with driver and passenger advanced front airbags, front seat-mounted side airbags, first and second row side curtain airbags and front active headrests, four-wheel Antilock Brake System (ABS), Electronic Stability Control (ESC) and Electronic Brake Distribution (EBD). Hill Start Assist Control (HAC) and Downhill Brake Control (DBC) also come standard on all models, the former assisting in preventing the vehicle from rolling backward when trying to pull away from an uphill gradient, while the latter helps keep the vehicle moving straight and steady down steep grades.

PHOTO (select to view enlarged photo)

The Sorento is fairly roomy when compared to its competitors. But then again there is some tough competition in the likes of Nissan Murano, Toyota RAV4, Ford Edge, Chevy Equinox and some others.

Kia has a number of excellent vehicles on the market today and a pretty good dealer organization. If I were shopping a crossover the Sorento would get a good look from me.

© Larry Nutson